My daytrip to a Heritage Steam Railway, pt1

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.

Witney 1
Steam train and passenger carriage stopped at Witney station, a UK branch line that connects with Oxford (unseen in the far off distance)
Again a train stopped somewhere along the Witney to Oxford branch line

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…………..…

Witney 34
The Goods Yard, and now this is where the layout kinda gets complicated! The photographer is looking at the Goods Yard which after closure became a Coal Depot. Now for the purposes of my tale, the passenger Station and platform  is directly behind him, this Yard joins the Branch line and if you’re to make any sense of the following photos try and visualise the layout!
Witney 21
I believe this is the very last passenger train to run on our train Line to Oxford, the gentleman in the centre has a camera hanging around his neck, the word special is written on the train and apparently rathe ironically hundreds of Townsfolk came to ride in this funeral procession!
Witney 12
Two locomotive coupled together hauling a passenger train into the main Station, colour but probably taken early 1950’s
Witney 11
A freight diesel locomotive hauling coal coming out of the Goods Yard
Witney 8
Passengers waiting on the platform, the photos in colour, there’s a great many people so possibly this is taken the day the very last passenger train travelled the line.
Witney 7
Looking at lady standing at the Station wearing stylish fashionable clothes, this could be early 50’s?
Witney 6
They Goods Yard yet again!!
Witney 5
The Goods Yard probably 1950’s and still in operation, on the left is tracks and the vehicles are painted red and cream the livery chosen by British Railways before privatisation?
Witney 4
Buildings that used to make up the Goods Yard after closure became a coal depot and now wait for it! Now visit this spot in 2018 and you’ll find Sainsburys supermarket


I would guess looking at the ladies dresses this photo of a train at Witney station is very old indeed. Late 1800’s?


(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?)

Witney 2
My home Town used to be famous the world over for making woollen blankets, the photo shows wagons loaded with blankets setting out on their journey to Oxford and beyond, alas every blanket mill has disappeared along with the railway.
Witney 3
This isn’t the same train from above, no this locomotive hauling many wagons filled with bails of blankets is possibly earlier than the above train……….. I don’t know but taking a look at the lorry on the left I would say it’s an old one?

……….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


13 thoughts on “My daytrip to a Heritage Steam Railway, pt1

  1. And that is how we permit history to disappear. Luckily you have these wonderful photos, Andrew. My husband loves reading everything about steam trains – I’m sure he’ll be enjoying this post too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved all the photos. The past and the present. A few of the tumbling down stations reminded me of a recent episode on the show Endeavour. I wonder if it was used in filming the show. (A perfect setting for a murder most foul!)
    We have so few trains that are used in America anymore. Rather sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They are fabulous photos and around England we’re very lucky to still have many preserved steam railways………….. sad to hear yours are rarely used because America has such a rich railroad history, Buster Keaton’s ‘The General’ comes to mind

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Passenger railroads are pretty much a thing ofthe past. A real shame. More than a decade ago my youngest son and his school drama team took a train to central Florida to compete in state championships. . It was a pretty cool experience for the kids. They played guitar and sang songs all the way up the state. Sadly it’s not cost effective around the country any more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s still cost effect (expensive) here in th UK and the railways are used more than ever, our roads are gridlocked but with a little foresight Dr. Beeching (a politician) could have seen one day the railways would rise like a Phoenix, life could be different now. And yes the school travelling experience sounds so cool, there’s something both civilised and romantic that makes travelling by rail communal and fun. Thanks Lesley.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a wonderful post.. And big smiles that we both posted about railway closures.. Beeching has much to answer for.. And yes my sentiments exactly.. ‘They call this Progress!’…. You have gathered a wonderful collection of photos to show both old and new..

    Those old steam railway trains were something else.. My husband would as a boy when the train was only shunting some of the drivers would show him how they fried egg and bacon on the shovel on the coal fire.. As he lived not far from the station I spoke of in my post..

    My Great Uncle was also a train driver and my Great Aunt was a Signal woman during the war pulling those huge levers from a signal box…
    So enjoyed your post..

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love the frying egg and bacon memory, and now I know the tale is true as told. And yes Beeching has a lot tooo answer for, but with a heavy heart I realise closure was so called progress, during its latter years the line just wasn’t used!!! We all understand back in the 60s cars meant a wonderful future of freedom 😅 no 😓 now more a nightmare, but 😯unforgiveably things could have been so so different!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes we have been fortunate to travel on European railways, We once caught the bullet train that took us to Southern Spain There train systems are so much better, and most of their heavy goods go by rail on the continent. Canada too Huge amount of freight on endless trains that we watched pass by for ten minutes until the end came in sight.. Now millions of pounds are being spent in opening up disused rail lines again..

        The Monsal Dale line like the one near your town just an example of closures across our country. And Now they are wanting to get our cars off the road. 🙂 ;-)… As we all converted to what we were told was cleaner fuel, to be told all figures were falsified.. 🙂 Yes Progress, has many names.. Freedoms??? well, I guess we think we have a choice.. LOL…

        Wonderful chatting to you Mr S… and have a great weekend 🙂


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