Notes: Banbury Merton Street changed little over the years although
the platform was extended three times. The station was of timber
construction with an overall roof with glass panels (trainshed).
As it was the terminus of the line the station had a substantial
timber goods shed and an equally large engine shed capable of
storing 8 eight locomotives, more than were ever seen on the line.
There was also a carriage and van storage road and a substantial
goods yard with numerous sidings serving the large cattle dock
and pens - Banbury still has the largest cattle market in Europe.
There was also an exchange siding to the adjacent GWR Station
on the Oxford & Birmingham line.
Banbury was at its zennith for both passenger and goods traffic
at the start of WW1 handling new traffic from the Ministry of
Munitions who had built a large shell filling factory on the outskirts
of the town.
In 1938 the LMS proposed amalgamating the two stations at Banbury
rerouting the Buckingham line into the GWR station which would
have made Merton Street redundant. The outbreak of war ensured
that the plan was not implemented until the late 1950's when entirely
different plans were drawn up for rebuilding the GWR station only.
After WW2 passenger numbers dropped dramatically but freight
traffic was still good serving the towns cattle market and carrying
iron ore from numerous mines and quarries in the vicinity.
The station was given a facelift in 1956 prior to the introduction
of the short lived railcar service. The passenger service was
withdrawn on 2nd January 1961 while the freight service survived
until 6th June 1966.
For many years the station site was used as a truck park. The
site is currently being redeveloped for housing, when the concrete
surface was removed (Summer 2005) the track and sleepers were
still in situ. These have now been removed. At the time of writing
part of a goods platform is still extant.
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BANBURY -
VERNEY JUNCTION BRANCH OF THE
Until 1844 Buckinghamshire had been poorly served by railways
with only Aylesbury connected to the London & Birmingham in
the east. With the support of the L & B two separate companies
were formed, the Buckingham and Brackley Junction Railway and
the Oxford and Bletchley Junction Railway. In 1847 under the direction
of the newly formed London & North Western Railway the two
were merged into a unified board with the collective name of the
The line was to run westward from Bletchley to Oxford, via Winslow
and Bicester, with a junction near Claydon House (later Verney
Junction) where another line turned north to Brackley via Buckingham,
with a further extension to Banbury. The engineer employed to
build the Buckinghamshire Railway was Robert Stephenson
Construction started on 20th April 1847 and on 1st May 1850 the
Buckinghamshire Railway was opened for passenger traffic from
Bletchley to Banbury. From the outset the line was worked by the
LNWR who absorbed the Buckinghamshire Railway in 1879.
The major objective of the branch was the small market town of
Buckingham. Until the railway came to the town transport had not
been good which it was felt was stopping development of the town.
A branch of the Grand Union canal reached Buckingham in 1801 but
even after the opening of the canal and the railway little development
The busiest part of the line was the 5 1/2 mile section from
Banbury Merton Street to Cockley Brake where there was a junction
with the Stratford-upon-Avon and Midland Junction Railway.
Passenger traffic over the whole line was comparatively light
although the LNWR operated various specials and excursions over
the years to encourage use. Passenger levels reached their peak
just before WW1 after which they declined more or less continually
as competition from the bus and growing car ownership began to
increase. WW2 brought a short lived improvement but with new BR
management the line was under review. A threat to its future became
imminent in 1952 when BR reduced services to three trains each
way per day, having withdrawn Banbury - Towcester Trains (via
the junction at Cockley Brake) the previous year.
In spite of this, the line survived and was selected for an experiment
as part of the 1955 Railway Modernisation Plan using lightweight
single unit diesel railcars. These railcars were introduced during
the summer of 1956 but strangely they only ran from Banbury to
Buckingham, where connection was made with the traditional steam
push-pull service. New halts at Radclive and Water Stratford were
opened between Fulwall & Westbury and Buckingham and a third
on the edge of Buckingham was suggested but not built.
The new railcars attracted a reported increase in traffic of
400% with the service being well used on market days and Saturdays
but the improvement was insufficient to save the service between
Buckingham and Banbury which closed from 2nd January 1961. The
remaining passenger facilities between Buckingham and Verney Junction
lingered until 7th September 1964 using the diesel units transferred
from the Banbury section. Freight facilities were withdrawn from
Banbury on 6th June 1966 and from Buckingham from 3rd December
1966 with track lifting underway by February 1967.
For further reading see The Banbury to Verney Junction Branch
by Bill Simpson. Oxford Publishing Company 1978 ISBN 902888 87
To see the other
stations on the Banbury - Verney Junction line click on the station
& Westbury, Water
Stratford Halt, Radclive
Padbury & Verney