Station Name: FENNY STRATFORD
Station still open but included for completeness


[Source: Nick Catford]


Date opened: 30.11.1905
Location: West side of Simpson Road
Company on opening: Bedford Railway
Date closed to passengers: Still open
Date closed completely: Still open
Company on closing: Still open
Present state: Still open
County: Buckinghamshire
OS Grid Ref: SP882343
Date of visit: 9 March 2014

Notes: Opened in 1846 by the Bedford Railway, Fenny Stratford station is just over 1 mile from Bletchley station. The station buildings are in a cottage orné Gothic Revival style at the insistence of the 7th Duke of Bedford for stations close to the Woburn Estate. The Grade II listed building imitates the style of the estate’s gate lodges and is distinguished by half-timbering, a steeply pitched roof, dormer windows and elaborate bargeboards.

West of the station is Watling Street which was raised by some 6ft 8in to allow the railway to pass beneath; immediately west of the bridge are points connecting with a branch leading onto the freight-only Oxford line via the Bletchley flyover. The passenger line and station are protected here by trap points, but they are sited such that any runaway train caught by it would subsequently crash into the bridge.

Freight facilities at Fenny Stratford were limited because of the proximity of the large goods yard at Bletchley. There was a small yard on the up side immediately west of the level crossing. There were two sidings serving a cattle dock and pens. There was also a small one-ton capacity crane. On the down side there was a loop siding running round the back of the down platform; this served the coal yard. The two sides of the goods yard were joined by a line running at right angles across the main line reached by turnplates. This allowed individual wagons to be moved across the main line. This line and the turnplates had been removed by 1900. Rowland Brothers saw mill was established to the north of the station in 1874. A long siding ran to the saw mill from the loop. Part way along this siding there was a turnplate allowing the siding to turn sharply north alongside Simpson Road. During the twentieth century an extensive narrow gauge tramway developed in the saw mill. There were interchange facilities with the loop siding, with a mobile crane on the tramway and a long travelling gantry crane running north from the siding.

The station was originally built with staggered platforms, a wedge-shaped down platform being near the Simpson Road level crossing to the east. The platforms were rebuilt in 1948 so that they faced each other in the conventional side platform arrangement. The new down platform was timber-built; it was taken out of service in the late 1960s, as were a number of sidings. Fenny Stratford was demoted to an unstaffed halt on 15 July 1968, freight facilities having been withdrawn on 22 May 1967.

All that now remains is one platform and an area of wasteland east of the station before Simpson Road crossing which was controlled by a signal box that was taken out of service in 2004. There was an accident here on 7 December 1925 at 8.43 pm when a bus crashed through the closed crossing gates and collided with the 6.30 pm train from Cambridge to Bletchley. Six people in the bus, including the driver, were killed instantly, and four others were seriously injured. The train, however, was undamaged.

Fenny Stratford station, in common with others on the Marston Vale Line, is covered by the Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership, which aims to increase use of the line by involving local people. Services are provided by a Class 153 single car diesel multiple unit and 2-car class 150 unit.

Text copied from Wikipedia under creative commons licence.

BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BEDFORD RAILWAY
A group of local businessmen first promoted a line to Bedford in 1844. The proposal was supported by engineer George Stephenson. A public meeting was held on 23 April 1844 where there was some discussion about where the line should form a junction with the London & Birmingham. Stephenson was keen that the junction should be at Bletchley and although there was spirited opposition his proposal was eventually accepted.

A prospectus for the Bedford & London & Birmingham Railway was drawn up on 28 May 1844, with the engineers being named as George and Robert Stephenson. When complete the line was to be worked by the London & Birmingham Railway; work started on 13 December 1845 and was completed in September 1846

During the construction of the Bedford line, the London & Birmingham Railway amalgamated with the Grand Junction Railway to form the London & North Western Railway who took over the running of the line.

Intermediate stations from Bletchley were Fenny Stratford, Ridgmont, Lidlington and Manston (later renamed Millbrook). The line opened on 18 November 1846; the line from Oxford - Bletchley opened on 20 May 1851. The final link from Bedford to Cambridge opened on 7 July 1862 provided an important cross-country line between Oxford and Cambridge, forming one of the few east-west routes with the capability of reaching the east coast ports. Most services, however, ran from Oxford to Bletchley and from Bletchley to Cambridge.



A rail-motor service between Bletchley and Belford was introduced on 1 December 1905. Seven new stations were opened at Bow Brickhill, Aspley Guise, Husborne Crawley, Wootton Pillinge, Wootton Broadmead, Kempston Hardwick and Kempston & Elstow. An eighth one called Brickyard Halt is shown in company records near Wootton Pillinge but this never appeared in a public timetable. Whereas the Great Western Railway named such additional unstaffed stations ‘halts’ the London & North Western Railway referred to them as ‘motor’ or ‘rail-motor’ stations, and subsequently there has been uncertainty about whether Bow Brickhill and the others should be called ‘halts’. The Ordnance Survey practice for the Bedford Railway motor stations was to identify them as halts until the London Midland Region ceased to use this suffix in 1968.

The rail-motors were superseded by pull-and-push units which continued in operation until the introduction of DMUs in 1959.

The Second World War intensified traffic on the line as never before. With the return of peace and the nationalisation of the run-down railway network the newly formed British Railways Board was looking to close unprofitable lines.

In 1955 the Railway Modernisation Plan proposed improvements to cross-country facilities between Oxford and Cambridge with the aim of maintaining a link between the major main line railways outside the congested Greater London area thereby allowing freight traffic to be transferred between three railway regions and easing the burden on London marshalling yards. Within a few years the policy changed and the line was not upgraded with the Bletchley flyover remaining as a monument to the fruitless proposal.

An attempt was made to close the Oxford - Bletchley - Cambridge line in 1959 but local pressure succeeded in winning a reprieve. There was some relief when Dr Beeching did not include the cross country Oxford to Cambridge line in his closure proposals in 1963, but just one year later the British Railways Board published closure plans for the whole route. The introduction of new diesel trains in the 1960s allowed British Railways to run much faster trains, and the need for a cross country service declined as passengers found it quicker to travel between Oxford and Cambridge via London. The lines between Oxford and Bletchley and Bedford and Cambridge closed after the last day of service on 30 December 1967; the section between Bletchley and Bedford remained open, although downgraded.

All of the stations lost their goods and parcels facilities, and every station except Bletchley became an unstaffed halt from 15 July 1968. Closure was once again proposed, and it was announced that the remaining section of the Oxford - Cambridge route would close in October 1972. There were numerous objections to the closure which was postponed until a suitable replacement bus service could be introduced. Once this was in place closure was announced for 31 December 1972.



The Bedford Rail Users' Association was formed to fight the closure, and the opposition was so strong that British Rail was forced to postpone once again, pending an appeal by local groups. At this time government thinking on rail closures was changing and a grant was provided to maintain the service. With the development of the large new town of Milton Keynes, which incorporated Bletchley, the line began attracting new customers.

In 1973 a 20-year contract between the Greater London Council and the London Brick Company assured the line’s future. The contract was worth £10m to British Rail who began operating block trains between new sidings at Stewartby and a new handling depot at Hendon.

For much of the twentieth century this 16-mile line had a particularly distinctive character, its closely-spaced stations being either in the Gothic Revival style or diminutive halts. The numerous staffed level crossings also gave the line a certain charm; even in the mid 1980s the passenger would be aware of gate-keepers standing at each crossing as their train passed. The landscape was also distinctive between Bedford and Ridgmont as the route was hemmed in by forests of tall chimneys and massive clay pits. Nowhere was this more the case than at Stewartby. From 1968 until its replacement in 1984 on a new route into Bedford (Midland) the Bedford – Bletchley line had its eastern terminus at Bedford St Johns, an unstaffed ‘halt’ an inconvenient distance from the main line station.

The Bletchley to Bedford line closed on 23 July 2004 for rebuilding. This included re-signalling, the replacement of crossing gates with lifting barriers and the staggering of platforms at Stewartby, Lidlington and Aspley Guise. The line reopened on 6 September 2004 controlled from new Marston Vale Signalling Centre and Ridgmont.

The service is now operated by Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership part of London Midland who operate services on the West Coast Main Line from London Euston previously run by Silverlink and in the West Midlands previously run by Central Trains. The franchise was originally due to expire in September 2015 but in March 2013 was extended until June 2017.

The Bedford - Bletchley (Marston Vale) Line is one of the two remaining sections of the former Varsity Line (Oxford - Cambridge) still in passenger use. In the 2011 Autumn Statement the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced the allocation of £270 million for the East West Rail Consortium to reinstate the Oxford – Bletchley – Bedford section of the Varsity Line. The service will link the Marston Vale Line (calling at Bedford, Lidlington, Woburn Sands and Bletchley only) to Winslow, Bicester Town, Oxford and Reading. The Consortium hopes later to reopen the Bedford — Cambridge section, for which a new route may be required, possibly involving the use of the East Coast main line south from Sandy then the Hitchin – Cambridge line, with a new north-to-east chord just north of Hitchin.

On 16 July 2012 the Coalition Government announced that the Marston Vale route would be electrified, as will the currently disused line from Bletchley to Oxford. This would form part of a wider 'Electric Spine' stretching from Yorkshire and the West Midlands to Southampton and South Coast Ports.

Tickets from Michael Stewart. Bradshaw from Nick Catford. Route map by Alan Young

Sources:

To see other stations on the Bedford Railway between Bletchley and Bedford (The Marston Vale Line) click on the station name.
Stations are still open unless shown:

Bow Brickhill, Woburn Sands, Aspley Guise, Husborne Crawley (Closed), Ridgmont, Lidlington, Millbrook, Stewartby, Wooton Broadmead (Closed), Kempston Hardwick & Kempston & Elstow (Closed)

To see the other stations on the Oxford - Cambridge line click on the station name: Oxford Rewley Road, Port Meadow Halt, Wolvercote Halt, Oxford Road Halt, Islip, Oddington Halt, Charlton Halt, Wendlebury Halt, Bicester London Road, Launton, Marsh Gibbon & Poundon, Claydon, Verney Junction, Winslow, Swanbourne, Bedford St. Johns, Willington, Blunham, Girtford Halt, Sandy, Potton, Gamlingay, Old North Road & Lords Bridge

Fenny Stratford Station Gallery 1: 1904 - August 1970


Looking east from Watling Street towards Fenny Stratford station in 1904. At that time the station had staggered platforms. The up platform is on the right with the down platform north of the Simpson Road level crossing which can be seen to the left of the signal box in the distance. There was an inclined access path to the up platform (seen on the right) from Watling Street. This is still in use today. Goods sidings are seen on both sides of the line.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection



1881 1:2,500 OS maps shows Fenny Stratford station as built with two staggered platforms. There are sidings on both sides of the line, that on the down side looping round the platform. The two sides of the yard were joined by a short length of track running at right angles across the main line and reached by turnplates. There was no signal box at this time. Although Rowland Brothers’ saw mill opened in 1874 it is not shown on this map.


1900 1:2,500 OS map. The line linking the two side of the goods yard has now been removed. The cattle dock and pens and a one-ton crane are identified in the up goods yard. A signal box is now shown on the up side to the east of the crossing. The weighbridge (WM) is seen at the entrance to the down yard, although not identified the coal yard was sited on this side. Rowland Brothers saw mill is now shown with a long siding running from the loop and a turnplate where the siding turns sharply north to run alongside Simpson Road. A short length of narrow gauge tramway links two buildings in the saw mills and a travelling gantry crane runs north across the site from the siding.



1925 1:2,500 OS map. Rowland Brothers’ saw mills have expanded with more buildings and a network of narrow gauge lines. One runs parallel to the standard gauge siding. The travelling gantry crane runs over both lines for the transhipment of timber onto wagons in the siding. Click here for a large
version of this map.


Looking east from Watling Street towards Fenny Stratford station c1910. An eastbound passenger train is seen in the down platform with a mixture of goods wagons in the down siding. Strangely the Rowland Brothers’ siding on the down side is not visible although the end of the travelling gantry crane that goes over the top of it is seen (click here for a larger version of this picture). Sidings are also seen on the up side beyond the platform as is the one-ton capacity yard crane.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection


A similar view of Fenny Stratford station also c 1910. A westbound passenger train is seen departing. Again the Rowland Brothers’ siding to the left of the wagons is not visible although it had certainly been laid by this time.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection


A local passenger train is passing the down platform and approaching the up platform at Fenny Stratford station in 1938. 8637 is a Webb designed Cauliflower Class loco built for the LNWR in 1892. Built at Crewe works and originally numbered 1267, it passed to the LMS at the Big Four Grouping in 1924 and was renumbered to 8637 and again in 1944 to 28367. It never quite made it into the BR era being withdrawn after over 55 years service during November 1947 and scrapped shortly after. The up side sidings are seen on the right. Wagons can be seen on the down siding behind the station nameboard.
Photo from John Mann collection


Looking east along the up platform in April 1950. The platforms were rebuilt two years earlier. The original down platform was demolished and a replacement built opposite the up platform. The platform is of timber construction with a waiting shelter made of concrete blocks with a sloping corrugated sheet roof. As before the down side goods yard and the siding to Rowland Brothers’ saw mill is behind the platform. In 1942 the mill was sold to the London-based timber company James Latham. Although no longer rail-served the company stayed at Fenny Stratford and still has its head office there.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection


Fenny Stratford station looking east in January 1958. The down platform (left) is built of timber and replaced the original down platform (which was closer to the level crossing) in 1948.
Copyright photo by RM Casserley


Fenny Stratford station looking east from the up platform in January 1958. The goods yard is seen at the end of the platform. The loop running behind the down platform is seen on the right. The original down platform ran from the east end of the new platform to the level crossing.
Copyright photo by RM Casserley


A class J freight (through minerals or empty wagons) is being hauled through Fenny Stratford station in January 1958 by LMS-built 4F 44447, a Fowler-designed 0-6-0 built at Crewe works in 1928. Withdrawn from Barrow-in-Furness shed in July of 1963 after 35 years service, it was broken up during December of that year. The travelling gantry crane in Rowland Brothers’ saw mill is seen on the left.
Photo from John Mann collection


The view from the Watling Street bridge at Fenny Stratford has always attracted railway photographers. This view looking east in April 1966 shows 4-car Derby Lightweight DMU on an Oxford service in April 1966.It is just possible to make out the rails of the Rowland Brothers’ siding curving to the left behind the down platform.
Photo from John Mann collection


Fenny Stratford station looking west c late 1960s. The Watling Street bridge is seen at the end of the platform. When the railway was built Watling Street was raised by some 6ft 8in to allow the railway to pass beneath,
Photo from John Mann collection


Fenny Stratford was one of four stations on the Bedford to Bletchley line to have a building in a cottage orné Gothic Revival style at the insistence of the 7th Duke of Bedford. The entrance to the booking office is under the arched verandah on the far side of the building with the exit onto the platform under the verandah on the near side (c 1970).
Photo from John Mann collection


Fenny Stratford station looking east c 1970.
Photo from John Mann collection


Fenny Stratford station looking east along the down platform in August 1970. By this date all the sidings has been lifted. There were sidings behind the down platform (left) and between the up platform and the signal box.
Photo by John Mann


A 2-car Cravens Class 105 DMU waits at Fenny Stratford station in December 1972 shortly after the line thorough the station had been singled and the down track had been lifted. At this time the Bletchley - Bedford service was under threat of withdrawal, and the closure date of 31
December had been announced.
Photo by John Evans from his Flickr photostream

Click here for Fenny Stratford Station Gallery 2
May 1973 - March 2014


 

 

 

[Source: Nick Catford]




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