‘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

  • Add Photos
  • View All

Woodford Halse




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.



Morton Pinkney

Woodford Halse


Fenny Compton

BurtonDassett/Edgehill Light



Stratford Upon Avon





Woodford Halse


Woodford Halse is a parish consisting of two largish merged villages. Woodford, which contains the main shopping street, lies east of the former GC line, while the now larger Hinton lies immediately west of it. The parish also contains a more distant hamlet, West Farndon. Locals and formerly railwaymen have always tended to refer to the combined village as just plain Woodford. 

Little remains of Woodford Halse (or Woodford and Hinton as it was known in GCR days) station. Its site is partially used by a timber and fencing company. It was a typical GC island platform station, reached from the street below by a staircase, its bricked up entrance is still visible between the double bridges which carried the GC over Station Road. There was also another, originally wooden, platform that served the 'Banbury Motor' and in SMJR days passenger shuttles to Byfield. Until 1936 Marylebone - Stratford (SMJR) coaches were slipped at Woodford. Near the station site are streets of terraced houses built by the GCR for railwaymen's families. Foremen's houses can be distinguished by their bay windows. On the Eydon Road three bridges (over the GCR main line, the E&WJR/SMJR and the little used GCR to E&WJR southern link) remain in situ. A nature reserve approachable from a gateway next to the SMJR bridge allows access to the SMJ trackbed and to the site of Woodford West Junction.

Woodford Shed and Yards

Woodford was predominantly a freight centre. In the 50s its main 'New Yards', located north of Woodford sheds and constructed for the WW2 war effort, and its less well used 'Old Yards' on the embankment just north of the station together handled roughly 80 freights a day. Nearly all long distance freights changed engines at Woodford. Woodford shed (2F from 1958 - 63) had an allocation of 50+ locomotives and also serviced York, Annesley and Western Region engines. It was not unusual to see York B16s and V2s parked up with Newport Ebbw Junction 28xxs or even 72xx tanks. Its own allocation in the '50s included classes V2 (including 'Green Arrow' itself for a very short time in 1953), B1 (including namer 'Umseke'), B17 'Footballers', L1, J11, J39, K3, Standard 5MT, assorted other ex LNER classes in smaller numbers and masses of WD 2-8-0s. As the Midland influence kicked in from 1958 the LNER classes were rapidly replaced by ex-LMS types, particularly classes 8F, Black 5, Ivatt 4MT and Fairburn 2-6-4. Woodford crews didn't always take kindly to these LMS types, the Black 5's injectors came in for special criticism. One Stanier 5MT was even fitted with injectors  from a B1 until the LMR powers found out about it!  As a result of this dislike for things LMS, often ex LNER engines or Standard classes arriving on freights from York or failing on excursions to Wembley Stadium would be 'borrowed' by Woodford and used on a variety of workings, V2s and B16 'Bloodspitters' were particularly prized and could appear on Woodford - Marylebone 'Ords' until the latters' withdrawal.  A 'Britannia' Pacific even turned up tender first on the Banbury Motor on one occasion!

Using the turning triangle and massive LNER overhead coal bunker, engines could be turned around in about an hour, many Woodford crews spent their whole time collecting engines from the yard, servicing them and returning them. The most famous workings were the Annesley 'runners', 9F (16D) hauled and Annesley manned unfitted coal trains which ran at truely alarming speeds, unhindered by the sparse passenger services, from the Nottinghamshire coalfields to Woodford yards, where the coal trucks were remarshalled into trains bound for London or the Western Region via Banbury. Annesley crews had the monopoly of freight workings north of Woodford Yards but Woodford crews worked some fitted freights north, plus many Class 1 passenger duties including South-North expresses. They also were responsible for freight southwards from the yards via the Marylebone main line, or the Banbury link or the SMJR. this included pick up freights on the GCR main line. They also worked Class 2 passenger 'Ords' from Woodford to Marylebone and Leicester and the 'Banbury Motor'.

Adjoining the shed was a wagon repair depot.There were 5 signalboxes (inc Woodford West SMJR) to control all the movements. Woodford shed's site is now an industrial site while the marshalling yards have reverted to farmland. The great embankment between the station and the Byfield road, which once supported the main line and smaller Old Yards has been partially lowered and is largely tree covered while the Byfield Road bridge has been demolished.

To view an album of Woodford pictures follow this link-


Woodford Halse (GC) and freight workings to the SMJR

 From 1950 onwards over 90% of the SMJR lines freight consisted of nighttime long distance trains working westwards from Woodford yards over the link to Woodford West junction (SMJR), then on via Stratford and Broom. In 1960 the Stratford - Broom section was abandoned and a new link to the WR main line from Stratford to Gloucester was laid at Stratford Old Town. About a dozen unfitted trains ran daily including trains carrying steel from the North Eastern Region to South Wales. There were also 2 fitted freights from York Dringhouses to Bristol and Cardiff. Woodford crews used their own 'Aussie' 2-8-0s (later 8Fs), or returned Welsh shedded 'Halls', 28xx, 'Aussies' or 9Fs to work these freights over the SMJR. The preserved Ivatt 'Flying Pig' 43106 was regularly seen on the SMJR route when allocated to Woodford. They would change with Western Region crews and return work trains to Woodford from some point beyond Stratford, often Honeybourne. Sometimes they had trouble, with the 'Aussies' in particular, running the heavy steel trains over the SMJRs banks. Later in the 60s LMS type engines and various GWR types replaced the 'Aussies'. A local pick up train nicknamed 'The Round the World' worked from Woodford yards to shunt Woodford West, Byfield and Charwelton, collecting iron ore from local quarries. This working produced an amazing variety of loco types.

To read about two Woodford firemen's experiences of the SMJ follow these links-




Further Reading on Woodford Halse: 'The Last Years of the Great Central Main Line' by R Robotham ( Ian Allan) has a detailed
lengthy chapter written by Rex Partridge

(Last Updated 7th February 2014) Dick Bodily


...with great thanks Dick! If you know more, sign up and leave a comment (TFC).



Add a Comment

You need to be a member of The SMJ Society to add comments!

Join The SMJ Society

Comment by Tony Newman on March 13, 2020 at 18:19

Another GC book, the 2-volume set of the 'The Late Great Central' - 1960-1964, (an album of GC photographs rather than an illustrated textual work), was donated to Woodford Halse public library a few years ago. I am hoping it is still available there - anyone know? 

Comment by Dick Bodily on October 8, 2009 at 13:05
More from Clive
I didn't work on any single lines before the S.M.J. and can't remember
much about the staffs and tokens in any detail. I can remember that
the one from Woodford West Junction onwards was an actual steel staff,
about 18 inches long by 1.5 inches in diameter. Changeovers were
always effected at very low speed and there was always a pool of light
outside the signalboxees where the manouvre took place. The easy ones
were those in which the staff or token was contained in a leather pouch
with a large loop attached, you've probably seen them, and with these
it was just a case of putting the loop onto the signalman's
outstretched arm and collecting the one for the next section at the
same time.
Comment by Dick Bodily on September 26, 2009 at 21:18
The proposed rerouting Clive refers to was to be over the South Curve at Stratford rather than via Broom, Woodford men were learning the GWR route to Honeybourne in preparation for the increased workings over the SMJ that began around 1960.
Comment by Dick Bodily on September 26, 2009 at 21:14
More from Clive

There were no fitted workings over the SMJ in my day. The WD's, either Woodford or GW, were ideally suited to the diagrams and were more than equal to the task on the outward workings when they were fresh off the shed. The problems occurred when returning on something that had originated in, say, South Wales, and the fire would sometimes be very dirty. I don't know whether it was true but the story was that a Western Region edict required engines on loose-coupled workings to cover 200 miles between fire cleanings, something that the number 3 link crews normally on these jobs could well have had reason to believe.

I don't know much about what happened after I left the depot, but
certainly in the last months of 1958 before I left there were many
drivers learning the road down to Honeybourne in preparation for re-
routing of the trains.
Comment by Dick Bodily on September 25, 2009 at 11:32
Clive Boardman was a fireman at Woodford from 1956-8. This was before the Stratford south curve was installed. He remembers night time workings on fitted feights along the SMJ.

I did fire on many occasions over the S.M.J. to and from Evesham, always on W.D. 2-8-0s and always evening and night (there were no Woodford workings over the line during the day when it was occupied by 3F and 4F 0-6-0s from Blisworth). The first Woodford working was the 7.20pm Bristol. Sometimes the outward workings would get through to Ashchurch before changing over, although I never got beyond Evesham myself and I think I only worked over the line in daylight once. The only deviation from the norm in my own case was when Reg. Langstone and I took two wagons of cattle to Kineton with a B16 4-6-0 one lunch time but this was really just a matter of expediency, the cattle couldn’t be left standing around in the yard at Woodford, the B16 would have arrived in the early hours on a fully-fitted from York and would be idle until returning in the evening, so convenient to use it to get the cattle to Kineton quickly.

Although I was never on it, there was an ironstone working which booked on at 1.30pm, known as ‘Banbury ironstone’ and always worked by an L1 tank, which in the course of the diagram collected the loaded ironstone from Charwelton and conveyed it to either Byfield or Banbury, I can’t remember which.


© 2024   Created by Andy Thompson.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service