Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Stratford-upon-Avon and Midland Junction Railway
'The Stratford-Upon-Avon & Midland Junction Railway (SMJR) was a minor railway company in the United Kingdom. The SMJR operated 67 miles of track in Warwickshire and Northamptonshire. It was originally designed to develop the large iron-ore traffic and to furnish a shorter route for it from Northamptonshire into South Wales. The system was known as "The Shakespeare Route"
The SMJR was formed by the amalgamation of four railways in 1908:
- Northampton & Banbury Junction Railway (NBJR), incorporated 28 July 1863, opened 1 June 1872, length 15.25 miles. Intended to tap the ironstone deposits near Blisworth , it ran from there to Cockley Brake Junction where connection was made for Banbury.
- East & West Junction Railway (E&WJR), incorporated 1864, opened Fenny Compton to Kineton 1 June 1871; Kineton to Stratford-upon-Avon 1 July 1873. On the latter day, extended eastward to join NBJR near Towcester.
- Evesham, Redditch & Stratford-upon-Avon Junction Railway, incorporated 1873, opened 2 June 1879, length 7.5 miles. Westward extension of E&WJR to join the Midland Railway at Broom Junction.
- Stratford-upon-Avon, Towcester & Midland Junction Railway, opened 1891 from Towcester to a junction near Olney, also Midland Railway. Unlike the other lines, this was intended mainly for passenger traffic, but this was short-lived in a sparsely-populated area. The line did however complete a cross-country link for Midland Railway lines.
On 1 January 1923 the SMJR was taken over by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMSR) and became an important asset to them, since it provided a direct route (avoiding Birmingham), between the western line hitherto owned by the Midland Railway and the main line south of Bedford. It was extensively used by excursion traffic between the two world wars. There was also a "race special" once a year to Towcester from London. In 1948 the SMJR became part of British Railways.
Once all the portions of the line came together in 1908, the SMJR consisted of a main line from Blisworth to Broom, with two branches: one from Towcester to Ravenstone Wood Junction, Olney and the other from Cockley Brake Junction. There were connections along the route with:
- Midland Railway - as already described
- London and North Western Railway at Blisworth
- Great Central Railway (GCR) at Woodford. Soon after the GCR’s London Extension was built in 1899, through passenger coaches were instituted between London Marylebone and Stratford; later a slip coach was used on the service.
- Great Western Railway at Fenny Compton and again at Stratford
The line was single track throughout apart from passing loops: the countryside was undulating, and there were frequent changes of gradient and sharp curves, making it difficult to work for train crews. The track itself, until taken over by the LMSR, was mostly secondhand. The railway owned 13 locomotives which themselves were old, and since they proved incompatible with the new company’s modernisation scheme they had all been scrapped by 1931. It was because of that that the line had been dubbed the Slow Mouldy and Jolty Railway by travellers.
The Edge Hill Light Railway, which began working in 1922, and closed in 1946, ran from Burton Dassett sidings, west of Fenny Compton.
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 1870’s 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.
- 16 June 1947 Broom - Stratford-upon-Avon closed to passenger traffic
- 2 July 1951 Blisworth - Towcester passenger traffic
- October 1951 Blisworth - Cockley Brake Junction all traffic
- 7 April 1952 Stratford - Ravenstone Wood Junction passenger traffic
Today the only part of the SMJR still operating is the five miles from Fenny Compton serving the Ministry of Defence depot at Kineton
- ’’The Railway Year Book for 1912’’ Railway Publishing Company Limited
- ‘’Railway Magazine’’ April 1933
- ’’Railway Magazine’’ April 1956
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