‘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"


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SMJ Forum

The Campion Family: SMJ employees 4 Replies

I would be grateful if anyone can let me know if there are any registers, documents or other employee information that exists where I might be able to find out more about the following members of my family:1. Henry Campion   1830-1910  Lived in…Continue

Started by David Campion. Last reply by David Campion Jun 28.

lManning Wardle lcomotive MOROUS

Read in recent  HERITAGE RAILWAY magazine that an original nameplate from this 1860's  loco has been donated to the Colonel Stephens Museum.   Interesting as apparently it started life as a contracter's loco building the E  and WJR  and then ran for…Continue

Started by ray w Jun 21.

Walking the SMJ 4 Replies

Careful scrutiny of the 1:25000 maps on Streetmap suggests that very little of the SMJ trackbed is a public right-of-way. There are short sections near Roade and Kineton and one or two places where there is an adjacent footpath. Can anyone advise of…Continue

Started by Michael Roake. Last reply by Simon Stevens May 27.

Beyer Peacock 2-4-0T- As near as you can get to a E&WJR 2-4-0T nowadays!

This is Isle of Man Railway Beyer Peacock 2-4-0T 'Mannin' which is about to be restored to running order so that it can deal…Continue

Started by Dick Bodily May 19.

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Blakesley

 

 

 

 

The East & West Junction railway (E&W) proposed a new line from a junction with the Northampton & Banbury Junction Railway at Greens Norton to Stratford Upon Avon. In 1864 Lady Palmerson came and cut the first sod. The E&W became a part of the SMJ in January 1st, 1909.

Blakesley

Morton Pinkney

Woodford Halse

Byfield

Fenny Compton

BurtonDassett/Edgehill Light

Kineton

Ettington

Stratford Upon Avon

Binton

Bidford

Broom

Blakesley

Blakesley's station built around the SMJ's main single track and a passing loop had two platforms. Even in BR days it was frequently a place where up and down trains crossed. The main station building was located on the down platform. There was one long siding in the goods yard and a signalbox, cattle ramp and dock and a platelayers' hut on the downside too. The main use for the siding after passenger services were discontinued was for coal deliveries; Ted Botterill had regular deliveries of coal wagons and in addition Wiggins and Williams also had coal delivered to the siding. Latterly Ted had a garage for his lorry erected next to the station building. It can be seen in many 1960s photographs of the station. The weighbridge was still much in use by Ted in particular. The cattle dock was still occasionally used as well and was kept in good order right up to the closure. A wooden waiting shelter stood on the up platform. There were two approach roads, one which still exists as a private drive led down from Blakesley's High Street to the up platform, the other led into the goods yard from the Woodend direction. There was no footbridge just board crossings at either end of the platforms. The station was protected by fixed distant, home and starter signals, a ground banner signal protecting the siding.  The down starter signal, which progressively dropped less and less in the clear position as it got older, was eventually replaced sometime in the mid 50s by a modern one. About the same time the metal fence was removed that separated Blakesley Minature Railway from the SMJ main line as they both passed under Bridge 24, as was the shelter on the up platform. All that remains of Blakesley station nowadays is the end ramp of the up platform which is visible from Bridge 24, two homes have been built on the site.

Sometime in the late 50 / early 60s a Northampton 4F failed at Blakesley with a burst steam pipe. It's believed one of the crew was slightly scalded and taken to Northampton General Hospital by road. The fire was dropped and the engine was left in the goods siding for a couple of days until it could be towed away. 

There was a foot crossing between Blakesley Bridge 24 and Dunkley's (aka. Cattle) Bridge 25. It was much nearer to Bridge 24 than Bridge 25 not many yards west of the up home signal, but obviously the quoted distances don't make sense. My 'guesstimate' would be around 8 miles & 46 chains. It carried a much contested public footpath from a point half way down School Lane right through a property's garden, then through Blakesley Hall grounds to Woodend. Squire C W Bartholomew constructed a metalled footpath along side the Woodend Road from a point near Blakesley Station to Woodend, then declared that the footpath that crossed the E&WJR had been closed. It is doubtful that he got official approval for this 'closure'. Certain villagers continued to use the footpath and the crossing just to make their point but it largely died out of use and may well have been unofficially fenced off. CWB was a major shareholder in the E&WJR and carried a lot of clout. Many years after CWB's death in 1919, people (mainly children) began reusing the footpath and crossing in the 1950s, usually as a short cut to the village cricket ground and this annoyed the owner of the property whose garden it crossed so much that he successfully went through the official channels to get the footpath and the crossing closed. So from around the late '50s onwards in BR days there was no longer any foot crossing or footpath. Undeterred, the children of the village made their own unofficial crossing from a field at the end of School Lane much nearer to bridge 25, frequently crawling under the couplings of up goods trains held at the up home signal much to the consternation of those trains' crews.

Blakesley Hall was to be found near the Northamptonshire villages of Blakesley and Woodend. The boundary between the two parishes is a little stream known as the 'Black Ouse'.  Actually the hall was located in Woodend parish but much nearer to Blakesley. Blakesley's name comes from 'Woodland clearing of (man called) Blaecwulf'

 

Charles William Bartholomew, the owner and self-appointed 'Squire' of the parishes was a land owning civil engineer and in 1903 installed a full 15" gauge miniature railway system in the grounds. Mr Bartholomew bought a Cagney locomotive and with the help of Alex Wyatt modified carriages and trucks. He also had built two steam outline internal combustion engines, 'Petrolia ' by Groom & Tattersall of Towcester and 'Blacolvesley' (which still exists) by Bassett - Lowke of Northampton.  Along with the system around the grounds , Mr Bartholomew had a half mile section built, which ran from cowsheds at the far end of his estate to the then East and West Junction Railway's 'main line'' station at Blakesley passing under the same Bridge 24 as the E&WJR to approach the station!  No doubt with the help of his position as a major shareholder in the E&WJR.  The line brought supplies and goods up to the hall, and the odd passenger from a small yard in the goods yard of the main station. Mr Bartholomew died in 1919, his widow bringing the trains out on 'High Days and Holidays'.  After lying derelict for over ten years the Hall was demolished in 1957. To discover more, here's a link to the Blakesley Hall webpage.

http://thesmjr.ning.com/page/the-blakesely-miniature-railway

 

Pictures : Top Left - Steam outline loco 'Blacolvesley'  Top Right - Blakesley Hall

Bottom Left - Folly at Blakesley Hall   Bottom Right - tidiest Station certificate awarded to Blakesley station by BR (LMR)

Most of the following stories came from Dick's grandmother. As a child her family had to move from their farm, Fox Farm at Moreton Pinkney to a house in Blakesley, as it was no longer commercially viable as a result of the compulsory purchase of much of their land for the GCR' s Culworth Station to be built. She lived to be 91 and outsurvived the Great Central!

Blakesley station anecdotes

Blakesley station staff in SMJR and LMS days seem to have sometimes carried on like characters in Will Hay's 'Oh Mr Porter'. One day a passenger train was held at Blakesley for what was believed to be a special perishable fish train to pass eastwards. It took ages to appear and consisted of just one wagon. Stationmaster Broomfield was getting irate as the crew, almost certainly a Woodford crew, seemed to be deliberately slowing down just to annoy him. He started waving for them to hurry up and shouted ' We are being held up by one empty wagon, a tarpaulin, two sprats and a mackeral'. The footplatemen replied repeatedly with the infamous one long and one short whistle response, they must have been Woodford men!  'Listen to them, they're whistling a***holes at me!', he exclaimed to bemused bystanders. Well of course although those listening thought the stationmaster had lost his reasoning that's exactly what they were doing to him!

When a so called 'express service' was due to run non stop through the station for the first time, the man responsible for handing over the token staff was so scared that he might be dragged into the slipstream that he insisted that the rest of the station staff hung on to his coattails.

 One porter, Johnnie Moore, according to his late sister, used to sleep walk thinking that he was still on duty. One night he threw the cat into the oven, slammed the door and shouted ' All aboard'. On another occasion a pioneer motorist, who had suffered a breakdown near the station, demanded rather abruptly ' How long's the next train?' 'Two coaches', came the reply. 'You're smart', the motorist sarcastically retorted . 'No, but he's somewhere around', was the porter's answer. ( One of the other staff was a Mr Smart). It's also alleged that trying to be helpful he once pushed an overweight lady, who was reversing down onto the platform, back onto the train, the lady making an unwanted journey to Moreton Pinkney, but as I've read a similar story about a different station in Jordan's 'History of the SMJR' perhaps this wasn't Johnnie's doing.

A well known character on the line in LMS days was a guard known as 'Old Worcester'. He liked to chat to station staff and could ' swear for England'. One of his tricks was to wave off a goods train and jump on his guards van as it passed him, he'd obviously watched too many silent movie cowboy films. One day he annoyed a young porter at Blakesley, who very irresponsibly decided to get his own back by placing a sod of earth on top of 'Old Worcester's' stove chimney, while he was chatting to the station master. On departure, 'Old Worcester' jumped onto his van's veranda, opened the door, only to be surrounded by billowing smoke as he disappeared, uttering oaths under the road bridge. On another occasion he was in charge of a special working taking 'a small locomotive', probably an iron ore line engine, even possibly one of the Edge Hill Terriers up the line, when the train locomotive broke away. 'Old Worcester' was left stranded for some time and by the time the locomotive crew eventually realised and returned the air was blue with his rantings. 'What are you moaning about, you've still got an engine?' was the guilty driver's only response."

Pictures Top Left - Blakesley Signalman Tommy Townsend (far right) with Blakesley & Woodend FC which he mananged. Top Right - Blakesley Hall's lodge gatehouses

Bottom Left - Nuneaton Super D approaching Blakesley Station while deputising for a failed Northampton 8F on a Byfield Ironstone Siding to Blisworth minerals  

Bottom Right - The trackbed west of Blakesley  

A Collett 0-6-0 2210 with a railtour at Blakesley on 17/11/1962 ( Copyright Barry Taylor)

Moving on to more recent times, during the Second World War Dick's dad was travelling on a troop train from Cornwall to North East England, when by a remarkable coincidence it pulled up at Blakesley's home signal, a few hundred yards from his home. Dick's dad shouted to a family friend who was working in the adjoining field. He in turn ran and fetched my gran who was able to have a quick chat with her son. No doubt he told her about the girl he had met while stationed in Cornwall.... later to be his wife and Dick's mum.

Sometime in the late ‘50s Cecil Smart the stationmaster complained to a guard of a passing train about the plague of mice that was eating his paperwork.   I better explain that dear old Cecil, a real Blakesley local character who caused no one any offence, for some unexplainable reason was the subject of many well intentioned jokes from fellow railwaymen and other visitors to the station such as Ted the coalman who passed on this story to Dick.  The guard advised Cecil to get some of the new metal traps that had just come onto the market. ‘Where do I get those?’ asked Cecil .

‘Woolies in Northampton’, replied the guard. ‘I’m far too busy to go there’, complained Cecil despite the relaxed nature of his job as station master at sleepy Blakesley. To be fair Cecil also ran a smallholding and on Saturdays ardently supported the village football team, managed by Blakesley signalman Tommy Townsend. So the guard offered to fetch some and Cecil gave him the money. These new metal traps had their instructions printed on them, harbingers of the H & S movement no doubt! They didn’t catch any of Cecil’s mice and he complained vociferously to the guard next time that he arrived at the station. The guard asked to see the traps and pretended to examine them carefully. Finally he looked Cecil straight in the eye and pronounced, ‘Well, no wonder.... you’ve left the instructions on them’.  What difference would that make?’ irritatedly demanded Cecil. With a deadpan expression the guard answered, ‘Well, you don’t expect a mouse to stick its bloody head in there if it can read what’s going to happen to it, do you?’  !!!

Tommy Townsend was a man of few words but a very successful spare time football team manager with a droll sense of humour. Dick's father went to the station to ask the duty stationmaster about trains to Truro when he was intercepted on the platform by Tommy who asked, 'Truro, that's in Cornwall, isn't it? He put on serious but helpful expression then slowly and deliberately pronounced, 'Well.... what ever you do... don't ask his advice or you'll end up in Glasgow!'.

Doug's researches

Dick and his friend the late Doug Blake (Blakesley's village historian and author of two books about the village) shared information from their researches about Blakesley's rail links.  Here are a few things that Doug discovered when researching for his second book....... 

During WWII three local farmers specialised in growing sugar beet which required several movements of sugar beet laden trucks a week from Blakesley's single siding during the harvesting period. Signalman Tommy Townsend used to fill his kettle from a spring which fed into a small pool on the allotment near his box. He also used to grow water cress on the edge of the pool. Lou Hawtin, legendary* SMJ relief signalman of LMS & BR days, used to serenade the young ladies of the village on his piano accordian from the doorway of the signalbox during his spells at Blakesley. A sad story Doug was told by a Blakesley centegenarian was that many years ago a man commited suicide on the line foot crossing just east of Blakesley.

To see an article about one of Blakesley's signalmen who also earlier worked on the Blakesley Minature Railway follow this link-

http://thesmjr.ning.com/page/bob-salmons-smj-signalman

To view an album of photos of Blakesley's rail connection follow this link-

http://thesmjr.ning.com/photo/albums/blakesley-1

 To see extracts from Blakesley Signalbox's Register in LMS days follow this link-

http://thesmjr.ning.com/page/extracts-from-blakesley-signalbox-registers-kindly-supplied-by-ro

 

* Why was Lou Hawtin legendary?

Well here are just a few things he did while on duty!  He sometimes decorated signalboxes with bunting to advertise his presence.  He used to make use of Byfield station's crane for lifting car engines that he was repairing for people. He was late for shifts at Blakesley in winter because he had gone skating on Canons Ashby ponds. He used to sit on Blakesley signalbox steps and accompanying himself on his accordion giving impromptu concerts to serenade the young ladies of the village. He played in a local semi-professional dance band in his spare time. On one occasion when a Christmas party was being held for Blakesley Women's Guild in the Public Hall, uncontrolled loud screams of laughter coming from the usually reserved ladies could be heard some fair distance away, sure enough they had hired Lou as 'an entertainer' for the party. Despite making enquiries I never found out exactly what his act consisted of !  He ran an unofficial hair dressing business in Byfield signal box. Ralph Radford in his excellent book 'Coal Dust to Computers' describes passing by Byfield signalbox while firing a Woodford WD and witnessing a line of pensioners sitting on chairs outside the bunting bedecked box awaiting their turn for a trim. Lou even confused station master Evan Dines' hound, which Lou was rather wary of, into running away from Towcester station on a wild goose chase to attempt to follow the hounds by imitating the sound of the Grafton Hunt's horn on his bugle!  

 

TFC and Dick Bodily ( updated 5th February 2019)

 

About Blakesley | Camden Books | Blakesley.com | Blakesley Google Search | Blacolvesley
Blacolvesley video | Video2

 

 

 

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Comment by Dick Bodily on February 10, 2019 at 12:52

Have updated and tidied up the Blakesley page that Andy and myself put together in bits and pieces a long time ago and added a few more hopefully amusing anecdotes to it.  Changing subject have also featured pictures of the two most regular SMJ engines that survive in preservation. 48305 is due to return to service on the GCR soon after a slight problem following overhaul. 10/2/19

Comment by Dick Bodily on February 5, 2019 at 19:21

Have updated and tidied up the Blakesley page that Andy and myself put together in bits and pieces a long time ago.  Changing subject have also featured pictures of the two most regular SMJ engines that survive in preservation. 48305 is due to return to service on the GCR soon after a slight problem following overhaul. 5th Feb 2019

Comment by Dick Bodily on January 30, 2014 at 21:59

I've revised this page adding links to other relevent pages on this website as well as captions to pictures and a considerable amount of new material. I've also tidied up the Woodford Halse page and added links.

 

Dick Bodily ( 30/1/2014)

Comment by Andy Thompson on April 10, 2009 at 14:51
Blakesley Memories- By Lloyd Penfold

I seem to remember watching for the train every weekday I spent there (they lived in the last house in the village, there was a field then the railway - the field fence is the one in the single line shot) which came in heading Towcester way at 10:40 am. It would stop, and sometimes shunt a coal wagon into the station siding for the village coalman.
On one occasion I was brave enough to venture down onto the platform and ask if I could climb onto the engine's footplate: the crew readily allowed me, and then told me to "Pull that lever." I pulled, to no avail. "Pull it harder!" I pulled with all my might, and the lever (the engine's regulator) came full open.
The engine (always a Midland 0-6-0) leapt into action, wheels spinning on the tracks and a deafening noise shattering the peaceful scene. The driver slammed it shut immediately before any damage was done! I was allowed to stay on the engine as it collected an empty coal truck from the siding, the remainder of the train (only 3 or 4 wagon and trucks, and a brake van) waiting at the platform while this shunt took place. I think the smile on my face lasted longer than the week's holiday!

In those days, there only being 1 goods train a day each way, the station was staffed by one man (can't remember his name now) who was stationmaster, signalman, and parcel agent all in one. There was one day when a train of passenger coaches came slowly along the line, pulled by a bigger engine the same colour as the coaches. I couldn't see what it was from the house, and it didn't stop - it was years later i found out it was an enthusiast's society special pulled by Midland compound no. 1000. Wish I'd had my camera that day!

My Aunt and Uncle remembered the passenger trains but told me they had finished a few months after they moved to the village. The place was pretty isolated, few people had cars and there were only two buses a week to Towcester and one to Northampton.
They remembered there being a sale when the Hall was demolished, and other villagers told me there had been a 'Toy Train' that ran in the Hall's grounds before the war.
I had heard that Blacolvesley had survived, but thanks to your site I've now seen video of it running. Thank you!

Part 2

Andy.

I could kick myself for not taking pictures of the train that came every day - on the day I took the pics of the station, I'd seen the train come, and gone to take a picture but by the time I got there it had gone - one of the few days it didn't stop while the crew had a chat and presumably a 'cuppa' with the stationmaster.

I see from Google Earth that the trackbed is built on now, either an extension to or replacement of the station, another building right at the bridge edge where the single line doubled for the station, and what looks like a farm equipment yard the other side, where the signal was on my 2nd view.

The relatives I stayed with one week a year were Albert and Eileen Rowley, who lived in the house on the corner of High Street and Old School Lane, The first building on the left as you enter the village from the station. They were the local butchers, and the shop was on the premises too, on the Old School Lane frontage. I have been back, about 20 years ago now, (they've been gone from there 40+ years and it had become the post office then) and it has changed - not for the better in my opinion. Imagine the 9 or 10 year old running down that field (there wasn't a sliproad down to the trackbed then) to watch the 10:40 steam gently by. The crew always blew the whistle for me and waved!

I do vaguely remember some of their butchers shop customers names, the Bodily family being one I hadn't heard for nearly 50 years!


Lloyd.

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