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GWR Routes

GWR Route: Moreton-in-Marsh to Shipston-on-Stour

The Moreton-in-Marsh to Stratford upon Avon Tramway was the first railway to be built in the County of Warwickshire preceding the arrival of the Grand Junction Railway and the London Birmingham Railway by some twelve years. However it was built as a horse drawn tramway although it adopted the 4'-8½" gauge adopted by Stephenson in the north east of England. It was promoted by the "Father of Railways", William James of Henley-in-Arden, as part of an ambitious scheme to link the Midlands with London via narrow boat to Stratford upon Avon, tramway to Oxford and finally by barge down the Thames to London. William James did anticipate that the tramway section would be worked by steam traction.

However this ambitious project was, as Colin Maggs states in his book, "before its time" and only the route to Stratford upon Avon and one of the three planned branches (to Shipston-on-Stour) was built. Goods traffic was conveyed by licenced traders in their own wagons and who were also allowed to convey passengers on payment of a further licence costing £12 per annum. The branch to Shipston-on-Stour was delayed because the original powers expired before it could be built meaning it was not opened until 11th February 1836. The arrival of the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway (OW&WR) severed the terminal buildings from the branch compelling the OW&WR to take out a perpetual lease from 1st May 1847. The line initially was still managed by the original officers of the Tramway until 1851 when to reduce this unnecessary expense the OW&WR paid them off.

Following this take over the OW&WR upgraded the whole length of the Tramway Stratford upon Avon to accommodate main line wagons albeit still horse drawn. This did not achieve the up lift in revenues anticipated and in fact losses were considerably greater than previous. Any possibility of the route to Stratford upon Avon becoming a financial success disappeared in 1859 with the opening of the the OW&WR's Honeybourne to Stratford upon Avon branch line. The tramway through service to Stratford upon Avon was infrequently used although some sections of the line saw some use but by 1904 it was no longer used. The track was lifted for scrap in 1918 as part of wartime economy measures although it was not until 4th August 1926, a month short of its centenary, that the line was officially abandoned by an Act of Parliament.

Following the GWR takeover of the OW&WR, in 1882 a short spur at Longdon Road was constructed to enable through running to Shipston-on-Stour to occur as prior to this date the junction for the branch to Shipston-on-Stour faced Stratford upon Avon. This was part of the GWR's strategy to bring the branch up to a standard sufficient to handle steam hauled traffic. Further powers were sought after it found that the original 1833 Act forbade the use of steam locomotives and it was not until 1st July 1889 that the line was officially reopened with a service of four trains per day in each direction. Passenger services ceased on 8th July 1929 whilst goods traffic continued until 2nd May 1960.

The history of the Moreton-in-Marsh to Shipston-on-Stour branch is, according to SC Jenkins and RS Carpenter in their book 'The Shipston-on-Stour Branch', "unusually difficult to elucidate, and much of its history remains shrouded in mystery". However in my opinion their book does provide the reader with a very good understanding of the branch and is highly recommended. Their book is as comprehensive a history as is possible given the lack of documentation and covers the branch from its very early inception as a Tramway connecting Moreton-in-Marsh with Stratford upon Avon to its final days as goods only line.

The Warwickshire Railways website has only addressed the period from the 1870s, commencing with the upgrading of the route for steam powered operations. Therefore a significant amount of the history of the line operating as a Tramway is not covered. Because Messrs. Jenkins and Carpenter's book focuses on the branch line their section on Moreton-in-Marsh station is probably not as comprehensive as their work on the Shipston-on-Stour station. Therefore the photographic record of the former OW&WR station, and indeed of the other stations on the branch, by Vic Mitchell and Keith Smith's book "Oxford to Moreton-in-Marsh" is a useful if less comprehensive read. Additional information and photographs are also available in Colin Maggs book "Branch Lines of Warwickshire". For publisher details on all three books please refer to the bibliography page on the website.

Select a station or subheading to view associated images. Numbers in [brackets] specify the number of photos on each page.

Moreton-in-Marsh [30] (Gloucestershire)
Branchline Views [13]
Stretton on Fosse [14]
Longdon Road [18]
Shipston-on-Stour [33]