Saturday, 13 June 2015

Abingdon 1985

(All 30.5.1985 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

On a sunny evening in 1985 I visited Abingon for the first and only time, and found the branch still in situ. Unfortunately the late evening light made photography quite challenging but I did get these six shots.

The line closed to passengers in 1963 robbing this busy town of a modern transport link, but the line stayed open to freight until the 1980s. I'm sure it was closed completely in 1985 when I took these photos, but I may well be wrong! I haven't yet found a date for complete closure.

As always you have to wonder why a town of this size lost its trains. Commuters would no doubt be very grateful for a rail service to London and beyond now. Perhaps many of these shorter branch lines will reopen as narrow gauge electrified routes in the future, though I'm sure many would work just as well as standard gauge lines, providing an essential link once roads are no longer an option.

More information (from Wikipedia)


The station was built by the Abingdon Railway, although this was operated by the Great Western Railway (GWR) from opening on 2 June 1856. The station and yard were built to the broad gauge on land acquired from the Mayor and Aldermen of the Borough of Abingdon on 19 March 1856 at a cost of £472. Seven properties were demolished to make way for the station and yard, including the Plough Inn which was subsequently rebuilt at a different location. The approach to the station from Stert Street had gates and no public right of way was allowed. Station facilities consisted of a single platform covered by a timber train shed.[1] A locomotive shed was built on land which was never formally conveyed to the railway, but later acquired by adverse possession.
The Abingdon Railway was absorbed by the GWR on 15 August 1904. The line passed on to the Western Region of British Railways on nationalisation in 1948, and was then closed to passengers by the British Railways Board in 1963. However the branch was used by freight, notably MG Cars, and the occasional passenger excursion, the last of which took place in June 1984.
The branch track was lifted in the late 1980s.


  1. In the book "The Abingdon Branch" it states full closure was in 1984. When the MG factory closed in 1980 most of the rail traffic ceased. Abingdon then was served by 1 coal train a week which, towards the end of the branch lines life, became just 1 a fortnight.

  2. I note Steve's comments about the potential as a commuter route. However the station was in the centre of the town so a non-rail journey of some kind would still be needed from most of the residential areas. From that point of view the surviving stations on the main line (Radley and Culham) are almost as easily accessible. However the potential for development of these for access to Oxford or beyond has never been exploited, I suspect the main reason being the lack of capacity on the Didcot-Oxford route for any sort of intensive local passenger service, given the freight usage.