The Lyme Regis branch line was a branch line off the West of England Main Line in the south west of England, opened in 1903. It ran from Axminster in East Devon, via the hamlet of Combpyne and through the village of Uplyme where the line crossed a large bridge known as “The Cannington Viaduct” and crossed the Devon county border to the Dorset port and seaside resort of Lyme Regis.
The line was constructed by the independent engineer and promoter Arthur C Pain. There were significant twists and gradients, such that the LSWR, which subsequently took over and operated the line, had significant difficulty finding suitable locomotives. Eventually the Adams ‘Radial’ Tank 4-4-2T locomotive was identified as capable of negotiating the route, three being assigned to the line from their normal suburban duties. They worked the route on rotation almost uniquely until its closure, outlasting the rest of their class significantly, and ensuring one (number 30583) was preserved in service, currently on the “Bluebell Line” in Sussex, and another as a static exhibit in the national collection. This situation has parallels in the case of the Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway, both having developed a following because of the attractive, older locomotives working the scenic routes.
This branch line was closed on the 29 September 1965, as part of the “Beeching Axe”, a period of numerous closures following the Beeching Report, which rationalised areas of low traffic on the network. Whilst the line was exceptionally busy with tourists arriving by train in summer, this could not sustain the route the rest of the year against the motor car.
Lyme Regis station has been dismantled and reconstructed at New Alresford, on the Watercress Line, in Hampshire. The viaduct on the route, at Cannington, is a Grade II listed structure. Although subject to subsidence soon after its construction it still stands, notable for the significant masonry reinforcement within one of the arches giving it a distinctive silhouette.