Station Name: AYLESBURY
|Location:||South side of Station Way|
|Company on opening:||Met/GC & GW/GC Joint|
|Date closed to passengers:||Still open|
|Date closed completely:||Still open|
|Company on closing:||Still open|
|Present state:||Still open|
|OS Grid Ref:||SP817134|
|Date of visit:||Not visited|
Notes: The first station at Aylesbury (also known as Aylesbury Town) was first opened in 1863 by the Wycombe Railway (later GWR). The Metropolitan Railway opened a temporary terminus at Brook Road on 1st September 1892. The original 1863 station was rebuilt and the Metropolitan line was extended into it on 1st January 1894.
Following the closure to the Metropolitan Railways line between Aylesbury and Verney Junction in 1936 Aylesbury was the terminus of the Met's mainline in which trains had to change from electric to steam locomotives at Rickmansworth. Following electrification from Rickmansworth to Amersham and after 11th September 1961 Aylesbury was no longer served by London Underground trains.
Occasional steam excursions now run from Aylesbury to the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre at Quainton Road.
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE GREAT CENTRAL RAILWAY BETWEEN SHEFFIELD AND LONDON
In order to fulfil his ambitions, Watkin also became Chairman of the Metropolitan Railway who were in the process of extending their line northwards towards Rickmansworth and the South Eastern Railway connecting London with Dover. Initially, Watkin tried to convince other companies to build links with the MS & L allowing him to reach London but he was unable to reach agreement and eventually was left with little option than to build his own line southward from Sheffield to reach the Metropolitan.
In 1893 the MS&LR obtained Parliamentary approval to extend this line to London (known as the ‘London Extension’. Construction of the 92 mile route started in 1895 and on 1st August 1897 the company changed its name to the Great Central Railway; it was the last 'main line' to be built until the Channel Tunnel rail link in 2003.
Due to its late construction, the company was able to take advantage of the latest technology including steam excavators. It was heavily engineered with viaducts and wide cuttings with a maximum gradient of 1 in 128; there were no sharp curves or level crossings which would ensure a fast service for both passengers and freight. Most of the stations on the ‘London extension’ were built to a standard design consisting of an island platform with the booking office located on the platform. All the stations were built on an embankment or in a cutting adjacent to a road bridge, with access via stairs from the middle of the bridge; only the larger intermediate stations like Rugby and Loughborough had street level buildings. Because Edward Watkin also expected his trains to reach Europe through a channel tunnel, the line was also built to a larger continental (Berne) loading gauge. The Great Central opened for coal traffic on 25 July 1898, for passenger traffic to a new terminus at London Marylebone on 15 March 1899 and for general goods traffic on 11 April 1899.
The new line was built from Annesley in Nottinghamshire to join the existing Metropolitan Railway which had now reached Quainton Road in Buckinghamshire, where the line became joint Met/GCR owned (after 1903), it returned to GCR metals near Finchley Road for the final section into Marylebone. In 1903, new rails were laid parallel to the Metropolitan Railway from Harrow to the junction north of Finchley Road, enabling more traffic to use Marylebone. Although the new line had now reached London, Edward Watkin was unable to fulfil his ambition as he was forced to retire through ill health.
In the 1923 grouping, the Great Central became part of the London & North Eastern Railway which brought an increase in freight traffic from the south Midlands and south west England but the LNER's main north - south route was into London Kings Cross so the Great Central was always considered as a secondary route.
The shuttle service between Nottingham and Rugby lasted until 3rd May 1969. As closure approached a group of railway enthusiasts got together to discuss the possibility of buying a section of the track to operate preserved steam locomotives. A steam service was reinstated between Loughborough and Quorn in 1973 and in 1976 Charnwood Borough Council agreed to purchase the land from BR and lease it to the railway for 99 years. Despite a shaky start, the Great Central Railway PLC are now operating throughout the year between their headquarters at Loughborough Central and a new station called Leicester North just inside the city boundary. The remaining track between Leicester - Rugby was lifted in early 1970.
North of Loughborough, the line remained open for freight traffic after closure to passengers in 1969 serving the gypsum mine at East Leake and the Ruddington Ordnance Storage and Disposal Depot south of Nottingham. This traffic ceased in the 1980's and the track north of Loughborough was mothballed by BR. In the early 1990's a group of transport enthusiasts set up the Great Central Railway (Nottingham) Ltd with the aim of redeveloping the derelict Ruddington Ordnance depot as part of a country park project. The depot was turned into the Nottingham Transport Heritage Centre (NTHC) and trains were run on a small length of line into the depot.
It is now both groups aim to reinstate two bridges, one over the Midland main line north of Loughborough, rebuild 300 yards of embankment and relay little more than a quarter of a mile of track. As well a 'bridging the gap' between the two preserved lines further long term proposals would see the line extended southwards to Leicester Abbey and northwards from Ruddington to join up with the Nottingham tram network and on to Nottingham city centre.
Sheffield Victoria closed on 5th January 1970 with the closure of the Woodhead route and trains from Lincoln were diverted into Sheffield Midland. Although the southern section of the main line remained open, it too was proposed for partial closure in 1986. Aylesbury was to remain open but all services would run into Paddington via Princes Risborough. Marylebone Station was due to close on 12th May 1986 but the station was eventually reprieved and the closure proposals were rescinded. Following rail privatisation in the 1990's, Chiltern Railways took over the route and in 2006 two new platforms were built at Marylebone on the site of the old daytime carriage sidings. The new platforms and partial resignalling of the station throat now make it possible to run 20 trains per hour in and out of the station.
With our motorway network now working at capacity there have been a number of proposals to reopen other sections of the Great Central main line and in 2006 Central Railway was formed to look into the feasibility of building a new rail link from central England to the Channel Tunnel which would include rebuilding part of the Great Central route south of Rugby reviving a 1990’s government proposal to reopen that section of the line as part of a fast rail link from Scotland to the Channel Tunnel.
Preservation group web sites: The Buckinghamshire Railway Centre, The Great Central Railway (steam service between Loughborough and Leicester North) & Nottingham Transport Heritage Centre (steam service between Ruddington and Loughborough)
Selected other web sites: The Transport Archive contains further detailed history of the Great Central plus a vast collection of 2344 'on line' photographs many ( the Newton Collection) taken during the construction of the London Extension. Chris Ward's Annesley Web site featuring numerous photographs of the Great Central around Nottingham and the Annesley Motive Power Depot. Great Central Railway through Leicester. Nigel Tout's web site with numerous photographs of the Great Central remains around Leicester and a series of archive photographs of the line. Bridging the Gap details ongoing work to reinstate the link between the two preserved lines. The Great Central Railway Society promotes an historical interest in the Great Central Railway.
Selected further reading: Great Central Memories by John MC Healey published 1987 by Baton Transport ISBN 0 85936 193 4 - heavily illustrated history of the London Extension. Great Central Then and Now by Mac Hawkins - published (2nd edition) by BCA 1992 ISBN 0 7153 9326 X , station by station photographic survey of the Great Central between Sheffield and London with numerous 'then and now' photographs. See also Sheepbridge & Brimington Station and construction of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway through Brimington by Philip Cousins. Published in St. Michael & All Saints, Brimington parish magazine. (Click here for full text). All tickets from Michael Stewart.
Too see other stations on the Great Central Railway between Sheffield Victoria and Aylesbury click on the station name: Aylesbury, Waddesdon, Quainton Road (1st site), Quainton Road (2nd site)**, Calvert, Finmere, Brackley Central, Helmdon, Culworth, Woodford Halse, Charwelton, Braunston & Willoughby, Rugby Central, Lutterworth, Ashby Magna, Whetstone, Leicester Central, Leicester North***, Belgrave & Birstall, Rothley**, Swithland****, Quorn & Woodhouse**, Loughborough Central**, East Leake, Rushcliffe Halt**, Ruddington, Ruddington Factory Halt, Arkwright Street, Nottingham Victoria, Carrington, New Basford, Bulwell Common, Bulwell Hall Halt, Hucknall Central, Annesley South Junction Halt, Hollinwell & Annesley, Kirkby Bentinck, Tibshelf Town, Pilsley, Heath, Staveley Central, Renishaw Central, Killamarsh Central, Beighton (1st site), Beighton (2nd site), Woodhouse Junction, Woodhouse*, Darnall*, Sheffield Victoria & Sheffield Bridgehouses.