Combe Hay

Once upon a time Somerset had a coal field. Indeed, we have seen it on this blog for I visited it roughly when it closed down in 1973.

Coal fields need transport and one link was the Somerset Coal Canal which meandered west from Limpley Stoke on the Kennet and Avon Canal. The canal needed to get up a 180 feet high hill at Combe Hay and three caisson locks were proposed. One was built, but then the scheme was abandoned and a flight of 22 conventional locks, on a zigzag route were built instead.

Then, as recently as 1910 the route, or an approximation to it, became a railway. Originally it was part of a through route that allowed coal from Radstock and Midsomer Norton to be transported. As a passenger line, it was a no-hoper. Services were suspended in the First World War, were resumed in 1923 and then finished in 1925. Then part of it closed in 1932, leaving a branch from Limpley Stoke to Camerton for freight traffic which continued until 1951.

In 1953 the line became a film set when the Ealing Comedy, The Titfield Thunderbolt made use of the line. Track was lifted in 1956.

But there are, of course, railway relics still in place as we found when we took a walk along a part of the line near Combe Hay.

There are bridges. Here’s an under bridge with the railway high up on an embankment.

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You don’t go far before finding an over bridge, with the railway in a cutting.

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We found bits of rail.

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But this is rail that would not have been laid here, for these are pieces of Brunel’s broad gauge rail. Brunel’s broad vision was killed off in 1892, nearly twenty years before the Combe Hay line was built. Old bits of rail had been used as part of the structure for something. Just what, I don’t know.

Nearby was another piece of metalwork.

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Once again, I have no idea what it is. Maybe there’s a real railway enthusiast out there who can tell me! Or maybe it has nothing at all to do with the railway.

There’s lovely countryside around Combe Hay with virtually not a trace of its industrial past unless you really go looking. Combe Hay is little more than three miles from the centre of Bath but it is a totally different world.

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