A trip from Cheltenham to Cirencester in 1956

Photographs by H C Casserley, courtesy of his son R M Casserley. Text courtesy of Richard James.

On Tuesday 1st May 1956 H C Casserley travelled from Cheltenham Spa to Cirencester Watermoor on the 10.00 departure for Southampton Terminus. 7810 Draycott Manor and a four coach formation awaits departure from Lansdown's Platform 1 with the 10.00 to Southampton Terminus. The loco was booked to run light from Malvern Road shed at 09.10 to collect the empty stock which had been stabled in the carriage sidings just north of Lansdown Station.

Departing Leckhampton, due away at 10.05.

Departing Charlton Kings at 10.10.

Between Charlton Kings and Andoversford. The Manor faces a 3 1/2 mile climb of about 1 in 70 on this stretch. Probably not much worry of exceeding the maximum speed of 40 mph between Cheltenham and Andoversford.

Andoversford - booked departure time 10.22. The station was also on the route of Bristol Tramway and Carriage bus service between Cheltenham and Oxford, where it connected with services from/to Paddington. Five round trips operated on weekdays. Some thirty minutes after the last train departure of the day (21.05 Kingham to Cheltenham) the last bus from Oxford would roll up at the station at 22.10 before continuing onto Cheltenham.

Withington Station crossing the 07.50 Andover Junction to Cheltenham Lansdown, headed by 31804. According to the timetable covering May 1956, these two services were due to meet somewhere between Andoversford and Withington - on the single line section! The 10.00 ex Cheltenham is shown departing Andoversford at 10.22, and the 07.50 ex Andover Junction departing Withington at 10.20.
Withington became an unstaffed halt soon after this photo was taken - on 28th May. With the signal box closing as well on the same date trains would no longer be able to cross at Withington, with the single line section extending from Andoversford to Foss Cross.

7810 departs Withington, swinging over from the loop to the main running line. The down starter signal, along with the up home (seen just ahead of the Manor) are of a style similar to those found on the LSWR.

Departing a deserted Chedworth at 10.42 on what looks like now a damp May day. Unstaffed since 1st February 1954 it is shown as Chedworth Halt in the timetable. It then came under the control of the Foss Cross Station Master, Mr Robert Keenan, who lived at the Station House in Chedworth.

Looking towards Withington from the rear of the departing 10.00 Cheltenham to Southampton service. Departure from Chedworth was shown as 10.42. The village school sits on the hill above the station.

Foss Cross station building and store room, situated on the up side. Probably the entrance to the 'gents' on the right. Suprisingly for such a bleak location it never had a canopy, whereas Chedworth up the line did.

Foss Cross signal box. Up until 1958 the box was open on weekdays between 04.30 and midnight. These extended hours were to allow passage of the 04.10 Cheltenham High Street to Southampton Terminus goods and the 19.04 Southampton Docks to Cheltenham High Street goods, due to pass Foss Cross at about 23.45. This latter service was due to arrive Cheltenham High Street at 01.02. Midlands traffic would then connect into the overnight departures. One such connection was very tight - 01.25 departure to Birmingham Lawley Street. These tight margins no doubt focused the attention on ensuring the 19.04 ran to time. The signalman at Foss Cross also no doubt hoped it ran to time, or early, so he could get home, especially on a winters night with the rain peppering the windows!
Fifty years on and the 24 wagon container train leaves Southampton Docks (Maritime Terminal) at 22.53 Monday - Friday and runs to Birmingham Lawley Street! It runs via Reading and Banbury so the closest it ever gets to the MSW is probably Didcot!

Departing Foss Cross at 10.46 if running to time.

Pigeon baskets and various other parcels have been off loaded from the guards van at the rear of the 10.00 from Cheltenham to await movement over the barrow crossing to the parcels office. The loco entering the up platform is probably at the head of the 09.40 Swindon to Cheltenham goods, which was booked to cross the 10.00 from Cheltenham having covered 21 miles. It would reach Southampton Terminus at 14.08, over four hours to cover 96 miles. The loco and stock would then form the 16.36 Southampton Terminus to Cheltenham Lansdown arriving at 20.06, a faster transit than the southbound journey by over half an hour, achieved by omitting calls at South Cerney, Foss Cross, Withington, Charlton Kings and Leckhampton.

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