ONE of Worcester’s more endearing little civil engineering projects of the late 1800s was a railway line that would be right in the heart of the action today had it survived.

Among the city’s current commercial successes is the conversion of the dead space beneath the arches of the Victorian railway viaduct west of Foregate Street station into business usage and right alongside them used to run the Butts Spur.

In fact, if the track was still there it’s doubtful whether this slice of 21st-century ingenuity would have been possible.

Although the base that carried it remains in place, clearly visible through the units’ tall windows.

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 began at Worcester Shrub Hill station and joined Foregate Street station.

The line then continued across the city on a viaduct crossing the River Severn and on towards Malvern.

The railway engineers also planned a small freight branch line to connect Diglis Docks to the main line at Foregate Street with the hope that big ships would come up the Severn to Diglis and there the goods would be transhipped to rail.

Work started in 1860 with the single track descending 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 farther along the river front.

It did reach Dent’s glove factory and Stallard’s Distillery but, unhappily for the engineer, it never reached Diglis.

At the last minute the Cathedral Chapter vetoed the project. The church authorities did not want the track to pass in front of Worcester Cathedral.

The sound of a little engine chuffing past during evensong was deemed unsuitable.

So the line ended just past the old Gascoyne's corn warehouse which these days is Browns 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 1920s shows the line as it descends down towards the racecourse.

When the new road bridge was built in 1931, the line on the cathedral side of it was taken up and the stretch from Foregate Steet to the Grandstand cattle pens was removed in 1957.

Another quirky little piece of Worcester’s past erased for good.