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LMS Routes

LMS Route: Coventry to Leamington

Route History

For Nuneaton to Coventry click here and for Coventry to Leamington click here.

Line History

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.

Kenilworth Junction
Old Milverton lineside views
Warwick Milverton:
Leamington Avenue


The following appeared in the Coventry Herald on 13th December 1844

On Monday last, this line, connecting Coventry, Kenilworth, Leamington, and Warwick, by means of the London & Birmingham Railway, with the Metropolis, was opened. The line is about nine miles long, and 10 from town, being within four hours’ journey of the Metropolis. It has been constructed under the superintendence of Mr Robert Stephenson, is what is technically termed a single line, has cost £170,000, and has taken eighteen months to complete. On Monday week, the Directors of the London and Birmingham made an experimental trip over it, accompanied by Major-General Pasley, the Government Inspector of railways, starting by the six o'clock a.m. train from London, and after examining the most important points upon the line, reached Leamington at twelve, and partook of a cold collation. They returned by special train to town, General Pasley expressing himself highly satisfied with the works and general engineering. One of the main advantages of this extension will be the facilities it will confer on the inhabitants of the southern districts of Warwickshire for the economical supply of coals.

The line is of a singular construction, being a continued series of ascents and descents, forming an undulating surface from terminus to terminus. Kenilworth, the only station between Coventry and Leamington, is five miles from the former, and three and three quarters from the latter, is situated on the outskirts of the town. The Leamington station is elegantly constructed in the Roman Doric style, and is situated in the main road between Leamington and Warwick, in the parish of Milverton, near to Emscote. A continued series of cuttings and embankments occur throughout the distance. The branch diverges, by a sharp curve, out of the main line at Coventry, and preserves an undulating course to Leamington, a perpetual impetus being kept up between the ascents and descents. One of the principal works is that of the Milburn viaduct, prettily situated in the middle of a valley, and composed of seventeen arches of red brick, faced with stone. Then following a timber bridge of fifty feet span, uniting the roads of Leek Wooton, Hill Wooton, and Stoneleigh, with Guy's Cliffe so named after the celebrated Earl of Warwick. The Avon viaduct, a beautiful structure, is composed of nine arches of sixty feet span, in the neighbourhood of the Honourable BG Percy. The Leamington station is somewhat inconveniently placed at a distance of one mile from both Leamington and Warwick, and the fact of its being only a single line is probably attributable to the high price of land in this neighbourhood, which in some instances had to be purchased at £700 and £800 per acre.