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LMS Routes

LMS Route: The Stratford upon Avon & Midland Junction Railway - 'The Shakespeare Route'

The Stratford upon Avon & Midland Junction Railway (SMJ) whilst promoting itself as the 'The Shakespeare Route' was perhaps better described as the 'Slow, Miserable and Jolty' reflecting its careworn and 'make do' approach to survival. The history of the railway is not just of one company but four being an initial amalgam of two small companies which added two further small extensions in its pursuit for survival. In fact the SMJ did not come into existence until 1st January 1909 and only lasted fourteen years before being absorbed into one of the big four, the London Midland Scottish Railway on 1st January 1923. The two pre-SMJ companies that traversed Warwickshire were the East & West Railway (E&W) company that ran between Stratford upon Avon and Towcester and the Evesham, Redditch & Stratford upon Avon Railway Junction Railway (ER&SJ) which was built as an attempt to generate through traffic as an alternative to the GWR route. The first section of the E&W to open was the Fenny Compton to Kineton section on 1st June 1871 followed by the Kineton to Stratford upon Avon section on 1st July 1873. The ER&SJ route from Stratford upon Avon to Broom on the Midland Railway's Evesham to Redditch route opened on 2nd June 1879. In all instances the line opened to both goods and passenger traffic on the same day although passenger services were suspended on the Fenny Compton to Kineton section between 31st July 1877 to 22nd March 1885. The rural nature of the route meant that the railway always struggled to be profitable, a state of affairs best illustrated by past suggestions that the payment of dividends was closely linked to the amount of hay the railway could harvest from the land on either side of the route.

The withdrawal of passenger traffic from the route because of road competition was therefore inevitable with passenger services between Broom and Stratford on Avon being suspended on 16th June 1947. The intermediate stations at Binton and Bidford were also closed temporarily but on 23rd May 1949 their closure was announced as permanent. On the 5th April 1952 regular passenger services between Blisworth and Stratford on Avon also ceased although because goods traffic still ran along the route the line was frequently visited by railway enthusiast specials. The honour for organising the very last passenger train to visit Stratford on Avon fell to the Stephenson Locomotive Society (SLS) whose special on 24th April 1965 finally brought down the curtain. On the 12th June 1960 the construction of the new junction with the former GWR Stratford to Honeybourne route, together with the upgrading of the junction between the former GWR Oxford to Birmingham line at Fenny Compton, meant that traffic for South-West Wales via the Stratford on Avon to Broom route no longer needed to utilise the section of line to Broom. This resulted in the Stratford on Avon to Broom route being closed on the same day although the two intermediate stations' goods yards had closed on 7th March 1960. The goods yards of the intermediate stations between Blisworth and Stratford on Avon were variously closed during 1963 and 1964. During the same period the South Wales ironstone traffic also declined which meant that the remaining SMJR route was finally closed on 5th July 1965, except for the section between Burton Dassett sidings and Fenny Compton which remained open to service the Ministry of Defence establishment.

For a more detailed understanding of the lines complex history the viewer is advised to read the late Arthur Jordan's book The Stratford upon Avon and Midland Junction Railway published by OPC. In addition a very hand little book crammed full of railway facts and figures is JM Dunn's The Stratford upon Avon & Midland Junction Railway published by The Oakwood Press. The captions to many of the images on this route are heavily dependent upon both books, particularly Arthur Jordan's as such we wish to recognise Arthur Jordan as being the principal author of the text. Geoffrey Kingscott's Lost Railways of Warwickshire published by Countryside Books has a section dedicated to the SMJR with 'Now and Then' photographs along the route in Warwickshire which supplement a brief but interesting history of the railway.

Select a station or subheading to view associated images. Numbers in [brackets] specify the number of photos on each page.

Broom [53]
Bidford on Avon [13]
Binton [13]
Stratford on Avon
Station [63]
Shed [36]
Locos [44]
Clifford Chambers Sidings [4]
Ettington Limestone Company [9]
Ettington [32]
Kineton [33]
Burton Dassett [7]
North End [None known to exist]
Fenny Compton [30]