Presenter: Barry Taylor
Barry Taylor adapted and made pictorial additions to his presentation “The Stratford-upon-Avon and Midland Junction Railway (SMJR)” to deliver a most enjoyable talk via Zoom on 3rd June.
The four constituent railway companies opened their network of lines across rural Northamptonshire and Warwickshire between 1871 and 1891 with the intention of carrying Northamptonshire iron ore to the steel works of South Wales. However, Barry explained that probably due to the route going ‘from nowhere to nowhere through nowhere’, the companies struggled to remain viable, with financial certainty only achieved by the mergers of 1909-10, becoming the SMJR in the process.
Despite connections with the MR, LNWR, GCR and GWR, through traffic remained sparse and it was only really after a new connections with the GWR at Fenny Compton and Stratford were opened in 1960 that the route came into its own, providing a shorter route for iron ore trains from Banbury to South Wales than the former route by way of Leamington.
However, this renaissance was short lived. Passenger services had ceased between 1947 and 1952 and by 1965 the through freight traffic was diverted away, allowing the majority of the route to close. The only remaining operational part is now the Fenny Compton to Kineton MOD portion.
Barry gave us an excellent tour, with the aid of some very clear maps and fascinating photos, illustrating all sections of the route before and after closure.