RAIL CHRONOLOGY: Bletchley's "Worcester curve"

Page last updated: 7 December 2015

The curve was originally installed in response to a Minute of November 1853 of the L&NWR Committee on Special Affairs, for services between the L&NWR and OW&WR - principally goods trains. However, a Euston to Worcester passenger service did run from October 1854 (although other services, and the return workings, ran via and reversed at Bletchley station), according to O G Roberts and D S M Barrie in Railway Magazine, October 1934, pp. 298-300. This use of the curve must have been short lived, however, for by July 1857 (if not earlier) all the relevant down trains were advertised at Bletchley, for detaching their OW&W through vehicles, thus not using the curve. By January 1858 (and even as late as July 1861) Bradshaw's Guide was showing a 5.15pm (subsequently 5.0pm) down train from Euston with no stop at Bletchley, but with a portion for the OW&W line which had an advertised Bletchley departure time; presumably a portion was slipped from the main train and so the curve would not have been needed. Indeed, the L&NWR Permanent Way & Estates Committee minute 3786 (11 April 1861) had decreed: "Mr Woodhouse was instructed to take up all the permanent way materials for the Bletchley curve that are not required for tipping spoil." (The National Archives: RAIL 1007/228) so the curve must by then have been out of use for through trains. All Euston - Worcester passenger workings were anyway withdrawn from 1 October 1861.

In 1934 a new brickworks was constructed in the angle between the former L&NWR main line and the Oxford line, and the sidings serving it were laid from a new signal box (Fletton's Siding, on the Oxford line), partly on the old track bed of the curve. This involved lowering the original track bed of the curve (illustrated in Railway Magazine, October 1934, pp. 299-300).

The curve was re-connected to the main line and reopened for through running as the Down Goods Connecting Line from 31 August 1942 (Railway Gazette 7 September 1945 and C R Clinker L.N.W.R. Chronology 1900-1960), controlled by Bletchley No. 1 (later Bletchley panel box) and Fletton's Siding signal boxes, a single track in the south-to-west direction only. In this guise, the curve was used - in the one direction only - by goods trains and, from 30 December 1944 (Railway Magazine, March/April 1946, p. 82) into the immediate post-World War 2 period, by return leave troop specials from Euston to Bicester.

By 1967 the curve's only regular use was on Tuesdays and Thursdays by Target 4 - 1600 Leighton Buzzard to Newton Longville; it was also available for turning stock - including, as required, the Royal train vehicles based at Wolverton (after the demise of the triangle there) (Station Manager Bletchley letter 13.11.67 ref SM.Gen.15). By May 1969, Target 4 was running only "as required" (Area Manager Bletchley letter 2.5.69 ref G4).

The curve was taken out of use 5 April 1970 and the junction with the fast lines physically removed 12 July 1970 (Area Manager Bletchley letter 23.11.70 ref G4).

Richard Maund

An earlier version of these notes appeared in Branch Line News no. 1035 item 86, 10 February 2007

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