The Branch Line Society


The Sopwith Camel
Sunday 10th June 2018

Report by David Palmer

A beautiful summer afternoon saw your fairly local correspondent arrive at Aylesbury station, looking forward to exploring the delights of Calvert Refuse Transfer station and the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre (BRC), prior to a trip on what would be the last passenger train between Claydon L&NE Jn and Gavray Jn before temporary closure for the line to be transformed as part of the East West Railway between Bicester, Bletchley and Bedford. The Sopwith Camel Railtour had been organised in conjunction with Chiltern Railways and the Quainton Branch of the Royal British Legion, which had arranged a special Fun Day at the BRC as part of the 100th anniversary celebrations for the founding of the Royal British Legion.


Aylesbury Vale - Claydon Line token.
[© Geoff Plumb 2018]

Aylesbury station, which remains fairly intact after its 1926 rebuilding, was basked in sunshine as the tour trundled into P3 comprised of two Class 165 units (165010 & 165034) to disgorge a considerable number of the general public who had either spent the morning at the Fun Day in the BRC or taking the penultimate passenger train between Claydon L&NE Jn and Gavray Jn. (There had been a morning Aylesbury to Bicester public run for passengers from Bicester to Quainton Road.)

165010 was uncoupled from the train before the BLS tour participants joined (or rejoined) 165034 and headed north out of Aylesbury via the bidirectional Aylesbury North Goods Loop, where we paused to collect the token which would allow us to proceed beyond Aylesbury Vale Jn. All trains travelling to or from beyond this junction have to run via the loop to collect/leave the token Leaving the town we passed the stylish Aylesbury Vale Parkway station (185,748 passengers in 2017-18, compares with 1.18M at Aylesbury itself), is now surrounded by the housing for which the station was built. The low hill which conceals Waddesdon Manor was passed on our left before we paused in Quainton Road to allow some passengers off to visit the BRC and more to join, as our train next headed to Calvert.

Noting the remains of the Brill Tramway terminus (left) and the Aylesbury & Buckingham Joint line (Metropolitan and Great central) to Verney Junction (right), we proceeded onto the former Great Central Railway's London extension. At Grendon Underwood Jn (site) the line from Ashendon Jn once joined left (latterly a branch to Akeman Street fertiliser depot - last train 31 May 1993). We headed northwest through Buckinghamshire countryside to Calvert South Ground Frame (157m 63ch).

After a pause for the crew to operate the points we were treated to an all-line tour of the available facilities, including the headshunt at the south end of the site. The terminal will be resited to the other side of this line due to HS2, and the through line itself will be part of East West Rail (Aylesbury - Milton Keynes). Participants noted the remains of the 'Mule' that ran between the rails on the eastern siding, which once pulled wagons under the unloading gantry, although the equipment had clearly been out of use for a good number of years. Shunting at this busy terminal is now done by the train locos.

Trip timings

Our exploration of the Waste Transfer terminal over, we passed the former Calvert station island platformwhich CP 4 Mar 1963 and left via Calvert North Ground Frame (157m 5ch) to take the WWII connection to the Oxford to Cambridge line at Claydon L&NE Jn, reversing to return to Quainton Road. Here your correspondent took a break to visit the BRC, while the tour train made another return journey to Aylesbury. The warm summer sunshine was a great backdrop to investigate the many treats available at the Centre, especially the beautifully restored Oxford Rewley Road station building. [Grid times are booked per final Special Traffic Notice, a special BLS 'rover' ticket was available covering any/all of the trains and was required for the Calvert t(r)ip. This was so good and comprehensive that we, perhaps, should have tipped the train crew? On the day the public could buy day returns between the stations for the other trains, and a good number did. Thanks to Chiltern Railways and NR, all income went to the Royal British Legion.]

Now comprised once again of 165034 and 165010, your correspondent rejoined for what was the last passenger train for now between Claydon L&NE Jn and Gavray Jn, returning first to the former. Slowly heading west towards Bicester Village on what was a run-down, single-track secondary line with no traffic, a shadow of its former main line double track status, gave your correspondent time to consider the anticipated rejuvenation of the route, replicating the recent amazing transformation of the Oxford to Bicester Village line. The two level crossings in Bicester, particularly the one across the Eastern Perimeter Rd, may be challenging once East West Railway re-opens! We shall have to wait and see.

A brief pause at Bicester Village (reached by the rare facing crossover) prefaced a visit to what will be part of the Up line east of Gavray Jn, now just a headshunt, before a return to Bicester Village for a short break to stretch legs. Re-joining the train we made the final trip to Claydon L&NE Jn, before returning to Quainton Road to collect final visitors to the BRC on our way back to Aylesbury. With the sun still shining there ended an enjoyable short tour, providing a pleasant day out for visitors to the Royal British Legion 100th Anniversary celebrations at the BRC and the railtourers. This was certainly a day with a difference - but aren't they all‽ It raised £4,535 for the Royal British Legion, £1,591 of which was taken on the trains (including the raffle). Many thanks to all involved including Kev Adlam, Chiltern Railways, Network Rail, Calvert Waste Terminal and the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre.

PS: Claydon L&NE Jn (17m 75ch†) - (Bicester) Gavray Jn (18m 46ch† Up Bletchley / 18m 48ch† Down Bletchley) temporarily closed from 21 Oct 2018 until at least 1 Sep 2022 and most has since been lifted; our tour indeed made the final (four) passenger movements. (†Miles from Bletchley Flyover Jn.)

Our train in Aylesbury P2.
[© Geoff Plumb 2018]

Quainton Road looking north from the front cab; the first of six calls. This south to north line will be part of East West Rail!
[© Geoff Plumb 2018]

You've been framed! (The Mobile Operations Manager that is.)
[© Geoff Plumb 2018]

The tipping point of the tour. Calvert Waste Terminal Siding No1 looking south to Aylesbury. All off train photos were taken by authorised and suitably qualified people.

A discovery was a former wagon 'Mule' here (disused) at the south end. (Taken through train windscreen.)
[© Neil Wilson 2018]

Calvert South Shunt Neck.

Calvert North Shunt Neck (157m 06ch from Manchester London Road - now Piccadilly, of course - via the former Great Central Railway main line)

Calvert Siding No2, from the north end looking south. Far left is the Aylesbury to Claydon L&NE Jn bidirectional single line.

The end of the Up Bletchley Siding at Bicester Village which is the future Up Bletchley line to (unsurprisingly...) Bletchley in the next phase of East West Rail.

The same location, the other side of the train, looking towards Gavray Jn and Bicester Village.

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