Back in the 19th Century, Lyme Regis needed a railway. Even in those days, it was very much a seaside town and, with the advent of railways, that was how the British public wanted to go on holiday. Lyme was never going to be on a main line to anywhere so a branch line was its major hope. Schemes were put forward from 1845 onwards which was fifteen years before the main line reached Axminster. Nine schemes and fifty eight years later Lyme had its branch line from Axminster.
However, what was built was done as cheaply as possible and ended up with "difficult access through sidings at Axminster, steep gradients, weight restrictions, sharp curves, a 25mph speed limit and a dodgy 230 yard concrete viaduct 93ft high which had to be shored up and carefully watched. The line terminated high above Lyme by the then new Victoria Hotel, leaving its passengers a long walk into town – no cliff railway down to the sea, as at Lynton. Run with dedication by local staff, saddled with unsuitable locomotives and second hand coaches it was prey to motor bus competition after only two decades - having itself having seen off one of the last railway-sponsored rural horse bus routes and caused terminal decline of sea cargo across the Cobb".
The above quote is from the Museum's research paper The Axminster & Lyme Regis Light Railway - too little, too late? written by Richard Bull (as volunteer researcher) as part of the preparation for The Industrial Lyme exhibition earlier this year. Click here to download this paper and here to browse all of The Museum's research papers.
You can still see the Cannington Viaduct if you visit Lyme. You can still see the station but for that you will have to go Alresford station on the Mid Hants Railway where it is in use as a buffet.