…and here’s another. All original research is mine, all actual quotes, from The Gloucestershire Echo.
Some Press Reaction to the Closure of the Railway in Bourton.
All the sources mentioned in this article are available in the Gloucestershire Record Office as document D2871/2/26.
Bourton once had a railway station (it is now part of a council depot – ed – now being demolished for an old people’s home, c 2011 -) and a place on a line that ran from Kingham to Cheltenham. From Kingham you could get to Oxford and London (Kingham is still on the main line into Paddington), so it was once possible to travel relatively easily from Bourton to London by train. It is worth mentioning that the railway station itself was finally taken to pieces in early 2011 and moved – oh well I’m sure the ghost of Ernest Marples knows where, but I sure as hell don’t.
Bourton’s passenger train service to Cheltenham and Kingham closed on Saturday 13 October 1962. The process of proposal, inquiry, consultation, decision, and closure took nearly a year. From these random cuttings we can surmise that it went something like this:
January – February – rumour and press reports
March – Public Inquiry, with correspondence lasting several months
August/September, – decision taken
October – end of line.
It is easy to sympathise with the Gloucestershire Echo’s angry cynicism (see below).
In a letter dated 6/2/61 PH Sims, the secretary of the Transport Users’ Consultative Committee, in a reply to a Bourton resident’s concerned letter, claims that “no submission has been passed to my committee by the British Railways” Curiously as late as March 21st the Echo suggests that the proposal was to discontinue the freight service between Bourton and Cheltenham, with no mention being made of the passenger service. In fact, whether or not the decision had already been taken, the freight service was in a way to outlive the passenger service, in the form of the station being kept open for small goods to be collected or left there for collection. As the track was taken up in 1965, this did not last long.
A 4th September article shows that the decision to end the passenger service on 13th October had been taken, and accordingly Pulham’s bus service had decided to put one extra bus service on “in lieu of the 7.47 Kingham to Cheltenham Spa St James and the 5.50 in the reverse direction”. It also says that freight between Bourton and Cheltenham would no longer be carried, though Bourton would “continue to deal with freight traffic in full truck loads”.
A Mrs Joan Wyatt, in an undated cutting, pointed out in a letter to the editor of the Echo (presumably) that the closure of the Cheltenham to Oxford service “would seem highly undesirable, in view of the depressingly frequent repeats…of serious or fatal accidents on the congestion A40 road and the notorious problem of traffic congestion in Oxford itself.” Remarkably prescient, one could almost think she was writing about driving through Oxford circa 2006. On 25th February 1962 Beryl Shill wrote: “the railways of Britain should not be primarily profit-making but subsidised in order that a real reduction in fares should be made possible to attract passengers and freight.”
An editorial in the Echo, dated 5th September, 1962 was strongly worded and with more cynicism than is usual nowadays in that newspaper. The author noted: “The whole sham process of consulting the public and considering its interests has been gone through and the result is what everybody knew it would be.” They then bewailed: “Little has ever been done to encourage the public to travel by way of Kingham…Some attempt could have been made to popularise the line.”
It’s the End My Beautiful Friend
The Echo of the 13th October devoted a good deal of its front page to the closure of the line and the last journey on it. It carried a photo of the arrival of the last train into Cheltenham at St James’ station. A wreath had been put on the front of the train by “the village’s oldest resident, 84 year old Mr Jack Lawrence”. The accompanying article goes into some detail about the events held to mark this day which included “bands, skiffle groups and hordes of schoolboy admirers”. The report goes on to say that about 150 people “were crammed on the tiny platform” at Bourton as the train arrived. “The wreath was placed amid fireworks and presentations to the driver. The station had been decorated with lights borrowed from over the village.” Then “little John Rowlands” presented a large bouquet to the driver, although there was no time for a similar planned presentation to the guard.
Swedish Engineer “Tired and Emotional”
The evening (the train pulled into Cheltenham at 10.40pm)’s most bizarre side-effect was the rapid journey across Europe taken by a 28 year old Swedish engineer, in order to get to Cheltenham in time for the last journey (he had planned to be on the last train out of Cheltenham, before it came back triumphantly to close the line). After a full day’s work on Friday he had made his way across land and air, and was driven the final leg by his brother in law, who lived in Charlton Kings. Unfortunately the massive journey had taken its toll and he had to be “taken from the train and put to bed” when the train had only reached Charlton Kings from Cheltenham. He was a bit disappointed, but at least he had got a seat on a train from Cheltenham to Bourton, which is more than any of us can say now.
UPDATE: December 2013: I’ve liked the re-open the Cheltenham to Kingham railway group on Facebook. This idea, it seems, is being taken seriously in some quarters.