‘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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2F WDs working to Bristol

In the 1950s/60s we had a regular working of a 2F Woodford Halse WD to Bristol. I was always intrigued by how they got there. Does anybody know if that was via the SMJR please?Continue

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I'm a brand new rookie on here but I have a question which I hope one of you knowledgable guys can answer. When I was a lad in Gloucestershire (early to mid 60s), winter Sundays often provided a procession of additional southbound class 8 freights which seemed to be clearing traffic (mostly coal) which had backed up during the week especially at Washwood Heath but also at Woodford. The weekly operating notices (which our friendly local signalmen allowed me to view) often showed as many as 12 or more such additional freights, some of which originated from Woodford. Did these Woodford - Bristol/STJ freights run via the SMJ necessitating Sunday opening of signal boxes (presumably at least at Byfield and Kineton) or did they go via Banbury and Didcot? As a linseider, there was no way of identifying the origin of each as they passed but I used to fancy that the WD 8F hauled trains were probably the Woodfords (if indeed they were routed SMJ, Honeyborne, Gloucester). As I recall there were no actual routings shown in the notices, simply a point of origin and departure time. The WD 8Fs were often noted far from home (Doncaster and Immingham for example) and it would seem more likely that they came south via the ex-GC main line and would have therefore been available for working these additional freights from Woodford.

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Can anyone provide an answer?

Any idea of more exact dates, even the actual year might be near enough as probably Rex Partridge would know if such trains ran through Byfield on Sundays? I'll ask him about this next time I see him. WDs were quite rare beasts at Woodford after their allocation was stored then withdrawn. Most SMJ bound freight by then was Woodford 8F or Western Region loco ( double chimney 9Fs, Halls , Granges , 28xx, 72xx, 63xx, etc.) hauled. Could it have been during the Great Freeze of 1963 that these Sunday coal trains were laid on? There was certainly a lot of extra activity on the West Coast that late Winter/early Spring.

Thanks, Dick, for your response. The years that I was referring to were 1961 - 64 and the Sunday extra freights were more of a winter phenomenon. They may well have run before this time but ceased probably a couple of years after with the demise of gasworks and the demand for coal for them. It might well have been that the WR and later the LMR powers-that-were decided that having invested in the south chord at Stratford they might as well use the SMJ to its full capability and ran freights that way on certain Sundays but it is also possible that the trains from Woodford came not via Byfield but via Banbury and thence via Fenny Compton and Kineton or perhaps missed out the SMJ altogether and headed up to Hatton thence via Stratford thereby saving several signalbox openings. I guess the train crews probably didn't mind too much - I suppose it was Sunday overtime for them! Unfortunately, I did not salvage any of the Weekly Notices from the time so cannot give precise dates of operation. In my notebooks from the time I have many instances of Sundays when at least six and as many as twelve class 8 freights were seen passing through Charfield (let alone the Severn Tunnel Jcn trains which would have gone via Lydney from Gloucester), but even the local signalman was unaware of their origin - only their destination (Westerleigh or Stoke Gifford/Bristol West Depot) and as I mentioned many started from Washwood Heath with only a minority from Woodford.


I have spoken with Rex who tells me that in the early 60s he saw such freights passing through Byfield, along with additional steel trains on Sundays. So its quite possible that the trains you referred to did use the SMJ although they would not have done previous to the opening of new link at Stratford around 1960. From 1960 onwards twice as much freight used the section from Woodford to Stratford as used the GC main line south of Culworth Junction. Banbury was very busy all week with much traffic diverted from the Euston line due to electrification work, so was possibly a place to be avoided by any extra Class 8 frieghts. Also Western Region and Woodford crews were familiar with the SMJ route from Woodford West to Stratford's new curve so it would have made sense to have opened up a handful of boxes on a Sunday on the SMJ to allow these trains to work through. He says that Byfield signalbox was usually switched out but Woodford West and Fenny were open.

About this time there was also a lot of engineering work on the GC main line despite the fact that it was being run down and this caused further diversionary working on some Sundays which resulted in very heavy traffic on the SMJ often several trains passing in the same direction one after another according to Rex. On these occasions Byfield box would open. It seems strange that Byfield which was one of the most important crossing points and sources of water on the SMJ, the pickups used to exchange crews there, should have been frequently switched out at weekends and also at night during WW2. Incidentally the boxes that were not switched out east of Byfield on Saturdays (and at night during the war) were Blisworth, Towcester, Blakesley and Woodford West. Byfield and Moreton Pinkney were the ones that were often switched out. Of course the section east of Woodford West was never open on a Sunday except during WW2.

Thanks so much for your very enlightening response, Dick. What I hadn't realised (simply because I lived 20 miles south of Gloucester and so never saw the Woodford - STJ extras) was that they conveyed steel. I was under the mistaken impression that they were bringing Notts coal in trains originating from Annesley and being forwarded on from Woodford on the Sundays in question. From where did the steel originate that made up the Woodford - S Wales flows? Was it Scunthorpe (Frodingham/Normanby Park)? It was presumably being sent to S Wales steelworks for finishing as rolls or tinplate. Anyway, it's good to know that the Woodford - Stratford section was kept so busy for that five years before it's demise!

There were coal trains as well. The unfinished steel came from Consett and Scunthorpe. During the 50s it was conveyed at night and not on Sundays from Woodford via Broom, see the article about these 50s workings by going to the index page and finding the article about Albert Fennell. Motive power was Woodford or South Wales shedded WDs in the 50s. In the 60s it was more likely to be 28xx, 72xx, 63xx, Halls, Granges, 9Fs, 8Fs or even Black 5s.

In addition to these frieghts there were also fast fitted freights that used the SMJ between Woodford and Stratford during the sixties.  These originated from Dringhouses (York) and ran to Bristol and Cardiff. Frequently York V2s and B16 would appear on Woodford shed on these workings where they would be replaced by South Wales based Halls and other ex GWR locos.

All of this meant that a trip to 2F in the early 60s could be very productive with Canton or Ebbw Junction engines lined up next to NE Region locos.

I once saw an ex-LNE V2 on the Gloucester - Bristol line (the only ex LNE loco other than fairly frequent B1's and a solitary K1 I ever saw on that route) and it occurred to me that possibly it was working a Dringhouses - Bristol fitted freight when no replacement loco was available at Woodford. But maybe it came down the Midland from Sheffield - had anyone any sightings of V2s on the SMJ west of Woodford? Also, did the Robinson ex-GC 2-8-0s ever venture west of Woodford on the SMJ? (I apologise if this question may have been raised (and discussed) before). As a teenager relying on trains to get me to suitable locations for 'spotting'  and bearing in mind the limited stopping train service serving my home village sheds like 2F were unfortunately impossible to get to!

Generally speaking ex LNER locos never got further than Byfield Ironstone sidings on trip workings from Woodford (the so called 'Round the World' working). There is however at least one record of a B1 at Stratford heading towards Woodford on a freight and Clive Boardman once fired a B17 'Bloodspitter' to Kineton on a cattle train. (see Clive Boardman article in Index page). 2Fs L1 tanks worked crew training train west to Stratford as well. In GCR days a Jersey Lily turned up at Stratford on an excursion from GC territory. Strangely ex LNER locos were more likely to be seen east of Woodford. My guess is that your B1s,V2 and K1 came down the Midland.

The attached file may provide some background to the Sunday trains.


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