|The 9 mile long, single-track branch from Moreton-in-Marsh to Shipston-on-Stour is perhaps one of the Great Western's most neglected rural lines. Its history is nevertheless long, if somewhat obscure. Indeed, the branch originated back in the 1820`s when the pioneer railway promoter William James of Henley-in-Arden formulated an ambitious scheme for a system of horse tramways linking the Midlands canal system at Stratford to the Thames at Eynsham.
If fully implemented this project would have enabled goods to be taken to Stratford by narrow boat and then sent down by rail to Eynsham Wharf, from where barges could carry coal and industrial products to London via the river.
Powers were obtained in 1821, and a 12 mile `main line` from Stratford to Moreton-in-Marsh was opened on 5th September 1826. A 2 mile branch line from Ilmington to the small town of Shipston-on-Stour was opened in 1836. The Stratford & Moreton tramway was essentially a product of the canal age, and the development of steam railways in the 1830`s rapidly make it obsolete. William James himself knew this, for although the tramway had been his own brainchild, he did not hesitate to support the new railways - he was in fact one of the promoters of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway.
There were, by the 1830`s already plans for a steam-worked railway from Worcester to Oxford, and these plans eventually found tangible form as the Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway. The OW & WR opened its main line from Evesham to Oxford in May 1853, and in the next few years the horse tramway functioned as a branch of the OW & WR.
In 1859 the OW & WR opened a branch from Honeybourne to Stratford-upon-Avon, but the Stratford & Moreton line remained in use, forming a valuable transport link for the inhabitants of Shipston-on-Stour. The northern section between Longdon Road and Stratford eventually fell into disuse, but in 1889 the southern portion between Moreton and Shipston-on-Stour was upgraded and reopened as a conventional steam-worked branch line.
Sadly, passenger services lasted only until 1929, though the Shipston branch survived for many years thereafter as a goods-only line.
· Chapter 1 - The Horse Tramway (1820-47)
· Chapter 2 - The Oxford Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway Period (1847-63)
· Chapter 3 - A Worcestershire Branch Line (1863-1914)
· Chapter 4 - Twentieth Century Developments (1914-1948)
· Chapter 5 - The Route Described
· Chapter 6 - The British Railways Era (1948-1963)
· Appendix 1 - Some Prominent Personalities
· Appendix 2 - Official Track Plan of Shipston-on-Stour
· Appendix 3 - Ministry of Transport Report on the Velocipede Accident near Longdon Road
· Appendix 4 - The Stratford Terminus of the Stratford & Moreton Tramway as shown on the 1852 OS
· Appendix 5 - The Stratford Terminus of the Stratford & Moreton Tramway as shown on the 1886 25 OS
By Stanley Jenkins & Roger Carpenter
Softback. 215x275mm. 112 pages
99 black & white photographs