‘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

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SMJ photos

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I don't know if this has been asked before: if it has please refer me to the article.

 

I am talking about the period in the 60s when Blisworth SMJ station was renovated and used for parcels traffic or suchlike. I don't remember anything at the time in the railway press although there may have been something in the more detailed press (Railway Observer etc.). It also doesn't seem to get a mention in "The Northampton and Banbury Junction Railway" published in 1990.

 

In the early 1960s I used to spend a lot of time at the bridge north of Blisworth station, maily for main line traffic but we were always pleased to see SMJ activity. Occasionally we would visit the station. At that time the main building (booking hall etc.) was still there although the main line platforms had been demolished and the rubble used to fill in the subway. The booking hall led to the SMJ station which consisted of an island platform with a bay each side. It was delapidated with little canopy left although the supports for the canopy were still there. The lines were disused or possibly used for shunting or as sidings. I think the southern (western) platform had a second face used for cattle.

 

We were very surprised to see builders move in and start renovating the platforms. A new surface was laid and a new canopy constructed. This would be about 1963. We wondered what was going on and heard stories about parcels traffic.

 

What certainly did happen was that the two platforms were used for parcels vans with a lot of transhipping going on, both platforms would often be occupied. The place was quite busy. Road transport may also have been involved. This was rumoured to be something to do with the rebuilding of Euston station, which was completed in 1968 I believe.  My visits to Blisworth dried up with electrification but the traffic was going strong in autumn 1965.

 

Obviously this had nothing to do with the SMJ proper, although the platforms would have been very inconvenient for the main line as several reversals would have been needed to get access. I could never understand how Blisworth could be a substitute for Euston 60 miles away.

 

Any explanation would be welcome.

 

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Hi Peter,

 

I remember reading a short article about this somewhere (may have been on this forum). I think it said that it was used for Northampton's mail while Northampton Castle station was being rebuilt as part of the electrification plan.

 

There's a picture on this site by John Evans:- http://thesmjr.ning.com/photo/blisworth-smj-platforms?xg_source=act...

 

Jim.

Peter

 

Your info is interesting because it adds further detail about the end of Blisworth station. Robin Patrick who was a signalman at Blisworth at the time gave me the info that appears in the 'Pickups & Ironstone' article.  He told me that the parcels vans were not initially left at the SMJ platforms but first at the main line platforms, so presumably this traffic had already begun to arrive for sorting at Blisworth SMJ even before the demolition of the main line platforms and the building work to the SMJ station took place. He said that the vans were shunted in and out of the SMJ station by a 2E Ivatt 2MT that was sent down the Northampton branch each day. 

 The main line station closed for traffic in Jan 1960 but I don't think it was demolished straight away.  I remember seeing Class 40 hauled expresses that called at Castle using the Northampton - Blisworth route much later than 1960 so it would be interesting to know (and possibly valid to this discussion) when that line actually closed. Can you remember how and by what the vans were brought in  to Blisworth SMJ at the time that you are describing? Perhaps a train load were left in the exchange sidings then shunted in as required. I wonder if they came in from Northampton rather than along the main line?

 

The whole exercise was indeed to do with facilities in London not being available due to electrification work, but I don't know many details except that Robin told me that the parcels involved were ones destined for the Southern Region so presumably parcels traffic for other regions continued to be handled somewhere nearer London. I do vaguely remember something appearing about it in the Chronicle & Echo or Mercury & Herald at the time.

 

Dick

My recollection of Blisworth in the late 1960s is that there was still some postal activity goiong on round where the old SMJ station had been. I moved into the area in 1966 and am fairly certain that something went on at the site until c 1970. So far as the old line to Peterborough is concerned, it was still in use after Blisworth Station closed in 1960, and in Autumn 1962 I remember seeing posts for the electric overhead being set up along this line. However the installation never went beyond the posts, for someone in BR decided that the route should not be electrified. It was disused by 1966 and the following year a character who lived in a tent beside the line was prosecuted for removing telephone wire,"the property of British Railways Board". The man's address was given in the papers as "The railway cutting, Blisworth"!

David

It's funny how you forget things, I'd completely forgotten until your comment reminded me that I'd seen those posts on the Blisworth line out of Northampton and also earlier watched holes being bored for them to be erected at Rotherthorpe Road crossing.  What a waste of money! Another similar waste was the complete rebulding of Castlethorpe station (a few miles south) at the same time, only for it to be closed on completion. The platforms are still very much in situ but it's unlikely despite population growth that the station will ever reopen as they say that for trains to stop there would cause unavoidable delays between Northampton and MK as the slow lines are already congested with at least 6 Northampton trains and up to 4 - 5 freights every hour passing.

Dick

The "electrification" of the branch was rather notorious.

 

The bridge over the line for the road to Milton Malsor was also rebuilt for this as it had inadequate clearance.

 

The line to Northampton survived until about 1970 as a diversionary route at least. I suppose it was not needed after the line to Wellingborough closed and activity at Blisworth ceased. I had the "pleasure" of being in a diverted diesel train at about Easter 1967 because there were problems on the loop line.

David Blagrove said:

My recollection of Blisworth in the late 1960s is that there was still some postal activity goiong on round where the old SMJ station had been. I moved into the area in 1966 and am fairly certain that something went on at the site until c 1970. So far as the old line to Peterborough is concerned, it was still in use after Blisworth Station closed in 1960, and in Autumn 1962 I remember seeing posts for the electric overhead being set up along this line. However the installation never went beyond the posts, for someone in BR decided that the route should not be electrified. It was disused by 1966 and the following year a character who lived in a tent beside the line was prosecuted for removing telephone wire,"the property of British Railways Board". The man's address was given in the papers as "The railway cutting, Blisworth"!

Peter

For some reason most if not all of the expresses that then stopped at Northampton from the 50s up to the electrification (such as The Windermere express) used the Blisworth link rather than the loop, presumably this was so that they could stay on the fast lines for longer. Once the line was electrified Northampton lost its expresses for ever. There was a plan more recently to build a Northampton Parkway station at Blisworth which was bitterly opposed by Milton Keynes council as they feared they would lose out on expresses, There was also more recently talk of Virgin routing some expresses via Northampton but nothing came of it.

Dick

Dick

I'm not sure that I would agree with you as far as the 60s goes.

 

I spent a lot of time at Blisworth (more at Roade cutting) and from my recollection it was rare to see a passenger train (although I have a photo of a class 40 hauled up train in 1965). Similarly at Northampton the few fast trains invariably headed off to Hunsbury Hill tunnel rather than Blisworth.

 

As a passenger it was rare (but not unknown) to go via Blisworth - which I preferred as it took you past the loco shed.

 

Northampton didn't really have real expresses (except in headcode terms), just semi-fasts like the Carlisle stopper and Wolverhampton trains. In the 50s I used to annually get off what I suppose was the Carlisle stopper at the short Blisworth platform and change to the Blisworth Flyer. After Blisworth closed this stopped at Northampton but I don't know whether it went via Blisworth or not.

 

By going via Blisworth you would stay on the main line for about 3 miles but would then be faced with a sharp turn on to the branch which presumably had a severe speed restriction. I can imagine that on occasions  the Blisworth line would be a way of getting past a slow freight on the line to Roade. This would apply more in the up direction. I can remember one occasion at Roade cutting where a heavy coal train was in the hands of a 4F which was hardly moving. This must have caused delays.

 

Peter

Part of the problem reopenining Castlethorpe Station is the Borough councils involved. I think i'm right in saying that the boundary fence on the up slow side is also the dividing line between Buckinghamshire/Northamptonshire with the old station in one & town in the other. I am sure that there is quite sufficient traffic to support reopening but its often much easier closing things than reopening them.

My father told me that in steam days slip coaches were used for Blisworth & passengers requiring Northampton Should change there for a fast service.

Dick said:

David

It's funny how you forget things, I'd completely forgotten until your comment reminded me that I'd seen those posts on the Blisworth line out of Northampton and also earlier watched holes being bored for them to be erected at Rotherthorpe Road crossing.  What a waste of money! Another similar waste was the complete rebulding of Castlethorpe station (a few miles south) at the same time, only for it to be closed on completion. The platforms are still very much in situ but it's unlikely despite population growth that the station will ever reopen as they say that for trains to stop there would cause unavoidable delays between Northampton and MK as the slow lines are already congested with at least 6 Northampton trains and up to 4 - 5 freights every hour passing.

Dick

I think that I can add a bit re: the date of closure of the Blisworth to Northampton section. I took a couple of (poor!) photos of DMU's using the line at Duston West on 18 and 19 April 1967. The reason for those trains was that there had been a bad derailment of an electric unit at  Roade on the loop line, and no trains ran that way for a day or so - as a result connecting services were run via Blisworth.This would probably be what Peter remembers.  I'm not sure where they connected with other services - probably Wolverton or Bletchley, as I'm sure that the Blisworth platforms had gone by then. It was certainly stated at the time that the Blisworth line had been 'temporarily reopened' for these trains - so closure was before that date, although it was obviously still signalled and usable for passenger traffic. 

Barry

I have just come across an old photo taken at Blisworth in April 1967, i.e. about the time of the diversions mentioned (I can confirm that the shuttle DMU ran to Wolverton) and a few months before the closure of the remaining stub of the SMJ to the ironstone quarry.

This shows the infrastructure as almost intact - although the up sidings seem disused. The SMJ signalbox is gutted. The main one is intact.

 

A class 08 (the only time I saw one there - but then I didn't go often in 1967) is shunting empty iron ore tipplers on the SMJ lines. The SMJ and exchange sidings look fairly busy and the platforms at the SMJ station look full of parcels vans.

By contrast a shot taken from a similar position in May 1971 shows all lines lifted apart from the through lines (I think an emergency siding was retained at Blisworth station). The SMJ box has gone but the main box stands - probably disused.

 

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