THE emergence this week of a proposed £12 million "skywalk" across Worcester, linking the city centre with St John's, has thrown the spotlight on to one of the city's most familiar, but probably most ignored landmarks.

Lacking the architectural grandeur of the eye catching cathedral, the Victorian railway viaduct which carries trains out of Foregate Street station in the direction of Malvern, across the southern end of Pitchcroft and over the River Severn via a steel bridge, is passed under by thousands of motorists a day but remains almost invisible. Taken for granted is a suitable phrase.

But all that could change, because the "skywalk" proposes to partly link on to the viaduct, making use of what remains (which is not much) of a small branch line which ran alongside the main track.

The start of it all was the Worcester to Hereford Railway Act of 1853, which authorised the construction of the railway line from Worcester through Malvern to Hereford. The line started at Worcester Shrub Hill Station and joined Foregate Street Station. The line continued across the city on

a viaduct crossing the River Severn onto Malvern. A short single track line known as the Butts Branch was authorised in 1859. This descended from the north (Pitchcroft) side of the viaduct down to river level and curved north to a headshunt junction between the river and racecourse. The line reversed here and travelled south through a gap in the Bridge Street road bridge and terminated approximately 200 yards further along the river front.

The original aim of this line had been to access the Diglis area, where it was intended to interchange goods with the canal, but this section was never built due to opposition from the Church authorities not wanting the track to pass in front of Worcester Cathedral. So it ended just past the old Gascoyne's corn warehouse, which these days is Brown's Restaurant

With its original intention never fulfilled it is likely there was very little goods traffic on the line to justify its existence. Although there have been suggestions of horses being carried on race days and stock from the cattle market on market days. But the numbers would not have been commercially viable.

Various photographs of the old line still remain and its remnants can be seen from Farrier Street, Infirmary Walk and Croft Road. The aerial photo on this page dating from the 1920’s shows the line as it descends down towards the racecourse, while the viaduct arches are today mainly used as storage or commercial units.