Wartime Branch lines.

Discussion in 'Railway History & Nostalgia' started by Kernowfem, 17 Oct 2011.

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  1. Kernowfem

    Kernowfem Member

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    I'm about to start researching Railways during WW2, in particular the branch lines. I wondered if anyone could point me in the direction of a website/books etc that would enable me to find out which were the busiest branch lines in the country at that time.

    Including what they carried, such as ammunitions and troops, and just how important these branch's were to the war effort. I would dearly love to get my hands on several time tables and/or goods logs too.

    I would be grateful for any information. Many thanks.
     
  2. Oracle

    Oracle Established Member

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    I wish I knew and could help you. There was a War Department branch, or more a long siding, that came off the ex-LSWR Windsor Line at Feltham, just after the footbridge. This ran in a curve over what was waste land when I first came across it in the early 1960s, and then across the High Street, and then via a tramway into the Royal Arrmy Ordnance Corps and Royal Army Service Corps depot at Feltham...part of which is still occupied by the MoD. There was a hand-operated level crossing that I gather was a road blocker at times as it was busy. I don't know when it stopped being used but it must have been by 1962 at the latest. My late maternal grandmother and then grandfather worked in the depot during the war. Feltham was a major automotive depot before the war, and lorry driver training was undertaken there. I know that in the war General Aircraft had a factory in what was then the Victoria Road industrial estate and I think there was a tramway into their factory.

    I also know that the branch line from the ex-GWR near Slough into the Slough Trading Estate was very busy during the war. There are photos in the Slough Estates Railway book of the resident locos doing shunting work with war supplies. Citroen Cars Ltd had an assembly depot that was partly leased by the Canadian Government as a military vehicle assembly depot. Fords of all types and also Ford Jeeps were railed-in in crates and then stored around the estate pending being taken-in. I assume that vehicles were sent out by rail as well as by road after assembly. There were other wartime industries on the estate including High Duty Alloys that produced specialist alloys.

    David: Military Vehicle Historian
     
  3. Mvann

    Mvann Member

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    British railways illustrated magazines has articles about railways during the war. If you look at the indexes, which are on irwell press website, you may find something of interest. If you tell me of any articles you find from the index, I could probably find you a copy as I have most of the magazines still.
     
  4. Kernowfem

    Kernowfem Member

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    Thanks very much guy's for the info. Mvann, thankyou, i'll let you know what i find :)
     
  5. Wyvern

    Wyvern Established Member

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    Not just during the war, the Wirksworth Branch might have essential since the town is reputed to have been the major supplier of red tape for Whitehall. :) :)
     
  6. the sniper

    the sniper Established Member

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    The Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway under the ownership of the GWR, was well used during WW2. There are some details on the Wikipedia page.

    Christian Wolmar had a book out called 'Engines of War' which was about railways being used in many wars, but this wasn't WW2 specific so may be too broad for your needs.

    Not really helped you much here, I'm afraid. :p
     
  7. Ploughman

    Ploughman Established Member

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    The Derwent Valley railway near York was a link to a number of military bases in Yorkshire.

    http://www.dvlr.org.uk/
     
  8. Greenback

    Greenback Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Pembrey Country Park, which is alongside the railway line between Burry Port and Kidwelly, was once an RAF station and ammunition factory. There was once a network of narrow guage railway lines within the complex, as well as connections with the main line. The internal lines were used to transport the munitions around safely. You can still see the tracks in the park today.
     

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  9. Paul Sidorczuk

    Paul Sidorczuk Veteran Member

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    During one of the "Stranraer" threads on this forum recently, there was a military railway at Cairnryan mentioned in passing, that was used in World War II.
     
  10. bsillett

    bsillett Member

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  11. Moodster020

    Moodster020 Member

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  12. John Webb

    John Webb Established Member

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    The Thorpe Arch Circular Railway not only handled goods and personel on site but bought them in and out as well. There were regular trains for each change of shift to bring them in from local towns and take them home again. Excellent short article in "Railways Around Harrogate - Volume 3" by Martin Bairstow, published 1998.

    The Cleobury Mortimer and Ditton Priors Light Railway was taken over by the Admiralty to service a Naval ammunition store set up at Ditton Priors.

    There was also a branch off the Midland Main Line between Houghton Conquest and Elstow to service a new Ordnance factory set up near Elstow - the box controlling the connection was named Wilshampstead.

    (Both the Thorpe Arch, Elstow and Ditton Priors sites are in part industrial estates now.)

    There was the Catterick Camp Military Railway which came off the Richmond Branch.

    And of course both the Royal Arsenal and Royal Dockyard in Woolwich were linked to the North Kent Line and used during the war.
     
  13. Oracle

    Oracle Established Member

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    I had forgotten that the Bedenham branch off the Gosport branch was busy, as it served the RN armaments depot and also led to Asmiralty lines leafing to Gosport quays. There was also a branch off the Portsmouth Harbour line that ran into the RN base. Also a siding off the Test Valley line at Dean that served a massive underground armaments depot that had its own internal n.g. railway.
     
  14. martinsh

    martinsh Established Member

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  15. Mvann

    Mvann Member

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    There was definitely an article about swynnerton in British railways illustrated or railway bylines with photos of the platforms there.
     
  16. EM2

    EM2 Established Member

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  17. Kernowfem

    Kernowfem Member

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    Thankyou to everyone! Some great info and advice given. Greatly appreciated!! :)
     
  18. william

    william Established Member

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    In the north east, I would look at Warcop and Wensleydale.
     
  19. caliwag

    caliwag Member

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    Oakwood press is a good source of obscure railways.

    Number 163 called 'The Lincolnshire Potato Railways' (a great name for an Indy band or at least a teeshirt) may well have had some sort of strategic role. (have to admit I haven't read it yet!)

    Number 178, more importantly, is 'The Melbourne Military Railway, A history of the railway training centre at Melbourne and Kings Newton 1939-1945'...a generous little book with maps etc (It's Melbourne Easdt of Burton on Trent BTW)...typical Oakwood.
    There's also a map of Longmoor military railway. Of course I haven't read that either. A good mate who was trawling old plans in the archives in York at the end of BR (you will not believe that an engineer at a loose end was tasked with skipping anything that HE didn't think worthy of retention...an engineer mind, not a historian!!) My mate came across a speculative scheme for, what must have been a possible military railway to the East of Ranskill on the ECML. It's very flat round there and so there is no evidence of workings, buildings or civil engineering. Nor evidence on maps of the period, but then they wouldn't put stuff like that on maps would they...like they omitted airfields.
    Your welcome to a copy of that!

    The other book I have, and no I haven't read it!, is 'by Rail to Victory...The story of the LNER in Wartime' published by the LNER in 1947, so probably just a publicity book.

    OK I will skip through these if you're interested further.

    Of course, the obvious source for further obscurity are back issues of Railway Observer (especially for stock lists and disposal0, Railway Magazine (they have the lot in the NRM reading room) and early Trains Illustrated (publication started in 1947, though that year is rare and probably a bit 'general' As I mention elsewhere ROs and TIs are freely available in the VCT on KWVR.

    Hope this helps a bit, good luck.
     
  20. Kernowfem

    Kernowfem Member

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    Thankyou so much for the info! I'm definately interested if you can spare the time to look through them....it would be gratefully appreciated! Thanks again.

    In the mean time i'll track down a copy of By rail to victory on Amazon, it may be worth a look! :)
     
  21. bsillett

    bsillett Member

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  22. caliwag

    caliwag Member

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    Bsillett...Thanks for the intriguing list of military railways...interestingly it doesn't include the Melbourne military railway (Oakwood 178) mentioned above, so I wonder what else is omitted!

    I guess that the Railway Observer and post war Trains Illustrated/ Railway Magazines will fill in further details...good project for Kernow Fem though...look forward to publication.

    Incidentally KF (if you're still in Cornwall) there's always Falmouth Docks network...quite a lot still extant, though rarely used, though the access branch from NR was, last year, weeded and had quite a few sleepers replaced.
    My query on here, and locally in Falmouth, elicited no info.

    There was a very good article in Bylines on Falmouth Docks (cannot lay my hands on my copy at the moment), but it does occur to me that Bylines is another source of info for your cause...again mostly available at VCT on KWVR.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    Falmouth Docks Bylines...September 1998
     
  23. Mvann

    Mvann Member

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    I'm running the TPO bookcoach at nene valley railway today. I've just spotted a book called the LMS at war. It's more of what the railway did rather than specific branch lines. Cost is £12.
     
  24. caliwag

    caliwag Member

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    Hi KF...just an update after skimming the above-mentioned books.

    The Lincolnshire potato Railways book is mainly narrow gauge and the only piece of interest for your quest is a paragraph or two about the nation's needs for potatoes and veg. during the war in order that imports could, and in all likelihood be, be reduced!

    The largest network, though there were many in the area, was at Nocton estate...South of Lincoln on the Spalding line (OK not by any stretch a branch line in those days). In Lincs, in the 20s, there were over 100 miles on 34 systems (all narrow gauge), all serving assorted railheads on the standard gauge line. During the second world war there were still 98 miles in operation.

    However during the war there were huge changes to the infrastructure...concrete roads on the estates, mechanised handling (loss of skilled workers to the war effort) and the replacement of horses with tractors. By 1950 the 10 systems remaining covered 38 miles. (the last system closing in 1969).

    All fascinating stuff, but you can imagine the amount of freight traffic generated by seasonal veg. The book generally describes all the various estates and systems...excellent sociological stuff of the period.

    The Melbourne book outlines the extensive training system at King's Newton near Melbourne on the Derby to Ashby line (branching off at Peartree and Normanton). The system seems to have had over 30 sidings for training in the art of steel bridge building, rerailing, stock lifting, and ops training. There were many American personnel trained there and Longmoor (transferring between the two)..over 146000 over the war. They seem to have taken over the whole line, presumably 'training' serving the assorted collieries, soap works, clay pits etc.

    It is a fascinating read with a lot of timetable info and references, I would recommend for your research (try ABE.co.uk)

    The LNER book is definitely valuable, as much for how huge teams pulled together...the graft, long hours and pressure on all available resources, especially where coal supplies and munitions are concerned.

    As for branch lines, there are descriptions of 'spreading the works' away from centres (to minimise bombing impact)...one such is the Thorpe Arch circular railway (mentioned in Bsillet's list) on the Church Fenton to Harrogate railway (closed) which consisted of several spread out works on the six and half mile, one-way railway. The idea was to get 12000 workers a day from Leeds to their shifts. In between these coordinated workers trains, which were stabled in nearby sidings till the end of the assorted shifts (24 hour day working I assume) the fruits of their labours would be moved on heavily loaded goods trains. Like a fantastic model railway and with colour light signals.

    There is a story of tanks constructed for the Russians being stored in a quarry near Leeds before being shipped out ultimately to a ship for export!

    There is a chapter on 'ordinary traffic' with passenger traffic number.

    These books are now top of my reading pile!

    Enough Fascination? Jim
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    Hi Mvann,

    Just spotted your comment. If it's as good as the LNER at War, it's worth picking up. All anecdotes by people on the ground, as it were. My LNER one was £10 a few years ago.
     
  25. Old Timer

    Old Timer Established Member

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    Although not a branch line dedicated to military traffic, the former Oxford - Cambridge line was very busy with wartime munitions trains travelling from munitions factories and storage depots like Fenny Compton, Kineton, Bicester, and Elstow, across to Cambridge for the RAF/USAAF stations in the Eastern Counties.

    Some trains would have proceeded north to Lincolnshire either via Bletchley, Northampton, Market Harborough, Leicester, Nottingham, or alteratively via Bedford and Leicester.

    The Ordnance Depot at Elstow was alongside the Upside of the Midland main line south of Bedford and was served by a signalbox called Elstow Sidings. The connections into the Depot were to the south of the farm overbridge which is south of the existing connection into the Redlands sidings.

    During the Second World War Elstow Storage Depot was developed as an armaments factory by J. Lyons and Co. Ltd (the tea company).

    The first job undertaken at the factory was the filling of two inch trench mortar bombs, during the first few weeks an average of 6,000 bombs of this type were filled. The factory was an enormous concern and during the years 1942 - 1945 it produced over 100,000 tons of bombs, which is about one-seventh of the entire tonnage dropped by Bomber Command on Germany.

    The site was vast with over 250 buildings (excluding small sheds and air raid shelters), six miles of main roads, eight miles of concrete roads and fifteen miles of railway lines.

    Five electricity sub-stations of 2,500 k.w. output were needed to provide electricity for the factory and power the machinery and motors. The factory also had its own medical service and surgeries on site, a fire service, police service and laundry

    In later years the Depot was used to house Italian POWs many of whom settled in Bedford and the surrounding area and formed the largest group of foreigners in the County post war. There was an Italian Consulate (probably still is) in Bedford and many shops were Italian owned.

    After the war, the majority of unskilled Italians worked in the various brickworks around the north of the County.

    The Depot has now been renamed Elstow Storage Depot and contains many small factory units and storage warehouses. There used to be a variety of reduced price retailers on site there as well. There was even a recording studio !

    Many of the former wartime buildings together with the track linking them are still there and it used to be possible to walk around the site unhindered.

    I hope this may be a little help.
     
  26. Mvann

    Mvann Member

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    Found a copy of British Railways in peace and war for £2. Got some unusual freight and also a Photo of the Platform at Coldmeece
     
  27. pappleby

    pappleby Member

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    just south of Nottingham, the Great Central Railway had a spur into Ruddington Ordanance Depot, a very large area, even had it's own station, i believe, this is now Great Central Railway (Nottingham)
     
  28. Wyvern

    Wyvern Established Member

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    Has any one mentioned the old Clog and Knocker?

    " In 1940 the line was closed completely to the public, the only passenger traffic being military personnel. At Stafford was the Royal Air Force's 16 MU, while there was an army depot at Bromshall. RAF Stafford built an extensive network of sidings adjacent to Stafford Common yard. This continued in operation until 1975."
     
  29. Madge Wildfire

    Madge Wildfire Member

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    This page is not branch line specific, but may contain useful background information.

    http://freespace.virgin.net/neil.worthington/jx/1943.htm

    One area which is often overlooked when describing the wartime trains, is the massive increase in trains of aviation fuel that supplied the eastern airfields, especially prior to the co-ordinated bombing raids later in the hostilities.

    I have read an article on this, I think in a copy of Backtrack, but cant remember which issue it was in. Maybe someone has a combined index to hand?
     
  30. caliwag

    caliwag Member

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    Indeed, that is covered in great statistical detail in the LNER book above. There were over 100 bomber airfields in East Anglia alone. The materials to build those, including runways is boggling. Most were near village stations which had their yards enlarged so that supply trains would split on route to form smaller trains to serve the nearest airfield.
    Between D-Day (June 6) and early Sept '44, over 30,000 wagons were moved from ports in trains of 40-60 wagons...about 600 trains...bombs, spare parts, stores, and above all oil, as you say...
    All this was after cement and millions of bricks etc had been moved from Bedfordshire in 1943, to build the billets etc.

    This is beginning to get very interesting...well done KF for kicking this off.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    Thanks to MW for memory...here's a Backtrack index...

    http://www.pendragonpublishing.co.uk/html/backtrack_index.html

    Notice, Back track Summer '88 has an article about the transformation of the Shropshire and Montgomeryshire Rly for military use!
     
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