THE FAIRFORD BRANCH LINE

RAILTOURS 1965 - 1970

57xx 0-6-0PT 9773 makes a spirited departure from Eynsham with the Locomotive Club of Great Britain's 'Western Ranger' railtour on 15 August 1965. This tour had originally started from London Waterloo at 09:37 behind BR Standard 4 4-6-0 No.75066, changing locos for GWR 2-8-0 No.3863 at Reading and then visiting Swindon before another loco change at Radley. With 9773 now in charge, the tour visited Abingdon, before heading for Witney. The booked time at Yarnton Junction was 16:11, with arrival at Witney at 16:35. Departure from Witney was booked for 16:50, with arrival at Yarnton for yet another loco change at 17:15. GWR 2-2-2T No.6126 then took the tour on to Bicester and returned to Oxford, from where another BR Standard 4 4-6-0 No.75075 returned the train to London via Princes Risborough. Please note that numerous published sources quote this tour as being the 'Thames Valley Ranger' of 25 July 1965, however, although using 9773 for part of its itinerary, the nearest that tour ever got to the Fairford Branch was Reading! 
Colour Rail

RCTS 'Bicester & Thames Valley Railtour' 14 September 1968 in Witney Goods Yard

On 14 September 1968 the RCTS 'Bicester & Thames Valley Railtour' stands in a rain soaked Witney Goods station. The goods shed with its extension is prominent on the left, with a line of wagons in the far siding. On the right is the old timber store, the tracks in front having been already lifted. The figure on the extreme left is Stanley Jenkins, who has contributed much information to this site. This railtour had started from London St. Pancras at 08:45 and visited Chinnor and the Bicester Military Railway before arriving at Witney at 15:32. The tour would then visit the Abingdon Branch, before returning to London. 
Stanley C. Jenkins Collection

RCTS 'Bicester & Thames Valley Railtour' 14 September 1968 - the last train to visit Witney passenger station

The last ever train to visit Witney passenger station. The RCTS 'Bicester & Thames Valley Railtour' stands in the up platform while the tour participants brave the rain to inspect the remains of the station. The date was 14 September 1968, just a few months before the track was lifted and the buildings demolished. 
Stanley C. Jenkins

LCGB 'Isis' railtour at Witney Junction

LCGB 'Isis' railtour at Witney Junction

Two views of the Locomotive Club of Great Britain's 'Isis' railtour on 14 February 1970. The tour, which had started from Bristol Temple Meads at 08:07, came to an unscheduled halt at the site of Witney Junction, when on returning from the goods yard, it became entangled in some telegraph wires. The first picture (above left) shows the Swindon Cross Country DMU with the offending wire hanging in front of the unit. After attempts to release the wire by hand failed, the train continued on its way, bringing down the wire. The second view (above right) shows the tour on the site of the junction, with the points to the lifted EGR section still intact. The high voltage electricity lines still cross the site today. A pattern was developing with regard to these railtour routes, this tour also visited Abingdon and Bicester, although in addition it ventured up the truncated remains of the Lambourn Valley Railway as far as Welford Park. 
Stanley C. Jenkins

LCGB 'Isis' railtour at Eynsham

The LCGB 'Isis' railtour is pictured here standing at a snow covered Eynsham Station, while a railway employee opens the level crossing gate, allowing the train to proceed to Oxford. Note that by this date the sidings had been lifted, and the up platform edge removed. The World War 2 down platform however was not going to cause a clearance problem to the single reaming track, so was left intact, in fact the nameboard can still be seen in this view, along with one of the newly erected wagon number warning boards. 
Martin Loader Collection

RCTS 'Thames-Cherwell' railtour at Witney 11 April 1970

The penultimate railtour to visit the branch was the RCTS 1Z15 'Thames & Cherwell' on 11 April 1970. Starting from Birmingham New Street at 09:04, the tour traveled via Northampton, Bletchley & Calvert, before traversing the former Watlington branch, as far as the truncated end of the line at Chinnor Cement Works. The Bourne End and Abingdon branches were visited before the tour arrived at Yarnton Junction in the late afternoon. The tour was booked for a 15 minute stop at Witney, and here we can see the passengers heading off to investigate the remains of Witney Goods Station. Note the high tension electricity poles in the background marking the site of Witney Junction. The tour utilised a Class 101 DMU, with 50327 leading towards Witney. 
Stanley C. Jenkins

RCTS 'Thames-Cherwell' railtour at Witney 11 April 1970

With all the passengers disembarked and wandering around Witney Goods Station in the distance, the RCTS "Thames & Cherwell" railtour stands on the low embankment between the station and Witney Junction on 11 April 1970. The Class 101 Metropolitan-Cammell 3 car set comprised DMBS 50309 (nearest the camera), TS 59120, & DMS 50327. The Rail Blue livery a 'double arrow' logo shows that Witney did briefly see the modern railway age! 
Stanley C. Jenkins

RCTS 'Thames-Cherwell' railtour Springhill 11 April 1970

With the gentle slope of Springhill visible on the left and the expanding rails creaking in the warm spring sunshine, a Class 101 DMU heads away from the photographer at a point approximately mile east of Witney Junction (SP368084) with the RCTS 'Thames-Cherwell' railtour on 11 April 1970. The tour had just visited Witney on a full day of branch line exploration. 
Stanley C. Jenkins

'Witney Wanderer' railtour by the River Windrush Bridge 31 October 1970

The 'Witney Wanderer' railtour stands by the Windrush bridge at Witney on the gloomy afternoon of 31 October 1970. Anyone recognize themselves here? The leading unit is a Class 117 Pressed Steel 3 car DMU built at Linwood in Scotland especially for Western Region services out of Paddington. Many years after the closure of the Fairford Line, this unit (420) was still working Oxford to Paddington trains, as well as frequent forays up the nearby Cotswold Line to Worcester. In its latter years it even acquired the Network SouthEast livery, and was finally supplanted in the 1990s by the then new Turbo units. Of the three cars, two have been preserved: 51400 at the Northampton & Lamport Railway, and 59510 (the centre car) on the West Somerset Railway. 
Stanley C. Jenkins

'Witney Wanderer' tour participants in Witney Goods Yard 31 October 1970

A last look at Witney goods yard. Participants on the 'Witney Wanderer' railtour on 31 October 1970 pay their final respects to the line as they wander around the goods yard in the gloomy autumnal weather. In the background the nine car DMU (an unusual sight anytime, and certainly impressive for the Fairford Branch) waits patiently by the River Windrush bridge. Note that by this date one of the loop lines (along the line of the puddles) and the back siding (near the coal heaps) had already been lifted. The branch closed completely two days later. 
Stanley C. Jenkins