Station Name: VERNEY JUNCTION

[Source: Nick Catford]

Date opened: 23.9.1868
Location: On the north side of an unnamed minor road
Company on opening: London & North Western Railway & Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway Joint
Date closed to passengers: 1.1.1968
Date closed completely: 1.1.1968
Company on closing: British Railways (London Midland Region)
Present state: The platforms and station masters house are still extant
County: Buckinghamshire
OS Grid Ref: SP737275
Date of visit: June 1967, December 1967, January 1969, July 1974 & March 2005

Notes: The London & North Western Railway's Oxford - Bletchley line was opened in 1850 but there was no intermediate station at Verney Junction. That didn't come until the Aylesbury & Buckingham Railway opened their line in 1868. At its junction with the LNW line a station was built literally in the middle of a field with access along a narrow dirt track. The station only served a hamlet and it was never more than a place to change trains. The station got its name from Sir Harry Verney of Claydon House, who was the chairman of the Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway Company.

The Metropolitan Railway bought the failing Aylesbury & Buckingham Railway in 1891 extending their line from Aylesbury to Verney Junction via Quainton Road. When the Metropolitan Railway became part of London Transport in 1933 it was quickly decided that services north of Aylesbury could no longer be justified and within a few years they had all been closed. The branch line from Verney Junction to Banbury Merton Street remained open until 2.1.1961 for passengers and 6.6.1966 for goods.

Verney Junction station was the largest intermediate station on the Oxford - Bletchley line with two platforms one of which was an island with three sidings on the down side of the line.

It is planned to re-open the Varsity Line in about 2017 but Verney Junction station would remain closed as it would serve no significant settlement.

BRIEF HISTORY OF THE OXFORD - CAMBRIDGE RAILWAY (Oxford - Bletchley section)
The first railway came to Oxford in 1844 when the GWR opened its line from Didcot.
In 1847 the Buckinghamshire Railway Company was formed to promote two lines, one between Oxford and Bletchley with the second running north to Banbury from a junction near Winslow.

Construction of the Banbury line started first on 20th April, 1847 with work starting on the Oxford line on 13th June 1848. The line to Banbury opened first on 1st May, 1850 with a 16 mile section of the Oxford line between Bletchley and Islip opening on the 1st October, 1850.

The remaining section between Islip and Oxford was more problematic. The company had originally hoped to run into the GWR station at Oxford with a junction with the Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway north of the city. The GWR wouldn't allow this however and after several other proposals were also rejected the final solution was to build a parallel line into a new terminus at Oxford adjacent to the GWR station.

A temporary terminus at Banbury Road (Oxford Road) on the outskirts of Oxford was opened on 2nd December, 1850 while negations were underway to acquire land for the extension into the city. The new terminus was on the site of Rewley Abbey, a Cistercian Monastery that dated from 1287. To reach Oxford the line had to cross the Oxford Canal or navigable branches of the canal on its approach to the terminus and the railway company was forced to build a number of bridges one of which was a swing bridge over the Sheepwash Channel, a navigable link between the Oxford Canal and the River Thames.

The final section of the line into Oxford was finally opened on the 20th May, 1851 with stations on the Oxford to Bletchley line at Islip, Bicester, Claydon and Winslow. Stations were later added at Swanbourne (by October 1851), Launton (1852), Verney Junction (1868) and Marsh Gibbon & Poundon (2.8.1880). Initially only the section between Bletchley and Claydon was double track but the remaining section of the line between Claydon and Oxford was doubled in 1854.

From the outset the Buckinghamshire Railway was worked by the London & North Western Railway. From 1st July 1851 the LNWR leased the line for 999 years before finally absorbing it in 1879.

The Bletchley to Bedford line had opened in 1846 and the opening of the Bedford to Cambridge line in 1862 provided an important cross country link 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.

In 1905 steam railmotors were introduced between Oxford and Bicester to attract new commuters from the growing suburbs around Oxford. These were later supplemented by the 'Michelin', a prototype petrol railmotor. At the same time six new halts were built between Oxford and Biscester at Summertown, Wolvercote, Oxford Road, Oddington, Charlton and Wendlebury; they were all unstaffed with tickets being sold by the conductor. The six halts were withdrawn from service during WW1 (1.1.1917) and reinstated after the war (5.5.1919). The service was once again withdrawn in 1926 during the General Strike and with the introduction of new bus services never reinstated.

The Second World War intensified traffic on the line like never before. The largest single development of that period being the Bicester Military Railway. 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. The terminus at Oxford Rewley Road closed on 1st October 1951 just over a 100 years after it had opened and trains we rerouted into the old Great Western station.

In 1955 The Railway Modernisation Plan proposed improvements in 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 marshaling 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 1960's allowed British Railways to run much faster trains and the need for a cross country service declined as passengers found it quicker to travel from Oxford to Cambridge via London. The line closed after the last day of service on 30th December 1967 although the section between Bletchley and Bedford remained open.

The line between Oxford and Bletchley remained in use for freight, empty stock movements and occasional enthusiasts' specials. The section between Oxford & Bicester London Road was reopened on 15.5.1989 and in 2001 the Strategic Rail Authority looked into reopening the remaining part of the line for passengers between Bicester and Bletchley but this proposal has now been rejected.

The junction at Bletchley was severed some years ago and the track has now been lifted back to Swanbourne. Between Swanbourne and the junction with the Great Central at Claydon a single track is still in situ but now heavily overgrown and out of use; level crossing gates have been removed and replaced with permanent fencing. This section is officially listed as 'mothballed'. From Claydon Junction to Oxford the line is in regular use as part of the freight line between Aylesbury and Oxford.

Tickets from Michael Stewart. Route map drawn by Alan Young

Sources:

  • Oxford to Cambridge Railway (Volume 1 Oxford - Bletchley) by Bill Simpson - Oxford Publishing Company 1981 ISBN 86093 120 X
  • Forgotten Railways - Chilterns & Cotswolds by R Davies & MD Grant - David & Charles 1975 ISBN 0 7153 6701 3

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, Winslow, Swanbourne, Bedford St. Johns, Willington, Blunham, Girtford Halt, Sandy, Potton, Gamlingay, Old North Road & Lords Bridge - see also The Bedford Railway (stations still open)

See also branch line to Banbury Merton Street

See also Metropolitan line to Aylesbury
Winslow Road, Granborough Road & Quainton Road



Verney Junction station c.1930.


1878 1:2,500 OS map shows Verney Junction as built. There is a small building on the eastbound platform and no buildings on the island platform. The station didn't have a goods yard at this time. There is a signal box to the west of the station on the up side.

1899 1:200 OS map shows Verney Junction afdter rebuilding. The station has been provided with new longer platforms spanned by a lattice footbridge. The outer face of the island was used by trains arriving from Quainton Road and beyond. A goods yard has now been provided to the west of the station on the down side. This comprised three sidings one of which served a cattle dock and pens. The Aylesbury line handled a large quantity of livestock, mainly cattle. A second signal box to the east of the station controlled access to the yard. The compnay were clearly optomistic about passenger numbers as a station hotel has been built.

Webb 2-4-2 radial tank No.6704 from Banbury passes Metropolitan 4-4-4 tank No.107 waiting to depart for Aylesbury on in May 1936.
Photo by H C Casserley


Banbury branch train arrives at Verney Junction station in the mid 1950's
P
hoto by R H C Simpson

View from the cab of a DMU from Buckingham that is just about to join the Oxford - Cambridge main line just west of Verney Junction station in January 1964.
Photo by Ron Fisher from his Flickr photostream

The single unit 'bubble car' Derby DMU has come off the Buckingham branch and is heading for Bletchley in January 1964. In the background on the right, standing on what was left of the Metropolitan lines, are some withdrawn coaches awaiting scrapping; these include some of the L.M.S. d.c. electric stock from the Euston - Watford and Broad Street - Richmond lines.
Photo by Ron Fisher from his Flickr photostream

Photo:Verney Junction Station in the last week of service in December 1967
Photo by Nick Catford


Verney Junction station looking east in December 1968; all the platform buildings were demolished shortly after closure.
Photo by Nick Catford


Verney Junction station in July 1974; although closed to passengers the line still handles considerable freight traffic at this time
Photo by Nick Catford

Photo:Verney Junction station looking west in March 2005
P
hoto by Nick Catford

Photo:Verney Junction Station looking west in February 2009
Photo by George Potter

Click on thumbnail to enlarge

 

 

 

[Source: Nick Catford]


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