Wiltshire Publications

Village station celebrates 75th anniversary

Dilton Marsh Station, one of only a few village railway stations left in the county, has celebrated its 75th anniversary.

At 15:33 on Saturday 2nd June, a train bearing a commemorative headboard at the front of the engine, was welcomed by a large crowd of parish councillors, guests, villagers, and railway enthusiasts. There was also a display with information and photographs of the station over the years.

The celebrations were officially started by Parish Councillor Alison Irvine as over 100 villagers came to see a specially marked 15.11 train service from Westbury to Warminster.

Two birthday cakes were made for the occasion and First Great Western donated two First Class tickets for travel anywhere on their network as a raffle prize.

Dilton Marsh Halt opened on 1st June 1937. Roger Newman, chairman of the West Wiltshire Rail Users Group, explained, “They called it a halt, because it didn’t have any staff.

“It was important to the village; although there was an increasing number of cars in 1937, Dilton Marsh was a village which was enlarging itself, so the Great Western Railway thought it might be appropriate. The platforms were a little longer and the buildings a little more substantial than the present wooden shelter.”

With no staff to sell tickets, passengers were directed to a nearby house where Mrs H Roberts sold them. The station name was shortened to ‘Dilton Marsh’ in 1969. The station has had to fight closure in its history, but this was met with a public outcry. The fight was joined by the late Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman, who penned his poem ‘Dilton Marsh Halt’. A framed copy of the poem was presented to Dilton Marsh Primary School last week. In the 1990s, the station was rebuilt and reopened. It now sits on the line between Bristol Temple Meads and Southampton Central, operating as a request stop for local passengers. Roger said, “It’s a request stop, where you stand there with your hand out, or you speak to the conductor. They only open one door on the train. There’s not so many stops in their timetable which doesn’t help patronage, so it does need promoting to the public to get more people using it.”