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UP THE LINE FROM KEMBLE

 
 
     
  INTRODUCTION  
 
     
  Since it was singled as an economy measure by British Rail in 1968, the section of former Great Western Railway line between Kemble in Gloucestershire and Swindon in Wiltshire has been a bottleneck to both freight and passenger services between London, the Thames Valley and Gloucester and Cheltenham.

However, partly thanks campaigners on the Gloucestershire Transport Bulletin Board, it seems that the Kemble-Swindon line may be redoubled within the next five years. Meanwhile, during the summer of 2007, I took the opportunity to photograph the section between Kemble and the former station at Minety and Ashton Keynes in the condition that it has been for almost four decades. Click on any picture in this article for more on the camapign to redouble the Kemble-Swindon line.

The schematic map of the area is based on Ordnance Survey Landranger sheet 163 where Kemble Station is located at reference 985975. Some roads and other physical features have been omitted for clarity.

 
 
   
 

Schematic map of the ex GWR line from Kemble to Minety

 
 
   
  KEMBLE STATION  
 
   
 

View north toward Stroud and Gloucester from the eastern - Up - platform of Kemble station. Behind the water tower are the remains of the start of the branch line to Tetbury.

 
 
   
  View north toward Stroud and Gloucester from the eastern - Up - platform of Kemble station. Behind the water tower are the remains of the start of the branch line to Tetbury.  
 
   
 

View south toward Minety and Swindon from the eastern - Up - platform of Kemble station. The points at the end of this platform lead to the stump of the former GWR branch line to Cirencester Town and Kemble Tunnel - carrying the A429 trunk road - is visible beyond the bridge carrying the minor road to Tarlton.

 
 
   
  View south toward Minety and Swindon from the eastern - Up - platform of Kemble station. The points at the end of this platform lead to the stump of the former GWR branch line to Cirencester Town and Kemble Tunnel - carrying the A429 trunk road - is visible beyond the bridge carrying the minor road to Tarlton. Despite losing its status as the junction of two branch lines in the 1960s, Kemble is still well used by London bound commuters and the flower beds are maintained by volunteers.  
 
   
 

An overall view of Kemble Station looking north from the bridge carrying the minor road to Tarlton. The different lengths of Up and Down platforms and the stump of the former Cirencester Branch are both apparent.

 
 
   
  An overall view of Kemble Station looking north from the bridge carrying the minor road to Tarlton. The stump of the former Cirencester Branch and the different lengths of Up and Down platforms are both apparent. One practical difficulty of the short Up platform is that First Class passengers have to walk through the buffet car of First Great Western HSTs to reach their seats when boarding at Kemble.  
 
   
 

The views above and below were taken from the same bridge but facing south toward the physical single junction just north of Kemble Tunnel.

 
 
   
  The views above and below were taken from the same bridge but facing south toward the physical single junction just north of Kemble Tunnel.  
 
   
 

The only reason why Kemble Tunnel exists is that when the antecedent of the Great Western Railway (GWR) - the Broad Gauge Cheltenham & Great Western Union Railway - was being surveyed in 1836 the owner of Kemble Estate - Robert Gordon - only allowed the project to proceed on the payment of  250 an acre for the land involved and if a 400 yard section was covered in so that trains would not be visible from his home, Kemble House. In addition to this hard financial bargain, Squire Gordon insisted that he be allowed to embark on or disembark from any train travelling theough Kemble. The Cheltenham & Great Western Union Railway - later absorbed by the Great Western proper - agreed to this as long as adequate notice was given and that tickets were purchased in Cirencester.

 
 
   
  The only reason why Kemble Tunnel exists is that when the antecedent of the Great Western Railway (GWR) - the Broad Gauge Cheltenham & Great Western Union Railway - was being surveyed in 1836 the owner of Kemble Estate - Robert Gordon - only allowed the project to proceed on the payment of 250 an acre for the land involved and if a 400 yard section was covered in so that trains would not be visible from his home, Kemble House. In addition to this hard financial bargain, Squire Gordon insisted that he be allowed to embark on or disembark from any train travelling theough Kemble. The Cheltenham & Great Western Union Railway - later absorbed by the Great Western proper - agreed to this as long as adequate notice was given and that tickets were purchased in Cirencester.

Robert Gordon further complained to the GWR about the noise from the engines and the fact that they were being cleaned and repaired in an engine shed constructed on his land without permission. However, it was only after a public petition that the current Cotswold stone Kemble Station was built in 1882 to replace a basic single platform.

Prior to this, Kemble and Tetbury were served by Tetbury Road station which was just down the main line towards Cheltenham from Kemble and on the Cirencester to Tetbury road. This became a goods station from1882, being also close to a wharf on the Thames & Severn Canal.

 
 
     
  KEMBLE TUNNEL TO KEMBLE WICK  
 
   
 

At the time of my visit, the eastern side of the cutting between Kemble Tunnel and Kemble Wick Bridge was being rebuilt after the landslip that derailed a Class 158 diesel hydraulic multiple unit early in 2007.

 
 
   
  At the time of my visit, the eastern side of the cutting between Kemble Tunnel and Kemble Wick Bridge was being rebuilt after the landslip that derailed a Class 158 diesel hydraulic multiple unit early in 2007.  
 
   
 

A sideways look at the northern face of Kemble Wick Bridge, comprising both blue and red bricks.

 
 
   
  A sideways look at the northern face of Kemble Wick Bridge, comprising both blue and red bricks.  
 
   
 

The view south toward Swindon across the road carried by Kemble Wick Bridge.

 
 
   
  The view south toward Swindon across the road carried by Kemble Wick Bridge.  
 
   
 

A view of the track south from the Kemble Wick Bridge parapet, showing drainage pipework and the yellow post marking 90 miles from Paddington.

 
 
     
  A view of the track south from the Kemble Wick Bridge parapet, showing drainage pipework and the yellow post marking 90 miles from Paddington.  
 
     
  POOLE KEYNES UNDER LINE BRIDGE  
 
     
 

The western face of the arched Poole Keynes Bridge, offering a maximum road vehicle clearance of 11' 6" and with a 4' high flood gauge

 
 
     
  The western face of the arched Poole Keynes Bridge, offering a maximum road vehicle clearance of 11' 6" and with a 4' high flood gauge  
 
     
 

According to the notice, Railtrack should be advised of any vehicle strikes on "Pool Keynes" bridge which is positioned at 89 miles 30 chains ( a unit of 22 yards ) SWM

 
 
     
  According to the notice, Railtrack should be advised of any vehicle strikes on "Pool Keynes" bridge which is positioned at 89 miles 30 chains ( a unit of 22 yards ) SWM  
 
     
 

The eastern face of Poole Keynes under line bridge

 
 
     
  The eastern face of Poole Keynes under line bridge  
 
     
  OAKSEY OVER LINE BRIDGE  
 
     
 

The view north toward Kemble from the hump backed bridge over the line near Oaksey

 
 
     
  The view north toward Kemble from the hump backed bridge over the line near Oaksey  
 
     
 

The view south toward Swindon from the hump backed bridge over the line near Oaksey - and carrying the minor ( yet busy) road to the Cotswold Park -also featured the line of pylons carring the National Grid from Cirencester to Swindon.

 
 
     
  The view south toward Swindon from the hump backed bridge over the line near Oaksey - and carrying the minor ( yet busy) road to the Cotswold Park -also featured the line of pylons carring the National Grid from Cirencester to Swindon.  
 
     
  MINETY LEVEL CROSSING  
 
     
 

The crossing keepers hut at Minety is a modern prefabricated structure but has many homely embellishments. However, the crossing itself may well be shut when the line is redoubled.

 
 
     
  The crossing keepers hut at Minety is a modern prefabricated structure but has many homely embellishments. However, the crossing itself may well be shut when the line is redoubled.  
 
     
 

A Swindon bound self-propelled track machine approaches Minety Crossing from Kemble

 
 
     
  A Swindon bound self-propelled track machine approaches Minety Crossing from Kemble  
 
     
 

A High Speed Train in the latest First Great Western livery bound from Swindon to Kemble approaches Minety Crossing, which retains farm style gates rather than lifting barriers.

 
 
     
  A High Speed Train in the latest First Great Western livery bound from Swindon to Kemble approaches Minety Crossing, which retains farm style gates rather than lifting barriers.  
 
     
 

Due to modern Health and Safety regulations, the occupier of the former crossing keeper's cottage needs permission to work on the outside of the house as it is so close to the railway. This structure also looks set to disappear if the line is redoubled.

 
 
     
  Due to modern Health and Safety regulations, the occupier of the former crossing keeper's cottage needs permission to work on the outside of the house as it is so close to the railway. This structure also looks set to disappear if the line is redoubled.  
 
     
  ASKEW UNDER LINE BRIDGE, MINETY  
 
     
 

Like the over line bridge at Kemble Wick, Askew Bridge has a deck more modern than the rest of the structure. This is its western face.

 

  Like the over line bridge at Kemble Wick, Askew Bridge has a deck more modern than the rest of the structure. This is its western face.  
 
     
  Askew Bridge is only 86 miles and 18 chains away from the Lawn at London Paddington.  
 
     
  Askew Bridge is only 86 miles and 18 chains away from the Lawn at London Paddington.  
 
     
  The eastern face of Askew Bridge. Unlike Poole Keynes, this under line bridge has a more generous 15' of vehicular clearance.  
 
     
  The eastern face of Askew Bridge. Unlike Poole Keynes, this under line bridge has a more generous 15' of vehicular clearance.  
 
   
  Askew bridge has also lent its name to a neighbouring residence  
 
     
  Askew bridge has also lent its name to a neighbouring residence