Gauge: 3ft 6in (1.07m)
In 1799 a tramway linking the Rivers Severn and Wye was first considered to serve the industrial area of the Forest of Dean. It was not until 1809 that the Lydney and Lydbrook Railway was secured by Act of Parliament. The tramway opened to traffic in June 1810 allowing coal and iron ore to be easily moved and enhancing the developments at Lydbrook, whose riverside wharf became a major transhipment point. The tramway operated as a rail turnpike, tolls per wagon/mile being paid by users. In the same year the company name was changed by Act of Parliament to The Severn and Wye Railway and Canal Company.
Within a year the financial problems that plagued the S&W throughout its life began. Capital was insufficient to complete the development of Lydney Habour. Another Act was passed to increase share capital. Nevertheless by 1813 the Company was over £15,000 in debt. During the next twenty years traffic on the tramway increased but the Company spent considerable amounts of money blocking new rival lines into the Forest.
The Dean Forest Mines Act of 1838 changed working practices in the Forest. The Severn and Wye Company came under pressure to improve the tramway service. At the same time the rival Forest of Dean Railway Company planned to construct a line to the Severn. The plan was dropped after the Severn and Wye Railway contested it.
The South Wales Railway Company applied to purchase the tramway in 1846 to build a new line alongside it. The Severn and Wye agreed in principle, but a selling price could not be agreed. The following year the Severn and Wye attempted to block the South Wales Railway Company’s conversion of the Forest of Dean tramroad to an edged railway. The plan went ahead, but the S&W gained a concession of £15,000 to assist its conversion to a broad gauge railway. The South Wales line opened in September 1851. The interchange facilities at Lydney served only to highlight the differences between the two lines.
Proposals to convert the South Wales line and the tramway to a single broad-gauge line were submitted. A condition of approval was that the S&W allow a central line into the Forest to be built independently of them. The S&W objected and negotiations ceased.
In August 1853 a scheme was submitted to Parliament in which the S&W would improve the tramway rather than convert to a railway, and become carriers themselves by using locomotives. The scheme was sanctioned, but the first of five locomotives did not appear until 1864.
In 1868 the Severn and Wye railway decided to construct a broad gauge railway from Lydney to Parkend. It opened in April 1869, marking the end of the Company’s narrow gauge era. The S&W went on to merge with the Severn Bridge Railway in 1885. In 1894 the line, by then converted to standard gauge, was sold and run jointly by the Midland Railway and the GWR.
1 Of 1864 0-4-0 tank
5 Forester last loco for tramway