The history of Littleton and Badsey Station as told by Ian Major.
(Extracts from Ramblings of a Primary School Rail Fan (or, observations on a GWR country station) by Ian Major, first published in The Signalmen in 1996)
See also Littleton and Badsey Station Revisited.
The circumstances surrounding my introduction to railways are lost in the mists of time. However, my first rail memories are as a 5 year old in the 1950s. I used to accompany my father, who was a market gardener, to the hill top plot of land where he grew his vegetables. This vantage point gave panoramic views of a 2 mile stretch of the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway (the Old Worse and Worse). From here I was treated to the sight of GW Castle Class locomotives with 10-coach expresses sweeping off the Cotswolds into the Vale of Evesham. In the opposite direction 28xx 2-8-Os could be seen storming towards the severe climb up Camden Bank (1 in 100) with heavy long distance freight trains. To the east, smoke trails marked the passage of trains along the GW route between Cheltenham and Stratford-upon-Avon, part of which is now the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway. Likewise, to the west, trains on the old MR Evesham and Redditch line made their presence known.
Central to this scene was a small country station Littleton and Badsey. Imagine my delight when my grandparents bought a cottage as a retirement home, with this station at the foot of the garden! During the following years, I spent many happy hours observing train movements both here and in the adjacent goods yard.
The Station Described
Littleton and Badsey station stood at the point where the road linking the villages of its name crossed the OWWR on the level, midway between Evesham and Honeybourne on the Worcester to Oxford section of the OWWR main line (Milepost 104.) At the level crossing a gradient post marked the start of the climb up Camden bank. The station stood on an embankment to the east (up side) of the crossing. It boasted two platforms, each capable of handling a 6 coach train, though 4" differences in height, part way along their length, indicated that the originals would only handle 3. The up platform had the main, wooden, building, comprising waiting/booking room, office, ladies room and gents toilet. It also supported a lamp and a bicycle shed (both corrugated iron) and a single enamel name board. A wooden fence protected the rear edge of the platform. The down platform had a single wooden shelter plus an identical name board to that on the up platform. The fencing was simple wire through concrete posts. Each platform was lit by two tilly lamps, which were winched up each evening on to four tall pillars.
The goods yard was to the west of the crossing, on the up side of the line. It contained a loop which extended into a headshunt at the Evesham (west) end, plus three sidings, whose buffer stops were just short of the road). A pair of these sidings ran through the middle of the yard, one of which was kept empty, to allow down goods trains to be held clear of the main line as they were shunted. The third, and longest, siding skirted the boundary. Coal was handled at the end of this siding, involving heavy shunting to get loaded coal wagons in and empties out. A coal merchant had a small yard adjacent to these facilities. Unlike the station, the goods yard had electric lighting, but I never saw this illuminated.
Track in the yard was mainly laid on wooden sleepers, but the end of the headshunt and the long siding used concrete pots under each chair, linked by steel ties. The buildings, all brick, consisted of platform lockup adjacent to the loop, a weigh-bridge and stables.
Accommodation for PW men was a sleeper-built hut, and for the shunters a grounded four-wheel carriage, complete with an enamel sign announcing 'you may telephone from here'. The main traffic was fruit, vegetables and asparagus (as advertised on both end walls of the stables) outward, with seed, coal and fertilisers and inward with agricultural equipment. Traffic was also handled for the Littleton and Badsey Growers Association, a co-operative which was behind the site of the main building.
The layout of the yard being roughly triangular, left a wedge of railway property which was turned into allotments for the benefit of railway staff. Signals were a straight forward mixture of GW on wooden and BR(WR) on tubular steel posts. Only one was multi-armed. This was situated at the Evesham end of the goods yard. The arms were (top to bottom) a starter, distant and auxiliary. The auxiliary had an S on its face, and was used to call trains out of the goods yard towards Evesham. Main control was from the signal box next to the level crossing. Access to the main line from the Evesham end of the yard was controlled by a ground frame, on the down side of the main line.
Not only was the level crossing an ideal place to train spot, but it also acted as a demarcation line between the station staff (2) on one side, and the signalman on the other. The two groups seemed to be constantly at war, exchanging all manner of unpleasantries - except on one occasion. Up local passenger trains often pulled up at the station, then set back over the crossing and into the loop to pick up a van. On this occasion, the driver steadfastly refused to set back, so the porter and shunter had to push the van out of the loop. The warring factions had found a common enemy, resulting in an outbreak of peace.
Operation and Closure
In the late 50's, all trains were steam hauled with the exception of one return trip made each Sunday by an ex GW "Flying Banana" railcar from Worcester.
Expresses were exclusively hauled by Castle class locos. Their route was Paddington, Oxford to Worcester, thence the first three coaches were worked on to Hereford with a fresh loco. This route linking three famous cathedral cities gave rise to the line's only named train, the "Cathedrals Express", the coaches of which were painted in G W brown and cream livery, unlike the remaining expresses, whose livery was carmine and cream. This was the business mens' train to London in the morning, returning in the early evening. Regular performers on this working were 7005 "Sir Edward Elgar" and 5071 "Spitfire". It fascinated me to look along these trains as they rushed off Camden Bank. The engine and carriages ran as straight as a die, but the 6 wheeled tenders lurched violently from side to side, leaving me wondering how the firemen managed to keep their feet.
Intermediate passenger trains were in the charge of Hall and Grange class locos. Normally 6 coaches long, these ran from Worcester to Oxford, or to Birmingham Snow Hill via Honeybourne, Stratford-upon-Avon and Hatton. All Up stopping trains, came to a halt clear of the level crossing, hence the gates could be opened to release the road traffic. When a Down stopping train approached, the crossing gates were closed across the road and all the signals were set to clear. If the train was short enough to stop in the station short of the crossing, all of the signals were set to danger, and the gates opened until the train was ready to proceed. The intermediate trains always stopped with the engine fouling the crossing.
Local passenger trains were generally 51XX Prairie tanks hauling three non-corridor coaches. These ran as far as Oxford or Stratford-upon-Avon. Push-pull trains from Cheltenham via Honeybourne would also call, consisting of an auto coach powered by a 14XX 0-4-2. I recorded 57XX pannier 0-6-0 number 7777 hauling the auto coach on these services, though I don't believe it was auto fitted.
The bulk of long distance freights were powered by 28XX 2-8-0's with the odd Stanier 8F thrown in. Intermediate freight was usually pulled by Halls. Down freight trains generally passed through without stopping. However, up trains had all signals pulled clear, but stopped at the signal guarding the crossing. The signals were then set to danger and the crossing gates opened. The loco could then exchange wagons from the front of its train with those in the loop, the gates being opened and closed between each movement. The signalman controlled operations with a green and red flag. Having assembled its train, the signals were again pulled clear and the train continued its journey.
In the Down direction, short goods trains in the charge of 2251 0-6-0 tender engines set back into the spare siding, then shunt the yard. Once complete they were signalled away from the yard by the "S" auxiliary. A break in this almost entirely ex GW scene were football specials from the south. A contrast was given by the green coaches, which were hauled by West Country or Battle of Britain class locos, 34009 Lyme Regis, 34039 Boscastle, 34046 Braunton and 34085 "501 Squadron" having been recorded on these duties.
In the early 60's, the first casualties were the local passenger trains. The prairies and 14xx were quickly replaced by Pressed Steel three car diesels or their services abandoned altogether. 1962 saw the mass destruction of Castle locos. This did not result immediately in the demise of steam hauled expresses. Instead, a wider variety of steam locos were used. These included County class. Standard class 5 and even Britannia class locos. The "Cathedrals Express" also lost its chocolate and cream stock, and then its name. A year later, Hymek diesel hydraulic locos took over these duties. The same period saw a reduction in 28XX locos on freight duties to be replaced by Austerity 2-8-0's, Stanier 8F's and latterly 9F 2-10-0's. Crosti boilered 2-10-0 number 92023 was observed on one of these turns. 1965 brought the closure of several small goods yards including Littleton and Badsey and hence the end of the local freight trains. The intermediate passenger trains remained powered by steam until those services were withdrawn.
Closure and Beyond
With its goods yard lifted, the station itself became a victim of Beeching on 3rd of January 1966. The station buildings were simply pushed down the embankment sides. The goods yard buildings were demolished and the site handed over initially to a sewage contractor and then to a car scrap merchant. The once attractive country station and yard was now a dreadful eyesore.
The last months of 1965 saw the remaining freight trains hauled by scruffy 9F's. Eventually freight virtually disappeared over this part of the rail network. Some of the spare capacity was taken up by a test train, consisting of a Class 47 hauling a rake of (then) modern fitted stock containing dummy loads. This train became a familiar sight, thrashing up and down the line at high speed. Its final journey was one fateful Sunday. The Littleton and Badsey signalman, having decided that all was quiet, went home for a break. At this time our test train came storming down Camden Bank. On seeing the distant signal set against him, the driver slammed on the brakes, but to no avail. The train came to a halt some 200yds the other side of the crossing, with the gates adorning the front of the Class 47. It was not the first time that these gates had been demolished in this manner.
Serious decline now set in to the Oxford to Worcester section of the line. The traffic was made up of Paddington to Hereford expresses and a handful of local trains, with no local stations at which to call! Motive power for the expresses was almost exclusively Class 35 Hymek's until 1967, when Class 43 Warship's took over. In 1971 the Warship's were withdrawn and the Hymek's regained their position until early 1974 when Hymek's were themselves withdrawn.
1969 brought some interesting workings. A steam open day was held at Tysley to which locomotives were invited from the Severn Valley Railway and the Dowty Preservation Centre at Ashchurch. These were formed into two trains, each headed by a class 47 diesel. Both were routed along the OWW between Worcester and Honeybourne, thence via Stratford- upon-Avon to Tysley. The Severn Valley train comprised ex GW 2251 class 0-6-0, Ivatt Class 2 2-6-0, ex GW "Flying Banana", 4 ex GW coaches with a BR brake van bringing up the rear. The Dowty train consisted of ex GW 7808 "Cookham Manor", ex GW 0-6-2 number 6697, and ex LMS 6201 "Princess Elizabeth". The engines were supposed to be in light steam, but the exhaust beat of 6201, which was at the rear of the train running tender first, indicated that it was actually propelling the other engines. It was surprising that 6201 was allowed along this route since it is 15 tons heavier than King class locos, which along with 47XX locos were banned from the OWW.
Plans were afoot to route east/west freight from South Wales along the OWW via Bletchly and on to London, to relieve the ex G W mainline. This came to naught and in 1974 most of the Oxford to Worcester line, including that part through Littleton and Badsey, was singled. Track maintenance was deferred over the following years resulting in the track being declared as unfit to take locomotive hauled traffic. In the early 80's the only ageing trains were 3 car diesels running from Didcot to Worcester. The situation was bleak and British Rail announced its intention to close the section between Morton- in-Marsh and Evesham.
A Bright Future?
Following the black years of the early 80's, British Rail had a change of heart, upgraded the standard of track. A weak bridge at Honeybourne was also replaced thus allowing loco hauled traffic to pass over the line once again. Express trains re-appeared, initially hauled by Class 50's, and are now IC 125's. The Cotswold Line, as it is now known, has also seen freight traffic and steam specials. In fact, far from closing the line, there are even proposals to re-double the route. Part of the upgrade was the replacement of the gates on the Littleton and Badsey level crossing, with barriers controlled from Evesham. The signal-box became redundant and was demolished. Thus the final vestige of Littleton and Badsey Station passed into history.
See also Littleton and Badsey Station Revisited.
More information about the station appears on the MIAC website.
If you have any questions about this article, or its author, Ian Major, then please contact me email@example.com