A local railway passenger service is coming nearer to returning to Winslow, 30 years and two days after the last passenger train stopped in the town. Freshly laid track has reached the new station, the halfway point between Bletchley and Bicester.
The work was carried out with Balfour Beatty’s New Track Construction Machine. As it goes along, the machine lays sleepers, then picks up rails that were previously laid loose along the route. It carefully aligns the rails, then clips them to “chairs” set in each sleeper.
As it works the machine travels slowly along the track it has just laid, at around 200 yards per hour. It lays up to twelve sleepers every minute.
Every so often the machine is halted, and men standing by get to work, making checks and sometimes adjustments.
This is the way of construction sites. It can seems to casual observers that most men are just standing around, but they are there so that any alterations or specialist tasks can be done right away. In this way, progress is made.
The New Track Construction Machine is the front part of a special train. Behind it are wagons carrying sleepers.
A white painted lifting body goes back and forth, picking up batches of sleepers from the wagons and bringing them up to the machine. At the back, a diesel locomotive pushes the train along the new laid track.
Finished for now, the machine has now returned to its depot in Crewe.
At lunchtime on 15th February, the machine halted at the station. It was the first train to halt at Winslow for almost exactly 30 years.
The last train, a railtours (special service for enthusiasts) Intercity 125 train stopped at the old disused station on 13th February 1993. Not long after their visit, the station was demolished.
The last scheduled passenger train had been even longer ago, on 30th December 1967; over 55 years earlier.
I never took a train from Winslow, but I remember as a child seeing goods trains passing through. I think they were carrying stone or gravel. It was around 1969. I would have been about ten.
There were also a few “Chiltern Shopper” specials, stopping at Winslow between 1984 and ’86.
With the machine halted at the station, the East West Rail project photographer gathered the work crew for a halfway point group photo.
But a couple of hours later when I drove up Featherbed Lane (Furze Lane) at the edge of Winslow, the machine was back in action, laying track under the lane’s old brick railway bridge.
You can just see the pillars of that bridge in the far distance, in the last two photos and beyond the new dark green footbridge.
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