John Speller's Web Pages Stratford & Midland Junction Railway

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Stratford & Midland Junction Railway Untitled Untitled
The Stratford & Midland Junction Railway

The SMJ or "Save me, Jesus!" was one of Britain's more impecunious and least efficient little railways, although on one or two occasions it came near to achieving greatness. It came about from the union of two main companies. The first of these, the Northampton & Banbury Junction Railway, was authorized by an Act of 9 July 1847 and was originally intended to run from Northampton to Cardiff. In the event only the section between Blisworth -- on the L&NWR main line, where it connected with the L&NWR's Northampton Branch -- and Cockley Brake Junction, 5 miles east of Banbury on the L&NWR's Buckingham Branch, was built. The line was opened on 1 June 1872. The second main partner, the East & West Union Railway, was authorized by an Act of 23 June 1864 to build a line from a junction with the Northampton & Banbury Railway near Towcester to a junction with the GWR's Honeybourne to Stratford-on-Avon line at Old Stratford. This opened on 1 July 1873. Its earliest passenger coaches were bought secondhand from the L&NWR, and ran for several years in L&NWR livery before the company was able to find the money to repaint them. To this was added the Evesham, Redditch & Stratford-on-Avon Junction Railway, authorized on 5 August 1873 -- which in fact only ran from Stratford to Broom Junction, and opened on 2 June 1879. And also the Easton Neston Mineral & Roade and Olney Junction Railway, which ran from Easton Neston near Towcester to the Midland Railway main line at Ravenstone Wood Junction near Olney and also connected with the L&NWR main line at Roade. The Stratford-upon-Avon & Midland Junction Railway came into being on 1 January 1909 and consolidated these lines into a 67-mile-long system stretching from Olney via Towcester and Stratford to Broome and from Blisworth (for Northampton) to Cockley Brake Junction (for Banbury Merton Street). The Chairman was Harry Willmott and his son Russell Willmott was appointed both General Manager and Engineer. The company was grouped with the LMS in 1923.

The SMJ had its main use as a connecting link for east-west traffic between the main lines it intersected, which were respectively the MR at Broom, the GWR at Stratford, the GCR at Moreton Pinckney, the L&NWR at Roade and the MR again at Olney. About the most exciting thing that ever happened on the line was that in the early 1900s the Great Central used to run four expresses a week in the tourist season from its main line at Woodford Hinton to Stratford-upon-Avon for the benefit of Shakespeare enthusiasts. Nevertheless, for much of the last quarter of the nineteenth century Sir Edward Watkin's eye was at least occasionally turned toward the SMJ as a possible way for the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway to obtain its own line to Birmingham. The idea was that the Great Central would use the SMJ from Moreton Pinckney to Stratford and the North Warwickshire Railway from Stratford to Birmingham. This plan came to nothing when the Great Western gained control of the North Warwickshire Railway in 1900.
1914 Railway Clearing House Junction Diagram of the Stratford & Midland Junction Railway. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons. Click to enlarge
SMJR Beyer, Peacock 0-6-0 No. 15 and Manning, Wardle 0-6-0ST No. 1 at Stratford Shed in around 1910
Great Central Railway Marylebone to Stratford "Harvard Special" at Stratford in around 1910 behind SMJ Beyer, Peacock 0-6-0 No. 18, built 1908, and the SMJ's last new locomotive
East & West Union Railway Beyer, Peacock 2-4-0T No. 6, built 1885
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