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LMS Routes

LMS Route: Rugby to Leamington

The Rugby & Leamington Railway was purchased by the London North Western Railway (LNWR) soon after its incorporation and built the line itself. The line from Rugby's LNWR station to Leamington (Avenue) was first opened on 1st March 1851 and was originally built as a single line throughout. Birdingbury and Marton were the initial intermediate stations opening with the line and provided both passenger and goods services from the outset. Dunchurch was opened for passenger services on 2nd October 1871 and its goods yard from 1st February 1872. Ralph Rawlinson wrote in LNWR Yahoo Groups, 'In 1863 there were six passenger trains on weekdays and one on Sundays the journey taking 40 minutes'. Ralph continued 'Most of the line was doubled by 1884 and traffic slowly increased until by 1922 eleven trains were run. In 1949 it was down to six trains on weekdays but these ran to and from Warwick. The passenger service was withdrawn in 1959 but the line remained open as far as Marton Junction until 1985 to serve the Portland Cement Quarry at Southam on the line to Weedon.'

Ralph noted the route when opened 'diverged from the West Coast Main Line (WCML) at Leamington Branch Junction (SP500761) ¾ mile west of Rugby Midland station and headed south west soon passing under Lawford Road (A428). After passing through a cutting it turned more to the south and bridged the A427 to reach Dunchurch station on the A45 (near the M45). Another cutting led to Birdingbury where it bridged the River Leam and at Marton in passed over the A423. The line from Weedon trailed from the South East at Marton Junction and after a further two miles it bridged the Grand Union Canal and gradually swung west to run alongside the GWR main line to reach Leamington Spa Avenue station (SP316653).'

According to Colin Maggs in his book 'Branch Lines of Warwickshire' the timetables showed few significant changes over the years with the number of trains rising from seven down and eight up trains in August 1887, to nine trains in each direction in April 1910, whilst records for July 1922 saw eleven trains in each direction. Colin also notes the time taken to complete the 15¾ mile journey increased over the years, from a 36 minute journey in 1887, to 40 minutes in 1910 and finally to 45 minutes in 1922. A Euston to Leamington service was provided between July 1908 and December 1912 by slipping a coach at Rugby and attaching it to a Leamington bound train. It would be a mistake to believe the growth in passenger traffic justified the decision to double the line as this was more likely connected to the growth in goods traffic, particularly coal traffic from the North Warwickshire coal fields, and the need to divert this away from the Trent Valley, Birmingham to Rugby and Rugby to Euston routes. Regular passenger services on the Rugby to Leamington line were withdrawn on 15th June 1959, although diverted passenger services caused by engineering work occasionally used the line after this date. In particular, during the 1960s this line was used as an important diversionary route for Coventry and Birmingham passenger trains while the WCML was electrified. General goods traffic lasted a few years longer but the line closed as a through route in the mid-1960s.

Bob Haddon writes, 'During the 1960s this line was used as an important diversionary route for Coventry and Birmingham passenger trains while the WCML was electrified. Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) were used and left the north end bay at Rugby Midland and went on past Leamington Spa and turned down the Leamington-Coventry line and made the first stop at Kenilworth. Here you changed train for Coventry as our original train turned off at Kenilworth Junction for Hampton-in-Arden and Birmingham New Street. The Coventry passengers then crossed over the footbridge to await a service coming from Birmingham New Street via Berkswell before reversing to Coventry. I well remember seeing 'The Royal Scot' on Sundays coming this way as it went via Birmingham New Street, on Sundays only, for a number of years. How many other named trains came this way I do not know'.

Roger Stanton writes in the same group, 'I certainly remember the Leamington branch very well and what memories it brings back. Even fishing on the long since filled-in Paragon pit we used to see the Leamington flyer as we called it breeze past along with the daily chalk working from Dunstable I believe generally with a Rugby or Bletchley Duck 8. I think I mentioned before seeing the electrification diversions at Birdingbury hauled by just about anything London Midland with wheels under it and on one trip to Liverpool on an excursion we did the full route using the Berkswell cutoff. The Ivatt 2 tanks varied a bit over the years after the 419xx jobs had gone. No 41214 was a favourite for years but others including No 41323 put in an appearance. Rugby had several on its books but the others disappeared off to the sub-shed at Seaton (unbeknown to us) and I suppose they got swapped about as they required service etc. I've had a look at the photos on the site and old No 41162 makes an appearance as when I started spotting the compounds at Rugby were often seen as station pilot but one day just disappeared!! In my early days Rugby may as well have been Fort Knox as it wasn't easy to bunk. However my first memories of getting round are the scrap lines which revealed all including half a dozen Fowler tanks which had been banished from Hull Springhead or Botanic Gardens. Rare birds indeed.!!'

Ed Purcell writes in the same group, 'Interesting information about the diversions from WCML . I may be able to add a bit. The Royal Scot (and the other WCML expresses) did use the Coventry line on many Sundays in the late 1950s / early 1960s. However, they never went through New Street. They used the Stechford - Aston (normally freight only) line and thence via Bescot to come out north of Wolverhampton on the Stafford line before rejoining the WCML. Occasionally they used the Hednesford - Rugeley line, though I gather the latter was less common. Aston was the place to be on some Sundays in 1960 - 62 as the WCML services all ran through and occasionally the NE/SW route ran through there as well with diversions to that route. This meant the length of the station at Aston served both routes - replacing Tamworth as the crossing point for those two routes. As I recall No 46129 was quite often seen on the Sunday Royal Scot ( instead of a pacific) and No 71000 was often on the down 'Red Rose'. The class 44 Peaks were on the WCML at that time as well as the Class 40s. It was not uncommon to see a steam/ diesel double header because of the unreliability of the diesels (particularly the 40s)'.

Rugby (LNWR):
Station [376]
Shed [237]
Testing Station [28]
Bilton Sidings [3]
Dunchurch [18]
Birdingbury [12]
Marton [14]
Marton Junction [15]
Offchurch lineside views [7]
Leamington Avenue (LNWR) [67]
Warwick (Milverton)
Station [23]
Shed [31]
Goods Yard and Shed [15]

Route continues on to Nuneaton via Coventry