The Abbotsbury branch railway was a standard gauge line which ran in the west of the county of Dorset in England opening in 1885. Although great hopes of westward links and mineral traffic drove the original construction of the line, these failed to materialise and after a quiet existence carrying local passengers and agricultural produce, the line closed in 1952.
First proposed in 1872, to tap the stone deposits at Portesham and ironstone around the village of Abbotsbury itself, the first Parliamentary Bill was opposed by a local landowner and withdrawn in 1873.Further application was made in 1876 and received Royal Assent on 6 June 1877. Difficulty raising promised capital caused problems with the contractor and construction first slowed then stopped in 1881. The company were as a result obliged to seek an extension of Parliamentary time to complete the works, and to extend the limits of deviation to avoid a speculator who had bought up land at Portesham and Upwey in the hope of selling it to the railway an at inflated price. This was a common problem during the construction phase of early railways. The amending Act passed in 1882. In February 1883 an agreement with the GWR on the maintenance and operation of the line upon its completion was undertaken. Work was restarted with a new contractor but after they went bankrupt in 1884, the GWR advanced £10,000 towards the completion of the line and appointed a director to the Abbotsbury Railway Company board. The line opened for traffic on 9 November 1885. Six miles of railway had taken 8 years to build.
Initially intermediate stations were provided at Upwey and Portesham. Coryates Halt, between the two, was opened in May 1906 as part of a GWR scheme to run railmotors to compete with the rising threat of local buses. There was also a platform used solely for loading milk, at Friar Waddon. Its location is now uncertain.
An incline was constructed at Portesham to link local quarries on the hill near the Hardy Monument to the line although the actual traffic from this source proved disappointing.
An accident which occurred on 23 January 1894 involving the derailment of an Armstrong tender 0-6-0 locomotive and train on the tight curve between Upwey Junction and Upwey stations led to the discovery that the curve was sharper than had been noted in the official plans. A check rail was fitted to the curve and a ban introduced on six coupled locomotives that nominally lasted until the remaining goods spur was reduced to a siding. This change of rules, ironically, meant that in later years these engines could be used by British Railways to service Upwey goods yard after the closure to passengers, even though the only part of the line operational at this point was the curve that had caused the problems. This ban in the meantime left the motive power duties on the line to other designs, notably the 0-4-2T’s which ran for many years. The “517″ class gave way to the “14xx”class which were used for passenger and goods traffic until closure. Steam rail motors ran on the line for a few years but having the same weaknesses here as elsewhere were converted to auto trailers. Towards the end of the line’s existence GWR diesel railcars were used to reduce costs.
The line settled down to purely local traffic, only increased by the activity of military installations on Chesil Beach and around the area during the Second World War. An early victim of nationalisation, the line closed, to local protest, completely to passengers on 1 December 1952. A stub remained to serve the goods depot at Upwey, as the position of Upwey Junction station on the embankment leading to Bincombe Tunnel had always made that station unsuitable for this use. This spur was closed in 1961.