Trivia — Lines That Were Built For Double Track But Were Only Ever Single

Status
Not open for further replies.

Dr_Paul

Member
Joined
3 Sep 2013
Messages
1,041
Following the recent thread 'Lines That Should Have Been Mainlines', how about one looking at lines which were built for double track but only a single track was laid?

One that comes to my mind is the Bluebell Line south of Horsted Keynes to Lewes, where the under and over bridges could accommodate double track (the company must have been optimistic to envisage the need for double track!). I also have an idea that some of the infrastructure of the Newtown to Machylleth line was built for double track, but I'm not sure.

We could expand this to examples where the infrastructure was built or extended for, say, four tracks, but it wasn't used, and other similar instances.

An example is Richmond station, where the rebuilding of the Windsor line station in the 1930s allowed for four through lines with two island platforms, but this was never done.
 
Sponsor Post - registered members do not see these adverts; click here to register, or click here to log in
R

RailUK Forums

D6130

Established Member
Joined
12 Jan 2021
Messages
1,457
Location
West Yorkshire/Tuscany
IIRC, the LSWR Meon Valley line from Alton to Fareham - including the steel viaduct at West Meon - was built for double track, but only ever had a single track. I cycled along part of it as a teenager in the mid-'seventies and one unusual thing about this line was that it had bull-head rail on steel sleepers. In the same part of the country, I believe that the GWR Didcot, Newbury and Southampton line - which actually joined the LSWR main line at Shawford Junction - was also built with a double formation, but only ever had a single track. There must have been quite a few other similar lines around the country.
 

S&CLER

Member
Joined
11 Jan 2020
Messages
594
Location
southport
The line from Sandbach to Northwich was built for double track but only single track was laid, except for a short loop at Middlewich, I believe. I think part of the Leeds-Micklefield line was built with bridges wide enough for 4 tracks, but never quadrupled. This is evident in a Video 125 cab ride video.
 

Cowley

Forum Staff
Staff Member
Global Moderator
Joined
15 Apr 2016
Messages
11,383
Location
Devon
I’d add the Barnstaple branch north of Coleford Junction and the Mid Hants (Alton to Winchester).
 

30907

Veteran Member
Joined
30 Sep 2012
Messages
12,093
Location
Airedale
I think it depends on definition:
for example, the Swanage branch had double track overbridges but the viaduct at Corfe was single track. I think that pattern was quite common, for the practical reasons that underline bridges are easier to widen than overline.
 

Journeyman

Established Member
Joined
16 Apr 2014
Messages
6,278
IIRC, the LSWR Meon Valley line from Alton to Fareham - including the steel viaduct at West Meon - was built for double track, but only ever had a single track. I cycled along part of it as a teenager in the mid-'seventies and one unusual thing about this line was that it had bull-head rail on steel sleepers. In the same part of the country, I believe that the GWR Didcot, Newbury and Southampton line - which actually joined the LSWR main line at Shawford Junction - was also built with a double formation, but only ever had a single track. There must have been quite a few other similar lines around the country.
Wasn't the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton partially upgraded to double track during the war? It carried a lot of military traffic.
 

Snow1964

Established Member
Joined
7 Oct 2019
Messages
1,161
Location
West Wiltshire
The LSWR rebuilt all the over bridges, replaced many level crossings and made provision for loops behind platform at Swaythling, as part of a quadrupling from Eastleigh to Southampton, but it was never finished.

They also widened most of the formation, and bridges between Clapham cutting and New Malden as part of widening from 4 to 6 tracks. Some sections later saw sidings and goods loops, and just west or Rayners Park the under bridges all have the widened brickwork (but the extra deck spans have never been added). The 1920s A3 Kingston bypass also has space for the two extra tracks

I think LSWR tended to make provision for double track on all new through lines. In addition to Alton-Fareham, can add Romsey -Andover, West Moors - Salisbury etc
 

181

Member
Joined
12 Feb 2013
Messages
524
Wasn't the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton partially upgraded to double track during the war? It carried a lot of military traffic.
That's my understanding, and Wikipedia agrees.

A few months ago I walked under an underbridge near Compton (between Didcot and Newbury) which looked as if it dated from the WW2 era. This suggests that the original bridge wasn't wide enough for two tracks, consistent with my assumption that everything had been widened during the war; but as mentioned in post #6 above, double-track earthworks/overbridges and single-track underbridges seem plausible, and would have made a hasty wartime doubling much more feasible than on a line built to purely single-track width. (Or maybe the original bridge was double width but needed replacing anyway).

...the Mid Hants (Alton to Winchester).

This includes the new (2019?) underbridge at Butts Junction -- presumably the railway were able to require the highway authority to replace the old bridge with one that provided the same width for the railway.
 

peteb

Member
Joined
30 Mar 2011
Messages
697
Severn Valley Railway 1880s extension Bewdley to Kidderminster has many structures designed for double track including falling sands viaduct, but reference to large scale historic OS maps shows the line was always single track.
 

Ashley Hill

Established Member
Joined
8 Dec 2019
Messages
1,273
Location
The West Country
I’d add the Barnstaple branch north of Coleford Junction and the Mid Hants (Alton to Winchester).
Indeed Copplestone to Umberleigh. IIRC didn't one of the unused bridges near Lapford end up being used as a replacement at Exton late 60s/early 70s?
 

Cowley

Forum Staff
Staff Member
Global Moderator
Joined
15 Apr 2016
Messages
11,383
Location
Devon
Indeed Copplestone to Umberleigh. IIRC didn't one of the unused bridges near Lapford end up being used as a replacement at Exton late 60s/early 70s?

As in Exton on the Exmouth branch?
I remember seeing a picture somewhere of a Warship on an engineering train at Exton in the 1970s which was something to do with a bridge replacement but I didn’t realise it come from there.
 

kje7812

Member
Joined
1 May 2018
Messages
290
Location
Edinburgh or Kidderminster
Severn Valley Railway 1880s extension Bewdley to Kidderminster has many structures designed for double track including falling sands viaduct, but reference to large scale historic OS maps shows the line was always single track.
Bewdley tunnel was always single.
Some of the structures just south of Bridgnorth were built to double track width. There were several proposals for extensions towards Wolverhampton in the late 19th century.
 

infobleep

Established Member
Joined
27 Feb 2011
Messages
10,690
Aside from heritage railways, are there any single line tracks still in operation that were built for double track?
 

Grecian 1998

Member
Joined
27 Oct 2019
Messages
230
Location
Bristol
The Truro-Falmouth branch - the two tunnels are clearly built to double track width but have never had a second line laid.
 

Harpers Tate

Established Member
Joined
10 May 2013
Messages
1,503
Aside from heritage railways, are there any single line tracks still in operation that were built for double track?
Bridlington <> Hunmanby and Filey <> Seamer fall under that description. As does York <> Knaresborough and large chunks of Gainsborough C <> Brigg.
 

peteb

Member
Joined
30 Mar 2011
Messages
697
Aside from heritage railways, are there any single line tracks still in operation that were built for double track?
Bewdley tunnel was always single.
Some of the structures just south of Bridgnorth were built to double track width. There were several proposals for extensions towards Wolverhampton in the late 19th century.
Parts of the Oxford Hereford route still single track, including Ledbury to Hereford. Much of remainder now redoubled except Norton Evesham section.

Yes, Bewdley tunnel is single width. Knowle Sands and Borle viaducts double width but Victoria Bridge Arley is single. I've never quite fathomed the variety unless additional passing loops required. Historic maps of the setting out of the railway indicate single track throughout. Maybe a wider viaduct is more stable than a narrower one? Any engineers care to comment?
 

2392

Member
Joined
7 Apr 2015
Messages
207
Location
Felling on Tyne
The Worth Valley Railway earthworks were built to take a double track line. But the line stayed as a single line branch.
 

apk55

Member
Joined
7 Jul 2011
Messages
412
Location
Altrincham
The Alston Haltwhistle branch had many structures built for double track.
The Clayton West branch also had many structures built for double track.
 

ac6000cw

Established Member
Joined
10 May 2014
Messages
2,238
Location
Cambridge, UK
The river bridge at Ely carrying the single line from Soham has now been replaced twice with a double-track capable span (in the 1930s and quite recently after a serous derailment damaged it), but the planned doubling still hasn't happened.

I think building over-bridges wide enough to span two tracks was fairly common (and probably didn't add much to the overall cost of construction), particularly on lines that had pretensions to become part of a longer, busier route (which was mostly wishful thinking, I suspect, to encourage investors).
 

gg1

Member
Joined
2 Jun 2011
Messages
999
Location
Birmingham
The white elephant which was the GWR's Wombourne branch (opened in 1925, closed to passengers 7 years later) was single track but included at least one station with 2 through platforms but only a single track.

What I'm not sure of is if this was built with the intention of eventually dualling the entire line of just adding an additional loop.
 

kje7812

Member
Joined
1 May 2018
Messages
290
Location
Edinburgh or Kidderminster
Parts of the Oxford Hereford route still single track, including Ledbury to Hereford. Much of remainder now redoubled except Norton Evesham section.

Yes, Bewdley tunnel is single width. Knowle Sands and Borle viaducts double width but Victoria Bridge Arley is single. I've never quite fathomed the variety unless additional passing loops required. Historic maps of the setting out of the railway indicate single track throughout. Maybe a wider viaduct is more stable than a narrower one? Any engineers care to comment?
Possibly there were suggestions of a double track route when the line was under-construction. I suppose it's cheaper to build for double rather than have to rebuild everything later. Of course, at Borle Viaduct there were the sidings immediately south of the viaduct, though as I understand it they stop short of the viaduct.
 

zin92

New Member
Joined
21 May 2019
Messages
3
I believe that some or all of The Wensleydale Railway was build with space for two tracks beneath the under bridges but with space for only one track on the over bridges.

Regards
 

yorksrob

Veteran Member
Joined
6 Aug 2009
Messages
30,294
Location
Yorks
Golgotha tunnel on the East Kent Railway has a brick roof large enough for a double track tunnel - however only enough rock was ever excavated for a single track !
 

D6130

Established Member
Joined
12 Jan 2021
Messages
1,457
Location
West Yorkshire/Tuscany
I believe that some or all of The Wensleydale Railway was build with space for two tracks beneath the under bridges but with space for only one track on the over bridges.
The Wensleydale Railway was double track for a couple of miles between Leeming Bar and Bedale until sometime in the late 'seventies/early 'eighties.
 

Senex

Established Member
Joined
1 Apr 2014
Messages
2,573
Location
York
The line from Sandbach to Northwich was built for double track but only single track was laid, except for a short loop at Middlewich, I believe. I think part of the Leeds-Micklefield line was built with bridges wide enough for 4 tracks, but never quadrupled. This is evident in a Video 125 cab ride video.
For quite a long time the BoT Inspectorate regarded a single-track line as "incomplete", and quite often the companies building the lines tended to make at least some preparation for the "missing" second line, normally in the form of overbridges wide enough for the two tracks, but occasionally with some of the earthworks too. Overbridges for four tracks when only two were built was quite common. One of the best examples is the London-Bedford line, where in due course the additional tracks north of Brent did follow. But the Midland did the same on a number of other new lines, and I'm sure other companies must have done the same.
 

Pinza-C55

Member
Joined
23 May 2015
Messages
565
The Malton & Driffield Railway was intended to form part of a double track main line from Newcastle via Pilmoor to Hull and most of the structures and trackbed were to 2 track width but it was only ever a sleepy single track branch line. Burdale Tunnel was nearly unique in that the north portal was only for single track but the south portal was double track - the company ran out of money halfway through.

South portal taken by me 1978

Burdale Tunnel [2] 20.5.78 by A1 Northeastern, on Flickr

North Portal by jsb303

Burdale Tunnel North Portal. by jsb303, on Flickr
 
Last edited:

LNW-GW Joint

Veteran Member
Joined
22 Feb 2011
Messages
16,200
Location
Mold, Clwyd
Parts of the Cambrian were built for double track, including from Buttington Jn through Welshpool to Forden, before being singled by BR.
The southern half of this from Welshpool was recently redoubled to form a dynamic loop, but the northern half is still single.
It also used to be double from Newtown to Moat Lane Jn.

RA Cooke's 1947 GWR atlas shows the DNS at that date was double track from Didcot to Woodhey south of Newbury, roughly at the Berks/Hants county boundary.

On the GWR, some lines were designed for broad gauge, but only standard was laid - the Shrewsbury & Birmingham was like that (north of Wolverhampton).
Oakengates tunnel is the main structure that was sized for broad gauge but only ever had standard gauge track through it.
The Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton had some mixed gauge but broad gauge was only briefly used.

I guess it would have been cheaper to widen a single-track broad gauge line to double-track standard gauge, than if the route was designed originally for standard.
You can still see places where the broad gauge formation was reduced to standard, leaving a significantly larger gap in the "6-foot" - Twyford comes to mind.
It used to be obvious at Reading too, on the relief line route through the old platforms P8/9, until the recent remodelling.
 
Last edited:

davetheguard

Established Member
Joined
10 Apr 2013
Messages
1,387
As in Exton on the Exmouth branch?
I remember seeing a picture somewhere of a Warship on an engineering train at Exton in the 1970s which was something to do with a bridge replacement but I didn’t realise it come from there.

In Colin Magg's book "The Exeter and Exmouth Railway" published by the Oakwood Press, he mentions the rebuilding of the 114 yard long River Clyst viaduct on the line just south of Topsham. The old deck needed replacement, and the never before used piers that had been built for possible double tracking were utilised for the new replacement deck. The first train crossed on 18th December 1960. The old deck was then removed in 1961. There is no mention in this source of the deck's origin.

In the same book, there is also a photo of Warship no. 858 Valorous on bridge 15 at Exton with the Swindon 75 ton crane, on Sunday 16th November 1969. This is stated to be in connection with the laying of a North Sea gas main across the river bed. Could this be what you're thinking of, Mr Cowley?
 

JohnElliott

Member
Joined
15 Sep 2014
Messages
186
My recollection from walking along the trackbed between Three Bridges and Eridge is that while the line was only ever single track, at least some of the bridges were sized for double.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Top