WEM had long suffered from poor freight links with the surrounding area. Until the 1850’s the only major link was via the Prees canal which ended at Quina Brook, 4 miles away to the north. Promises of a rail link were received ecstatically in the town. One suggested route proposed in 1953 outlined a route from Leaton Station on the Shrewsbury- Chester line, to Wem via Harmer Heath. |
Eventually, the link settles upon was on the Shrewsbury to Crewe line, and the London and North-Western Railway produced a Parliamentary bill to build the line by 1858, commencing 1853. The issue was fully subscribed and the land bought. The original route proposed a route into Shrewsbury that crossed the Severn to the east of the English Bridge and joining the main Birmingham railway. This then changed to join the Hereford-Shrewsbury line to the south of the town. Arguments over this entry with the Great Western Railway (who owned Shrewsbury station) appear to have caused several years of delays.
In February, 1856, meetings was called in Wem and other towns along the line to object to an extension to this time limit, on the grounds that not a sod had been turned, and the company had showed no inclination to start work. There was a fear that the time-limit would be extended indefinitely and Wem would be left without a rail link. The main reason given by the company was that they wished to change the route into Shrewsbury (see map).
The meetings seem to have effect, for two years later, it was reported that ‘We are glad that this important link of railway communication is fast approaching completion. Yesterday, the residents on the old line of road between Shrewsbury and Wem were astonished with the sight of a railway engine, passing along upon a truck, drawn by twenty-one fine horses, which was safely landed by the engineering skills of Mr Edward Jeffreys on the rails, at the eight mile bridge, two miles from Wem.
In September 1958, it was reported that ‘The line will be opened for traffic on Wednesday morning. It is 32.5 miles in length; the gradients and curves are easy (if we except the curve at the entrance to Shrewsbury Station, and we are informed it is one of the best made lines in England. It has been constructed by Messrs Brassy and Field, the eminent contractors. Mr Donald Campbell had acted as engineer for the London and North-Western Company, and Mr Clarke for the contractors.
It appears that the journey from Shrewsbury to Manchester will in future be accomplished in the marvellously short time of two hours and twenty minutes! Five trains each way will run daily. In 2013, the time for this journey was around 1hour 20 minutes. In 1958, it was reported that ‘A Dinner will take place at the White Horse Hotel, Wem, on Tuesday, September 7th, in Commemoration of the Opening of the Shrewsbury and Crewe Railway. The Presidents listed were J.H. Walford, Wm, Lucas, H.J.Barker and Mr G.W. Poole.
The only physical change to the town was the alteration of the road layout at the Soulton Road/Aston Road junctions – and the loss of the racecourse through which the new railway ran. The station was built at the end of Maypole End (renamed Aston Street) and services began.
Following the opening of the railway in September 1858, several other schemes were proposed for the area. The major one, put forward in 1861, proposed a link from the Cambrian line at Bettisfield to Edstaston where there would be a station. The line would then split, with one line joining the Crewe-Shrewsbury line just the east of Creamore, and the other continuing on to join the Wellington-Market Drayton line near Hodnet. This line, known as the Drayton Junction line, was also put forward in 1864 but does not appear to have been followed up.
Another line was proposed in the area. Had a line branching from Harlescote and passing to the south-east of Shawbury before joining the Wellington- Market Drayton line south of Hodnet. This 1963 idea also appears to have been abandoned.