The Fairford Branch was built in two stages by two separate private companies. The Witney Railway Co. was formed locally after the residents of the prosperous blanket making town were repeatedly thwarted in their attempts to get connected to the booming railway network during the early Victorian era by the locally dominant Great Western RailwayCo. On 23 December 1858 a meeting led to the formation of the independent Witney Railway Co. and royal assent was granted to a bill to build a line on from the Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway at Yarnton to Witney on 1 August 1859.
The line was surveyed by the well known engineer Sir Charles Fox and a considerable amount of the building work was carried out by local builder Malachi Bartlett. The line opened on 13 November 1861.
The Fairford Branch like so many rural lines up and down the country continued to serve the local community with remarkably little change in the pattern of services well into the 20th Century.
The second world war actually brought an increase in traffic to the line and numerous track improvements were put in place to cater for the extra traffic. Aerodromes at Fairford, Broadwell (near Alvescot), Brize Norton and Stanton Harcourt, as well as various army camps all ensured a large number of military personnel using the line. However, after the war, the increased use of road haulage of goods and the ever increasing rise in the use of the private motor car saw traffic on the line reduce considerably.
The reduction in traffic finally led to the Witney to Fairford section being closed to all traffic on 18 June 1962. The last trains ran on Saturday 16 June 1962. A freight service continued from Oxford to Witney until 2 November 1970.
The Fairford Branch Line enjoyed a rich array of corrugated iron buildings along it’s 20-odd miles of track. From the typical GWR-style pagoda-type shelters, to permanent way and wayside stores, to larger goods sheds.
In this post we’ll take a virtual journey along this (now long-since lost) line.
I hope you enjoy this trip into a ‘lost age’ of steam…
Much of the information in this post was drawn from a fabulously informative website: http://www.fairfordbranch.co.uk/index.htmwhere much more information, and illustrations on the Fairford Branch can be found.