Apologies for this post being a little late coming, but this draft has taken a great deal of planning………………. the photographs are ALL of the same location, namely my Town’s Station and Goods Yard, alas the track was pulled up sometime ago and the buildings pulled down……. 🙂 that’s called progress, I’ll go on to explain why my home Town regrets the closure decision taken by Dr. Beeching way back in the 1960’s, and remember I’ve tried to keep this post relevant to my daytrip rather than a transport history lesson.
Call this post more of an introduction to last Saturday’s daytrip to the middle England ‘Gloucester Warwickshire Steam Railway‘ Heritage Line, and because that’s a real mouthful I’m NOT going to keep repeating, so for the purposes of this post I’ll use the anacronym GWSR!
Now I’m passionate about all things trains and railways so I’ll try my best to keep my stream of consciousness simple and free from nerdy techno detail, there is in the UK a rather patronising unfair label pinned onto railway enthusiasts called ‘trainspotters’, well I’m lol not a ‘spotter’ but trains capture my imagination.
There you are wouldn’t life be boring if we ALL talked about soccer all day?
The above two photographs give you a hint as to what became of our Railway branch line….…….. please read on then return to this picture a little later! Btw they’re one and the same bridge.
My home Town used to have a rail line connecting itself with Oxford, yes the famous University city. Built before the turn of the 19th century, progressively over the decades the line fell out of used, then in about 1960 three hypothetical options were on the table as they were for 100 no profitable lines across England, people were buying cars and well society was changing.
These three options faced this loss making Oxford branch line!
1. The Town’s folk to use the railway to commute into Oxford, shop work and play, then commute home again hence making a massive profit for British Rail, the consequence the line remains open.
2. People stop using the railway completely, drive their cars everywhere and all freight switches to lorries on the road, consequently the line is closed as being non profitable, and soon after houses roads and factories are built on the land………. it’s called progress.
3. The non profit Oxford branch line closes because no one uses the trains, however the public form a preservation group, raise the funds to lay new track, buy steam locomotives to haul paying tourists schoolchildren and townsfolk to and from Oxford. The consequence the railway becomes a Heritage branch line and profitable!
(The collage of photos below also appear individually)
My Town chose option…………..…
(The following 2 photos are taken from my own collection and I paid money for them! Reading the captions, these two very special trains are all set to leave the Goods Yard and join the Oxford Branch Line……….. which as you remember is situated behind the photographer……………. let me ask you a question, have you ever heard of the name Witney Blankets?)
……….yes you guessed correct, our Town chose option 2 line closure, the awful consequence being all the above photos are Town’s buildings long gone consigned to history……………. and rubble!
The reason why is simply People stopped using the Oxford Branch line, it stopped making money and passenger trains stopped rolling down the tracks in the late 50’s, soon followed by the last freight hauled train in the 60’s, and yes houses and roads were built on the land. Virtually little is left to show we once had a railway many years ago………. all except these old grainy photographs I’ve in my collection. (Above)
Without wishing to labour a point the Heritage railway GWSR, remember I visited Saturday lol keep up, chose yes option 2, tourists now visit from miles around some flying in from all parts of the globe, all to sedately ride up and down the line pulled by steam trains, and the line makes money……….. hmm, with a little foresight Witney could have done the same!
In my following post I’ll share with you all my taken photographs, a picture post of pure English nostalgia, but before I go I’ll leave you with the final dark episode to my dark foreboding tale.
With vision and insight things could have been so different, my Town could have purchased the land, formed a Heritage Company and carried commuters to and from Oxford, yes life could have been so different, but alas we didn’t and Jeeze aren’t we regretting that lack of insight……. worse still Oxford City Council has ridiculous pipe dreams of building a line and connecting Witney with Oxford because well, the shear volume of traffic on the roads causes daily misery and gridlock! Between 7am and 9am, then 3pm and 6pm traffic is virtually at a walking pace!
The irony is, with a little vision planning and people playing their part by travelling on this Oxford branch line, the line would be open today then all our transport problems would have been solved………. and they say human beings are intelligent?
The point to this sorry tail? Those same 3 options back in 1960 faced the branch line I visited last Saturday, GWSR chose to stay open and create a Heritage railway, we closed ours and have regretted that depressing decision each and EVERY day.
I hope this hasn’t been dry reading hence I’d planned to write the post as simply and straightforwardly as possible! (I was pushed for a little time as well 🙂 )
A. Shepherdson 2018