Yeovil’s growth in the nineteenth century was given added impetus with the advent of the railway.
It was the facility afforded by the train to communicate rapidly with other parts of the country that induced owners of highly successful newspaper and dairy industries to establish headquarters here.
Although the various rail links became available in a relatively short period, their beginnings were anything but straightforward. Several different companies were concerned, to say nothing of two different track gauges being employed. Because of the lack of an overall strategy by the companies, a golden opportunity to combine all in a main central station was missed.
The complicated story starts on 1 October 1853 with the opening of Yeovil’s first rail link, at Hendford, from Durston on the main Bristol to Exeter Line, which had suffered from delays caused by shortage of funds. Among the first passengers to arrive at the station were directors of the Bristol and Exeter Railway Company. They were met by the Portreeve and a huge crowd of well wishers.
In 1857 this line was extended to join the Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth line at Pen Mill where the Great Western Railway Company had opened a station on 1 September 1856. Yeovil Town Station, opened in 1861, was a joint station built by the London and South Western Railways Company and the Great Western Railway Company and Hendford was then used for goods only.
Meanwhile work had been going on constructing a line from Salisbury to Yeovil by the Salisbury and Yeovil Railway Company and another from Yeovil to Exeter by the London and South Western Railway Company. The Salisbury-Yeovil railway opened on 1 June 1860 and Yeovil-Exeter on 19 July. Spurs linked the Junction Station with both Yeovil Town and Pen Mill Stations.
Dr. Beeching’s notorious ‘axe’ finally closed the link to Taunton and the ‘town’ station closed 1 March 1967, Hendford Goods line remained until 29 May 1968. At its peak, three stations, one halt, four goods yards and two locomotive depots operated in Yeovil employing a total staff of 400.