On November 11th 1862 Bedwyn station was opened for passengers on the newly completed Berks & Hants Extension Railway from Hungerford to Devizes. The original Berks & Hants Railway from Paddington to Hungerford had opened in 1847, oddly named as it never enters Hampshire!
The 24.5 mile extension to Devizes took 18 months to complete, cost £250,000 and was of single track, though the bridges were wisely built to take double track. According to a newspaper of the time the day return from Bedwyn to Paddington was 15s6d (78p) and there were four trains in each direction.
The first train to use the line actually ran from Devizes as a special on November 4th. The engine was decorated with flags and flowers and the train had around twenty carriages. According to the paper ‘At Great Bedwyn the beautiful peal of bells were set ringing, and the whole of the inhabitants turned out to hail the train with flags and banners and hearty cheers.’
The line was converted from broad to standard gauge in 1874 and subsequently doubled in 1899. For many years most trains ran to Devizes as the direct route to the West Country didn’t open until 1900.
The station had a stone building with booking office, waiting rooms and toilets on the up platform and a waiting shelter on the down platform. Unfortunately the main buildings were demolished in the 1960s at the time of the Beeching ‘rationalization’. At least the station itself was spared, unlike many others on the line, although the threat of closure remained for some time afterwards. There was a small goods yard, a bay platform, signal box and steps on both sides of the bridge, leading up to the road.
Ticket sales varied, for example 11,700 in 1903, falling to 8,700 in 1933. An interesting comparison to our recorded figures of 92,000 in 2010/11. There was also considerable general goods and parcels traffic until closure in 1964.
The service level had increased to eight trains in each direction by 1924. At that time the General Manager of GWR was Sir Felix Pole (1921-1929), who was born in Little Bedwyn. It was recorded that the 6.0pm train from Paddington made just its second stop here at 7.26pm on request. Following the cuts in the early 1960s Bedwyn developed as a terminus station. In 1966 the number of down trains had increased to fourteen, with ten of these using the bay platform to terminate here.
In 1976 a new turn-back siding was constructed beyond the bridge and the bay platform was filled in. From that point onwards Bedwyn became a terminus for almost all local services, the exception being a loco-hauled commuter train which ran to and from Paddington once each weekday until the early 1990s.
Local ‘turbo’ trains have taken over since then and we now have twenty two eastbound weekday trains, with twelve through trains to Paddington. We have even managed to obtain a limited westbound service, something that has been missing for many years.
Bedwyn station has been serving the village and the surrounding area for 150 years and has survived many attempts to either downgrade it or even close it completely. But it is still going strong and long may it continue to be a real asset to the village.