Portland Perambulations. The Gem Bridge (seen in Photo Gallery 65) is not the only major bridge being replaced on a former railway in 2012: in fact, new bridges form the main theme for the year on the UK's rail trails. Another example of a much-needed bridge being replaced is that over Newstead Road in the Weymouth conurbation, just north of Rodwell. The absence of this bridge has impaired the Rodwell Trail for years, but it's back now, and user levels on the path are expected to increase significantly as a result.

Above: The Rodwell Trail now occupies the former branch line from Melcombe Regis (effectively Weymouth) to Portland between Westham and Wyke Regis. The route is owned and managed by Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, which in recent years has done much to improve the route. A nice touch is the reproduction station signs installed on all of the station platforms, which are (clockwise from top left) Westham Halt, Rodwell, Sandsfoot Castle Halt and Wyke Regis Halt. 24th February 2012. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: Just south of Westham Halt, W&PBC installed a new bridge in the early months of 2012 to replace the original rail-over-road bridge which was removed in 1987 as part of local road improvements. The new bridge is substantially longer than the original thanks to the edges of the embankments being graded back to improve visibility along the road. This is the view from the south side, looking towards Weymouth. 24th February 2012. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: This view of the new bridge over Newstead Road, taken from the north side looking towards Portland, gives a fair impression of the size of the structure. There were tiomes when there was some doubt as to whether this bridge would ever be built, especially when elaborate decorative parapets in the design pushed the project's costs above £1 million; but, in the end, the design was simplified and delivered at a cost of £835,000. The bridge had been opened by the time a group of Railway Ramblers visited on 17th March. 24th February 2012. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: Just south of Newstead Road bridge, the railway passed through Rodwell Tunnel before reaching Rodwell station, which was an important passing place on the line. As can be seen, the tunnel was receiving some attention, although it was impossible to tell if this was to do with roof repairs, re-pointing, or renewing the lighting. However, it was a safe bet that the work was inspired by the forthcoming visit of the Olympic Games to the area. 24th February 2012. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: Rodwell station, looking north. The tunnel seen in the previous picture can just be seen in the distance. The main station buildings were on the southbound platform (right), while a small signal box was situated on the northbound platform (left). 24th February 2012. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: Continuing south from Rodwell station, the railway passed under this three-arched viaduct, which carries Rodwell Road over the line. The A frames visible above the parapet contain an extension which encases an attached pedestrian walkway. 24th February 2012. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: The Rodwell Trail can be followed as far as the south end of Wyke Regis, after which the trackbed is owned by the Crown Estates as it crosses the west end of Chesil Beach; public access is permitted here as well. On arrival in Portland, railway ramblers are advised to head for Castletown, where the first of two inclines on the former Merchants Railway can be followed up to the plateau on the top of the island. Many stone sleepers remain in place here, while the views can be impressive – except on this occasion, when the island's heights were cloaked in low cloud. 24th February 2012. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: The second, upper incline on the Merchants Railway is short but more impressive than the first thanks to the three fine stone bridges which cross the trackbed, seen here on the left. We believe that the fourth bridge, seen on the right, also owes its existence to a tramway, but we need to trace a 10" map from about 1900 to be able to confirm this. What is certain is that the top of Portland is laced with old tramways – a railway rambler's paradise. 24th February 2012. (Jeff Vinter)