The Railway Enthusiasts Club ran a rail tour on April 24, 1955, under the headboard The South Midlander. It came on to the S&MJR at Fenny Compton and went through to Broom, stopping at most of the stations for photo-ops. From Broom it went on the MR line to Evesham, then via Moreton-in-Marsh back to Oxford. I have just got some photos from that tour from Stations UK to use in my 'Lost Railways of Warwickshire' book. The last passenger train to use the line was a SLS rail tour in April 1965.
You know when you flick through an old book on a stall & think I'll buy that then realise when you get it home it has something of real interest that you didn't see on flick through? I've had one of those. At Heywood Model Railway exhibition today I picked up a book called "Specials in Steam" by Brian Stephenson & Patrick Russell published by Ian Allen in 1968 & in it there are pictures of the SMJR railtours in their own sections. It has:
a) GWR Dukedog 4-4-0 No.9015 (with 4 on) approaching Stratford on a REC "South Midlander" railtour 24 March 55.
b) GWR 61xx 2-6-2T No. 6111 (with 4 on) heading east from Kineton on another REC charter dated 14 September 1963.
c) MR 3F 0-6-0 No. 43222 (with at least 4 on - all Gresleys in B&C) approaching Broom on the SLS "SMJR" tour dated 29 April 1956. Train reporting code "M500". **
d) LNER B12/3 4-6-0 No. 61572 (with 8 on - Gresley buffet(?) at 4) passing Gayton Sidings at Blisworth working the M&GNJRPS "Wandering 1500" on 5 October 1963. Train reporting code looks like "1A69"
e) SR U 2-6-0 No. 31639 & SR Q1 0-6-0 No. 33006 (with 6 on - look all to be BR Mk.1's) on HCRS "Six Counties" at Ettington dated 7 March 1965 and finally...
f) LMS 4F 0-6-0 No.44188 (with 8 on) on the SLS special last train over the SMJR dated 24 April 1965.
Looking through my book again I found a picture of another railtour that may have run over the SMJR.
It is 2P 4-4-0 No.40646. It ran from Birmingham New Street to Bedford via Leamington Spa and Northampton. Would this have run over SMJ metals? Date of the tour was 14 April 1962 and was organised by SLS. I've no idea how many were behind her but the first carriage was numbered M9926M. 40646 carried the lion & wheel version of the badge on the tender.
Looking through my book again I found a picture of another railtour that may have run over the SMJR. It is 2P 4-4-0 No.40646. It ran from Birmingham New Street to Bedford via Leamington Spa and Northampton. Would this have run over SMJ metals? Date of the tour was 14 April 1962 and was organised by SLS. I've no idea how many were behind her but the first carriage was numbered M9926M. 40646 carried the lion & wheel version of the badge on the tender.
I wasn't aware of a line between Leamington & weedon which is why I made that possible link. I had a sudden thought to look at Six Bells and they list the route as: Birmingham New Street - Nuneaton Abbey Street - Nuneaton Trent Valley - Coventry (avoiding line) - Northampton - Olney - Bedford - Bedford - Hitchin - Hitchin - Hertford North - Welwyn Garden City - Hatfield - Luton GN - Luton GN - Leighton Buzzard - Weedon - Leamington Spa Avenue - Berkswell - Birmingham New Street So it would appear that you were spot on.
I wasn't quite spot on apparantly it used the Weedon to Leamington line on its way back to Brum. This line incidentally was kept going as it was used daily by a 8F powered chalk tippers train which went from a quarry on the Dunstable to Leighton Buzzard to a cement works somewhere on the Weedon branch. It was about the only unfitted freight to use the direct WCML from Roade to Rugby as all others and most vans trains took the Northampton Castle loop. I used to see it at Banburylane level crossing on its way north mid afternoon.It was usually motoring along, but nothing speedwise when compared with the 'Woodford runners' on the GCR. The only other regular (but fitted fast) freight through there on the direct route that I remember was 'The Doodlebug' which was usually Black 5 powered or laterly sometimes double headed by Type 1s ( Cl 20?).
By studying the Pre-grouping Atlas ( very useful for tracking old routes but probably out of print), the route taken to Bedford seems to have been Nuneaton - Humber Road Junction - Rugby ( strangely not mentioned, but I can't see how it could have been avoided ) then on the Northampton line through Northampton Castle, then towards Bedford via Northampton Bridge Street. This route and the latter route back to Brum were obviously carefully planned to pass along as many threatened lines as possible without reversing.
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