LMS Route: Coventry to Leamington
For Nuneaton to Coventry
click here and for Coventry to
Leamington click here.
The Warwick and Leamington Union Railway was incorporated on
18th June 1842 to build an 8½ mile single branch line from Coventry to
the two towns. Each town in its own way being considered important by the
promoters of the company. Warwick was the county town and the political centre
of the county whilst Leamington was the fashionable inland Spa. The London to
Birmingham Railway took over the WLUR on 3rd April 1843 prior to its opening
9th December 1844.
The terminus was located at Milverton, half-way between the
two towns, whilst there was one intermediate station at Kenilworth. Preston
Hendry and Powell Hendry in 'LMS Stations' note that although the GWR in 1852
had broken the monopoly of the LNWR at Leamington, the L & B's successor,
the construction of the Rugby to Leamington branch and the linking of the two
lines as a through route restored a measure of importance.
The development of Leamington as a fashionable outer suburb
to Birmingham was likened by Preston Hendry and Powell Hendry to being a modest
version of the Blackpool and Manchester relationship. The doubling of the lines
to Kenilworth Junction, the construction of the 'cut off' to Berkswell, the
opening of the branch to Weedon all took place in the early 1880s reflecting
the growth in traffic.
Robin Leach in 'Rails to Kenilworth and Milverton' notes
that Kenilworth had become a popular tourist attraction being the destination
of factory outings, foreign visitors as well as the 'more local well-to-do's'.
This growth was by necessity serviced by the LNWR and it was recorded on August
Bank Holiday in 1884 that 3000 people arrived by train with 5 excursions trains
alone from Birmingham, one of which carried an estimated 1300 passengers. To
put this into context, the population of Kenilworth was just 4150.
Harry Jack in 'Locomotives of the LNWR Southern Division'
notes the number of passenger trains on the line during the first 20 years of
its life. In 1844 there were 6 trains each way during the week with 2 on
Sundays. The following year, 1845, saw 7 weekdays with 2 on Sundays. The period
1850 to 1863 saw 9 trains each way during the week whilst the number of
services running on a Sunday grew from 2 in 1850, 3 in 1852 to 4 in 1863.
The opening of the Kenilworth to Berkswell branch to freight
on 2nd March 1884 coincided with the opening of the doubled line from
Leamington to Kenilworth. In 1916 the LNWR doubled the line from Coventry to
Gibbet Hill leaving just a short section, Gibbet Hill to Kenilworth Junction,
as a single track branch. Rumour had it that this was a deliberate attempt by
the LNWR to keep out the GWR presumably as their locomotives were alleged to be
wider and out of gauge.
Photographs taken in the early 1960s at Coventry Station of
a GWR 2-8-0 coming off the branch put paid to the issue of gauge. The more
likely reason is that the cutting at Gibbet Hill was very deep and the
construction work would, in the view of Robert Dockray, the LNWR's surveyor,
required great judgement and care. The cost of excavating the cutting would
therefore have been quite expensive so the alternative of a short single line
would have been a cheaper and viable option.
Robin Leach quotes Robert Dockray's letter in full as it
describes the route in detail from Coventry to Milverton. The line was surveyed
in 1847 just 10 weeks after the proposed doubling of the line was authorised by
an Act of Parliament. As Robin Leach writes, it is an interesting letter
because Dockray undertook the survey just after three years after the original
line was complete. The letter provides a comprehensive picture of the line
before doubling, an eventuality which was only in part to be carried out and
nearly four decades later when the southern part of the line was doubled.
Select a station or subheading to view associated images.
Numbers in [brackets] specify the number of photos on each page.