As a child, back in the 1950's, I constantly visited the SMJ Old Town Station in Stratford on Avon. A friend of mine's father was a fireman on the GWR and his 0-6-0 Collett was, I believe shedded there? I can remember having a cab ride from the old shed into Stratford Station on a Sunday morning. When the Queen Mother visited Stratford in 1964, the Royal Train was parked up in the old station. We could not get near the place because of a heavy police presence. I lived in the Banbury Road. You could hear the WD's on the iron-ore trains coming through Goldicote cutting, and my brother and I would race across the fields at the back of our house to watch them as they went under the bridge on the Shipston Road. Clifford Sidings was just down from the bridge and the box was operated by a man by the name of Derek Magainey. When I started work with the GPO in 1966, I came across a few men who had been employed on the GWR. Derek was one of them. Other names that come to mind are, Bill Parker and Dave Cook. Dave fired the last steam special along the line. Another name was Doug Billinge, once again a fireman who operated out of the old shed next to the Old Town Station. Doug sadly died back in 1964.
I lived in /near Wootton Wawen, so my memories of the SMJ are somewhat limited... we used to see what I now know were Clifford Sidings, since we passed over them on the way to visit grandparents at Rickyard farm, Clifford Chambers!
For the record the Collet 2251 locos were always based at the former GWR loco shed just to the north of the GW Alcester Road station. Never at the ex SMJ shed in Old Town. Until cutbacks in the early 1960's there were always two on duty, one turn was continuous and was to provide banking assistance for northbound trains on the GW route. The other turn was a two shift job to shunt the ex GW yards at Birmingham Road goods depot and the gas works sidings as well as conduct at least one daily trip working to the ex SMJ yard at Old Town to exchange traffic. This trip was normally around 10.00am but it was sometimes put back until the afternoon shift because there was no signalman available to open the S&M Junction box that controlled access to the SMJ yard until June 1960.(After that the junction was under the new Evesham Road box control). Regarding the men mentioned Derek Megainey was familiar with most of the boxes in the Stratford area, I believe his family came from Welford on Avon and he was sometimes in the box at Milcote on the GW line. I remember the sad case of loco man Doug Billinge who died unexpectedly at a relatively young age leaving a wife and two young children. His family lived near to my childhood home on the Clopton estate in Stratford. He was based at the ex GWR shed. Regards the very last steam turn (24.4.65) I have no recollection of Dave Cook being on the footplate of 44188 but he might have been on the pannier tank that double headed the SLS special down from Birmingham. The pantomime of the parking of the Royal Train in Old Town has been well recorded but unless anyone knows different this was reputed to be the very last time in BR days that the Royal Train was steam hauled, another bit of interesting SMJ line history!
The GWR 2251 class locos that regularly visited Stratford Old Town yards were never shedded there. Until Tyseley shed (84E) closed they were allocated there and two were sub shedded at Stratford ex GW shed. Towards the end of steam working they were moved to Leamington Spa. Until 1960 there were duties for two locos at Stratford GW one continuous duty was to provide a banking loco for the up GW line the other duty was for shunting the GW goods yard and gas works sidings at Birmingham Road and to work transfer traffic to and from the ex SMJ yard at Old Town which is why they were often seen there. Occasionally they would trip up to Clifford Sidings box with a churn of drinking water where Derek Magainey was indeed one of the regular bobbies.