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.
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).
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