John Speller's Web Pages Oxford & Rugby Railway

John Speller's Web Pages - GWR Broad Gauge

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In the 1844-45 session of Parliament the Great Western Railway obtained an Act to build the Oxford & Rugby Railway from Oxford, via Banbury, Fenny Compton and Southam, to Rugby, roughly paralleling the Oxford Canal. The line was 501/2 miles long, and the Company had an authorized capital of 600,000 pounds, with the power to borrow an additional 200,000 pounds. It would have connected with the L&NWR at Rugby, and the Act therefore laid down that the line was to be mixed gauge. It also would also have connected via the Oxford and Basingstoke branches with the L&SWR to Southampton. There was to be an interchange with the Oxford Canal at Bletchington Wharf; the station at Bletchington was known as Woodstock Road until the opening of the Woodstock Branch in 1890.

At this time the Grand Junction Railway, which was having difficulties with the London & Birmingham Railway, was considering converting to Broad Gauge, and was looking for a north-south connection with the Great Western at Birmingham. This caused the Great Western to abandon the Oxford & Rugby line beyond Fenny Compton and set its sights on Birmingham instead, building the Birmingham & Oxford Junction Railway between Fenny Compton and Birmingham. In 1846, however, the Grand Junction and London & Birmingham came to terms and united to form the London & North Western Railway. By the time the Great Western abandoned construction of the Fenny Compton to Rugby line much of the line from Fenny Compton through Southam had already been graded, although the track was never laid.

An Act of 1864 authorized the Southam Railway to build a mixed gauge line from Harbury (Southam Road) to the L&NWR Leamington to Rugby line at Birdingbury, to be worked by the Great Western Railway. This would have allowed through communication between Oxford and Rugby via the GWR and L&NWR, but the proposal fell through owing to the non-cooperation of the L&NWR. Then on 5 July 1864 an Act was passed to build a 10-mile mixed-gauge line, the Coventry & Great Western Junction Railway between the GWR at Southam Road and the L&NWR at Coventry. This, however, was never built.

It is a pity, however, that the line between Southam Road and Rugby was never completed, since it would have been especially useful after the construction of the GWR's ally the Great Central Railway's London Extension, forming a route 61/2 miles shorter from Oxford to Sheffield than the Great Central's Banbury Branch via Banbury and Woodford Hinton.
Map of the Oxford & Rugby Railway and adjacent lines. Unbuilt section Fenny Compton - Southam - Rugby in blue
The original 1852 Brunel trainshed at Banbury in 1906
Fenny Compton station, GWR, in the early years of the twentieth century
In 1862 Gooch "Standard Goods" 0-6-0 "Liffey" was shedded at Bordesley and would thus have been used on goods trains over the Oxford & Rugby Railway between Oxford and Fenny Compton
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