Some Early Lines
The Stratford-upon-Avon & Midland Junction Railway
A nice view of the station taken the year before it closed to passenger services. The view is looking from the western end of the station. Note the engine shed in the centre and the turntable far right. D.J.Norton
The Stratford Upon Avon & Midland Junction Railway (SMJR) was a small independent railway company which ran a line across the empty, untouched centre of England. It visited the counties of Northamptonshire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and a little of Buckinghamshire, only existing as the SMJR from 1909 to 1923 . In 1923 the SMJR became a minor arm of the London Midland and Scottish (LMS), then in 1948 ‘British Railways’.
The SMJR came into being from the amalgamation of ‘The East & West Junction Railway’ (E+WJR), ‘The Evesham, Redditch and Stratford Railway’ (ER+SR), and changing its name to ‘The Stratford-upon-Avon, Towcester and Midland Junction Railway’ (ST+MJR), ‘The Easton Neston Mineral and Towcester, Roade and Olney Junction Railway’ (ENM+TROJR). In 1910 ‘The Northampton & Banbury Junction Railway’ (N+BJR) was amalgamated into the SMJR and as the SMJR the company ran services between Broom Junction and Stratford and Banbury to the west through Towcester to Blisworth and Olney in the east, fashioning itself as ‘The Shakespeare route’.
This picture is looking east towards Fenny Compton and shows the water column and associated frost fire to help avoid freezing in the winter. Note the hump in the line where there is a road bridge close to the signal. D.J.Norton
The line’s original raison d’etre (that of conveying ironstone to the ironworks of South Wales) was ended when cheap Spanish ore displaced that from the Northamptonshire quarries. This brought about financial problems, and for a time in the 1870s the E&WJR was in the hands of the receiver. By 1911, however, the line was showing a reasonable profit.
Lias limestone was conveyed from the Ettington Lime Works; but from the early 20th century it became important as a through route for freight of all kinds between the West of England and London. One such freight working was the express banana train between Avonmouth Dock and St Pancras.
Passenger services generally on the SMJR were sparse, with often just three or four trains a day. For some months in 1932 experiments were carried out on the SMJR with a Ro-Railer – buses converted to run on rails — although these were not successful and the service was withdrawn in June 1932.
After the closure (1947) the Broom Junction to Stratford section, Stratford (Old Town) was the terminus of this wandering branch which made an end-on connection with the Great Western’s lines from Birmingham and Hatton Junction. Its extremities met the Midland at Broom Junction (Birmingham-Redditch-Evesham-Ashchurch), the Great Central (main line) at Woodford, the Midland (Northampton-Bedworth branch) at Ravenstone Wood Junction, and the LNWR (main line) at Blisworth. After the coming of cars and buses these cross-country passenger train links were little used though they ran until 1952. For one short glorious period in BR days through freight to South Wales made the lines busy, but rationalisation in the 1960s soon put paid to this. Total closure took place in 1965.