The Lambourn Valley Railway
The British Rail Years
1948 - 1973
The Transport Act
nationalised nearly all forms of mass transport in Great Britain and
came into effect on 1 January 1948. British Railways came into
existence as the business name of the Railway Executive of the British
on 1st January 1948, when it took over the assets of the Big Four
railway companies. This included of course the GWR and so also the
Lambourn Valley Railway, now an offshoot of BR's Western Region, which
corresponded pretty closely with the previous boundaries of the GWR.
much else changed on the LVR. As we have remarked, traffic volumes
remained firm, probably in no small part as a consequence of the
post-war austerity and the lack of consumer money to buy motorcars.
Plan came and went, but the LVR was soon to enter to a slow decline
from which it would not recover.
driving the line
It wasn't all misery and decline though. Fireman Bob Crump remembered
firing on the LVR
branch in the 1950s, as reported in the Great Western Railway Journal, Spring
He recalled the Lambourn trains hauled
by a 1335
or a 1336 struggling to get up the bank to Stockcross & Bagnor –
shown in the working timetable as quite a climb at 1 in 75 –
because the combination of a 5mph restriction across the canal bridge
and greasy rails caused the 13s to slip to a standstill. The 22XXs
were more sure-footed and fared better.
One of the things about the LVR that stuck in Bob's
was the friendly people along the line. "Most of the people
waved as the train went by. However, the occupants of a wooden
bungalow just between Eastbury and Boghampton [sic] even waved a lamp
at the window at night – we always returned the wave."
A story of decline and closure
The construction of interchange sidings at Welford Park and a new line
to Welford airbase got under way in 1952, bringing with it some
alterations to the signalling system and the hope that the line would
face a more secure future. August 1954, and traffic losses were still
giving cause for concern. In a further attempt to reduce expenses,
British Rail reduced the status of Boxford Station to that of an
unstaffed halt. Ticket revenue would be collected by the guard en
working timetable from 1950.
1956, the diesel railcars were displaced and steam-powered services
reintroduced to the line. Following the complete withdrawal of the Dean
Goods and MSWJ 2-4-0s from service in the early 1950s, BR's Western
Region had little option but to approve the use of more modern, heavier
steam engines on the branch. This led to 57xx pannier tank engines and
22xx tender engines appearing on services, a situation that was to last
until the line closed.
1956 also saw the removal of
West Fields Halt as a stopping place, coinciding with the new Winter
timetable. The Halt was officially closed on 4th February 1957 and
shortly after, both shelter and platform were demolished. The
financial situation worsened, culminating in notice of closure being
issued in June 1959 of all passenger services on the line. BR announced
plans to retain the line only as far as Welford Park which then became
the Lambourn Valley Railhead.
4th January 1960 was the last day of passenger services. Thoughout
the day, enthusiasts and local people alike turned out to enjoy a final
journey on the line, or simply to wave goodbye. The last train out of
Newbury, the 5.20pm, required six coaches to accommodate the waiting
so it was, on a dark winter's night, 62 years after its inauguration,
The Lambourn Valley Railway ceased to exist as a fully operational
October 1969 a special train was laid on for enthusiasts to travel the
remaining part of the line for what most considered to be their last
opportunity to do so. During the latter part of 1970, agreement with BR
was finally reached and the USAF took over all traffic operations.
Below: A heavy goods
negotiating the Speen level crossing.
Further along the line, the same unit is seen passing through Boxford
Above: The goods nears its journey's end
the demise of the passenger service, a goods service was introduced to
the line. This ran Monday to Friday and terminated at Welford Park.
Besides military cargo, the only goods carried would be coal and
agricultural commodities. Motive power was normally supplied by the
Newbury Town Pilot, a 350hp diesel locomotive, although there were
exceptions. The maximum authorised load outbound from Newbury station
was 29 basic wagon units and 24 units on the return journey. Ordinary
goods traffic was interspersed with military traffic bound for the
American airbase at Welford. The track north of Welford Park was lifted
in 1962 and the up platform was also demolished. In 1965, Boxford lost
all its freight facilities. Six months later, all non-military services
were withdrawn from Welford Park.
ISIS Rail Tour
the 14th of February 1970 the tracks were once more to carry a
passenger train in the form of a Diesel Multiple Unit. The "Isis" tour,
whch included numerous other locations, was organised by The Locomotive
Club of Great Britain. A very final run along what remained of the LVR took
place in 1973.
Speen Level Crossing
Above and below - leaving
Boxford heading for Newbury
Grateful thanks to
for the images on