Explore the Railway

The Berks & Hants (B&H) line through Hungerford was opened in three stages. Originally a single track branch line along the Kennet Valley from the GWR main line at Reading, passing through Newbury to Hungerford and opening in 1847, it was continued up the Dun Valley by the B&H Extension Railway over the watershed at Savernake to Devizes in 1862. By 1900 the GWR had used the branch as the basis for a new direct route to the West Country via Westbury, bypassing Devizes in the process and upgrading the branch line to mainline standards.

The route was famous in the steam era for its expresses to holiday destinations in Devon and Cornwall, promoted by effective GWR marketing and hauled by a range of their 4-6-0 locomotives including the famous King Class. Engineering the B&H to support the axle loading of these powerful locomotives enabled it to handle the even greater requirements of the heavy freight traffic which was to become feature of the line today.

In time modernisation on British Railways saw steam locos give way to the distinctive classes of diesel-hydraulic locos adopted by the Western Region of BR. Rationalising the network saw the branch to Devizes closed as well as the connection to Marlborough. Passenger services concentrated on the long-distance trains to the West Country and local services became part of the Network SouthEast sector focussed on commuting to London and Reading. In recent years the new GWR have catered again for local journeys westward beyond the previous turnback point at Bedwyn, making possible day trips to Pewsey, Westbury and beyond.

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The Railway Line

Resources

A history of the BERKS & HANTS line Reading to Westbury by Peter Simmonds  ISBN 978-1-906419-88-2 – for historical context

RailMapOnline – to investigate railways that connected with the Berks & Hants line in the past

Realtime Trains for your nominated date – to investigate what trains are due to operate during your stay

OpenTrainTimes map for the B&H line – public signallers map to find out where trains are on the day

Steam-hauled specials in the Hungerford area – for advance info about steam trains which may operate along the B&H line

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