Station Name: BANBURY MERTON STREET
[Source: Nick Catford]
Banbury Merton Street Station Gallery 3:
Late 1950s - 22 September 1962
In this relatively rare view along the platform from the concourse at Banbury Merton Street, a train is seen arriving. The train is formed of M79900, facing the camera, coupled to sister M79901. A member of staff, most likely a porter, awaits the arrival but only two sets of portable steps are present and the guard is in the leading vehicle; the latter two observations would suggest the trailing railcar is out of use for passengers. This may have been connected with the short-platform halts at Radclive and Water Stratford but regulations concerning operation of the halts are not known. It would appear the portable steps had an outer face which fitted over the edge of the platform, although be looking closely at the nearest steps it seems a person's weight on the uppermost step could cause overbalance but presumably the footboards below the DMU doors would have prevented this. Drivers would have become quite skilled at stopping their trains with the doors aligned to the steps but the porter, ready and waiting, would have made any necessary adjustments. In the background Banbury gasworks can be seen, which was served by a siding for deliveries of coal and for outgoing products such as coke or whatever other by-products the works produced. Prior to WWII an agreement had been reached between the GWR and the LMS to merge the two stations at Banbury. Had this taken place, Merton Street would have closed to passengers in 1939 but due to the outbreak of war the plan was not proceeded with. However, a link was later provided via the goods sidings but this was unsuitable for passenger trains not least because reversals were required. The link was via the sidings seen here in the right background. Banbury Merton Street signal box was located close to the gasworks; it is just visible in the distance right of centre but largely obscured by platform clutter.
Photo from John Mann collection
In this view from the late 1950s one of the Derby Lightweight single cars waits at Banbury Merton Street. It appears that by this time passenger services invariably used this platform face while that on the left was used as a siding for whatever needed to be stabled upon it. On this occasion a rake of hopper wagons are present, of which some appear quite ancient. They are probably loaded with iron ore, there being at one time a number of iron ore extractions in the Banbury area. Ahead of the camera we get of view of the second section of wooden platform, the first being inside the trainshed or rather what remained of it. The lamp standard adjacent to the LMS 'Hawkeye' nameboard is lampless while the other support the familiar Sugg 'Rochester' type lamps which, at Merton Street, had replaced the earlier casement type lamps. On the right is a sight once very common at Merton Street - rakes of cattle wagons. A company named Midland Marts had set up a livestock centre here towards the end of the Pre Grouping period and which was destined to become the largest such centre in Britain. Midland Marts long outlived the railway at Merton Street, not finally closing their Banbury premises until 4 June 1998 as a result of, unsurprisingly for modern Britain, increased costs and planning issues.
Photo from John Mann collection
The first of three views of Banbury Merton Street on Saturday 31 October 1959; two sidings ran alongside the trainshed up to the fence. The entrance to the good yards yard is seen on the far right. The small building on the far right was the weigh office, this was its second site; with a few years it would be rebuilt to the south, closer to the goods shed.
Photo by David Pearson
The second of three views of Banbury Merton Street on Saturday 31 October 1959. At first glance the train may be assumed to be a 2-car unit but it is in fact the two railcars, M79900/1, coupled together. The telltale is the 'speed whisker' of the second railcar just being visible. It was common for the two railcars to run together on Saturdays although, as other photographs show, this was not always the case. Unless one of the railcars was in works or undergoing maintenance, when only one was required for service the other was sometimes stabled outside Merton Street station, near the water tower. Photographic evidence tells us the gas lamps along the outer end of the platform were abolished and presumably because with services by now being seldom longer than a 2-car DMU, or the two railcars running together as here, they were not required. This was a rather strange move given that each lamp could be isolated from the supply when not required. The lamp on the right has lost its gas burner and globe but appears to have a globe for an electric light, but there is no evidence of an electricity supply and it is unlikely one would have been provided this late in the station's life.
Photo by David Pearson
The third of three views of Banbury Merton Street on Saturday 31 October 1959 and with the same train at the platform. We get a glimpse of the construction of the wooden platform with, in the distance, the interloping stone section. Quite why the platform was built in this odd manner is unclear. The redundant gas lights, mentioned elsewhere, towards the outer end of the platform can be seen in this view and the standard nearest the camera is now completely devoid of its lamp as, apparently is the next one along near the running-in board. As the station was a terminus it would not matter if passengers arriving on a train during the hours of darkness could not read the board. In any event, the majority of passengers would have been local people who would not need informing of their whereabouts. Among the ever-present cattle wagons are a gaggle of Conflats covered with tarpaulins. Perhaps they carried equipment connected with the livestock trade. On the right, on the cattle dock, stand some concrete lamp posts of the type more familiar on the Southern. The GWR also manufactured concrete products, including some very similar to those from the Southern's former concrete works at Exmouth Junction.
Photo by David Pearson
Banbury Merton Street was the archetypal little country terminus, perfectly proportioned and with an overall roof, devoid of glass by the time this picture was taken in October 1959. The Bletchley bound railcar is one of the Derby Lightweight single cars either M79900 or 79901, the route will take it to Bletchley via Buckingham and Verney Junction.
Photo from Peter Shoesmith collection in Geoff Dowling's Flickr photostream
This view dates from the summer of 1956 or later and likely shortly before closure. It is often said the station received its makeover as part of the fanfare, such as it was, connected the introduction of diesel railcars on the Buckingham service. However, while there might be a degree of truth in this in all likelihood the work was undertaken more out of necessity than anything else and timing was largely coincidental. Whatever the truth, even with the makeover the station was in no way a good advertisement for British Railways and at best could be described as a quaint reminder, albeit a roofless one, of a bygone era. The station actually highlighted well the attitude of BR at the time. While millions of pounds were being spent on the 1955 Modernisation Plan and, as events were to prove, wasted to a large degree, giving Merton Street a new roof was apparently out of the question and the skeletal framework was left as a reminder of bygone times. Perhaps the introduction of single-unit diesel railcars was used as the excuse to justify the non-expenditure, despite the station still seeing longer trains at the time. Apart from the station itself a couple of other changes are evident. In the left background the house containing a small shop has received a makeover and a swanky new sun blind. On the right, the large advertising hoarding has disappeared. In the right background stands a gasometer of Banbury gasworks and to its immediate left the signal box can just be discerned.
Photo from John Mann collection
The date is Saturday 31 December 1960 and railcar M79900 is in attendance before making one of the final runs to Buckingham, for this is the final day of passenger services to Banbury Merton Street. This view does not, however, show the last train and was taken earlier in the day presumably to allow photographs to be taken in daylight. Quite how many of the persons there present were regular passengers is open to question, most appearing to be railway enthusiasts. The fashions are of note and especially concerning the young lady posing on the steps beside the railcar and who was particularly 'with it' for the time. The men, however, display the drabness of the time which continued into the 1970s. The young man on the left is nevertheless ditched the then-almost-obligatory raincoat for a duffle coat. Railcar M79900 has by now gained overhead warning flashes to add to the clutter on this end. Clearly seen are the exhaust stacks from the two AEC 220 diesel engines and merging into a common outlet on the cab roof. This untidy arrangement was identical to that originally fitted to the later Class 122 railcars. The small and totally impractical brake compartment of M79900 is apparent in this view, due in part to the higher seating capacity of the batch of units this car was extracted from (M79900 was to have been M79183) and partly due to the provision of a driving cab at the brake end. The Derby Lightweights were BR's first mass produced diesel multiple units with the first examples, the ill-fated hydro-mechanical units, appearing in 1954. The technology of the diesel-mechanical units, of which M79900/1 were examples, was already outdated but proven. However, the concept of a huge fleet of DMUs for BR was unproven and thus something of a gamble. The result was built-in caution and the Derby Lightweights were designed to be converted to hauled stock should the DMUs prove a failure. It was for this reason the Derby Lightweight body profile was identically angled at either end. In the event, not withstanding some initial structural problems with the aluminium Derby Lightweights, the caution proved unfounded and most DMUs proved an overwhelming success. One of the structural problems concerned the windscreens. The original design incorporated just three panes of glass, with the windscreen wiper, single bladed, mounted on the body corner pillar. The remedy was to fit the crossbar, seen here, which in turn necessitated six smaller panes of glass. Later units left Derby Works with the windscreen arrangement as seen here, with earlier units being altered retrospectively as they went through works. It is interesting to note that the Metro-Cammell 79xxx series, which appeared in 1955, worked straight from the proverbial box and gave no problems whatsoever - structural or otherwise. The story goes that BR was most impressed with the Metro-Cammell cab design and as a result the Derby Lightweight cab design was never perpetuated in later Derby builds. With the end of Buckingham - Banbury services, M79900/1 continued to bounce along on Buckingham - Bletchley services until this service was withdrawn. Thereafter they could be found on Oxford - Cambridge services, either coupled together until the somewhat early withdrawal of M79901, or coupled to one of the three single-ended cars from disbanded power-twin units. M79900 was to enter departmental service and her history
then is well documented.
Photo by David Pearson
Looking south-east from Merton Street towards the station forecourt in March 1961, three months after Merton Street closed to passengers. The road on the right is vehicle access to the goods yard. The little building a short distance along the road is the weigh office and the goods shed can be made out in the distance. This road is now Higham Way. The building on the right, end on to the forecourt is a railway mission hall. A terrace of 5 railway cottages (now demolished) is seen on the right.
Photo by Ben Brooksbank
The South Bedfordshire Locomotive Club railtour 'The Banburian' of 22 September 1962 has disgorged its passengers after arrival at Banbury Merton Street. The poor old wooden platform must have wondered what had hit it that day. With paintwork still reasonably clean and gas lamps still present, there is little to give away the fact the station had been closed to passengers for almost two years. Goods traffic continued until 1966, as evidenced by the usual cattle wagons in the background. Also visible, behind the wagons, are the concrete lamp posts at the cattle dock. This railtour started from and ended at Luton Bute Street. On the outward journey it traversed the little-known, outside of railway circles, Worcester Curve just south of Bletchley station. Although not a service train, the railtour offered the rare sight of a passenger train at the Down side of Merton Street's platform; there was no locomotive release roads at Merton Street so running-round involved shunting out of the station to the sidings. The railtour locomotive was Class G2A 0-8-0 No.48930, allocated at the time to Bescot (Birmingham) so had presumably been sent south to Luton especially for this tour which ran, as can be seen, as train 1X68. London Midland Region sheds underwent a series of code changes in BR days and that seen on the smokebox, 21A, being the code in use at this time. No.48930 was an ex-LNWR locomotive dating from 1903 and had began life as B Class No.1248. The history of the LNWR 0-8-0 types can be a little confusing; due to a number of alterations centring mainly around superheaters and boiler pressures a number of other class designations appeared with, in LMS days, this particular locomotive going through a phase of being a G1 class and then a G2A. The whole lot, rather incorrectly, tended to be known by the nickname 'Super D' which more correctly applied to a different class of locomotive. No.48930 was withdrawn in December 1962 along with the bulk of the remaining class members although one, No.49173, somehow managed to soldier on until July 1964. A similar machine, G2 Class No.49395, survived into preservation to become the sole survivor of the LNWR 0-8-0 types. Readers may notice that No.48930 does not carry a numberplate on its smokebox door. This was normal for ex-LNWR locomotives and very few, if indeed any, did. The reason is lost in the mists of time, although a popular opinion runs along the lines of there being stubborn resentment at Crewe Works over being ruled by Derby following formation of the LMS in 1923. This is quite possible as such feuds were almost the norm across the network but whether true or not in this case is something which may never be known.
Photo by David Pearson
The South Bedfordshire Locomotive Club railtour 'The Banburian'' of 22 September 1962 is seen at Banbury Merton Street awaiting its return journey to Luton Bute Street. The locomotive, Class G2A No.48930 has reversed its train out of the platform, run round and shunted the stock back into the platform. The train was formed of six BR Mk 1 corridor coaches, that nearest the camera being from the original batch introduced in 1951. The 0-8-0 locomotives, irrespective of origin, had all wheels flanged and thus it was wise the keep wheelbase as short as was practical. The result when viewed side-on was a mildly comical appearance due to the relatively long overhang at the front end. This overhang is discernible to a degree even in this three-quarter view. The locomotive tender offers a visual history lesson; visible is the L&NWR tender numberplate; the overhead warning flashes which first appeared in the late 1950s; the 1X68 headcode in the format which became so familiar in BR days and is still in use today albeit no longer displayed on trains. The [oil] lamps are positioned to give the Express Passenger headcode. 'Express' in the railway context does not mean, as is often wrongly thought, a main line train thundering along at high speed but rather a train not stopping at some or all intermediate stations irrespective of speed. The Express Passenger headcode also applies to other types of train, for example breakdown trains. Note the tour participants clambering onto the footplate, this would have been by invitation of the driver. Other participants are standing on the track while two more are climbing the signal ladders, presumably for reason of lofty photographs. There has always been regulations prohibiting passengers and the public in general wandering onto tracks, climbing signals and so on but BR were very tolerant of railtour passengers and would, almost invariably, step back and allow the passengers an enjoyable as trip as possible. How times have changed; back in the day, railway staff went about their work efficiently and in accordance with the Rule Book - as indeed, it must be said, they do today - yet very few were what we now call 'jobsworths'. BR and indeed its predecessors credited people with common sense, although whether common sense applied to climbing signal ladders is arguable, and especially where railway enthusiasts were concerned as they, rightly, were assumed to possess at least a basic knowledge of railways. Of course, enthusiasts would not be permitted to wander the tracks etc. on busy main lines for obvious reasons although it could happen on odd occasions. Generally, though, this photograph of the relatively quiet backwater that was Banbury Merton Street illustrates well the relaxed approach to enthusiasts by BR staff.
Photo by David Pearson
Click here for Banbury Merton Street Station Gallery 4: