‘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

2F WDs working to Bristol 5 Replies

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

Started by Bob Bishop. Last reply by CLIVE BOARDMAN on Friday.

DVD on the SMJ 2 Replies

HiI’m looking for a copy of the film “The Stratford Upon Avon & Midland Junction Railway” edited by Hillside Publishing some time ago.This company is now out of business and cannot be called upon to get a copy.If possible, I would wish to…Continue

Started by Jack Freuville. Last reply by David Mead Nov 24.

Talk to Welford Local History Society

I live in Welford on Avon which now incorporates the former Binton Station with its recent housing development.The local history society is currently planning its 2022/23 programme of events and talks and would be keen to include a talk on the…Continue

Started by John Read Oct 8.

Broom Junction station site for sale 2 Replies

Great opportunity for an SMJ enthusiast perhaps.  I'm not sure what you could actually do with this site though!…Continue

Started by Simon Stevens. Last reply by Simon Stevens Oct 4.

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My late Father was born in 1911 and was brought up in the village of Hartwell, Northants. His Father (my Grandfather) worked at Wolverton carriage works for the LNWR. My Father wrote an autobiography of his life in 1983 of which I was unaware and have recently unearthed. In the autobiography is a chapter on railways and a section about a nearby east-west line which he refers to as the Straford on Avon and Olney Railway. He heads the section with two nicknames for the line The Bread an' Herring Line and The Scratter. He goes on to explain how these nicknames came about and this was also the basis of a talk that he gave on Home this afternoon on the BBC circa 1963. This talk was also published in a BBC complilation book of the same name in 1967.


I am having his autiobiography printed for members of the family only and would like to title it Bread an' Herring above an image of an 0-6-0 tank of the late 1910s, early 1920s. I would appreciate any advice.   

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I am delighted that some-one else refers to the line as "The Bread an' Herring" - my father (born 1914) always called it thus, and he lived at Yardley Hastings and Hackleton in his youth. I have not known how these names came about - but hopefully I'm soon going to learn the secret.
Rather than an 0-6-0 tank for the illustration, perhaps one of the SMJ Beyer Peacock 0-6-0 tender engines would be appropriate, or if you wanted to be really up-to-date a 4F would suffice - then again for an ex-LNW employee perhaps not.....but these were famed for hauling the banana traffic over this section.
I'm looking forward to hearing all about this.


Robin Cullup
Hi Robin

Thank you for your reply. I think it is best left to my Father's actual words to explain the nickames and to express his love for the line:

" To the north of Hartwell at 1.5 miles was the Stratford upon 
Avon and Olney Railway. It was in reality a link line travelling 
East to West; linking two main lines. It picked-up the Marylebone 
Line at Stratford; and the Northampton-Bedford line at Olney, and 
so via the Midland to London or the North.

In my day it had only four trains a day, usually two each way 
carrying freight pulled by 0-6-0 tanks. There was a steep rise 
near Courtenhall, so we had these coughing and spluttering 
engines opened fully out. We would listen eagerly for an engine 
to fail, which they sometimes did: but usually they made it, and 
with a sigh, free wheeled down the other side.

There were "Halts" or stations, at Hackleton, and going 
west, Shutlanger, Towcester and so on.

All along this single track were hazel, by the pools, willow 
and watercress; primrose and cowslips. Rabbits sat on sleepers, 
cock pheasants honked and curtsied, moorhens scuttled between 
water; and once a fox escaped the Grafton Hunt by jumping off a 
bridge into a coal truck on a passing train.

I spent hours just wandering on this line looking for 
anything of interest, particularly mushrooms in adjacent fields, 
blackberries and nuts. We loved this old line.

It got its nick-names – “The Bread an' Herring” from the 
habit of Irish labourers - who built it - of eating bread and 
herring sandwiches.

“The Scratter”, from the sound of engines scratching their way 
up the 1 in 96, "like old hens scratching for daylight"

What a shame the line was closed in the 30's - a few trains
ran during the 1939-45 war. "

So there you have it! Thanks for the thoughts on an image ~ I will do some research.


The Scratter is a new one to me. I'll have to get around sometime to adding a new page with all the names for the SMJ that various people have come forward with. Your dad wasn't quite right with the date of the closure of the Towcester - Olney line, it lasted until 1958.

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