Railways

Bridge Out

Old railway bridge with farm trackThe brickwork looks to be in good condition, though the retaining wall on the approach needs attention. Beyond the bridge will be the cutting for the HS2 line.

There are quite a few nice old railway bridges in North Bucks, but it looks like the Highways Agency want to demolish this one, though it was in quite good condition when I visited it this week.

This bridge is nearly 125 years old, a part of our railway heritage and a local landmark on a footpath near Twyford Mill.

When HS2 is completed it will be about 120 feet from the edge of the cutting. The existing farm track will be carried over the cutting on a new bridge.

              

From the Government’s plans and what a local dog walker told me, this original bridge will be demolished; instead there will just be a ramp up to the new one. I believe there's enough room to keep this bridge and make it part of the ramp to the new one.

I see there’s another bridge that will be lost, too, about a quarter of a mile to the South East. But I didn’t realise until I came home again.

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Back on the Rails

Site of new Winslow station in 2009

The Monday Photo

Just on the left is where Winslow’s new railway station is being built.

It will give the town access to the East West rail project, and if you compare the photo with my more recent one of the recently cleared railway cutting, you’ll realise how overgrown it had become.

When I took this photo a dozen years ago I had no idea that the line was to be reopened. I had no idea that the iron footbridge I took this photo from was going to be demolished, either.

The brick bridge in the background is the one at the top of Winslow on the road to Buckingham.

This was the Buckinghamshire Railway. The first Winslow station was about a quarter of a mile beyond that bridge. It opened to passengers on 1st May 1850, and goods traffic began a fortnight later. The station would have sidings and a goods shed, and be quite an important station on the line.

At first the railway just connected Winslow with Bletchley and Banbury, but a year later the line to Oxford was finished and opened. The lines joined at Claydon Junction, renamed Verney Junction.

Winslow’s first station closed on 1st January 1968. I was eight, and unlike some boys I had little interest in trains. But I do remember walking across the fields to the iron bridge and watching the goods trains go by. In May 1993 the line closed to all traffic, after 145 years of service.

I was sorry to see the old iron footbridge go; it had been a landmark for me; a destination. It’s sad to see things from our childhood change or disappear, but this has always happened.

It might help to remember that whatever they are replaced with, it will be shaped by what had been before.


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Two in One

Waiting for the rain to stop  HavershamA cyclist waits for the rain to ease off. As in most of these photos, the seam between each viaduct is visible as a line up the pier and along the underneath of the arch.

This looks like a railway viaduct. But it’s really two, built right next to each other at different times.

They are both about half a mile North of Wolverton station, on the West Coast Main Line.

Robert Stephenson engineered the first of these viaducts for the London & Birmingham Railway, and work began in 1837. In September 1838 it opened, carrying two lines across the Ouse Valley.

The Great Ouse had to be diverted 900 feet North during the construction; the old river bed now lies under the South Embankment. To leave the river in place would have meant the viaduct would have to be twice as long as it is now.

Cutwaters by the Great OuseThe viaducts take the railway over the Great Ouse and the Ouse Valley.

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What Did I Do This Year?

Quite a bit, really. I managed to get around to quite a few places in North Bucks when we were allowed to, and got all the way to Hillesden before the lockdown. But this post is a Covid free zone; I’ll say no more about that today.

Now here are some of the highlights of the year from the North Bucks Wanderer.

Great Linford station

On a grey February day I explored The Railway That Nearly Was, a line that might have gone all the way from Wolverton to Wellingborough, but only made it as far as Newport Pagnell. If you know what to look for, you can still see where the line was meant to run.

This was the old station at Great Linford.

 

Musket ball hole  Hillesden

Hillesden Church is often called The Cathedral in the Fields, for its huge Perpendicular windows. Because of the windows, Inside All is Bright, but here is the outside of the porch door, in the shade. That’s a musket ball hole.

 

Olney pancakes

In Pancakes for Everyone, some of the Olney Pancake Race competitors wait to run. As well as the town race, there’s an international match against another pancake race in Liberal, Texas.

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From East to West

Cast concrete  BletchleyOne of the great supporting piers at Bletchley. You can see the scale of it from the two men just visible at the top.

 

Across the middle of North Bucks, the rebuilding of the 1850 railway is steaming ahead. Many local roads have been closed while works are carried out for the East West Rail project.

The project will create a rail link between Oxford and Cambridge, much of it on the routes of long closed lines, though there will be a brand new stretch of line on the far side of Bedford.

Often, it seems, the road are closed simply to keep a safe distance between workmen and the general public, but at Bletchley the road is closed while the 2,000 feet long railway flyover is being extensively rebuilt. The flyover was first in use in 1959.

The great piers are remaining, but a huge crane has been lifting the heavy concrete spans away one at a time. The first span was lifted in two parts, as it weighed 295 tonnes.

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Clear the Line

Railway cutting  WinslowTaken from the railway bridge at Buckingham Road, Winslow.

The Monday Photo

Workmen clear trees from the old railway cutting at Winslow, where the old railway branch line is to be reinstalled as part of the East West Rail project. In the distance, two more workmen walk along the flooded track bed towards the old iron foot bridge.

When the project is finished, you will be able to travel by rail to places such as Worcester, Glasgow, or the Norfolk coast, without having to spend three or four hours going all the way into London, then coming back out again on a different line.

Don’t forget, you would have to struggle across the underground with your luggage too. This is not the best way to go on holiday. Instead, you will be able to take the new line East or West across to the main line you need. From the new station at Winslow, you will also be able to get to Aylesbury, then from there to London Marylebone.

Services will start to run at the end of 2024, say East West Rail. Between Oxford and Milton Keynes there will be two services every hour. From Oxford to Bedford: one service an hour, and between Milton Keynes and Aylesbury they say there will be a service every hour.

All these trains will pass through Winslow, so I expect they’ll all be stopping at the new station. Meanwhile, there will be more room on trains in and out of the North side of London.

These workmen travel from near Brighton every day; a matter of a couple of hours by road at the moment, they say. That know that will change when the lockdown is over.


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