Midland & South Western Junction Railway
The Midland & South Western Junction Railway was a latecomer on the railway scene, although its origins dated back to the early years. Originally envisaged as the grandly-titled “Manchester & Southampton Railway” in 1844, to provide a direct route between the Midlands and Southampton, the Great Western saw it as a trespasser into their territory, and succeeded in getting the Parliamentary Bill thrown out.
Eventually, in 1873, an Act was obtained for the Swindon, Marlborough & Andover Railway. This time, opposition was avoided as the line only started at the GWR station in Swindon, giving the GWR control over potentially competitive through traffic. But even before the SM&AR opened in 1881, a further Act had been obtained for the Swindon & Cheltenham Extension Railway, to achieve the original aim of the Manchester & Southampton. GWR opposition had been half-hearted, as they doubted if the S&CER could raise the necessary capital.
The SM&AR and S&CER were amalgamated to form the Midland & South Western Junction Railway in 1884. Almost immediately, the new Company had to file for bankruptcy, and with work having stopped with the new line having got no further north than Cirencester, it looked as though the GWR were right. But eventually enough capital was raised, and in 1891 the line opened through to Andoversford, where it joined the Banbury & Cheltenham Direct line into Cheltenham.
The old management team failed to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the opening of the through line, and so in 1892 the Board appointed Sam Fay of the London & South Western Railway as Manager. He transformed its fortunes, returning it to solvency.
The M&SWJR received a boost when it was decided that the army should use Salisbury Plain as a manoeuvres area. In 1898 25 battalions took part in manoeuvres on the Plain, many of whom were transported to the Plain by the M&SWJR. Thereafter there was considerable military traffic most summers, taking troops to and from summer camps on the Plain.
The line was very busy during the First World War transporting troops and supplies south for shipping to the Continent from Southampton. After the War, at the grouping, the M&SWJR became part of the Great Western Railway. During the 1920s and 1930s, traffic declined due to competition from the roads. The line became busy again during the Second World War, but declined again afterwards, to the point where it was closed to passenger traffic in 1961. Some parts survived briefly for freight. The section between Andover and Ludgershall is still open for military traffic.
Modelling the M&SWJR
The M&SWJR offers a variety of opportunities for models. The stations vary from very simple layouts to complex ones – Chedworth originally had just a single platform on a single line, with a simple waiting shelter and an old coach as an office, Blunsdon had a wooden hut and one sharply-curved siding, while Swindon Town and Ludgershall had quite extensive platforms and sidings. After 1896, Cirencester Watermoor had the Company’s works adjacent to the station.
Although over the years the M&SWJR only had a total of 39 locomotives, they managed to acquire some very interesting specimens. In 1882 Robert Fairlie loaned the SM&AR an 0-4-4T which he had exhibited at the Paris Exhibition of 1878. The Company were sufficiently satisfied with her performance that they bought her in 1883. Unfortunately she was badly damaged when she broke a carrying spring at Marlborough in 1889. The impecunious M&SWJR could not afford the necessary repairs, and so the wrecked loco was sold for scrap in 1892.
The M&SWJR needed locos capable of taking relatively heavy freight trains down to Southampton docks, and in 1895 Beyer Peacock supplied a 2-6-0, built largely to the same drawings as a class supplied to the New South Wales Government Railways of Australia. A second loco was obtained in 1897.
The M&SWJR also required locos for fast passenger work, and in 1898 bought a pair of tank locomotives from Sharp Stewart, with the unusual wheel arrangement of 4-4-4T. They were acclaimed for their handsome appearance, but sadly did not live up to expectations, being poor steamers, prone to slipping, and with bearings that ran hot rather too often.
At times, the M&SWJR locomotive stock was insufficient, and locomotives had to be borrowed, usually from the LSWR, but in later years GWR locos ran through with military specials, and Midland Railway locos also worked through during the war.
How the HMRS can help
Over the years, HMRS members have done a great deal of research into the various aspects of the line. As a result, a considerable amount of information has been discovered. This has filled in many of the gaps that used to exist in information on the line, and, while it has confirmed and expanded much of the old published data, in some cases it has served to show that some stories about the line owed more to imagination than to fact.
All this information has been collated and put on a database, so that answers to queries can be readily addressed.
Helping the HMRS
Despite all the hard work put in by members, some questions remain unanswered. What did the covered vans purchased from Oldbury in 1899 look like – where the bodies inside or outside framed? SM&AR locos were painted green, M&SWJR locos were red in 1896, when exactly did the change occur? This information has not been found in any of the usual sources, but it may be hidden away in some unlikely place – if you discover anything, please let the Society know! (See form below.)
You may send a query to the steward using the form below.