Memories : Weymouth, October 1984

Weymouth 1983

Click on the image to open full-size

Welcome to Weymouth, the famous seaside town in Dorset. Here we have a grandstand view of the Weymouth Harbour Railway – a unique link from the town’s railway station to its harbour, running entirely on the streets, sharing road space with pedestrians and traffic. If nothing else, you end up with some amazing images of trains juxtaposed with cars unlike anywhere else you can think of.

The line was opened in 1865 to transport travellers directly to the Channel Island ferries running from the harbour. The line was continually upgraded to cope with freight as well as passenger traffic, forcing Town Bridge to be rebuilt and, in the run up to World War 2, the line was rebuilt with a new quayside section which located the tramway to location where it remained.

The railway remained popular and well used throughout its life and, while regular goods traffic ceased in 1972, fuel oil was still being transported to a facility at the pier until 1983. Regular services would continue until 1987 when the South West Main Line into Weymouth was provided with third rail electrification, which was incompatible with street running. The line would remain in sporadic use until 1999 but, in late 2020, the lines were finally pulled up, marking the end of an era.

So, tell us about the cars

Renault 18 (1)

Well, well, here’s a nice – albeit small – selection of cars to enjoy. In the foreground, nearest to the camera, we have a Volvo estate, Vauxhall Cavalier Mk1 in L trim, and Renault 18 (above) TL or TS in a particularly shocking shade of green, and a Lancia Beta Berlina with a particularly ugly roof rack.

Behind the Lancia is a Jaguar XJ-S in appealing pre-HE trim wearing a private plate – why do we keep thinking of the Return of The Saint? Behind that, by the bins, is a Honda Accord Mk1 in three-door form – one of the nicest cars to emerge from Japan in the 1970s. Further down the road is a Ford Fiesta Mk1, and, just visible behind that, is a Rover 200 (SD3) in Rattan Beige, which is easily the newest car in this image.

If you enjoyed this, let us know in the comments and, if you have any pictures you’d like featuring, drop me a line via any of the links below.

Keith Adams


  1. We went to Weymouth – yes, by train – in 1959 for our summer holidays. I used to go fishing in the harbour there or, more accurately, drowning a few worms! I wonder what vehicles would have been in a photo from that year? Not many foreign ones, I’ll be bound!

    • I beat you by about four or five years. I was living in Buckfastleigh at the time and went to stay on a friend’s farm at Hemyock, near Cullumpton, during the summer school holiday. We went to Weymouth in their family car (probably an Austin or Morris) for a day out. We visited the Radipole Gardens and the port area where the boats to the Channel Islands docked. Ex-GWR pannier tank engines with a bell rung by the fireman hauled the passenger coaches and goods wagons along the line through the street. The last memory of that day was the car struggling to get up a long hill on the way back to Hemyock.

      As I now live in Bournemouth, I drove over to Weymouth when the line to the port area was being lifted, and the surface tarmaced over. The excuse for the removal of the track was that people were catching their heels in the gaps for the train wheels, while cyclists had trouble with their bike wheels getting in the gaps, and cars skidded on the rail heads. Obviously Weymouth will never have a modern tramway system if the locals and visitors cannot walk or ride or drive sensibly along just one street with a railway line running its length.

      After the end of regular use, enthusiasts’ specials used the harbour branch, but cars would have to be pushed out of the way for the trains to pass. Then Network Rail claimed the track was becoming unsafe – and the council jumped at this as another reason for destroying a bit more of local history.

  2. I actually witnessed a “Boat Train” arriving at Weymouth in the Mid 70s.

    It may sound like a desirable thing to happen, but mixing heavy rail with road traffic did not work. First a mammoth ticketing of parked cars blocking the path of the train (a town full of Holiday makers unfamiliar with this event leading to this need) would start several hours before the train would arrive followed by the lifting of those remaining cars that had not responded to the ticketing.

    Then the train would proceed at a snail’s pace through the town, for reasons of safety. One thing I did notice about the train, was that it arrived in the summer high season virtually empty and left virtually empty as well . No doubt by then there was much quicker and easier ways to travel to and from your ferry than driving a train through the streets of a busy town.

  3. What an unusual photo of cars, pedestrians and a train in close proximity! Looks mighty risky. As for the cars I still love the Cavalier MK1 even if only in saloon L trim. The Accord MK1 reminds me of my brother’s 1979 one in metallic blue. I remember when Renault 18’s were a regular sight in the UK as well.

  4. It’s a shame, I believe there was talk at one point about run the harbour line as a heritage railway, but obviously it didn’t work out for the reasons given above.

  5. I always liked and wanted one of those Honda Accord 3-door hatches, but at the time I couldn’t afford one. By the time I could afford it, they’d stopped making them. But I did have a Cavalier 1900 GL, which was a revelation the first time I drove it; handling like I’d never previously experienced.

    • The build quality on the MK1 Accord was very good and it was a more upmarket product than Datsun’s & Toyota at the time. Cant remember what my brother paid for it (he traded in a Sunny 1.4 Coupe). The Cavalier GL saloon was an aspirational car for me at age 24. Also the 1600 L was a worthy competitor to the Cortina MK IV 1600 L.

  6. The Class 33, the only diesel locomotive allocated to the Southern Region in the Modernisation Plan, as most of the Southern was to be third rail. The third rail reached Bournemouth in 1967, but Weymouth had to wait until 1988 ,and this marked the end of an EMU being hauled by a locomotive, and the class 33s hauling boat trains. Interestingly this was one of the last routes to regularly use steam on passenger services, steam hanging on until the line from Southampton to Bournemouth was electrified.

  7. Class 33 loco. There is a very pleasant walkway on the old track to Portland Bill, which includes the remains of a pier used for testing torpedoes! That Beta was doing well to be apparently rust free. The Cavalier is in the same colour as my late brother’s company car, NPR748W, which he crashed twice before doing a flit to South Africa.

    • I was surprised to see a Lancia Beta Berlina as late as 1984 as most were scrapped prematurely due to terminal rust that could strike early on. I’d imagine the buyer was either very lucky or loved his car so much he was prepared to spend hundreds of pounds on rustproofing and repairs every year. Remember, the Beta was seen as a rival to the Audi 80 and was quite an upmarket product.

      • The last Betas were sold in 84 so it might be new. Not sure what Keith was on about, I can’t see a roof rack on it, only the Volvo. In the background on the opposite side of the Quay is a red and white Sherpa. I have not seen one for donkeys.

        • Glad someone else brought up the matter of the roof-rack. I didn’t want be the pedant who did, but I’ll admit my fingers were itching to do it.

          • I wondered if it was the bracket for one of those long swishy fibre glass aerials? The bracket was to keep the top under control, and lasted longer than the aerial itself

        • I know the Coupe version and HPE were on the market into the mid eighties, but never knew the saloon was available as late as 1984. Sadly the rust scare of 1980 almost destroyed Lancia over here and they withdrew from the market in the early nineties.

  8. I was there about four years ago. It was my first time but I found it a really fascinating place. The line is still embedded in the quayside and the old portside station was still standing then. I thought I was imagine the rail still being there, but this pic in the Dorset Echo definitely showed the lines

    Its funny how the Saint and Lovejoy were visiting Weymouth that same day back in 1984.

  9. I’m amazed you could identify an SD3 with so little to see!

    I’ve taken the train along the harbour (in 1987 so not long before services stopped). A fascinating novelty, but massively inconvenient for the town due to the narrow streets it went down and of little real use as a means of transport, as it’s only a short walk from the main station to the harbour. And ferries to the Channel Islands no longer go from Weymouth anyway.

  10. My Dad had both a Mk1 Cavalier & Renault 18 as company cars between 1977 & 1983.

    Currently I work in Central Manchester & have noticed the tramlines can be a hazard for the unwary, even without any trams being around. At least once I’ve seen a cyclist falling off after he caught a wheel in a track embedded in a road. Luckily there weren’t any trams due & he managed to pick himself up with his pride mostly bruised!

    • There have been a number of incidents involving cyclists and tram tracks in Edinburgh. In fact, a medical student died a couple years ago. He/she went down after becoming caught in the track and was hit and killed by a bus.

  11. I think the ‘roof rack’ on the Beta is actually a sliding roof panel. The black bracket on the B-pillar is most likely an antenna retainer, as has been suggested. Combine the two things at the photo’s angle and, at a quick glance, it’s easy to make the roof-rack conclusion.

    • Looking again, I now think the aerial is the actual sticky up bit. The other bit on the roof is the 70s/80s special, the push up sunroof. I know I had one on my Fiesta in the 90s! It’s funny how sunroofs went out of fashion because aircon became standard in most cars, but they have now made a comeback, though now called a moon roof!

  12. “third rail electrification, which was incompatible with street running” – this made me chuckle – Definately correct statement!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.