The Other Carterton Railway Station

Philip Sharp


Introduction

If you open up Google maps and type Carterton in the search window, you will get two towns. Carterton, New Zealand, and Carterton, UK. The Carterton in the UK is 23 kilometres west of Oxford as the crow flies. It is the second to largest town in the local government district West Oxfordshire which is part of the county of Oxfordshire. The population of Carterton UK in the 2011 census was 15,769, about three times that of Carterton, NZ.

Both Cartertons have had railway stations. Carterton, NZ still has its station and it is well used. Carterton, UK was less fortunate. The station was opened 1944 and closed a mere 18 years later. This article describes the Carterton, UK station and its history.

Railway Station: general

The Carterton, UK railway station was opened October 2, 1944 to service the airforce base RAF Brize Norton that had opened May 1937. The station was on the now defunct East Gloucestershire Railway (EGR) 1.3 kilometres south of Carteton. The station was closer to the village of Black Bourton, population 266 in the 2011 census, than Carterton and there had been some thought of calling the station Black Bourton.

The EGR opened January 14, 1873. The railway ran 23.5 kilometres from Fairford station in the west to Witney passenger station (there was also a Witney goods yard) in the east. West to east was called the up line and east to west the down line.

Table 1 lists the year of opening, the distance from the previous station, and the altitude of the stations on the East Gloucestershire Line. The distances are taken mostly from the "Route" page of the EGR website referenced above. The altitudes are those of the village or town with the same name as the station.

Station Opened Distance Altitude Comments
Fairford 1873 0 89 m
 
Lechlade 1873 3 miles 418 yards 79 m
 
Kelmscott and Langford 1907 2 miles 770 yards 72m Altitude of Kelmscott
Alvescot 1873 2 miles 198 yards 74m
 
Carterton 1944 1232 yards 93 m
 
Brize Norton and Bampton 1873 1 mile 704 yards 88 m The station was originally called Bampton. The name was changed to Brize Norton and Bampton May 1, 1940. The altitude is that of RAF Brize Norton.
Witney 1861 4 miles 1232 yards 83m
 

Having seven stations on the line (from 1944) meant the average distance between stations was less than four kilometres. Alvescot was very close to Carterton, just over 1.2 kilometres away. The altitudes show the line was mostly flat.

The railway line continued on another 12 kilometres east from Witney through three stations to Witney Junction at Yarnton. The line from Witney to Yarnton was called the Witney Railway. This railway was opened November 13, 1861.

The Great Western Railway (GWR) worked the East Gloucestershire and Witney lines. The GWR absorbed the EGR July 1, 1890; the Witney Railway sold out to the GWR on the same day. From then on, the Fairford to Yarnton line was a branchline of the GWR.

Railway Station: specific

Figure 1 is a 1962 photograph of the station taken from a train, looking in the up direction which is towards Oxford.

Figure 1. 1962 photograph of the railway station in Carterton, UK. By Geoffrey Skelsey (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons


The large building on the left is the station building. This was also the shelter for the up line. The Wikipedia page on the Carterton, UK Station describes the building as 'an austere War Department-type structure resembling an RAF hut', and goes on to say 'The front of the building was sheltered by a makeshift asbestos canopy'. The end wall facing the photographer appears to be made of concrete blocks. The colour photograph here of the other end of the station building in 1979, 17 years after the station was closed, shows concrete blocks for the top of the wall and bricks for the bottom of the wall. The Google aerial image of the station shows that the station was approximately 36 metres long.

If we walk along the platform towards Oxford, we next encounter a small corrugated building set back from the platform. The building has an arched roof and what appears to be an entrance on the side facing the tracks. Continuing our walk, we next encounter a lower quadrant stop signal. After this we reach the end of the platform, walk down its sloped end and go past the signal box on wooden planks. In the distance we see an over bridge. This was on an old road between Black Bourton and Carterton.

The track nearest the platform is the mainline. The gauge is the standard four foot eight and one half inches, noticeably larger than the three foot six inch gauge used in New Zealand. There are two short pieces of curved track beyond the far end of the platform. The left curved track was intended to catch trains that went past the signal when the signal went past them. The right curve track connects the main line to the track the train in the photograph is standing on. This latter track was a loop that reconnected with the mainline behind the photographer. There was a platform and a basic, corrugated iron shelter on the south side of the loop. Passengers on the down line boarded from that platform. Passengers could cross between the two platforms using a ground-level wooden boardwalk, the profile of which is visible in the photograph at the far end of the platform.

The station had four stop signals, three on the main line and one on the loop. Trains travelling towards Oxford were controlled by a signal near the turnout for the loop and a signal, described above, at the far end of the platform. Trains travelling towards Fairford were controlled by a signal on the far side of the bridge when viewed from the station, and a signal at the end of the loop behind the photographer.

There were no goods facilitites at Carterton because Alvescot station, 1.2 kilometre away, and Brize Norton and Brampton stations, 2.3 kilometres away, had goods facilities.

Traffic

The station was well used until 1953 when RAF Brize Norton became a USAF base and the use of Carterton dropped off suddenly. By June, 1958, there was just one freight train daily using the station. The passenger service fared better. In 1960, there were five different passenger trains that stopped at Carterton on the way from Oxford (the down direction). All trains continued on to Fairford. One of these five trains did not run on Saturday and one ran on Saturday only. This meant four passenger trains a day Monday to Saturday stopped at Carterton. There was no Sunday service. There was the same number of trains running on the same days towards Oxford (the up direction). One of the trains originated in Carterton and not Fairford.

Current state

The Fairford to Yarnton branchline closed June 18, 1962 and with it all the stations on the line including Carterton. Although the station closed, the station building and signal cabin were not pulled down or destroyed by vandals. The station was taken over by local farmers and was used first as a pig sty, then to store farm machinary, and is now a stable. The signal cabin remained on the site until it was moved to the Swindon & Cricklade Railway March 1980. The plan was to restore the signal box but the box had decayed too much and parts of the box were used to repair and restore two signal boxes on the Swindon & Cricklade Railway. The bridge at the Oxford end of the station is still in use.

More photographs

Below in this section are links to photographs of the Carterton precinct, trains at the station and the road overbridge at the eastern end of the station. All the photographs but one are available on the webpage Martin Loader maintains as part of his website on the Fairford Branch Line. The remaining photograph is available on the webpage that is part of this website on the Whitney and East Gloucestershire Railways.

I have written a short description for each photograph. The information for these descriptions comes from my observations as well as the descriptions for the photographs given on the two webpages referenced in the previous paragraph. To simplify the wording of my descriptions I have assumed the tracks at Carterton station ran east west. In fact, they ran southwest northeast.

Bridge

Precinct and trains

Future

There have been calls to re-open the line from Oxford to Witney and Carterton. An article, dated January 21, 2012, in the Oxford Mail, reported

REOPENING the Rail link from Oxford to Witney and Carterton may be investigated under new county council plans.

The long-term proposal, which would cut traffic on the A40, is contained within a new council rail strategy outlining its vision for the railways over the next 22 years.

(The county referred to here is Oxfordshire.)

The article listed two other justifications for re-opening the line. The connections with RAF Brize Norton would be improved, and Witney and Carterton, the two largest towns in West Oxfordshire, would benefit from having a rail connection.

Comments on the suggestion were guarded.

The councillor behind the proposal said, "I would not expect any work on it in the very near future. Oxford Station has got to take priority, and that will no doubt take all the funding for the next 10 years."

The leader of the West Oxfordshire District Council made a similar comment and went on to say, "This was looked at in the late 1990s and a feasibility study was carried out when we were pushing for it. The result was that costs were prohibitive. They were talking in excess of £100m and there were problems highlighted at Eynsham, South Leigh and Witney, where the line had been built on." He went on to say "It is not without problems but there may be an economic business case for something in the distant future. It has got to be a positive move on the county's part."

The chair of the Cotswold Line Promotion Group said: "From time to time people have thought about the possibility of reinstatment, particularly with congestion on the A40 and the extent to which it could reduce that, but I have no idea what previous infrastructure is still available. If anybody were to do a study, we would very much support it both from a connectivity point of view, but also to take traffic off the A40 if you saw it as a Witney to Oxford shuttle."

References used

Acknowledgements

The author thanks Martin Loader who answered some questions I had about the Carterton Railway Station.

Revision history

March 4, 2017. Revised.
January 6, 2017. First version.