Station Name: BANBURY MERTON STREET
[Source: Nick Catford]
Shortly before the station's makeover and the introduction of diesel railcars, the by-then-roofless Banbury Merton Street was host to BR Standard 4 2-6-4T No.80040. The train is relatively lengthy, for Merton Street, and is formed of a van and three passenger carriages. Banbury Merton Street was reasonably busy during weekday peaks but otherwise slack, so whether by the 1950s a train of this length was warranted is open to question. When diesel railcars were introduced, it was claimed they resulted in a 400% increase in passengers but while this sounds impressive one has to consider precisely what figure was increased by 400%. Given that the railcars were single units and ran as such most, but not all, the time figures should be treated with caution. On the platform the locomotive crew are having a conversation while on the right the loading gauge which would have been effectively redundant as the sidings were used predominantly for cattle traffic can be seen. The BR Standard 2-6-4Ts were and still are impressive machines. They were a Riddles development of the LMS Stanier and Fairburn 2-6-4Ts and like all the BR Standards types incorporated a number of devices to make the job of the crews easier. One of these was the Self Cleaning Smokebox, indicated by the 'SC' on the smokebox door. This device pulverised ash and ejected it through the chimney, the idea being to reduce the frequency required to undertake the filthy job of manually cleaning the smokebox which indeed it did, but did not eliminate the manual task entirely. No.80040 was allocated brand new to Bletchley in June 1952 and she remained there until August 1957. Following a period at Chester she then went to the Southern Region where she would have been modified for the Southern headcode system then in use. She ended up at Exmouth Junction shed from where she was withdrawn in May 1964. Like all the BR Standards, her life was pathetically short
Photo from Jim Lake collection
Banbury Merton Street in 1956, shortly before the introduction of diesel railcars. This is one of the very few photographs showing a timetabled passenger train using the Down side of the island platform. The train has the 'right away' but it would seem it is not quite ready to depart as there is some activity further along the platform. By this date the locomotive would most likely have been one or other of the 2-6-4T types. The train is not a push-pull set (or 'Pull & Push' in LMS/LMR parlance) and the windows in the end of the vehicle facing the camera are guards' lookouts. The carriage on the left has the 'M' prefix and suffix to its number, indicating it is a London Midland Region vehicle which had been handed down to BR from the former LMS. Identifying it is difficult as the ventilators below the cantrail appear rather deeper than those normally found on LMS-built stock. Beneath the outer end of the trainshed and on the platform was a fingerpost informing passengers which platform their train would depart from. These sometimes advised merely "Next Train" or sometimes also train destination. This photograph is one of rare examples to show the fingerpost actually in use although what it actually says is impossible to determine. The fingerpost was to survive closure of the station and can be seen, out of use of course, in several photographs on these pages.
Photo from John Mann collection
Ex-LMS Fowler 4F 0-6-0 No.44072 waits at Banbury Merton Street with an ex-LMS 3-car set bound for Bletchley in September 1956. The trainshed has already been de-roofed and, as witnessed on the left, what remains of the trainshed is starting to fall apart. The station would shortly receive its makeover of repairs and a repaint. The sleepers dumped on the platform - not a good advertisement for British Railways - are also known to have been present at that time. The train would have been among the last timetabled steam-hauled passenger trains at Merton Street as diesel railcars would soon be taking over. The LMS Fowler 4F was a freight locomotive, hence the 'F', but were a common sight on passenger trains as here. The class was a perpetuation of an earlier Midland Railway type and built mainly at Derby and Crewe with some by private builders, No.44072 being a product of the North British Locomotive Co. and new at the end of 1924. The 4F was a somewhat ungainly machine but was powerful for its size. The main change introduced by the LMS was a switch from righthand to left hand drive but No.44072 was righthand drive and destined to remain so. The telltale from outside the locomotive is the reversing lever, seen here emerging at an angle from behind the firebox outer cladding. The Achilles Heel of the 4F was a tendency for bearings to overheat but mechanical lubricators were fitted to overcome the problem. No.44072 had spent time at Rugby, Northampton and Bletchley sheds so could well have worked to Banbury via the S&MJR which joined the line from Buckingham at Cockley Brake Junction, a lonely spot to the north of Brackley. No.44072 had a final spell at Bletchley shed between January 1954 and November 1959 when she was withdrawn and eventually scrapped at Crewe Works two years later.
Photo from John Mann collection
In September 1956 Derby Lightweight single-unit M79901 awaits departure from the by-now-roofless Banbury Merton Street for Buckingham. The roof had been removed due to its poor condition shortly before this photograph was taken. In the background the station clock can be seen and, above it, the nameboard which harked back to LNWR days. The driver is in his cab and has his hand on the throttle but why is unclear as doors are still open and a set of steps are still in place. The gleaming condition of M79901 is explained by it being brand new and it is known to have been released from Derby Works the previous month. The vertical lever just visible in front of the driver is the valve for the warning horns, while behind the nearest windscreen the pedestal-mounted handbrake wheel can be seen - this arrangement being peculiar to the Derby Lightweights. The fittings below each outermost windscreen and sockets for multiple-unit jumper cables. When not required, the cables were stowed in a cupboard in the driving cab. In later years the cables were left in situ on the cab fronts and a third, dummy, socket added for stowage of the free end of the cables when they were not in use. The white cab roofs were a feature of many DMUs in the early years but, for obvious reasons, did not last long. The railcar is yet to receive its Yellow Diamond coupling symbols and overhead warning flashes. The two railcars, M79900/1, were built for the Banbury - Buckingham service and initially they mostly connected at Buckingham with steam services until the Buckingham - Banbury section closed after which the two railcars became usual on the Buckingham - Verney Junction - Bletchley services. Sister railcar M79900 had been released to traffic by Derby Works one month previously, July 1956. Both have an interesting history in that they were conversions of Motor Brake Seconds intended for 2-car units. The conversion occurred during the construction process but things did not go quite to plan. Contrary to what many books claim, for example the Ian Allan series of 'spotters' books, the two railcars were not identical. What became M79900 was to have been 61-seat Diagram 503 vehicle M79183 but there was a problem; the 61 seats meant a smaller brake compartment and with a driving cab added the brake, at just 5ft 6in long, was found to be impractically small. To deal with this nuisance, what became M79901 was converted from the 52-seat, and thus larger brake, Diagram 633 vehicle M79182. Neither M79900 or M79901 had first class seating or lavatories. M79900 and M79901 emerged as Diagram 514 and 515 vehicles respectively. Sadly M79901, the more practical of the two, was scrapped at Bletchley in April 1967 but M79900 went on to survive into preservation but has unfortunately lost some of her originality due to modifications undertaken by BR during her years in departmental service.
The familiar view of Banbury Merton Street station from the forecourt. The removal of most of the trainshed roof and the repainted window frames and doorway tell us this view dates from 1956 or later. The houses seen on the let are a terrace of 5 railway cottages (Alma Terrace) that have now been demolished.
Photo from Duncan Chandler collection from his Flickr photostream
Derby Lightweight single unit M79900 waits at Banbury Merton Street with the shuttle to Buckingham sometime in 1958. Of the three people sitting on the bench, left, it appears that at least one is staff while two more people watch the photographer from inside the railcar. It must have been a quiet period as only one door is open and provided with the steps necessary to counter the station's low platform which, as can be seen, was wooden beneath what had been the trainshed roof. Today the Health & Safety and 'mobility' campaigners would have a field day but in the 1950s, and later, low platforms such as this were by no means uncommon and especially on secondary lines of the former LNWR and at wayside halts across the country. In those days people simply 'got on with it' and rarely complained. The two railcars, M79900/1, appeared new with the so-called 'speed whiskers' and were among the very first DMUs to do so. By the time of this photograph M79900 had lost its white cab roofs but was otherwise still in original condition complete with early BR logo which itself was a derivative of the British Transport Commission's logo. The Derby Lightweight cab design was impressive and sometimes described as 'cathedral like' but it was a source of reflections and thus justifiably attracted complaints from drivers. Metropolitan-Cammell introduced its 79xxx series batch of DMUs in 1955 and BR, the story goes, was impressed with the Metro-Cammell cab design with three smaller, raked back, windscreens and this general style, with variations, was subsequently copied by Derby Works for its later-build units. What became Class 108, for example, was in effect a 'Blue Square' version of the 79xxx Derby Lightweight with the revised cab styling. A further feature to note is the windscreen wiper, with central pivot and blades top and bottom; quite why this arrangement was thought necessary is unclear but possibly it was to aid sighting of platform starter signals and flag signals by signalmen during bad weather. It should be noted this is a colourised monochrome image.
Original photo by James S Doubleday from the 53A Models of Hull collection
Looking north-west along the island platform at Banbury Merton Street station in 1956. The timber platform extension seen here was added in the last decade of the 19th century. One of two LMS 'Hawkseye' running-in boards is seen, the other is beneath the trainshed. One of the one of the Derby Lightweight single cars waits to depart from the up platform. At this time there were nine up trains on weekdays, four ran through to Bletchley but the other four terminated at Buckingham. The three-storey houses seen on the right are in Merton Street and are still standing.
Photo from John Mann collection
In this view from 1958 one of the Derby Lightweight single cars waits at an apparently deserted Banbury Merton Street. On this occasion the brake end of the railcar is facing the camera and just about visible is the rather unsightly exhaust stacks running up the front of the cab to a common outlet box on the cab roof. This was the same arrangement as used on the single-unit vehicles which became classes 121 and 122. The two Derby Lightweight single cars could, for various reasons, end up being turned but at around the time of this photograph M79901 had its brake end facing south so this is probably the railcar seen here. Tucked aware on the left just inside what remained of the trainshed is what appears to be telephone equipment but, if so, quite why it was positioned there is something of a puzzle but it was possibly for the use of shunters to speak to the signal box which was some distance away close to the gasworks. Following withdrawal of all passenger services on the branch from Verney Junction the two railcars, M79900/1, found themselves at a loose end and so ended up on Oxford - Bletchley - Cambridge services. Until M79901 was withdrawn in 1967 the pair sometimes ran together but often paired with a former a Driving Motor Composite Lavatory from disbanded power-twin units. Some of the latter retained their engines but others were de-engined to run as driving trailers, renumbered into the 796xx series. All the Derby Lightweight 79xxx types had been withdrawn from public service by 1969.
Photo by E Wilmhurst
Information supplied with this photograph tells us only that we are looking at railcar M79900. However, the number of open doors and portable steps tell us the train if formed of two cars so either M79901 is also present or the train is in fact one of Bletchley's 2-car units more usually found on Oxford - Bletchley - Cambridge services. In comparison to the photograph of M79900 known to have been taken in 1958, the advertisements visible in the background of this view appear to be the same ones while in this view the DMU cab front carries Yellow Diamond coupling symbols which are not present in the 1958 view of M79900. The conclusion, therefore, is that we are still in 1958 and the train is in fact a 2-car unit and not M79900/1 coupled together - something which, it should be said, was nevertheless a common occurrence. One minor difference when compared to the known 1958 photograph is the platform benches now both facing the same way but this should not be taken as indicative of a different period as the benches were free standing and thus easily moved. The by-this-time roofless Banbury Merton Street station had an air of quaintness about it, if not one of dereliction, while the LNWR nameboard, the LMS 'Hawkeye' nameboard on the platform and the BR diesel multiple units offered something of a visual history lesson. The DMU on this occasion is due to run through to Bletchley, during which journey it will call at Verney Junction, the one time junction station with the Metropolitan Railway and which for a brief period became the far-flung outpost of London Transport's Metropolitan Line. It would appear Merton Street was host to a group of railway enthusiasts and it is likely the photographer was one of the group. We can see the end of the wooden platform beneath the former roof and its continuation with a section of platform apparently laid with set blocks and proper edging stones. Behind the camera, and for reasons unknown, the platform reverted to being a quite lengthy wooden structure. On the right, beyond what look like heaps of ballast, stands a dock which, despite the presence of an open wagon, appears somewhat overgrown and almost disused. Gas lighting is, however, still provided. The houses in the right background are on Merton Street, which lay at an angle to the railway. The houses still stand today and are one of the very few remaining reference points to the site of the station. I was wondering that
Photo from John Mann collection
Compared to the similar view from May 1951, Banbury Merton Street station building has now lost its LMS identity. The enormous nameboard which had carried the LMS title in full was presumably converted by the simple expedient of removing the screwed-on LMS lettering and then repainting. The trainshed had by now lost the bulk of its roof and the station as a whole has received its general makeover. These observations tell us the photograph is no earlier than July 1956. Note that the gas light over the central window has been removed although part of its mounting is still present. Among the posters on the front of the station building is one promoting Wales. These posters were an absolute colourful delight and brightened-up most stations at one time. Today, sadly, it is all posters promoting the dire consequences of travelling with the 'wrong type of ticket' and others which leave no doubt that passengers are viewed as potential criminals or, at best, miscreants. At far left, two road vehicles are doing their best to get in the photograph. The nearest appears to be a prewar Ford, perhaps a Model Y. The other is almost certainly an Austin A70 Hampshire. The houses in the left background, of which that second from right was a small shop of some description, stood at what is today the junction of Merton Street and Higham Way, close to the Elephant & Castle public house. Merton Street itself curved eastwards and thus was in the main at an angle to the railway. The large advertisement on the right and adjacent to the goods yard entrance is promoting a brewery but precise details are unreadable. It was probably part of the nationwide campaign doing the rounds, so to speak, at the time, to promote beer and, sometimes, the supposedly cosy and convivial atmosphere of the public house.
Photo from John Mann collection
The obvious downside of removing station roofs was the platforms being exposed to the weather. In this view there has been snowfall and it appears no attempt has been made to clear snow from even a small section of the platform which, being wooden at this point, would have been very slippery. Railcar M79901 waits at the platform as the guard goes about the business of moving the tail lamp to the other end. The railcar has received Yellow Diamond coupling code symbols but has yet to receive overhead warning flashes and small yellow warning panel. We can therefore date the photograph with reasonable certainly to the winter of 1958/9.
Photo from Jim Lake collection
One of two 'Railworks' computer simulations of Banbury Merton Street station. There are a number of instances of what we might call 'artistic licence', but otherwise the work is superb and, it has to be said, beyond what a great many people could achieve. The rendition of the Fowler 4F 0-6-0 and the LMS Stanier coach to which it is attached are especially good. In addition, detail of track, the wooden platform and the wagons, especially the open wagon left of centre, are very good. Referring to the other simulation, two LNER Gresley teak coaches are depicted in the background left of centre. At extreme left can be seen part of Merton Street's goods shed albeit constructed of brick.
Computer simulation from TS2018 Train Simulator - The Wycombe Railway and Joint line V3.1
Click here for Banbury Merton Street Station Gallery 3: