Moreton to Worcester Timeline - Railways of the Vale of Evesham

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Railways of the Vale of Evesham
Moreton-in-the-Marsh to Worcester Shrub Hill Timeline (1845 - present)
May 1844
A meeting is held in Worcester Guildhall to decide whether to support a rail link from Worcester to either Oxford, or to the London & North Western Railway at Tring. Despite some details on both schemes not being available at this point, the meeting votes almost unanimously in favour of the link via Oxford.

June 1844
The Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway (OW&W) issues its prospectus.

August 1845
The OW&W receives Parliamentary sanction to build a railway from Oxford, via Moreton in the Marsh, Evesham, Worcester, Droitwich, Kidderminster, Stourbridge and Dudley, to Wolverhampton. The line initially has Great Western Railway support, but financing proves to be a problem. The agreement with the GWR will prove to serious implications for the line over the next few years. Isambard Kingdom Brunel is appointed as chief engineer for the OW&W.

November 1849
A report for the Railway Commissioners raises doubts on whether the OW&W will be completed. The commissioners order the GWR to complete the line themselves, but relations between the GWR and OW&W have soured since 1845 and the GWR decline to do so. This starts two years of legal battles.

1850
New financing is obtained, which puts the OW&W in a better position to become independent of the GWR, with which relations have soured over the past five years.

October 1850
The first stretch of the line is opened from Abbotswood Junction to a temporary station in Worcester.

February 1851
"The Battle of the Gauges" begins on the line as the OW&W signs agreements with the Midland Railway and the London & North Western Railway to work the line. Both are using standard gauge and want the OW&W to use the same, but the 1845 agreement does have a broad gauge clause in it. Despite the obvious breach, the OW&W shareholders agree to standard gauge.

July 1851
A dispute between contractors working on the line at the site of Campden Tunnel leads to clashes between rival groups of Navvies.   Police and the army are called in to restore peace, and the incident becomes known as the "Battle of Mickleton" (Mickleton is a Gloucestershire village just north of line west of the tunnel).

March 1852
Brunel resigns as Chief Engineer to the OW&W. His place is taken by John Fowler.

May 1852
The line is opened between Evesham and Droitwich. The disputes over gauge have resulted in the line being of mixed gauge, theoretically capable of handling both standard and broad gauge traffic.

May 1853
The line from Dudley to Wolvercot Junction is opened, although the Board of Trade has not passed the broad gauge line for use. As the junction at Wolvercot is not completed, passengers cannot get directly to Oxford

June 1853
A Board of Trade Inspection train becomes the only broad gauge train to use the line.

December 1853
The line to Wolverhampton is completed, aided by the threat of financial penalties to the OW&W if work was not completed by September 1853.

July 1854
Trains are now able to run into Oxford.

1855
The OW&W is suffering financial problems, especially as the line is being held to its broad gauge requirements, which are no longer necessary. Finances would improve towards the end of the decade.

February 1858
The GWR agrees to the removal of broad gauge in return for "compensation" from the OW&W.

July 1859
The OW&W completes a single line branch from Honeybourne to Stratford-Upon-Avon. This would later become part of the Stratford-Cheltenham line.

1860
The OW&W becomes part of the West Midland Railway.

October 1861
The first standard gauge Paddington-Worcester services commence, at this point taking 4 hours for the 120-mile trip.

1863
The West Midland Railway is absorbed into the GWR.

1892
The final abolition of broad gauge on the GWR rail network, results in improvements in services as the gauge is now standard both north and south of Oxford.  

1901
A GWR engine shed is opened at Evesham, along with modifications to the station.

1902
Improvements have resulted in a fastest time of 2hrs 20mins for Paddington to Worcester, aided by water troughs at Charlbury, between Oxford and Moreton.

1926
A re-arrangement of the sidings in Evesham results in the formation of Evesham "New" yard (the site of which is currently occupied by Tesco).

July 1939
No 4086 "Builth Castle" records the first certified 100mph achieved by a GWR locomotive, between Chipping Campden and Honeybourne (City of Truro's 100mph earlier in the century being unconfirmed).

1939-1945
The line has little strategic importance during the war, although a Ministry of Supply store is opened at Honeybourne.

1957
"The Cathedrals Express" is the first named train on the line

June 1961
Evesham Engine shed closes.

7th September, 1963
Officially, the OW&W becomes the last local route to convert to diesel motive power. However, reliability issues mean that steam is still rostered for some months.

September 1963
The last scheduled up steam-hauled "Cathedrals Express" from Worcester to Paddington takes place with "Castle" class no. 7005 "Sir Edward Elgar" doing the honours.

March 1964
In preparation for a final high-speed run from Paddington to Plymouth & return, several examples of surviving "Castle" class locomotives are evaluated on the OW&W. The actual run to Plymouth would take place on the 9th May.

28th April 1964
As part of the "Castle" evaluations, 4079 "Pendennis Castle" hauls the evening express to Paddington.

16th May 1964
Oxford University Railway Society runs "The Castle Farewell" tour along the OW&W using 5054 "Earl of Ducie".

The spring of 1964 has seen more failed diesels replaced by Castles.

8th August 1965
4079 "Pendennis Castle" returns to the OW&W with a charter.

January 1966
A lot of the smaller stations and halts close on the line.

May 1969
Honeybourne station is closed, but Pershore is reprieved after a report states that closing the station would cause severe hardship for passengers to Worcester. However, the buildings at Pershore would be demolished in 1970.

1971
Sections of the line are singled; the section from Moreton to Norton Junction is the most notable. Pershore station has now been reduced to a single platform halt.

19th May, 1973
BR Class 9F no. 92203 "Black Prince" hauls what is probably the first steam tour over the OW&W since the final abolition of steam.

24th June 1973
GWR "Modified Hall" class no. 6998 "Burton Agnes Hall" takes the OW&W on a tour to Hereford.

5th October, 1974
Ex-LMS "Jubilee" class no 5690 "Leander" works a tour.

January 1977
A proposal to build a new station for Worcester, Worcester Parkway, near Norton Junction is announced. This will provide a link to the city for Inter-City services currently by-passing it.

September 1977
The Worcester Parkway plan is not approved by the Worcester City Development Committee, in spite of protests from some quarters. However, Wychavon District Council gives outline planning approval, after visiting the site and seeing a "mock-up" of the station.

January 1978
The county council approves the Worcester Parkway scheme, but the scheme is suspended, allegedly due to the non-sanctioning of extra HST units to work services through the station.

May 1981
Honeybourne stations re-opens although it is now a single platform unstaffed halt, a far cry from its days as a major junction station.

May 1982
British Rail sets out plans to withdraw through services between Paddington, Worcester & Hereford, blaming the condition of the track. Media attention is drawn to this, and ultimately the proposal is never carried out.

August 1981
The last freight workings into Evesham occur, and the "New" freight yard is closed down.

14th May, 1984
The first High Speed Train (HST) unit works the OW&W.

30th November 1984
The 07.05 service from Hereford to Paddington is derailed at Stoulton (between Pershore & Norton Junction), near milepost 115. There are no major injuries and a broken fishplate is blamed. The line is closed for three days.

22nd August 1993
GWR "King" class no. 6024 "King Edward I" visits Worcester as part of a excursion, via the OW&W line. Since weight restrictions at Worcester prevented "Kings" from working the OW&W during GWR days, this is the first time a member of the class is seen in the city, and on the line.

2nd October 1987
Ex-LMS 8F no. 8233 is piloted from the Severn Valley Railway by a class 37 diesel to Long Marston, where it takes part in a 200th anniversary celebration of the Royal Engineers.

4th October 1987
Ex-SR "Merchant Navy" class no. 35028 "Clan Line" joins in, with a charter over the OW&W.

3rd April 1990
Ex-LNER K4 Class no. 3342 "The Great Marquess" runs light over the OW&W

15th August, 1991
Ex-GWR "City" class no. 3440 "City of Truro" passes with support coach from Hereford to Old Oak Common.

16th May 1993
The last timetabled locomotive hauled service from Paddington-Worcester with 47821 "Royal Worcester" given the honours.

17th May 1993
The first day of service of class 165/166 DMUs.

27th June 1993
Ex-GWR "Castle" class no. 5029 "Nunney Castle" passes along the line with a tour from Didcot to Worcester.

29th August 1993
Ex SR "West Country" class no. 34027 "Taw Valley" passes along the line with a tour from Didcot to Worcester.

April 1994
Rail privatisation sees the start of Thames Train and Great Western Trains (later First Great Western) services.

June 1997
Great Western Trains de-name "The Cathedrals Express" and the "Cotswold & Malvern Express", blaming the fact passengers didn't realise they were travelling on a "named" train.

27th September 1997
GWR "King" no. 6024 "King Edward I" visits Worcester as part of a excursion, returning via Evesham.

March 2000
The "Parkway" scheme is raised again.

2001
LNER A3 Class no. 4472 "Flying Scotsman" makes several appearances on the Cotswold Line, in April, June and September (twice).

GWR "Castle" Class no 5029 "Nunney Castle" passes through Evesham with steam tours in July, August and September.

April 2002
Two issues are brought to public attention regarding Evesham Station. The first relates to overspill from the car park into surrounding streets (one of which I am a resident of, and a problem that would still appear to persist at the beginning of 2020, despite additional station parking). The second is the removal of the barrow crossing at the east of the station for safety reasons, preventing passengers unable to use the footbridge from accessing the "up" platform. Unable to implement improvements that would allow the use of the crossing "safely" in the short-term, Thames Trains propose to transport passengers by road to Pershore where trains use a single platform. For "Up" travelling passengers, this is actually taking them further from their destination.

May 2002
On a more positive note, Pershore gets a refurbishment for its 150th birthday.

August 2002
GWR "Castle" class no. 5029 "Nunney Castle" passes through Evesham with an "Elgar Explorer" tour.  The author joined this tour at Oxford, traversing the Cotswold Line to Worcester and return, using regular service trains from Evesham to Oxford and return.

July 2003
A fatal accident occurres on the line at Charlton, just west of Evesham, when at around 8.20 am on Monday 7th, a First Great Western HST unit, bound for London Paddington, collides with a van on an occupation crossing. Three people in the van are killed, with one train passenger sustaining minor injuries. Initial investigations suggest that the van had proceeded onto the crossing without contacting Evesham Signal Box for permission to cross.

April 2004
First Great Western take over the Thames Train services on the line, a move supposedly to inprove services by the use of the new Class 180 "Adelante" units available to FGW. However, the use of the faster units is offset by further restrictions about services into Paddington.

August 2005
GWR "Castle" class no. 5029 "Nunney Castle" passes through Evesham with an "Cathedrals Express" tour.  

January 2007
The possibility of re-doubling of some or all of the single line sections from Oxford to Worcester is revived as Network Rail announces plans to conduct a feasibility study on the issue.

2008
Plans are approved to redouble the single sections of the line between Evesham and Charlbury.

Use of the class 180 DMUs is significantly reduced; First Great Western replacing these units with Class 43 "High Speed Train" workings. Some Class 166 DMU workings remain, and the Class 180 units do make the occasional appearance until 2009, when they are removed completely.  

November sees the opening of the new access ramp for Evesham's up platform which has involved the truncation of the siding running behind this platform.   This has solved the issue of access for passengers to the platform who cannot use the footbridge, but does mean that they have to exit the station complex and cross the railway by the road bridge in High Street.

January - March 2009
Clearance of trackside vegetation occurs in Evesham in preparation for the beginning of the redoubling work later in the year.

July 2009
The initial re-alignment work takes place on the sections to be redoubled.   The line through Campden Tunnel is actually doubled at this point as it is felt that getting all the work done on this section is best done in one session.  

2009 also saw the cessation of the practice of token exchange at Evesham Signal Box, with improvement communications on the platforms rendering this unnecessary (the initial proposal for the re-doubling of the line suggested that the signal box will be closed with reworked signalling at Evesham controlled from elsewhere).  

July 2010
The track through Evesham Station is relaid.

January - August 2011
The redoubling starts, working its way north.   The end result is a redoubled line from just east of Charlbury, to around a mile west of Evesham.   The semaphore signals at Evesham are replaced with Multiple Aspect Signals, but the semaphores at Moreton are retained (in fact, another one is actually added), and the signal boxes at both locations remain open.

17th September 2011
The first steam railtour on the Cotswold Line since 2005 takes place, with GWR Castle Class no. 5043 "Earl of Mount Edgcumbe" working both ways during the day [See "The Future" section for photograph of this tour].  

January 2012
The line is featured in series three of Michael Portillo's  "Great Railway Journeys", with Charlbury, Moreton and Pershore stations being  shown.

The on-going Worcester Parkway scheme is raised yet again by local MP Peter Luff.

April - May 2012
Class 180 DMUs begin to be re-introduced to the line after an absence of around three years.

Proposals are made to close ticket offices at up to 700 stations, with Evesham possibly being one of them (as of 2020 the ticket office at Evesham is still open, although opening hours have been reduced).

28th June 2012
LNER A1 class no. 60163 travels the line on a "Cathedrals'  Express" tour (not visually confirmed by author due to work commitments).  

October 2012 to May 2013
Steam locomotives visually confirmed by the author on the line during this period:
GWR "Castle" Class no 5043 "Earl Of Mount Edgcumbe"- 20th October [Photo]
LMS "Princess Royal" Class no 6201 "Princess Elizabeth" - 1st December
SR "Battle of Britain Class no. 34067 "Tangmere" - 9th March, 2013
SR "Battle of Britain Class no. 34067 "Tangmere" - 4th May, 2013 [Photo]
BR Standard 7P no 70000 "Britannia" also ran a tour on the 19th December, but a combination of bad weather and other commitments meant the author was unable to photograph this tour

October 2014
GWR "Castle" class no 5043 "Earl of Mount Edgcumbe"runs through Evesham with a steam tour [Photo].

November 2014
LNER A4 class no. 60009 "Union of South Africa" runs through Evesham with a steam tour [Photo].

Designs for the proposed Worcester(shire) Parkway station are unveiled.   The cost is estimated at £17 million with construction possibly starting at the end  of 2015, with a view to opening the station in May 2017.

December 2014
Proposals are put forward to re-double the line west of Evesham, possibly starting in 2019, subject to funding being found for the project (whether this includes the remaining section from Charlbury to Oxford is not clear at this time).

January 2015
Series 6 of Michael Portillo's "Great Railway Journeys" sees him travelling the Cotswold Line eastbound, making a stop at Moreton-in-the-Marsh.

February 2015
GWR "Hall" Class no. 4965 "Rood Ashton Hall" runs through Evesham twice with steam tour (initially planned as a circular tour from Tysley-Worcester-Oxford-Banbury-Tysley, the tour is rerouted back via its outbound route due to a landslip near Warwick).  

Issues occur between Worcestershire County Council and Norton Developments, who control the land proposed for the site of Worcestershire Parkway Station, over the proposed plans for the station.   The development company feels that it can build the station at a lesser cost to the taxpayer than the council can.   

November 2015
4965 makes another appearance in Evesham with the "Oxfordshire Explorer" steam tour [Photo].

February 2016
New build LNER A1 class no. 60163 "Tornado" passes through Evesham with the "Red Rose" steam tour [Photo].

April 2016
Plans are unveiled to add 200 more car parking spaces at Pershore station, along with provisions for possible redoubling of the line at this point.

July 2016
LMS "Jubilee" class no. 45699 "Galatea" passes through Evesham with the "Cotswold Venturer" steam tour [Photo].

October 2016
LMS "Princess Royal" class no. 6201 "Princess Elizabeth" passes through Evesham with the "Cathedrals Express" steam tour [Photo].

February 2017
Worcester County Council's plans for Worcester Parkway station receive approval from the Department of Transport.  Work on the station is now expected to start at some point towards the end of year, although there is still a dispute with the landowners, who have submitted their own plans for a station.  

The council's plans for the station included parking provision for around 500 cars.  This compares to the current total of 40 for Worcester Shrub Hill and Worcester Foregate Street combined.

June/July 2017
Vivarail test their class 230 DMU prototype no. 230001 on the line (click here to see author's photograph of the unit).

August 2017
The following steam locomotives use the Cotswold Line during this period:
LMS "Princess Coronation" class no. 46233 "Duchess of  Sutherland" - 17th August [Photo].
LNER A4 Class no. 60009 "Union of South Africa" - 26th August.

28th October 2017
LMS "Royal Scot" class no. 46100 passes through Evesham, the birthplace of  Sir Henry Fowler, the man in charge of her creation.  The author believes that this may be the first time a member of the class has visited the town, at least in preservation [Photo - published in the Evesham Journal, 2nd November 2017].  

December 2017
The first class 800 bi-modal unit services start on the line, with a view to replacing the High-Speed Train units currently operating.

May 2018
LMS class 5MT "Black Five" no. 45212 uses the Cotswold Line on the outward leg of the "Cathedrals Express" tour, returning via Chelteham and Swindon [Photo].

June 2018
LNER A4 class no. 60009 "Union of South Africa" makes another trip along the Cotswold Line with the "Cotswold Venturer" tour [Photo].  The locomotive would make another visit in September [Not photographed].

March 2019
The last regular workings of the High Speed Trains on the line occur; their workings having being taken over by class 800 bi-modal units.

June 2019
LNER A3 class no. 60103 "Flying Scotsman" uses the Cotswold Line on the return leg of the "Cotswold Explorer" tour [Photo].

August 2019
LMS "Princess Coronation" class no. 46233 "Duchess of Sutherland" uses the Cotswold Line on the return leg of the "Cotswold Venturer" Tour [Photo].

February 2020
Worcestershire Parkway station opens on the 23rd of the month, although the "Evesham Journal" of the 27th February reports complaints of lack of facilities at the station and confusion about parking charges.
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