An independent concern known as the "Salisbury and Yeovil Railway Company" began constructing a line between its namesake locations on 3rd April 1856. By 1st June 1860, Yeovil had been reached, the line terminating at the GWR’s Hendford station. The final push to Exeter was not far behind and from 19th July 1860, a single-track permitted Waterloo services to run direct to the city. Doubling of the route beyond Salisbury occurred exactly ten years later.
Most of the stations west of Salisbury were built as a variation of a standard Gothic design by Sir William Tite, of which Crewkerne was arguably the largest. Two platform faces were in evidence from the outset, the ‘’up’’ surface being host to the most imposing structure. Unlike its counterparts along the line such as Axminster and Whimple, Crewkerne’s structure was built using traditional local stone, rather than red brick – in fact, the stonework is very similar to that of nearby Yeovil Pen Mill (of which opened merely four years earlier), on the ex-GWR’s Castle Cary to Weymouth line. Another oddity of the building was the main pitched roof section; this extended upwards for three storeys, whereas those at the aforementioned stations (amongst others) were only two storeys high. The presence of the additional top storey allowed the incorporation of an alternately designed set of windows on the building’s northern and southern elevations, these with a curved upper edge, which gave a distinctive appearance. However, it is worth noting that the ground and first floor windows are identical in design to the other standardised stations along the route. This tall section formed the Station Master’s house – 560 yards to the north west, the Station Master was also treated to his own garden! The western side of the main building was constituted of no less than five gabled pitches upon a single-storey extension, this of which itself supported a pair of ornate chimneystacks. Finally, extending from the building and over the platform was an ornate, but most unusual canopy design. Standard for the route, the canopy valance demonstrated jagged points, all of an inconsistent shape. Naturally, the structure on the ‘’down’’ side was by far a more conservative affair than the main station building, but it nevertheless sat in harmony with its bigger brother. Fabricated from the same stone, the single-storey waiting shelter featured a pair of gabled pitches, each flanking either side of the structure’s entrance. The shelter was again built to a standardised design, but the likes of Axminster and Honiton only received all-timber versions of the structure. Finally, both platform surfaces were linked by a covered footbridge of iron lattice construction, positioned at the western ends of the platforms, adjacent to the road bridge.
Goods facilities here were fairly extensive, even though the sidings were sandwiched within quite a short longitudinal area. Eventually, a total of eleven sidings came into use, six of which were laid on the ‘’up’’ side. Five of these were eastward facing, and it was within this group that each consisted of a wagon turntable, a once common goods yard feature. In the earliest of years of the railways in general, it was not uncommon to have groups of men shunting wagons, but by the time Crewkerne had arrived on the scene, the use of horses had become customary. A single-track goods shed was also present on this side of the lines, it being a through arrangement and constituted of the same stonework as the station building. At the former’s eastern end was a ‘’dock’’ platform, which served a very short (seventh) siding. The northern most siding in the yard became dedicated to coal traffic and, indeed, coal stacks were later established alongside this. A later customer of the yard was also ‘’Dorset Farmers Limited’’, which despatched locally grown produce by rail. The sidings on the ‘’down’’ side appear to have operated in the capacity of wagon storage, in addition to serving cattle pens and, like the ‘’up’’ side, later becoming host to coal stacks. Locomotives’ needs were also accounted for in a small form, and sandwiched in-between the road bridge and station building was a two-storey high water tower. Such a structure was also extant at nearby Axminster. Originally operated by use of ground levers, the layout was controlled by a typical LSWR-designed signal box from 1875 onwards. This sat on the ‘’up’’ platform, just to the east of the station building, and was mostly clapboard in construction, demonstrating a small brick base and a pitched roof. Even this diminutive structure was treated to an ornate ‘’pointed’’ valance immediately below its roofline!
Circa 1946, the Southern Railway dispensed with the covered lattice footbridge, replacing it with a rather austere prefabricated concrete example, erected in the same position as its predecessor. By this time, the lattice footbridge was fragile, and the rickety structure tended to sway when large numbers of people crossed over it. Some ten years earlier, horse shunting in the ‘’up’’ side goods yard had become obsolete – it is quite remarkable that such a form of power was still in use this late on. The SR also changed the style of gas lamp, but thereafter, little changed under this company’s auspices. Without a shadow of doubt, the British Railways era was to herald the greatest of changes – ultimately for the worse. First of note was the unintended demolition of the western end of the ‘’up’’ side platform canopy. Merchant Navy Class No. 35020 ‘’Bibby Line’’ shed a brake block when passing through the station with a non-stop express from Exeter Central to Waterloo, on 24th April 1953. The brake block, flying in mid air, collided with one of the canopy struts, causing the structure to collapse on its western side. Consequently, all Merchant Navy Class engines were withdrawn to allow them to be checked for further defects, and Old Oak Common-based Britannia Pacifics were drafted in as a temporary replacement. The canopy was subsequently repaired with new struts at its western end, and the ornate valance gave way to a plain type at this time. On 24th October 1960 a then new signal box, positioned at the eastern end of the ‘’up’’ platform, came into use, replacing the quaint LSWR cabin. It was of the typical functional design of the era, being of all-brick construction and rectangular in appearance, but its existence would be short-lived.
In September 1962, regional border changes were made. These resulted in the lines west of Salisbury coming under the control of the Western Region, which swiftly began implementing downgrading measures in favour of its Paddington to Exeter trunk line via Castle Cary. By 1965, Waterloo to Exeter (and beyond) expresses were fronted by Warship Class diesel hydraulics, which had been swiftly replacing steam traction on the Western Region. All goods sidings at Crewkerne were decommissioned on 18th April 1966, but the goods shed was lucky enough to find reuse by the Permanent Way Department, which at least secured its existence in the medium term. The most drastic economy measure was that of line singling: formally completed through Crewkerne on 7th May 1967, this saw the ‘’down’’ platform taken out of use, the waiting shelter demolished, and the concrete footbridge removed. The water tank was also removed at this time, but its substantial brick base was left standing. The signal box had gone out of use on 26th February of the same year, but like the goods shed, it found a new lease of life with the Permanent Way Department. The sorry story of this once lively station is perhaps compensated by the fact that the grand station building is still in existence, compounded by the substantial support currently evident for redoubling the Salisbury to Exeter line.
With thanks to Richard Cox for footbridge information
7th August 1991
A view from 7th August 1991 shows the station building to be in very good condition, and the canopy still showed obvious evidence of the incident of 1953. Of note here are the curved windows of the top-storey, and the multitude of roof pitches. The now disused "down" platform still remains in solid condition, and can be seen in the foreground.
© Mike Glasspool
7th August 1991
An eastward view from 7th August 1991 better shows the canopy roof repairs. The signal box of 1960 can clearly be seen at the end of the operational platform, still complete with glazing. This 24-lever cabin replaced a 12-lever LSWR example. Beyond is the attractive goods shed, now without rail access, but still standing today. The former site of the "down" sidings, to the right of the disused platform surface, remains undeveloped in this view. Note also the sign on the former "down" platform: this is a common feature at one-platform stations along the route, and indicates which direction to travel in for London or Exeter-bound services.
© Mike Glasspool
7th August 1991
Although the route was singled, it still managed to retain much interest in terms of motive power. From May 1980, Class 50s and BR Mk 2a carriages constituted the bulk of the services, this stock having been cascaded from the Western Region main line after the introduction of HSTs. No. 50002 "Superb" is seen departing Crewkerne with an express for Exeter St David's on 7th August 1991.
© Mike Glasspool