‘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

SMJ board minute 1474 of 13 April 1921 (TNA file RAIL 674/4) approved that “the following expenditure be charged to Capital” for year 1920: “Blisworth: Signalling and alterations to Permanent Way, Improvements and additional signalling: £800”. In…Continue

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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Rail Tours




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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Comment by Dick Bodily on June 13, 2017 at 14:34

In E&WJR and early SMJR days before the outbreak of The Great War special trains were run to Blakesley Show. Other specials were provided, presumably from Woodford, to take contestants to the Great Central Railway workers' ambulance cup competition when it was held at Blakesley Hall.  It is not known where the coaching stock was stabled on such events, but late trains were provided from 9pm onwards to return visitors to Blakesley Show.

Comment by Tim Roy on August 21, 2016 at 19:45

I have just added an Album of 5 photographs of the 27/5/61 Gloucester RS (railtour from Gloucester Eastgate) SMJR Blisworth - Stratford Midland Compound 1000

Comment by Dick Bodily on April 8, 2014 at 11:41

Barry Taylor sent me this image of the 17/11/1962 'King Commemorative Railtour' at its photostop at Blakesley.  The engine is 2210. It's an interesting view of the station from an unusual viewpoint.  Barry says that the late afternoon light was particularly bad which affected the quality of the photo.( Photo Copyright Barry Taylor)

Comment by John Evans on April 24, 2012 at 3:37

I saw the train with 40646 and 40022. It arrived at Northampton Castle station from Rugby and then headed for Bedford so would not have used the SMJ.

Comment by Dick Bodily on December 8, 2009 at 20:29
SMJR line Railtours & Specials (Revised 8th Dec 09)

6/10/09 Harvard Special (Marylebone - Stratford)
SMJ from Woodford to Stratford
SMJR 0-6-0 18

27/6/12 Manchester Home Trade Picnic (Manchester London Road - Stratford)
SMJR Woodford - Stratford
GCR Atlantic 258

25/3/30 Race Control Party Special (Newmarket - Stratford)
SMJR Olney - Stratford

13 9 31 Half Day Excursion ( Northampton Castle - Weston Super Mare)
SMJR Blisworth - Broom Junction
LMS 3F 3822

?/?/33 Whipsnade Zoo Day Trip ( Bristol - Leighton Buzzard)
SMJR Broom Junction - Blisworth

21/5/38 Evening Excursion (? - Bedford)
SMJR Stratford - Olney
GWR Large Prairie No 4139

27/7/49 ?? (Luton - Stratford)
SMJR Olney - Stratford

?/?/53 Excursion ( Solihul - St Pancras)
SMJR Stratford - Olney
GWR railcar W16

14/7/1951 Birmingham L C Railtour (from Birmingham New St)
SMJR Olney - Woodford - Broom
LMS 4F 44057

24/7/55 City Opera Club (Paddington - Olney)
SMJR ?? - Blisworth
GWR Railcar??

24/4/55 The South Midlander (railtour from Oxford)
SMJR Fenny Compton - Broom Junction
GWR Dukedog 9015

29/4/56 SLS The SMJR Railtour (Kings Cross - Euston)
SMJR Olney - Stratford
LMS 3F 43222

4/5/57 Troop train (?? - Stratford area possibly Kineton Camp)
SMJR Woodford - Stratford area
Unknown B16 from York MPD

11/5/1957 Gloucester R S Railtour from Gloucester Eastgate
SMJR Stratford - Blisworth ( with diversion to Woodford )

9/8/59 RCTS The Grafton (railtour from Kings Cross)
SMJR Blisworth - Byfield (reversal) - Woodford
Black 5 45091 from Northampton MPD

14/5/60 SLS (railtour from Snow Hill)
SMJR Woodford - Byfield (reversal) - Blisworth

27/5/61 Gloucester RS (railtour from Gloucester Eastgate)
SMJR Blisworth - Stratford
Midland Compound 1000

17/11/62 LCGB The King Commemorative Tour (Paddington - Marylebone)
SMJR Fenny Compton - Blakesley (photostop) - Blisworth
GWR 22xx 2210

14/9/63 REC The Chiltern 200 (railtour from Oxford)
SMJR Stratford - Fenny Compton
GWR 61xx 6111

5/10/63 The M&GNJR Wandering 1500 Tour (railtour from Broad Street)
SMJR Blisworth - Stratford
GER B12/3 61572

12/10/63 LCGB Thames, Avon & Severn (Waterloo - Paddington)
SMJR Woodford - Stratford
GWR 43xx 6368 + GWR 22xx 2246

7/3/65 HCRS 6 Counties Railtour (railtour from Paddington)
SMJR Fenny Compton - Stratford
SR U 31939 + SR Q1 33006

24/4/65 SLS Farewell to SMJR Railtour (railtour from Snow Hill)
Stratford - Woodford
LMS 4F 44188

In addition there were:
regular race day trains from St Pancras and Northampton to Towcester races
trips organised by E&WJR/SMJR /LMS that used regular trains to connect with specials on the GC main
main line from Woodford or the LNWR main line from Blisworth
Special through carriage workings added to main line trains at Blisworth ( I know someone who travelled on
from Blakesley - Brighton with a party)
War time troop trains ( my dad travelled on one from Cornwall to NE England) and post war troop trains.
Comment by Robin Cullup on December 8, 2009 at 17:53
Another source of passenger traffic over the Ravenstone Wood - Towcester section (and on to Stratford etc) were the trains carrying National Servicemen from Cardington and Henlow camps to other camps like Bridgnorth. There is an brief account of such a journey in one of the letters in "Steam Days" of August 2009 - which the writer concludes was "an interesting journey, which ended in hell".
Presumably these trains, which the writer says "were unusual but regular" would have appeared in the Special Traffic Notices issued on a weekly basis. These would make interesting reading - has anyone seen any of these?
Robin Cullup
Comment by Robin Cullup on December 8, 2009 at 17:39

Another earlier railtour that used the SMJ was organised by The Birmingham Locomotive Club with invites to SLS and RCTS members. It ran on Saturday 14th July 1951. The itinerary was from New Street to Kenilworth, Leamington and Weedon to Blisworth, reverse then to Northampton. At Northampton "Messrs Bassett-Lowke had very kindly arranged a special exhibition of models, after inspecting which, the party divided - some visiting the LMR loco shed, and others the Power Station and Highways Dept - before joining forces for lunch at the Franklin Gardens Hotel". How very civilised. The loco - "4F" 0-6-0 44057 had visited the loco shed for turning and then hauled the train tender-first to Olney - to reverse again and retrace the route to Ravenstone Wood Jcn and gaining the SMJ to Towcester - this section was described as the highlight of the trip, no wonder - what would we give to travel this section today?
On to Woodford West Jcn - reversal to Woodford Halse, where the loco ran round and the party visited the Loco Dept before taking tea in the Refreshment Room (I told you that this was a very civilised trip). Onwards then to Stratford passing "2F" 0-6-0 58215 with a one-coach train at Byfield. At Burton Dassett everyone filed off the train to inspect the "ruinous waiting room" and then the five saddle tanks at the WD Depot, noting traces of the Edge Hill light Rly on the way. At this point 44057 stood under the bridge blowing off furiously causing much interest and stopping the road traffic above - al of whom seem to have been bemused at a train stopping there.
On arrival at Stratford where the SMJ shed was inspected, then home to Birmingham via Broom Jcn.
In the SLS report it is noted "A group of photgraphers led by the indefatigable C R Clinker who had fought their way across country to Salcey Forest platform were noted taking shots". It makes it sound as if Salcey Forest was in the jungle somewhere!
There is a view of this train at Salcey Forest - where it apparently stopped - together with some of the "indefatigable photographers" on the platform in the Riley/Simpson book. I have another shot taken at Salcey Forest somewhere which I am still trying to find. What the residents of the station thought of all this is unrecorded.
I am attaching a photograph of this working at Olney just before departure for Ravenstone Wood et al.
Comment by Dick Bodily on December 8, 2009 at 13:44
details of Grafton Railtour, with thanks to Robin Cullup

This special running on Sunday 9th August 1959, ran from Kings Cross to Kings Cross utilising part of the SMJ in the itinerary. The train arrived at Blisworth having come via Hitchin, Bedford and Northampton where Black Five No. 45091 took over after the train had been shunted across the LNW main line and into SMJ territory. Departure took the participants through Towcester, Woodford West to Byfield, then back to Woodford Halse to gain the GC main line for a southbound run to Calvert and reversal onto the wartime spur to the Oxford - Cambridge line. Another reversal at Verney Junction took the train to Banbury - via Cockley Brake of course, and then a shunt through the goods yard at Banbury to arrive on the GW. Further delights included reversal at Berkswell, a trip over the Leamington - Weedon branch, then after Leighton Buzzard, Dunstable, Luton (Bute Street), to the GN main line and Kings Cross. What a tour - and how many signal boxes had to be opened specially for this to take place?
Attached is a photograph from "The Railway Observer" by Michael Mensing (thanks) showing the train approaching Byfield - another one for the Byfield Album?
Robin Cullup
Comment by Dick Bodily on August 3, 2009 at 15:34
Reply by Barry Taylor 2 hours ago
Hi Dick
I have a few random notes on these trains - and I think that they have been mentioned in one or two of the books covering the SMJ.
Race specials to Towcester were certainly run by the LMS from around 1927 up to 1939, and these came through from St Pancras via Bedford, Olney and Ravenstone, changing locos to a 3F or 4F at Bedford. They were mainly for the Grafton Hunt Steeplechase meeting on Easter Monday - there are one or two photos around of these on the SMJ.
I have found the following odd notes on a first look -
May 25th 1930 - Race Control Party special from Newmarket To Stratford on Avon races via Cambridge, Bedford LNW Midland, Olney and SMJ.
1933 (Railway Magazine July issue) - not a race special but still interesting - an LMS excursion from Bristol to Leighton Buzzard for Whipsnade Zoo, ran via Broom and Blisworth.
Railway Observer July 1938 issue - 'comparitively numerous excursions run on the Ravenstone - Towcester section including 'evexes' (evening excusions) from Stratford to Bedford, and Luton to Stratford, and schools excursions from St. Albans etc to the Stratford Memorial Theatre. On 21/5/38 an evex was run from Stratford and SMJ line stations to Bedford - stock provided by Saltley - and their 4139 working throughout, Stratford men re-manning at Stratford'.
July 27th 1949 - special excursion ran from Luton to Stratford via Ravenstone and Towcester
1953 - GW railcar W16 ran a special from Solihull to St Pancras via Stratford Olney and Bedford for Solihull Literary Society of Arts
After 1939 it seems that excursions on that part of the line were much less frequent - most were enthusiast railtours
Comment by Gary on July 15, 2009 at 11:22
From Andy's photos we can add (& via the 6 bells junction site....)
12th October 1963, L.C.G.B. - Thames, Avon and Severn Rail Tour used 6368 + 2246 on SMJ metals from Woodford Halse - Woodford Jn - Byfield - Fenny Compton - Stratford-on-Avon Old Town - Long Marston - Honeybourne - Pershore - Worcester Shrub Hill. Stock was 8 on (SR set 237 + Bullied-design kitchen buffet car) formed: BSK+SO+RKB+SO+SO+SO+SO+BSK.
Comment by Dick Bodily on July 7, 2009 at 13:20
0n 9th August '59 'The Grafton Rail Tour' from London Kings Cross to various South Midlands branches ran from Blisworth to Byfiled behind 45091(2E). Here the 7 coach inc RC train reversed being hauled backwards by the Black 5 around the curve to Woodford Halse, from where it continued behind 45091 southwards. Full details on Six Bells Junction

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