Midland and South Western Junction Railway
by Alan Gosling, FNRM South of England Group Committee Member
18th May 1998
Alan started his talk by pointing to his five
connections with the M&SWJR: his house is named after one of the
Stations, he has 2 tickets from the M&SWJR which were purchased by
his parents when going on their honeymoon, he travelled on it when
young, he is a member of the Swindon & Cricklade (which is one of
the few remaining parts of it still extant), and finally he used it
during his national service in 1953.
The main reason for building the M&SWJR was to
tap goods from Manchester to Southampton. It was originally proposed by,
of all people, George Stephenson in the first half of the 19th century.
It was not, however, completed until much later; the problem was the
GWR which was very protective of its area and, in particular, of any
other railway wishing to cross or use its tracks.
As built, the railway started as a junction with
GWR, through Swindon, to Andover, then running powers over LSWR, to
Southampton. There are only two parts still extant: the Swindon &
Cricklade, and Tidworth to Red Post Junction used by military for
transporting tanks. At Andover there were separate sheds for the
M&SWJ and LSWR.
Some notable railwaymen had connections with the
M&SWJR for example Sam Fay started off as a Booking office clerk at
Southampton Terminus but rose quickly in the management of M&SWJ.
The railway was built in parts, first was the
Swindon, Marlborough and Andover section. This achieved its royal assent
in July 1873. The ruling gradient was 1 in 90 on northern part so it
tested the locomotives of the time. Originally, there were running
powers over the GWR in the centre part, but difficulties caused the
M&SWJR to build a parallel route and cross-over. The original hope
of tapping some of the South Wales coal traffic from the GWR to
Southampton never materialised, partly because of the restrictive
practices of the GWR. In response the M&SWJR directors decided to
extended in direction of Cheltenham. This they achieved and that
concluded the extent of the line.
A large number of locomotive types were used on the
line; the principal classes of which included 2-6-2 tanks, Dean Goods,
Pannier Tanks, Manors, U Class, and Standard 4-6-0s.
The 1950s saw the run-down of the line. The usual
technique of removing useful services were used to justify closure.
Ludgershall to Tidworth closed in 1959 (it is now being considered for
reopening to serve a new town development). General closure came in
September 1961. Some sections still remained open to goods, but these
gradually closed in the 1960s. The remains today are limited with a few
stations converted to dwellings.
Alan then gave us a detailed presentation of some of
the locomotives used on the line, starting with the original ones
purchased from Beyer Peacock. These were still running when the GWR took
over the line at the Grouping. They made significant changes, replacing
the boiler and fittings on these ageing engines and "Swindonising"
them, even to the extent of changing over the driving position.
Of particular interest was loco No 6, which was
transferred to the Isle of Wight Central Railway to become their No 7
for the princely sum of £695. Loco No 16 with its cylinders placed
low down gained the name "Galloping Alice" because of its rough riding.
It lasted a long time, being transferred to the GWR, then in 1934 it
was purchased by the Hartley Main Colliery in the North East, finally
finishing its days at the Cramlingham Colliery under the NCB. Some of
the remaining M&SWJR 4-4-4 tank engines were subsequently
transferred to Birmingham for use on the Snow Hill commuter services.
The military always played a big part in the line
and still does through its depot at Ludgersall. Here, there are
facilities for transfer of tanks and armoured vehicles and, even, a ramp
originally used to load horse cavalry. This was still extant in 1981
and could be seen during a special excursion on the line. The Army still
has an allocation of diesel mechanical shunting locos at Ludgershall.
On closure of Bramley Ordnance Depot, three of the engines from that
depot were transferred in convoy to Ludgersall via Andover using Army
drivers and BR pilot men.
Alan finished his talk on an optimistic note.
Blunsdon station was the seed from which the Swindon and Cricklade
Railway has grown. There was a slow start but events have recently been
moving more quickly. Engine No 5637, which has been undergoing
restoration there for many years, has now been restored and was recently
steamed for the first time. Their other locomotive is "Hall" No 7903
which is undergoing restoration. A Drewry shunter was obtained a few
years ago and was used for publicity at Membury services on the M4. The
line is now being extended and there are hopes it could soon link in
with new housing developments on the edge of Swindon. We could even be
seeing the rebirth of the M&SWJR
Also see the visit report to the Swindon & Cricklade Railway