John Speller's Web Pages North Warwickshire Railway

John Speller's Web Pages - GWR Narrow Gauge

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The originally independent Birmingham, North Warwickshire & Stratford-on-Avon Railway, to give it its full title, was incorporated by an Act of 1894 to build a line between Birmingham and Stratford-on-Avon in the County of Warwickshire. The firm had difficulty raising money, and further Acts providing extensions of time and modification of the plans were necessary in 1895, 1897, 1900 and 1907. Sir Edward Watkin of the Great Central Railway had hopes of gaining control of the North Warwickshire Railway and using it and the Stratford & Midland Junction Railway to provide a through Great Central route from London Marylebone to Birmingham. Unfortunately for the Great Central Railway it was already involved in too much debt because of its other capital projects and was unable to proceed with the plan. It also became apparent that construction of the northern part of the North Warwickshire Railway into Birmingham would prove prohibitively expensive, and that the line would have to rely upon the Great Western Railway for entry into Birmingham, at which point the line inevitably came under the control of the Great Western.

The Great Western Railway had a branch line which ran from Hatton, just north of Warwick on the main Paddington to Birmingham line, via Stratford-on-Avon to Honeybourne on the Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton line, with a branch from Bearley to Alcester. The North Warwickshire Railway was thus eventually built as a 17 mile 67 chain link from a new junction station at Tyseley on the Birmingham main line to a junction with the Hatton to Honeybourne line between Bearley and Wilmcote, while at the same time the line between the latter junction, Stratford-on-Avon and Honeybourne was doubled. (The remaining part of the line between this junction and Hatton was also eventually doubled in 1939.) A new Henley-in-Arden station was built on the North Warwickshire Railway and the original branch from Rowington Junction to Henley-in-Arden closed in 1915.

The opening of the North Warwickshire Railway on 1 July 1908 coincided with the opening of a new line between Cheltenham and Honeybourne and with an improved Bristol to Cheltenham route via Yate Junction. This gave the Great Western Railway a new and much shorter main line between Birmingham via Bristol to the West of England. Following nationalization in 1948, however, British Railways rationalized the routes between Bristol and Birmingham by choosing the Great Western route from Bristol to Cheltenham via Yate Junction over the LMS route via Mangotsfield, and choosing the LMS route from Cheltenham to Birmingham New Street over the Great Western route from Cheltenham to Birmingham Snow Hill via Stratford. The Cheltenham to Stratford section therefore closed in 1967.

Footage here of GWR No. 4965 "Rood Ashton Hall" on the "Shakespeare Express" from Stratford-upon-Avon to Birmingham Moor Street on 8 July 2012. And see here for No. 5043 "Earl of Mount Edgcumbe" on the same train on 14 August 2011.
Map of the North Warwickshire Railway excerpted from the 1909 Railway Clearing House map
Postcard view of the junction station at Tyseley shortly after opening in around 1910
Official Great Western Railway photograph of the new Henley-in-Arden station at the time of opening in 1908
A happily preserved Wilmcote station, little changed from Great Western days, in the year 2000. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
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