When you travel the back roads or footpaths between Olney and Newport Pagnell, you may notice long banks or hollows in the fields, crowded with trees. They are the remains of a railway that nearly came to run from Wolverton to Olney, and was planned to go even further.
Only the first four miles of the line was ever finished, less than one fifth of the total scheme. Who knows what other changes might have happened if the line had been completed?
But it had started well. In 1866 a branch line from Wolverton to Newport Pagnell opened, part of the London and North Western railway (the LNWR).
Already plans had been made to extend the branch line to Olney, and then to Wellingborough to join another part of the LNWR there.
Contractors started work on cuttings and embankments between Newport Pagnell and Olney in 1865, almost as soon as their work on the Newport Pagnell line had finished. A bridge was built over Wolverton Road the next year. It would take the line North through what’s now the police station.
But work stopped; the project had run out of money. There’s no sign of the bridge; it was demolished in 1875, and the bricks used to build cottages nearby.
Until some time after about 1960, maps show a bridge and a cutting here. You can see where earth was piled into the cutting to make a ramp for access through the double gate, which is about where the bridge would have been. The trees to the far right are in the cutting.
There are shallow earthworks on Bury Field in Newport Pagnell, and a wooded embankment to the West of Sherington. It’s likely that a station would have been built at Sherington; many of the inhabitants were employed at the railway works in Wolverton.
About half a mile along the Filgrave road from the A509 had been a bridge. There had been a short section of cutting to the South, (now filled in) but on the other side of the road the cutting still extends down the slope of the hill, then becomes an embankment.
This is the longest section of earthworks remaining; it’s over half a mile long. By the road, soil has been poured into the cutting to create a ramp for access to the fields either side.There is no sign of the bridge that appears even on 1960s maps, but I think it’s still there, buried.
At Emberton is another cutting, not far from the village. I expect another branch line station would have been here.
This row of trees mark the edge of the Emberton cutting that took the railway through the brow of the hill. The cutting is now full of trees and is utterly unphotogenic, which is why I didn’t take a photo in there. If Emberton had had a station, I think it would have been just behind the camera position.
The last piece of Earthworks on the way to Olney is in Emberton Park. Up to a dozen feet high, it’s now part of a play area, with a long slide and a twisty tube to whizz down. A gap in the embankment shows where a farmer’s bridge was due to be built.
From here, I think the line would have crossed the main road just South of Olney, and swung around the town to the East. Where the station would have been, I can’t say.
There had been a Station at Olney, but it was part of the Bedford to Northampton line, and once that opened in 1872, any chance of a railway being built between there and Newport Pagnell had gone.
Access to the section of the route that was built is easy; nearly the whole of it is part of the Milton Keynes redway; the cycleway and footpath network.
At the Wolverton end, the path leaves the line to follow the canal, but most of the two cuttings that curved North and South on to the main line are still there, on the other side of the path to the canal.
The station platforms at New Bradwell and Great Linford are still there, but the site of the Newport Pagnell station is buried under housing. All that remains is the surprising tall home signal, beside the redway.
The last passenger train left Newport Pagnell at 5:34 pm on 7th September 1964, though goods were still carried until May 1967. The track was lifted later that year, the branch line a victim of Dr. Beeching’s cuts.