Midland and South Western Junction Railway

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Midland and South Western Junction Railway
TypeHeavy rail
TerminiCheltenham Spa
ClosedPassengers 1961
Goods 1964–1970
Operator(s)Midland and South Western Junction Railway
Great Western Railway
British Railways
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
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Midland and South Western Junction Railway
TypeHeavy rail
TerminiCheltenham Spa
ClosedPassengers 1961
Goods 1964–1970
Operator(s)Midland and South Western Junction Railway
Great Western Railway
British Railways
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Midland and South Western Junction Railway
GWR Gloucester to
Cheltenham Spa
Birmingham Line
GWR Honeybourne Line
Cheltenham South & Leckhampton
Charlton Kings
B&CDR Line to Banbury
Andoversford and Dowdeswell
Chedworth Halt
Foss Cross
Cirencester Town
Cirencester Watermoor
(GWR station)
Cerney and Ashton Keynes
Hayes Knoll
Moredon Halt
Moredon power station
GWR to Gloucester
GWR main line to Bristol
Rushey Platt
Swindon Town
Chiseldon Camp Halt
Marlborough (GWR station)
Marlborough Low Level
Link (1883-98, 1926-64)
GWR Marlborough Goods
Reading to Taunton Line
Marlborough tunnel
Burbage Wharf (Goods)
Link (1933-64)
Savernake Low Level
Savernake High Level
Reading to Taunton Line
Grafton and Burbage
Collingbourne Kingston Halt
(Military Depot)
Waterloo - Exeter Line
Andover Junction
Andover Town
Fullerton-Hurstbourne Line
Fullerton Junction
Sprat and Winkle Line
Wessex Main Line
Romsey-Eastleigh Line
South Western Main Line
Southampton Central
Southampton Terminus
Southampton Tunnel
To Southampton
LSWR Main Line
Eastern Docks

The Midland and South Western Junction Railway (M&SWJR) was an independent railway built to form a north-south link between the Midland Railway and the London and South Western Railway in England, allowing the Midland and other companies' trains to reach the port of Southampton.[1] The M&SWJR was formed in 1884 from the amalgamation of the Swindon, Marlborough and Andover Railway and the Swindon and Cheltenham Extension Railway.[2] The line was absorbed by the Great Western Railway at the 1923 Grouping and became part of British Railways on nationalisation in 1948. The railway closed to passengers in 1961, and to goods between 1964 and 1970, but a small part of it has been re-opened as the Swindon and Cricklade Railway.[3]

First proposals[edit]

By 1845 the Great Western Railway (GWR) had established itself as the dominant railway company controlling west to east trunk routes from Bristol and the West of England to London. The GWR was a broad gauge railway and it sought to monopolise the area it occupied, excluding competing railways. A number of schemes had been proposed to build a north-south railway route, particularly one connecting the manufacturing districts of the West Midlands and Lancashire to Southampton and the Channel Ports. Such a railway would inevitably cut through the territory – at first simply occupied by the west to east Bristol line – which the GWR considered to be its own.

As early as 1846 a Manchester and Southampton Railway was proposed;[4] it would have been 88 miles (142 km) long, running from north of Cheltenham to Southampton, passing to the east of Swindon and near Marlborough. It would have cost £1,500,000 to build. It was defeated in the House of Lords by a narrow margin after the GWR had given an undertaking to lay narrow gauge rails on its line between Oxford and Basingstoke.

The ambition of a through railway from north to south was eventually reduced to serving local communities, and the first line on the corridor envisaged was the Andover and Redbridge Railway, which was incorporated on 12 July 1858.[4] Redbridge was on the London and South Western Railway (the LSWR) a short distance west of Southampton, an important port. The LSWR quickly acquired the young company (in 1863) and opened the line on 6 March 1865.[5]

At the same time the Berks and Hants Extension Railway, an extension of the earlier Berks and Hants Railway, opened in November 1862. A member of the GWR family of railways, it was built on the broad gauge and ran broadly west to east between Devizes and Hungerford, passing south of Marlborough, forming another barrier to north-south connections. It opened on 14 April 1864, and during construction a branch from it, the Marlborough Railway, was authorised (on 22 July 1861),[4] forming a junction with the B&HER at Savernake.[5]

The Swindon, Marlborough and Andover Railway[edit]

Early efforts[edit]

Business interests at Swindon and Marlborough pressed to promote a north-south connection, and a Swindon, Marlborough, Southampton and New Forest Railway was promoted, renamed the Swindon, Marlborough and Andover Railway (SM&AR), the scheme received the Royal Assent on 21 July 1873, with share capital of £375,000 and borrowing powers of £125,000.[4] The line was to start a short distance east of the GWR Swindon station, curving sharply to the south and passing through a 773 yard (707 metre) tunnel south of Hunt Street, and run to a joint Marlborough station, possibly an enlargement of the existing station; there would be an end-on connection with the Marlborough Railway. Running powers were granted over the Marlborough Railway and a short distance of the adjacent main line of the Berks and Hants Extension Railway, from Savernake to Wolfhall Junction. From the junction a second section of the SM&AR was to run southwards to join the London and South Western Railway (LSWR) at Andover. The final section to Andover was to run adjacent to the LSWR main line, but a connection to it there at the point of geographical junction was prohibited. The LSWR was to build the third line over that section, and lease it to the SM&AR.

The total capital cost of the line was to be £400,000.[5]

A contract was quickly let for the construction of the line, but faulty work in the tunnel at Swindon soon led to a collapse of the workings there, and shortly to the failure of the contractor. The Company continued work directly but ran out of money and worked ceased in October 1876. It seemed that the scheme was to be abandoned, but Parliamentary authority for an extension of time was obtained in July 1878, and in September 1879 work was resumed by Watson, Smith & Watson "on terms guaranteeing interest payments to shareholders at 5 per cent per annum until the line was open for traffic". It is not clear how the contractor was to be remunerated, but preference dividends[note 1] were authorised by an Act of 29 June 1880.[5]

Swindon to Marlborough[edit]

Deviations were authorised by Act of 3 July 1879; these reduced the earthworks and avoided the Swindon tunnel, at the expense of more and steeper gradients. The route southwards from Swindon was now to curve round the west of the hill on which the Old Town stands, leaving the GWR main line at Rushey Platt, west of the Swindon GWR station. There was also a deviation at Marlborough to avoid the need for a viaduct, but this had the effect of bringing the line into the Marlborough Railway somewhat south of its station, necessitating duplication of stations there.[5] The deviations amounted to about 8 miles[4] out of the 12½ miles between Swindon and Marlborough.[6]

Construction now proceeded more rapidly, and the section from Swindon (SM&AR station, later Swindon Town) to Marlborough (SM&A station) was opened formally on 26 July 1881 and to the public on 27 July 1881. There were intermediate stations at Chiseldon and Ogbourne.[5][2][4]

No terms for access to Swindon GWR station had been set, and the Company now negotiated with the GWR; the GWR was hostile, seeing the SM&AR as facilitating a potential north-south penetrating route, and the terms went to arbitration; this awarded considerably reduced charges compared with the GWR's initial demands: 3900 per annum for the use of Swindon GWR station, plus other charges. A passenger service between the SM&AR and GWR stations at Swindon was started on 6 February 1882.

However the connecting passenger service made a loss of nearly £1,500 annually, and it was discontinued after 28 February 1885.[5]

Marlborough to Andover[edit]

The Marlborough Railway had opened in 1864 as a single line broad gauge branch. Never intended as a through line, it was steeply graded and worked by wooden train staff and ticket, without block telegraph. The Berks and Hants Extension Railway was itself a single line, and the Savernake station had "only one through platform and very rudimentary signalling equipment"[5] and when put forward for opening the SM&AR to Andover, it was described by a Board of Trade Inspecting Officer as "not fit for the existing traffic, and still less for the additional traffic that would pass through it upon the opening of the additional lines".[7]

The SM&AR was therefore refused permission to open until the GWR (effectively the managing company for the B&HER and the Marlborough Railway) improved the arrangements at Savernake and the signalling system on the branch. This required an enabling Act: the SM&A Act, 1882.

At this time the southern section of the SM&AR was ready, so the Company started a train service from its Grafton station to Andover, beginning on 1 May 1882 and using a temporary connection at the point of geographical junction near Andover (later to be called Red Post Junction). Permanent use of such a connection was prohibited, and the third track from there to Andover, for the use of SM&AR trains, came into use on 20 November 1882. Intermediate stations were at Collingbourne, Ludgershall and Weybourne.[5][8]

The GWR was not hastening to make the Marlborough line ready for the intruder, and the terms for use of GWR infrastructure by the SM&AR went to arbitration; this was finalised on 30 January 1883; the physical improvements were ready then, so finally the SM&AR was able to operate throughout from Swindon to Andover, from 5 February 1883. Its own route ran from Rushey Platt (near Swindon) to Marlborough Junction (13 miles 47 chains: 21.9 km) and Wolfhall Junction (east of Savernake on the B&HER) to Red Post Junction (west of Andover) (14 miles 1 chain: 22.6 km). All was single track except the connecting curve at Rushey Platt and a short section at Marlborough. The capital expenditure had been over £600,000.[5][9]

The Swindon and Cheltenham Extension Railway[edit]

Forerunners of the MSWJR in 1883

The original aspiration had been to link the Midland Railway with the South Coast: reaching Swindon was not enough. On 18 July 1881 an Act of Incorporation was obtained for a "nominally independent company", the Swindon & Cheltenham Extension Railway (S&CER). It was to build from Rushey Platt to Andoversford, a little to the east of Cheltenham, on the recently opened Banbury & Cheltenham Direct Railway, a member of the GWR group of affiliates. This would give the S&CER access to Cheltenham. The Act authorised some branches (never built), and was secured in the face of GWR opposition, due to the S&CER's allegiance to the SM&AR and through it to the LSWR.

Actually obtaining the Act had cost the Company dear in Parliamentary expenses, but it instructed Watson, Smith and Watson to proceed with construction; it appears that little supervision of the contractor was exercised, however. Moreover the GWR continued its obstructive tactics, now in connection with the bridge for the S&CER to cross the GWR main line at Rushey Platt.

Facing serious financial difficulties as well, the Company managed to open a section of line between Swindon and Cirencester on 18 December 1883; there were intermediate stations at Rushey Platt (immediately south of the GWR line, with separate platforms on the curve to the GWR and the new main line), Cricklade and Cerney. The S&CER was worked from the outset by the SM&AR.[5][10]

The Midland and South Western Junction Railway[edit]

The S&CER had been a creature of the SM&AR and had been worked by it, and it was an obvious step to amalgamate; this was done by Act of 23 June 1884, which specified that the name shall be The Midland and South Western Junction Railway Company. The network stretched from Cirencester to Red Post Junction, still without forming a through connection northwards. Some work proceeded on the final section, but the Company was in serious financial difficulty and the contractor Watson, Smith and Watson went bankrupt in 1885; they may have been working for credit. The S&CER itself went into receivership in 1884, although it evidently continued trading.

In this desperate situation the Company now issued debenture stock (which would have precedence in any profit distribution over all prior stock issues) in 1886 and again in 1887, and a contract was let to Charles Braddock. Further troubles befell, when the Chedworth tunnel sustained a partial collapse in June 1890 followed by the failure of an underbridge nearby in February 1891. Although the M&SWJR Act gave running powers from Andoversford to Cheltenham over the GWR, their terms needed to be negotiated and once again the GWR made this as difficult as possible. A token goods service to Dowdeswell was started on 16 March 1891

The MSWJR in 1891

On 1 August 1891 the company finally completed its route to reach the Midland Railway station at Cheltenham (later Lansdown). This was 13¾ miles (22 km) of single track; there were stations at Withington and Foss Cross. Tyers electric tablet system was installed for signalling the single line; this was a considerable improvement on the staff and ticket system used on the previously opened sections. The Midland Railway considerably enlarged its passenger accommodation and also its goods facilities at Cheltenham High Street.[5][11]

The construction of the line throughout had cost £1.3 million.[12]

Chedworth station was opened on 1 October 1892 on the northern section, and Dowsdeswell station was renamed Andoversford & Dowdeswell on 2 October 1892. Blunsdon station, south of Cerney, opened on 1 September 1895.[13]

Reaching Southampton[edit]

While reaching a connection with the Midland Railway in the north, the company achieved a success in the south: full running powers from Andover to Southampton Docks were granted by Act of Parliament in 1882; "a valuable right enjoyed by no other company".[5] Goods operation started on 1 November 1892 and passenger working with M&SWJR engines and crews on 1 June 1894. The Company now had finally achieved the connection between the Midland Railway at Cheltenham, and a port on the English Channel at Southampton.[5]

By-passing the GWR at Marlborough[edit]

Railways near Marlborough and Savernake

That through connection was of course achieved by running over the track of the hostile GWR from Marlborough to Grafton Junction. This showed itself in signalling delays, suggested to be contrived purposely; in restrictions on fares, and the potential to veto through charges; and an obligatory ticket inspection stop at Savernake. Moreover the line had steep gradients which limited the loads of through trains; and there was a charge of £3,000 annually for use of the line.

There were attempts to obtain Parliamentary authorisation for a railway to pass round the GWR, in 1884 and 1889, but both foundered due to GWR opposition in Parliament. A more carefully assembled proposal was put forward in 1894, in collaboration with Henry Brudenell-Bruce, 5th Marquess of Ailesbury, owner of much land adjoining the intended route.

On this occasion the Bill was successful, and the nominally independent Marlborough and Grafton Railway was incorporated on 7 August 1896, and on 26 June 1898 the new line opened. The new line was 5¾ miles (9¼ km) in length; it was double track, and the doubling was extended to Grafton. There was a 647 yard (592 m) tunnel and the ruling gradient was 1 in 100. The connection into the GWR line at Marlborough was removed.

The new Company was vested in the M&SWJR by Act of Parliament on 1 August 1899.[5][9]

For a fuller description of the configuration of the M&SWJR and GWR lines in the Marlborough and Savernake areas see Marlborough railway stations.


Tensions were increasing in South Africa, and in October 1899 hostilities resumed there, in the Second Boer War. In preparation for military action, the War Office wished to expand the garrison camp at Tidworth substantially. As part of this process, the War Office had the Tidworth Camp Railway constructed by contractors; this connected to the M&SWJR at Ludgershall. At first it was a siding, coming into use in 1901, used in connection with the construction of the barracks. On 1 July 1902 it opened for public goods traffic, and for passengers on 1 October 1902. By agreement of 16 February 1903 the M&SWJR adopted it as a public railway, leased from the War Department. It was 2 miles 33 chains (3.9 km) in length, nearly all single track.

Such was the volume of traffic associated with the military that the station became the "senior" station on the M&SWJR system, with annual receipts exceeding those on the entire remainder of the system together.[5]

Alliance with the Midland Railway[edit]

Having secured its through route to Cheltenham, the M&SWJR was fortunate in forming an agreement with the Great Western Railway, with the support of the Midland Railway. The M&SWJR had proposed a new line from Andoversford to Winchcombe, north of Cheltenham, which would have by-passed the GWR section of route. The proposal may have been tactical; in return for abandoning the proposal, the GWR agreed to double their line from Cheltenham to Andoversford, and to allow the M&SWJR and Midland to set their fares and rates freely for traffic over the GWR line; the Midland agreed to route through traffic preferentially over the line, and that Company obtained running powers over the M&SWJR, and, remarkably, over the GWR section. The Midland also made generous loans to the M&SWJR, needed for doubling part of their route. These arrangements were confirmed by agreements of 14 March and 10 April 1899, and represented the pinnacle of the achievements of the General Manager, Sam Fay.[5]

Sam Fay[edit]

There is evidence that in the early years of the MS&WJR and its constituents, managerial control of the Company's activities was poor, and receipts were weak while the interest on loans was crippling; indeed the Company was in receivership. This was recognised by the directors and in 1891 they approached the London and South Western Railway (LSWR) for advice. The LSWR were supportive and seconded Sam Fay, then 35 years old, to the Company; he became General manager and Secretary. In five years Fay increased receipts by 63% while working expenses increased by only 13%; Fay was able to obtain discharge from bankruptcy for the Company. Clearly Fay had single-handedly saved the Company. He returned to the LSWR to become its General Manager in April 1899.[5]

Infrastructure changes to 1922[edit]

The loan from the Midland Railway was quickly put to use in doubling most of the line: opening of double line track took place:

As part of the agreement, the GWR doubled their line between Andoversford Jn and Lansdown Jn, opening on 28 September 1902.

The passenger service on Rushey Platt curve had been withdrawn in 1885, and the passenger station itself closed on 1 October 1905.

On 25 March 1913, Moredon Platform was opened a short distance north of Rushey Platt; it was a short sleeper-built structure and seems to have been primarily intended for milk traffic. Passenger services were not advertised.[13]

Connection to the LSWR line at Red Post Junction was prohibited, but this was waived during World War I and a connection was made there in 1917.

When the Marlborough and Grafton line was opened, the connection from the B&HER line at Wolfhall junction was left as a disused siding; however it started to be used for wagon transfers from 1 November 1900. It was later replaced by a facing connection controlled from a new M&SWJR signal box also called Wolfhall Junction on 28 July 1902. The GWR had obtained running powers to Ludgershall in connection with anticipated troop movements, and the GWR opened a double line east curve on 6 September 1905; the earlier MS&WJR was relocated somewhat to the south so as to control the junction for this curve as well as the previous west curve. (The east curve closed on 5 May 1957.)

Correspondingly the connection to the GWR line at Marlborough was removed in 1898 on opening of the M&GR line; it was reinstated for wagon transfers in November 1926.

The SM&AR line had originally been laid with Vignoles (flat bottom) rails of 70 lbs per yard (35 kg/m) in 18 to 24 feet (5.5 to 7.3 metre) lengths, but the northward extension was laid with 75 lb per yard (37 kg/m) bullhead rail. The track limited locomotive weight, and was gradually replaced by 87 lb per yard (43 kg/m) bullhead track, but this took until 1928.[5]

Cerney station was renamed South Cerney on 1 July 1924. Blunsdon station closed in September 1924.

Train services[edit]

On the opening of the entire M&SWJR line, the passenger train service was not well organised, but in 1892 two complete trains (locomotive and carriages) were borrowed from the LSWR and these worked fast trains between Southampton and Cheltenham until M&SWJR stock was available. The best trains ran before the start of World War I taking 147 minutes northbound and 156 southbound between Southampton West (now renamed Central) and Cheltenham, a distance of 94¾ miles (152.5 km). Through coaches were taken on by the Midland Railway to various destinations including Sheffield, Manchester, Bradford and Leeds.


Swindon Marlborough & Andover Railway Single Fairlie 0-4-4T of 1878.

The SM&AR purchased three 0-6-0 tank locomotives from Dübs and Company for its opening; numbered 1 to 3 they had 4 feet (1,219 mm) diameter wheels and outside cylinders. Three 2-4-0 tank engines were acquired from Beyer Peacock in 1882 and a fourth in 1884. These were intended for passenger work and were numbered 5 to 8, having 5ft&nsp;6in (1,616 mm) wheels and outside cylinders. The latter proved more effective for longer hauls.

No. 4 in the series was an 0-4-4 Fairlie tank engine with 5ft 6in (1,616 mm) driving wheels and Walschaerts valve gear. This had been built by the Avonside Engine Company as a demonstration for the Paris exhibition of 1878 and was purchased by the SM&AR in 1882. It proved to be unreliable and expensive to maintain, and in 1892 it was scrapped on the orders of Fay.

The bankrupt Company now had only seven locomotives to operate its extended route, and in 1893 a director, Percy Mortimer, advanced the purchase price of a 4-4-0 tender engine, from Dübs; it became no 9. It had 6 foot (1,829 mm) driving wheels, but at 69 tons with tender, it was damaging to the light track on the company's line. Fay now managed to establish a trust for the purpose of funding locomotive purchase (and the building of a new repair depot at Cirencester), and in 1894 the Company acquired three lighter 2-4-0 tender locomotives with 5ft 6in wheels, nos 10 to 12. These three locomotives were taken into the GWR locomotive stock when the M&SWJR was absorbed by that company in 1923 under the Railways Act 1921.

In 1894 the Company also acquired two 0-6-0 tank locomotives with inside cylinders from Dübs, numbered 13 and 4 (the Fairlie locomotive having been scrapped).

Three locomotives were now acquired from Beyer, Peacock and Company: an 0-4-4 tank engine with 5ft 2in (1,270 mm) wheels, no 15, and two distinctive 2-6-0 tender engines of a type designed for South American use, with 4 foot (1,219 mm) driving wheels and outside cylinders; they were numbered 14 and 16 and proved extremely useful for heavy through freight train use.

In 1897, two 4-4-4 tank engines with 5ft 3 in (1,291 mm) driving wheels were purchased from Sharp, Stewart and Company; they proved to be useful on stopping passenger trains; they were numbered 17 and 18.

Six 0-6-0 tender engines were purchased from Beyer, Peacock in 1899 and a further four in 1902; they had 5ft 2½in (1,587 mm) wheels and proved capable on both goods and passenger work; they were numbered 19 to 28. They were followed by nine 4-4-0 tender engines acquired from the North British Locomotive Company, delivered from 1905 to 1914. They had 5ft 9in (1,752 mm) driving wheels. At 82 tons with tender they were heavy, but by this time the permanent way had been strengthened by rail replacement. Their tractive effort was 14,650 lb at 75% of working boiler pressure. They were numbered 1 to 8, and 31.[5]

All except the original numbers 1–8 passed to the Great Western Railway at the Grouping in 1923. Only numbers 10–12 survived into British Railways ownership in 1948. These three became GWR/BR numbers 1334, 1335, 1336.


The signalling system adopted on the first lines of the constituent companies of the M&SWJR was train staff and ticket. When the northern extension was opened from Cirencester to Andoversford Junction, the more modern and flexible Tyers electric tablet was adopted. When the Marlborough and Grafton line was opened, Sykes lock-and-block was installed. This is a sophisticated system whose advantage is in handling densely trafficked lines; its complexity was a disadvantage and it was replaced in 1902 with Tyers single-wire three-position block instruments; the latter pattern was being installed on the newly widened double-track sections elsewhere on the route.

By 1960 the signalling system was "electric token" throughout the single line sections except for the short section from Wolfhall Junction to Grafton South Junction ("Special Single Line Block Instrument", in effect a single-line track-circuit block). Absolute block applied on the double track sections: Savernake West to Wolfhall Jn and Grafton South Jn to Red Post Jn; there was a three-road section from Swindon "A" to Swindon "B" signal box.[14]


The MSWJR in 1922

At the beginning of 1923, most of the railways of Great Britain were "grouped" into one of four large companies, under the Railways Act 1921. The Great Western Railway absorbed numerous smaller lines, including the M&SWJR; the effective date was 1 July 1923.[15] At this time the M&SWJR owned 29 locomotives, 134 coaching vehicles, and 379 goods and service vehicles.

The Company was in a poor condition in financial terms: the capital outlay had totalled £2.12 million, and in the best year 1913, cash available for distribution after loan interest, rents, etc, was about £25,000; with several categories of preference shares, this meant that ordinary shareholders had received nothing. Shareholders received £4 per cent for preference stocks and £2 per cent for ordinary shares, paid in GWR deferred certificates.[5]

In planning through trains from the North and Midlands to the South Coast, the GWR found the M&SWJR unattractive: it ran towards the south-east, at Andover facing east, and failed to make a useful connection at Swindon. The GWR preferred to develop the route via Oxford and Basingstoke which was double track throughout. The M&SWJR trains continued to run to the Midland (now LMS) station at Cheltenham.[15] However the GWR restored the Swindon Town to Swindon main line station link, from 22 October 1923.

The new owner was unsympathetic to the poor receipts brought in by the line: this was especially the case north of Rushey Platt. Virtually the whole of the down line from Cirencester to Rushey Platt was in need of relaying, and the GWR set about singling that section in the first years of its ownership of the line; the process was completed in 1927, with two crossing places. It also instituted its "economic system of track maintenance" in which there were to be planned gaps in the revenue earning train service to enable permanent way maintenance to be carried out; this was combined with the GWR motor trolley system on the northern section, in which motorised rail vehicles could operate on the line to convey men an materials to work sites.[16][15]

The M&SWJR station at Andoversford & Dowdeswell duplicated the GWR Andoversford station, which could serve both the MS&WJR line and the Kingham line; Andoversford & Dowdeswell closed on 1 April 1927.

In 1929, Swindon Borough Council required to increase electricity generating capacity, and it commissioned a new power station at Moredon. The location was at the present-day Purton Road near the junction with Thamesdown Road, built at that time was in a rural location. Coal was brought in over the M&SWJR line -- up to 200 wagons a day.[17][13]

In 1930 the GWR put in hand a scheme to strengthen the numerous weak bridges on the line, enabling heavier locomotives to run.

The GWR found itself with two stations at both Marlborough and Savernake, and duplicate lines between them. No immediate action was taken, except that distinguishing names were allocated from 1 July 1924: Marlborough Low Level and Savernake High Level for the M&SWJR stations; and the original connection between the two lines at Marlborough was reinstated for wagon transfer in November 1926. However in 1933 a rationalisation was carried out by the provision of a link from the GWR branch to the M&SWJR line (considered in the northward direction) not far from Savernake (immediately west of Forest Road overbridge); this enabled trains from, Savernake Low Level to run to the M&SWJR up (northbound) line and gain access to Marlborough station. The M&SWJR down (southbound) line was now dedicated to through trains to and from Savernake High Level; the majority of the original Marlborough Railway branch was closed and passenger traffic concentrated on the M&SWJR station there.

Blunsdon station was very little used by passengers, and its train service had been reduced to one southbound call per week (in reality for milk traffic) from 1922; from September 1924 the passenger call was terminated.[13] New stations were opened at Chiseldon Camp (1 December 1930) and Collingbourne Kingston (1 April 1932).

The World War I connection to the LSWR line at Red Post Junction was removed in 1936, but the exigencies of World War II caused its reinstatement on 5 September 1943, together with doubling between Weyhill and the junction. As well as extensive troop exercise areas and camps on the line, a large ammunition store was established north of Savernake; US troops operated it and it became especially important in the build-up for the Invasion of Normandy in 1944. The store was rail-connected; it was extensively used in the years after the war for recovered ammunition. The line was heavily worked during hostilities, and most of the crossing loops were extended to accommodate 60 wagons plus engine and van.[5][18][19]

From 1948[edit]

The railways were nationalised in 1948 under the Transport Act 1947. The former M&SWJR network was divided between the Western and Southern Regions of British Railways; the boundary was just north of Grafton. However on 1 February 1958 the entire line fell to the Western Region, and on 3 November 1958 the remaining trains ran to Cheltenham St James instead of Lansdown.

Tidworth branch passenger traffic ceased on 18 September 1955 and the line was transferred back to the War Department on 28 November 1955.

Running through thinly populated territory and without fast running capability, the line declined and by 1961 the line was losing £113,000 a year. It closed to passengers in 1961. Schools services to Marlborough continued until freight was withdrawn too in 1964.

Moredon power station closed in 1979, but rail-borne traffic to it had ceased in 1969; until then it had been operated from Swindon via Rushey Platt, reversing there. The stub to Swindon Town was used for stone traffic relating to the construction of the M4 Motorway. The final revenue working was an enthusiasts' railtour in 1972: the "Somerset Quarrymen's Special", and by 1978 all track had been lifted.

The M&SWJR today[edit]

The military depot at Tidworth is connected to the main line at Andover over the former M&SWJR route from Ludgershall.

Former trackbed of the railway south of Swindon

So far as closed sections are concerned:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Preference shares were often issued when an initial share issue proved insufficient; they could generate new investment by promising the shareholder the first allocation of available dividend distribution. If Watson, Smith & Watson were remunerated in this way, they must have had some confidence that the line would eventually pay.


  1. ^ "Swindon & Cricklade Railway – Brief history of the MSWJ". Swindon-cricklade-railway.org. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Mike Oakley. Wiltshire Railway Stations (2004 ed.). Dovecote Press, Wimborne. pp. 130–132. ISBN 1 904349 33 1. 
  3. ^ Mike Oakley. Wiltshire Railway Stations (2004 ed.). Dovecote Press, Wimborne. pp. 17–18. ISBN 1 904349 33 1. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Carter, Ernest F (1959). An Historical Geography of the Railways of the British Isles. London: Cassell. p. [page needed]. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Sands, T B (1959). The Midland and South Western Junction Railway. Lingfield: The Oakwood Press. p. [page needed]. 
  6. ^ Christiansen, Rex (1981). A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain: Volume 13: Thames and Severn. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. p. [page needed]. ISBN 0 7153 8004 4. 
  7. ^ Quoted in Sands (1959), page 9
  8. ^ Mike Oakley. Wiltshire Railway Stations (2004 ed.). Dovecote Press, Wimborne. p. 42. ISBN 1 904349 33 1. 
  9. ^ a b Mike Oakley. Wiltshire Railway Stations (2004 ed.). Dovecote Press, Wimborne. pp. 86–92. ISBN 1 904349 33 1. 
  10. ^ Mike Oakley. Gloucestershire Railway Stations (2003 ed.). Dovecote Press, Wimborne. pp. 54–55. ISBN 1 904349 24 2. 
  11. ^ Mike Oakley. Gloucestershire Railway Stations (2003 ed.). Dovecote Press, Wimborne. p. 13. ISBN 1 904349 24 2. 
  12. ^ Page 15 in Sands
  13. ^ a b c d Mike Oakley, Wiltshire Railway Stations, Dovecote Press, Wimborne, 2004, ISBN 1-904349-33-1
  14. ^ British Railways Western Region, Sectional Appendix to the Working Timetables, Gloucester District, and Bristol District, issued 1960
  15. ^ a b c Peter Semmens, History of the Great Western Railway- 1 - Consolidation 1923 - 1929, George Allen and Unwin, London, 1985, ISBN 0 04 385104 5
  16. ^ P W B Semmens, The Heyday of GWR Train Services, David & Charles Publishers plc, Newton Abbot, 1990, ISBN 0 7153 91909 7: page 138
  17. ^ British History Online: Swindon Local Government
  18. ^ English Heritage: NMP
  19. ^ Roger Day, Savernake at War : A Wartime History of Savernake Forest, 1940-1949, 2007 ISBN 978-0953660124
  20. ^ Swindon and Cricklade Railway
  21. ^ Sustrans Route 482

External links[edit]