Sunday, 28 December 2014

Claydon Junction to Bicester

To complete the survey of the line from Bletchley to Bicester, these a selection of pictures of the various road crossings.  First bridge west of Calvert is the overbridge on the Charndon to Twyford road.  This is quite a substantial three arch bridge as seen below taken from the adjacent public footpath.  This is not so apparent when travelling along the road.

 Looking back towards Calvert, the trackbed is quite clear here.  Another small yellow sign like the one after the next bridge can be seen to the right.  Both have the number 13 on them.
If you zoom in a bit you can see that the track switches sides just before the bridge.
Looking towards Bicester from the same bridge.
If you zoom in here, you can just make out the blue bridleway bridge in the distance.  There are numerous footpath, bridleway and farm crossings along the line.  These are subject to public meetings to decide their future.  The one above is fortunate enough to be on an over bridge so won't be affected. 
Next bridge is at the site of the former Marsh Gibbon and Poundon station, another that won't be re-opening.  This view looks north.  Not the usual arched bridge style.
 Looking south with the former station entrance on the left.
 Some bridge plates appear to have been recently added.  It states that this Bridge OXD 34 but I am slightly confused by the Thornhill at Bicester North.  This line passes through Bicester Town.
Next road bridge is at Bicester Road Marsh Gibbon.  Bit of a mixture of blue brick and Cotswold stone style blocks with a steel girder and concrete deck.  This looks south.

 The opposite view north.
This bridge has also had recently added bridge plates.  This one also claims to be OXD 34 but the location makes more sense.
 Next is the Launton Level Crossing.  Will this be replaced by a bridge?  Once this becomes a busy passenger line, I would imagine that Network Rail would be keen to close it.
Looking towards Bicester, this was the site of the former Launton station although there is little evidence of it now.
 Looking east towards Bletchley.
Finally this is the road overbridge at the other end of Launton Village.  This is single lane traffic light controlled.  This looks towards Bicester from the Launton side.  It has had some recent work to increase the height of the parapet walls.  There is a full pavement on one side but on the other side, the parapet leans inwards somewhat disconcertingly as I found out when I took a picture of the line.
 This looks across the Charbridge Lane level crossing.  In the distance you can just make out the edge of the Bicester chord work site.
Zooming in reveals that this is a driver operated level crossing.  At the very least this will have to be upgraded to automatic operation.
Looking the other way towards the former Launton station.
Finally zooming in here you can see the track switches to the other side of the formation.  This is better than my previous attempt to show this.  In the next post I hope to cover the Bicester to Oxford section to see how the upgrade is going. 

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Bicester update 29th November 2014

I apologize  for the lack of recent updates.  No opportunity to visit the area unfortunately.  However I was passing nearby and got a few pictures of the work at Gavray Drive.  Work seems to have stepped up a gear now with lorries entering and leaving the site at short intervals.  The new foot bridge taking the public footpath over the new chord has been installed.  The new foot bridge will be great for photographing later on.  You would wonder why these embankment works were not carried out during the summer months with the benefit of the better weather.

Here is the aforementioned foot bridge.  Same colours as the Tubbs Lane crossing but much simpler in design.
I could not gain access to the footpath that will cross the bridge when it opens.  It was flooded at the entrance and my footwear did not allow me to  get through.  Here we can see one of the lorries returning after dropping its load.
Another lorry drops its load.  It appears that the chord is a lot longer and more gradual than I first imagined.

 Moving around to the right, you can see the white geo textile matting as the chord rises tro meet the Chiltern line.
 Same area taken from a different angle.  The flooding that prevented access to the field can be seen in the foreground.  The following two pictures are grab shots so the quality is not great.
 Heading south from Bicester on the A41, the Chiltern line crosses the road on this bridge.  Very well maintained and signage in good condition.  However the same cannot be said of the former Great Central main line bridge just to the north of Aylesbury Vale Parkway station.
 It has a very neglected look to it with rusting steelwork and faded signage.  Although it has been a freight only line since the closure of the Great Central, it is surely false economy to neglect it in this way.  However it appears that work is now being carried out with scaffolding erected to the left and quite a bit of activity on the embankment.  This could be the start of preliminary works to upgrade the line to passenger carrying standard.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Bicester Update August 2014

Not a huge amount to report.  Track work appears to be finished and the level crossing upgraded to double track.  The new footbridge has been commissioned.  However the work on the chord doesn't seemed to have advanced very much since my last visit.  I wonder whether this was because there was no rail access for bringing in material.  I believe that both junctions are now in place although I can't be certain about Bicester South on the Chiltern line.
Upgraded level crossing fully operational again.  Work compound is on the left behind blue hoardings.
 Trackwork finished and stretching away towards Oxford.  There is a sleeper and stop sign on the new down line. No sign of work starting on the new station.

However zooming in reveals that the new track doesn't quite reach the bypass bridge.
 Looking across the level crossing there is a similar arrangement of sleeper and stop sign.
 Moving on to Tubbs Crossing, the new footbridge is now sporting yellow hand rails and lighting.  I counted 86 steps to cross to the other side.  The ramp crossing involves six ramps on this side and four on the other side.  Somebody was pushing a buggy up whilst I was on the bridge and it seemed to take an age.  This is a very busy crossing for schoolchildren and it is absolutely right that they are not put in danger.  However if I had to cross here several times a day, I don't I would be that happy with the effort involved!
It is very well lit which will be reassuring during the winter months.  A slight worry is the lights are fitted to plywood which is cable tied to the balustrade.  I hope they stand the test of time!
Looking east from the new bridge.  Trackwork finished for now.  Just waiting for the chord to be completed.
 Zooming in the edge of the work compound can be seen.  Double track extends under the Chiltern line bridge.   All the new points and crossovers have a small grey box connected to them.  Looks a bit like a generator but I don't think it is.
There is another one here.  Maybe a power pack to test the points?
 Now looking west from the bridge towards the London Road crossing.  Still pumping water away it seems .
Same view but through the fencing on top of the bridge
These pictures show the reason why the pump was still needed. Work to construct a culvert under the line is still ongoing.
I then moved to Gavray Drive where the main work compound is situated .  The end of the new track can be seen at the end of the road along with a stack of cable ducting.
 Moving left to right, view across the compound with the Oxford Cambridge line running along the tree line.
 Continuing right, the bridge carrying the Chiltern line can be seen in the background.
 Here you can see the new embankment work. I wouldn't have expected it to be so high considering how near to the junction with the east west line it is at this point.. It may just be building up the existing embankment and grading it later.
 Further to the right and work is being carried out alongside the Chiltern line.
 Last picture looks over to the other new junction where it looks like a supporting wall is being constructed.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Verney Junction to Claydon Junction

Apologies for the delay in posting an update.  Various things conspired against me to prevent me from finding enough time to visit the area.  However today I was able to continue the survey of the line  from where I left off at Verney Junction as far as Claydon Junction.
This is the next overbridge west of Verney Junction.  First view looks east.  No track here and nature is quickly reclaiming the recently cleared track bed.
 Looking the other way also no track but there are a few odd sleepers and a length of rail.  You can see quite clearly where the track has been removed.  Was this done by Network Rail or was it an opportunistic theft?
 It is not quite true that there is no track.  Looking over the western parapet a short section of track can be seen emerging from the bridge.
Interestingly new fencing and access gate has been recently installed.  No lock on the gate which leads to concrete steps.
 Also there have been some recent repairs to the parapet.
 The next road crossing to the west is the level crossing at the former Claydon station.  Despite the sign, there was no evidence of any lights.

Looking east, you can just make out the platform remains.  The trackbed is neatly fenced off on both sides of the road by some white palisade fencing.
Looking west across the level crossing.  It is quite overgrown on that side although the operational section of the line is not much further on from here.
 There is a signal on the east side that is gradually being swallowed up by nature.
 The line approaches from the east on an embankment as seen here with former railway workers cottages behind.  However it arrives at the crossing on the level.  Claydon station was built to serve the cluster of villages with Claydon in their name.
Next bridge west sees the end of the operational section with the run round loop for accessing the east south chord to Calvert.
 Zooming in reveals the stop boards just showing in the undergrowth.
Looking the other way, you can just make out the red signal at the end of the run round loop protecting the chord.
 Just below the bridge is another signal and associated cabinets which have suffered the attentions of graffiti "artists"
 This is the west side of the bridge.  A salt bin stands ready in case of ice on the access steps.  Hopefully won't be needed for a while!
Looking back east towards the junction from the next bridge.  This scene would have been very different in the 60s.  The former Great Central crossed the Varsity Line on a bridge that would have been situated just this side of the small yellow sign on the right.  The Varsity Line would have been double track.  This scene will change again dramatically if the proposed HS2 goes ahead as it will cross here at the same point.  However the plans suggest that the East West line will pass over HS2  By then we should also have double track again.
 Looking down from the parapet, there is some sort of board arrangement for what purpose I am not sure.
 Looking west towards Bicester from the same bridge.
 Now turning and looking north from the road bridge, the dip in the road marks the point where the Great Central crossed the road at an angle.  No trace of the bridge or the embankment as far as I could see.  Again HS2 will cross here but the road is possibly going to be closed so no bridge will be necessary if that is the case.  Whilst I was here I decided to have a look at Calvert Station as the line through there will become an important part of the East West project connecting Aylesbury with MK, Bedford and eventually Cambridge.
Looking south from the overbridge in Calvert.  This was the first station on the Great Central after the end on junction with the Metropolitan at Quainton Road or the last station on the line depending on which way round you look at it!  It was a typical island platform with staircase access from the bridge.  The bridge itself was built large enough to cope with quadrupling in the future.
Moving across the bridge to the other side of the platform there is actually a third track.  I hesitate to say passing loop because it is a very long time since passenger trains called here. The two lines merge under the bridge before splitting again on the other side.  In the distance you can see the gantry of the waste transfer site.  This is the only remaining southern section of the Great Central left although it only exists to serve waste trains.  However these have at least ensured its survival and that of  the section of the Varsity Line east of Bicester.  However the short term future is more rosy with the East West rail project.

The blot on the horizon is HS2 which is shown as sharing the railway corridor with the former Great Central from Quainton Road to Calvert with a slight deviation to the east after.  There were many "Stop HS2" posters in Calvert understandably.  It will dramatically change the area but with no benefit at all to local residents.  There is also a proposed infrastructure maintenance depot just north of  Calvert.
Looking north, the line splits again, the left is a head shunt and the right connects to the single running line to Claydon junction.

Moving directly over the running line, there is a four lever ground frame to the right of the points.

 Zooming right in to the point where the chord left the former Great Central which continued straight on. Apologies for the poor quality.  Just to satisfy my curiosity, I decided to see if there was any evidence of the Great Central after the chord.  There was a footpath through the nature reserve alongside the line so I followed this.
This was the start of the path.  Quite a peaceful scene with a lake on the left and  a wooded area on the right.
 After passing the lake, I suddenly came across this small underbridge.  This is the bridge that could be seen from a passing train on the chord.on one of the Youtube videos.
 A closer inspection reveals that it is still in pretty good condition despite being abandoned since 1966
 The trackbed is completely overgrown but I managed this shot from the side of the embankment.  I did wonder what purpose it served.  I thought possibly a cattle creep but it appeared there was no need for it when the chord was built forty odd years later. There is not an equivalent in the slightly lower embankment of the chord just a few feet further on.  I did a little bit of digging (metaphorically) and found this picture which is clearly of exactly the same design as the one above.  This one is just to the north of the East West line in the field to the west of the road with dip in it. I will endeavour to see if it is still there next time I am in the area.  It is stated to be a farm access bridge so my guess is probably not far off..  It would seem inconceivable to the man in the picture that the one above would end up like this.

This picture is on which has a lot of interesting Great Central history.  At first I thought this was the same bridge but although it is a black and white photo, I think the bricks are lighter coloured whereas the one I saw was blue brick.

This is a Bing Maps aerial picture which gives a better idea of the layout.  The course of the Great Central is still quite obvious even though on the ground it is not easy to see.  The bridge I found is located next to the hedge line where the chord starts to move away but before the curve.  This would suggest a former farm access which might have become redundant when quarrying operations started.  The bridge in the black and white picture was/is at the top left of the picture just to the right of the farm buildings.
Shortly after the bridge the path went up on to the embankment on a staircase.  This shot looks north along the track bed.  Hard to believe this was once a main line railway.

I will cover the last section from Claydon Junction to Bicester shortly.