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Stratford-Upon-Avon & Midland Junction Railway

The Stratford-Upon-Avon & Midland Junction Railway (SMJR) was a minor railway company in the United Kingdom and existed in one form or another between 1864 and 1923. The SMJR was one of Britain's smallest and most obscure Railway companies, operating a network of minor railway lines mostly through rural Warwickshire and Northamptonshire.

The SMJR's Route

The "Main line" of the SMJR travelled East from the town of Stratford-upon-Avon (where the SMJR's operations were centred) through sparsely populated countryside to a junction with the Great Western Railway's line to Birmingham near the village of Fenny Compton. The line then travelled through some more countryside with only a few small villages to serve until it joined to the Great Central Railway at the Northamptonshire village of Woodford Halse. The line then travelled to the small Northamptonshire town of Towcester where the SMJR split into three separate minor lines, one going Southwest to the town of Banbury, another one going Northeast to the village of Blisworth where it connected to the West Coast Mainline, and another one going East which joined to a line going to Bedford. At the Statford end of the line, a spur ran West to 'Broom Junction' which connected the SMJR to a line to the town of Redditch, and also to the South West and Wales.


The SMJR started life as several separate minor companies one being the East & West Junction Railway, another being the Northampton & Banbury junction Railway, Both of which started in the 1860's and were sister companies until they merged officially in 1909.

Due largely to the sparsely populated rural areas through which the SMJR's lines traveled, and the equally sparse traffic, the company had a hand to mouth existence, usually struggling to break even let alone make a profit. For much of its history, the SMJR was technically insolvent, and went bankrupt several times throughout its existence but was usually bailed out by local landowners who needed the line for transporting produce etc.

The SMJR's main business was distributing freight between the various main lines it connected together. As well as local freight, between the 1920s and 1950s their were also special "Banana trains" on the SMJR which transported bananas between south Wales and east London. Passenger services on the SMJR were sparse with often just three or four passenger trains a day.

Due to the poor quality of the track and rolling stock on the line, it was nicknamed the 'Slow Mouldy and Jolty Railway' by travelers.

When the Great Central Railway was built in 1899, the SMJR offered the most direct route between London and Stratford, so a slip coach service was operated on the SMJR from London to Stratford via Woodford Halse.

During the big grouping of 1923 the SMJR was merged into the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMSR), and in 1947 became part of British Rail.

In the early 1930s experiments were carried out on the SMJR, with busses converted to run on rails, although these were not successful. Passenger services were withdrawn completely on the SMJR in the early 1950s. The first part of the system to be closed completely was the Towcester to Banbury line in 1954. The rest of the system lingered on carrying freight, this continued until the early 1960s when the whole system was closed. Today the only part of the SMJR still functioning is a short spur near the village of Fenny Compton supplying a military arms dump.