EYNSHAM AND THE RAILWAY

 Why is there a section like this on a pub site ? Well ... The Queens Head in Eynsham is proud to hold numerous items of memorabilia from the Eynsham Railway. Much of it original and impossible to replace.

Rare photos can be found in the bar near the darts board, and these have been photographed and placed here on this site for you to enjoy, along with photos of other special railway items from the pub.


And there's more to come ! Keep watching these pages !

For now please enjoy the work that has been collected and created here by your landlord, Pete Jones.

Birth of a branch

 During the railway boom years of the mid-1800's many schemes were proposed that would have brought the "age of the train " to Eynsham, none of which came to fruition, but fortunately due to pressure from Witney business men, who formed The Witney Railway Co. The Witney Railway Bill went before Parliament in1859, receiving Royal Assent on August 1st that year. The new railway would connect to the O.W.&W.R. at Yarnton and terminate 8 miles and 13 chains distant at Witney.

Construction of the new branch line began at Eynsham in May 1860 and was opened for passenger transport on November 13th, 1861.

The day was declared a public holiday i n Witney, (and just as it would to-day, it rained all day), a sheep was roasted, a great many speeches were read and the first train turned up 2 hours late, at 2 o'clock.

In 1867 the Witney Railway was declared bankrupt, in 1873 while still in receivership, it linked with the East Gloucestershire Railway to Fairford, both were purchased by GWR in 1890. .
The station at Eynsham consisted of originally only 1 platform, upon this was the si
gnal box and the wooden station building, at the western end was the goods shed. A second platform was added during WW2, (and is now preserved at Didcot Railway Centre), when the new passing loop was added to facilitate the extra traffic (there was an Army camp at Eynsham and ordnance was stacked along the verges of the roads).

Murderers at Eynsham

During the early hours of Monday, December 5th, 1927, Frederick Browne and William Kennedy (who were wanted by the police in connection with the brutal murder of an Essex policeman in September that year) attempted to rob the safe at Eynsham station. Masked and armed they attempted to remove the safe from the floor, after trussing up Porter Castle they made off with no more than a few parcels and the stationmaster's typewriter.

Browne, who had lived in Eynsham previously and Kennedy were executed on May 31st 1928 after a sensational trial at the Old Bailey.

Goods Traffic

Goods traffic at Eynsham consisted mainly of goods and coal traffic, there were cattle pens in the yard and there was considerable movement of agricultural produce, including the transfer of animal bones to the glue works at Eynsham Mill. In the 1920's a sugar beet factory was opened just east of Eynsham, it consisted of 3 sidings and was active until just before WW2, after which the sidings were lifted.
Experimentation

In 1906 the line was selected for trials with Automatic Train Control (ATC), this was a specific trial for the adaptation of ATC to single track working. The year long experiment was a great success and all distant signals between Yarnton and Fairford were taken down, trains relied on the ATC warning siren subsequently fitted to all engines working on the branch. Eventually all GWR main lines were fitted with ATC, only one other single line working was put into operation.

Passengers

By the end of WW1 there were 7 trains each way between Oxford and Witney , with 5 continuing through to Fairford. Loadings on the line were never heavy and trains were seldom more than 3or 4 coaches. During the years before WW1 there were excursions to places far and wide, ranging from Bala, Blackpool and Brighton to Weston-super-mare and the White City. But right up until closure the most patronised train from Eynsham was those taking villagers to Witney Feast for all the fun of the fair.

Closure

News of total closure, to passenger traffic, came in January 1961; the severity of it came as a great shock to those who had expected the Oxford to Witney section to be retained. What remained after the last passenger train had run on 16th June 1962, was a freight only operation as far as Witney. The tracks west of Witney were lifted and cleared by early 1965. Over the next 5 years British Rail very effectively pushed the remaining freight traffic onto the road system, thus enabling total closure of the line in November 1970.

Bibliography

Branch Line to Fairford.........VIC MITCHELL, KEITH SMITH & RICHARD LINGARD
Rail Centres: Oxford .....LAURENCE WATERS
The Witney & East Gloucestershire Railway.......STANLEY