“Corkscrew Railway” is the affectionate name for the Southampton and Dorchester Railway approved by an Act of Parliament in 1845 and first opened in 1847.
It meanders through the villages and settlements of the New Forest and countryside between Southampton and Dorchester. It came with plans, never implemented, to open to Exeter.
The route and the construction was promoted by a Wimborne solicitor, Mr Charles Castleman.
Charles Castleman wanted to connect together the many settlements in the rural areas between Southampton and Dorchester. This was to increase their prosperity and to link them with Southampton and on to London.
Negotiations with LSWR and GWR
In 1844, he managed to persuade two of the great railway companies of the 19th Century (Great Western Railway and London and South Western Railway) to support his ideas for the route. This took numerous meetings, hard work and shrewd diplomacy,
GWR and LSWR were fierce rivals. They were in the middle of a titanic struggle to carve out territory for themselves in the south and west of England. Both wanted exclusive rights to the new routes being proposed to link the developing trade centres in the south and west with London.
During this period, the Corkscrew aligned first with GWR and then with LSWR in an attempt to play one off against the other. There was boardroom treachery, underhand deals, and special pleading.
Success at last
However, after an Act of Parliament in 1945, construction started on the Corkscrew Line in 1846.
On 1st June 1847, rail services started on the Corkscew Railway between Southampton and Dorchester. Connections to Weymouth and the cross-channel packet trade came along in 1857.
Charles Castleman ended up as Chair of LSWR in 1872: a repeat of the Aesop fable The Lion and the Mouse perhaps?