This was once a typical Great Western Railway (GWR) "halt"-type stop, situated 83-chains from the end of the line at Weymouth, upon a 1 in 187 gradient climbing in the London direction. The station’s advent came in the early 20th Century during a time when those railway companies in Southern England embarked on the "railmotor" (also known as "steam motor") concept. Railmotor vehicles comprised a single chassis upon which a carriage body and small locomotive were situated. They were seen as the answer to providing a railway service to those smaller communities outside of town and city centres that would otherwise be uneconomical to serve using traditional locomotive haulage. This resulted in the proliferation of small stations — "halts" — placed at comparatively short intervals in-between main line stops, that were cheap to erect and ideal for the frequent stop-start service patterns operated by railmotors.
A railmotor service between Dorchester and Weymouth was initiated by the GWR on Monday, 1st May 1905, but construction of the halt at Radipole had not yet been finished:
NEW GREAT WESTERN MOTOR SERVICE
Yesterday, the Great Western Railway inaugurated a new railway motor service between Dorchester and Weymouth. The cars will run according to a regular time-table, and will be independent of the ordinary service. The motor engines and cars arrived from Swindon on Monday. The journey is done in 20 minutes,
being about the time of an ordinary train. There will be several halts in the near future, namely, at Upwey, Bincombe, and Radipole, but the stations at the latter two places are not yet ready. The cars will also run on the Abbotsbury branch. The new service is intended largely for the use of Weymouth visitors, and for the new golf links on Came Down. [The Western Daily Press, Bristol, Tuesday, 2nd May 1906]
The publication The Story of the Westbury to Weymouth Line (D. Phillips, 1994) shows an opening date of 1st July 1905 for Radipole Halt. Two wooden platforms were situated either side of the double track between Weymouth and Dorchester, each of which was host to a waiting shelter. Of the latter, these were a standard GWR type, being of corrugated metal construction with "Pagoda" style roofs. Photographs of the halt from the early years show each platform to be equipped with a pair of gas lamps within the traditional diamond-shaped casing.
The railmotor fare between Dorchester and Weymouth was cheaper than the equivalent on a regular service, each being 11d (£5.26 at 2021 prices) and 1 shilling 2d (£6.64 at 2021 prices) respectively for a return trip.
In the context of railways, the Radipole area of Weymouth was perhaps better known for the GWR’s 1885-opened engine shed, rather than the halt. However, the latter was much-used by locomotive crews when travelling to and from the depot (ref: The Railway Magazine [Mail Bag], March 1985).
As of 2nd April 1950, the line from Castle Cary to Weymouth came within the jurisdiction of the Southern Region (SR) of British Railways, having been transferred from the Western Region. The engine shed at Radipole survived right until the end of SR steam in July 1967, closure being effective from 10th of that month. This meant that Radipole Halt lost a reasonable source of its passenger traffic: that of the locomotive crews.
In the June 1969 edition of the RCTS’ The Railway Observer magazine, it was remarked that the word "Halt" had been discontinued in general with the introduction of British Rail’s (BR) then new timetable, effective 5th May of that year. As a result, Radipole Halt became plain "Radipole". As of June 1973, traditional swan neck lampposts were still in place, as were the Pagoda shelters.
In the March 1983 edition of The Railway Magazine, it was reported that the British Railways Board had given advance notice of its plans to close Radipole station. Even prior to the Department of Transport’s ultimate decision on whether or not services should be withdrawn from Radipole, BR closed the station after 31st December 1983. It was reported that the timber platforms had become unsafe and, given that the future of the station was in doubt, expenditure on repairs was not justified (ref: The Railway Magazine, March 1984). Consent for service withdrawal was received in January 1984, and Radipole was officially closed from 6th February of that year. By the time of closure, the GWR Pagoda-style shelters had been replaced by rectangular types. As of the summer 1983 timetable, the following services (but not limited to) were known to call at the station:
- Westbury to Weymouth (and return) diesel multiple units.
- 06.15 ex-Weymouth
- 06.30, 07.16 and 17.47 ex-Bournemouth
- 08.39 and 17.25 ex-Dorchester South
- 17.10 Cardiff to Weymouth
Ref: The Railway Magazine, September 1983
A powerful engine on the ascent. In the last week of Southern Region main line steam, Rebuilt Merchant Navy Class No. 35028 "Clan Line" is seen on the slog out of Weymouth, climbing through Radipole on a gradient of 1 in 187. Just beyond Radipole, it starts to become very hard work: the gradient gets much steeper, a rate of 1 in 74 for about 1⅓-mile, before a mile of 1 in 50 is endured. After about another ¾-mile at 1 in 52, the line finally levels out for the 819-yards of Bincombe North Tunnel, after which it falls at 1 in 91. The architecture in view is very much GWR, that company’s distinctive Pagoda waiting shelters being in use for most of the station’s existence. Note that the text of the "Halt" suffix on the name board is much smaller than "Radipole".
© David Glasspool Collection