On 1st October 1985 the Branch Line Society (BLS) published this 120 page book which attempted to list all known trackbeds of 100 yards or longer in the British Isles, accessible to the public, including those converted into roads. Subsequently three printed supplements were available and in 2013 a second edition was published as a compact disc with regular updates available by email. In recent years the database has been on the BLS website, accessible to their logged in members. Railway Rights of Way is the life’s work of Railway Ramblers and BLS member Rhys Ab Elis who has continued to update his database regularly for over 50 years – including information from Railway Ramblings, BLS members and others. Many regard it as the definitive work on the subject.
In a new development, the whole database is now available free to all at branchline.uk the Branch Line Society Website. On the ‘Home Page’, go across the top banner to ‘More options…’ and select ‘Railway Rights of Way’ (RROW) from the drop down menu. On the RROW page, ‘About’ has an introduction with the background, how to interpret the lists with the sequencing explained, acknowledgements, sources and abbreviations (particularly railway companies). The lists are divided into England, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and ‘Islands’ (the Channel Islands, Isle of Man and Isle of Wight). Other islands such as Lundy are included in their respective areas. Each of these leads to a series of nominal administrative areas, which are likely to be familiar to readers, resulting in over 100 separate PDFs.
Each PDF is a six column tabulated list of routes within its area. (1): Type of route: footpath, cyclepath, bridleway, road or open space. (2): The name (if any) or, for roads, the ‘A’ or ‘B’ number. (3): The start and finish of the route with six-figure grid references where available. (4): The route distance to the nearest quarter of a mile. (5): The Pre-Grouping owning Railway Company. (6): The specific reference to the source of information. A second section in each PDF lists ‘future proposals’ and a third lists ‘informal paths’ which have no legal status as public right of way but are de facto used as such.
Last updated in January 2021, revisions are generally made two or three times a year. Composite PDFs are also available covering whole countries and one PDF has the entire British Isles Database as a single document. All PDFs can be downloaded (useful if planning a visit to a particular area), printed or ‘cut and pasted’ and are searchable. The BLS hopes that Railway Ramblers members will find this of interest and useful. The compiler would be pleased to receive any updates, corrections and additions.
Please email the BLS RROW Coordinator, Neil Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to Rhys Ab Elis directly at: Mynydd Mawr, 14 Rhes-Y-Twnnel, Casnewydd, Gwent, NP20 4BT.