John Speller's Web Pages GCR Banbury Branch

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GCR Banbury Branch
In 1900 the Great Central Railway opened a double-track branch line to Banbury from Culworth Junction on their main line. This line became the main interchange point for trains between the Great Central Railway and the Great Western Railway, allowing the running of trains from Sheffield (and via the NER and NBR to York, Edinburgh and Aberdeen), and (via the L&SWR) to Southampton and Bournemouth. In 1906 there were no fewer than four trains each way daily between Banbury and Wakefield, the fastest of which covered the journey in just under 3¼ hours at an average speed of 42 m.p.h. On 1 May 1907 the Great Western and Great Central Railways instituted a novel cross-country express service, between Cardiff and Newcastle, via Gloucester, Cheltenham, Chipping Norton, King's Sutton, Banbury, Leicester, York, &c. This made use of a new curve at Aynho Junction that had been installed in 1905. In 1908 there were also two trains each way daily between Oxford and York, and one daily between York and Bournemouth.

Branch trains ran from Banbury General (GW) station to Woodford Halse on the GCR main line, via Culworth Junction. There were intermediate stations at Chalcombe Road Halt and Eydon Road Halt. It is surprising that the Great Central and Great Western never considered a Banbury to Rugby local service, especially since a Fenny Compton - Southam - Rugby line (actually partially constructed) had been a goal of the Great Western in the 1850s.

It is unfortunate that the GWR & LNER seemed less interested in co-operating over these trains after the Grouping, although the York to Cardiff service was reinstated and extended to Swansea as perhaps the most famous train to run along this route, the "Ports to Ports Express." The Great Western and Great Central Railways already enjoyed a close relationship because of their joint ownership of the Great Western & Great Central Joint Railway (which was still affectionately being referred to as the Great Central Joint by British Railways Western Region employees, successors to the GWR, half a century after the Great Central ceased to exist in 1923).

The Great Western and the Great Central really belonged together, not least because Sir Edward Watkin, Chairman of the Great Central (MS&LR) and a GWR Director, had originally wanted the Great Central to be broad gauge. It was not his fault that it wasn't.

On 20 April 1905 one Great Central Railway strayed a very long way from its native rails. The occasion was an Easter excursion from Manchester via Sheffield, Leicester, Banbury, Oxford and Exeter to Plymouth. Great Central Class "8" (LNER Class "C-4") 4-4-2 No. 265 took this "special" from Leicester to Plymouth and back.
The GCR's Banbury Branch provided a through link for joint Great Western and Great Central expresses between Sheffield and the West of England. Here a Great Central "Atlantic" speeds westward with a train of Great Western clerestory stock
Ex-Great Central Robinson 4-6-0 No. 6072 with a through express of Great Western stock
A Newcastle to Bournemouth express behind Thompson "B-1" Class 4-6-0 No. 61078 in the newly-rebuilt Banbury station in the summer of 1958. The locomotive would be changed for a Southern Region one at Oxford. © Copyright Ben Brooksbank and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
The Great Central Railway's Banbury Branch train at Banbury Station (GWR) in 1906, comprising an ex-MS&LR Sacré 2-4-0 and three 6-wheel carriages
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