‘The Stratford Upon Avon & Midland Junction Railway’ (or S.M.J.) 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 SMJ from 1909 to 1923. In 1923 the S.M.J.became a minor arm of the London Midland and Scottish (L.M.S.), then in 1948 'British Railways' 

Gone but not forgotten: "the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth"


SMJ Forum

Funny Story about Kineton Military Railway 1 Reply

An improbable, funny, but absolutely true story relating to the Kineton military railway.Long after my Army days I still retained an affection and passing interest in Kineton ammunition depot where I served during the 1960s. Coupled to a 'love' of…Continue

Started by Dave Hayward. Last reply by Dave Hayward Apr 28.

Blisworth - Towcester ETS working

Electric train staff equipment had been brought into use between Blisworth and Towcester by 9 August 1910 (date of SMJR minute 451 (TNA file RAIL 674/3)) and presumably the new signal box at Blisworth appeared at the same time. In that this was so…Continue

Started by Richard Maund Apr 20.

Blisworth 1920

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Started by Richard Maund Apr 20.

Evesham Redditch & Stratford-upon-Avon Junction Railway 8 Replies

Did this railway (as opposed to the East & West Junction Railway) go into receivership - if so, when. And when did it come out of receivership?Continue

Started by Richard Maund. Last reply by Richard Maund Feb 11.

SMJ photos

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There was a public level crossing between Blakesley and Morton Pinkney, complete with a gatehouse.

Does anyone know how this was operated?

Presumably the gates must have been manual and kept closed against road traffic.

Early Working Timetables mention the distant signals on either side which were "connected" to the gates, and that drivers must be prepared to either reduce speed or stop

Does this mean that they were interlocked so that the gates could not be opened unless the signals were cleared?

How was the gatehouse manned - I've never seen a photo so did it include accommodation for a crossing keeper, or was it simply just a shelter?

Any thoughts  - or better still a photo !

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Railways own the right of way at most crossings, and until traffic levels increased in busy areas the gates normally be closed across the road. This is still the case at many minor crossings, and there are 3 if not 4 such crossings between Oakham and Melton Mowbray.

These are now linked to signal boxes still used to regulate trains, and the crossing keepers have to check with their local cabin to see if the line is clear, and to obtain "line blocked" on the block instruments. One exception is on the road between Langham and Ashwell, where road users press a button to alert Ashwell, and the signaller there raises the barriers if it is safe so to do.

Back in the day, such a crossing may have simply had a gatekeeper and a small lever frame. The gates would be closed to road traffic, locked by a gate-lock, and the gate distant signals would show all clear (the crossing gates serve as a stop signal). If a road user wished to cross, the keeper would check the WTT for likely services, check visually (smoke) and aurally (chuffing!) that a train wasn't due or coming, and then work the frame to return the distanf signals, unlock the gates, and then manually open them. The gatelock would be an unlikely requirement, as it has locked the distanr signals at "warning" by being in the "normal" position. Once the road user has crossed, the gates would be opened to rail traffic, the gate-lock pulled and then the distantsignals released.

Many railway companies would provide a small house for this, offering cheap or free board and lodging for a ganger as long as his wife worked the gates. Others might provide a simple shelter or use a platelayer's hut. Nor sure what our muse would have done, other than the cheapest possible solution!

We need a good photo.



Ignore my previous reply, have a look at what Si had to say about this crossing on the Morton page. Seems it was built for the Grafton, follow the link:-


Suggest you contact Si to see what else he knows.


Could this be at the old drove road "Oxford Lane" ?

NIGEL said:

Could this be at the old drove road "Oxford Lane" ?

I was going to say that, but Nigel beat me to it!
Try this link, you may have to move eastwards


It's since occured to me that as this was a crossing for the Grafton Hunt it would only have been used very occasionally. So my guess is it was protected by fixed distants. The Hunt used to meet three times a week during the foxhunting season from a variety of meet places over the south of the county. On average they might have been roughly in the area within a few miles of the crossing about once every two or three weeks.  One of the places that they met near Morton was at Woodend Top Green on New Years Day. Blakesley Green was another and I think Canons Ashby was another. Plumpton Wood next to the SMJ was frequently hunted and the crossing would have been a useful link between this wood and one near Canons Ashby  If the hunt were using the crossing they would have had priority by law over the the railway company (a bit like 'sail over steam' on water).  In other words trains had to stop to let the hunt pass. As late as the '60s the Hunt was a very powerful influence within the area, any farmer who didn't allow them over his land was considered an outsider in the local community and the hunt often rode roughshot over such land. Their professional huntsmen, Will Pope and Joe Miller, were local celebrities who local kids aspired to be. There was a celebrated court case when a pack of hounds followed a fox into Roade Cutting , were mowed down by an express and the railway company (either LNWR or LMS) had to pay the hunt compensation!

Delving through my bits and pieces has turned up a few other references.

The EWJR and SMJR Working Timetables from 1890 though to1912 have no reference at all to the crossing.

The 1916 SMJ WTT does mention it and states "distant signals are sited on the up side 700yds west of the gates and on the up 600yds east.....both of these signals are connected to the gates and when the signals are at danger the gates are over the line and thus open for the public roadway and drivers must immediately slacked speed and be prepared to stop"

The distants must therefore have been operated from the gatehouse, as they were not in the station signalbox lever frame.

In his Signalling History booklet Mike Christensen states that "the gates at Morton Pinkney were protected only by red lights on the gates and a distant in the down direction where the view of the crossing was obstructed" He also mentions keys being given to Masters of the Hunt for various crossings on the line - certainly the newly formed SMJR also made a big thing of courting the local hunting fraternity to get huntsmen, horses and hounds on to their trains.

This all points to the gatehouse being introduced perhaps shortly after 1912.

In pictures of Morton Pinkney station area in BR days there appears to be a "whistle" board facing up trains just to the east of the roadbridge - this would fit with the up distant being removed and just leaving the down one in place as above.

Finally - and a bit strange - I have some signalbox telephone circuit lists for the line and the gatehouse is not shown in 1945, but appears for 1952 and 1953, and then disappears again in 1959. So it was in contact with other stations and signalboxes, but the omission in certain years is strange - perhaps it was unmanned then?

It may be the case that the station master at Morton Pinkney had the key, and knew when the hunt would be in the local area, and sent a member of staff down to unlock the crossing at those times. It is possible that there be some form of indicator to show when a train was on-line between Blakesley and Morton. This might have evolved into a gatekeeper's cottage.

Moreton Pinkney  crossing shown on a 1950 map. There is a signal post just to the east of the road bridge, which is approx. 700yds from the Oxford Lane crossing. The other signal post to the east of this crossing appears to be approx. 550yds. away, so about right with distances already stated.

A chap called Guy Higgs used to live in the crossing keepers house in the late 50's early 60's!

Great comments by Andy Thompson about Moreton Pinkney (with an "e") - for the record, the signalman was Louis Hawtin (not Les) who later worked at Banbury Lane signal box in Northampton.

Mr and Mrs Pratt (Della and Les) were my Dad's cousins

Ian Merivale said

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