Underground History

Metropolitan - from Quainton Road to Verney Juctnion


Geographical map of the branch The stretch of line between Quainton Road and Verney Juction effectively formed the continuation of the line that was built between Aylesbury and Claydon between 1861 and 1868 by the Aylesbury & Buckinghamshire Railway company. Three stations were served along this stretch - Granbrough Road (originally Grandborough Road), Winslow Road and the station at Claydon, named Verney Junction after Sir Harry Verney, then the owner of the land on which it stood. Verney Junction, as its name implies also formed a junction with other mainline services. Passenger services commenced between Aylesbury and Quainton Road on 23rd Sepetember 1868 using two locomotives and three coaches loaned by the Great Western Railway, with three services in each direction daily.

Around that time, the Metropolitan Railway Company (today's Metropolitan Line) were seeking to provide services to places as far afield as Oxford and even had aspirations of providing future links between places like Machester with the continent (via a channel tunnel!). The Met. bought the lines owned by the A&BR with a view to expanding their services further west, though not much ever came of these plans. As soon as they took over, they got rid of all level crossings by building bridges over the roads and rebuilt all the stations to a higher standard. A part of this purchase also included the Brill Tramway branch from Quainton Road which they hoped to extend to Oxford.

From 1897, the Met. ran services between Verney Junction and Baker Street with regular through services running for many years. In 1933, the Metropolitan Railway Company became a part of London Transport. London Transport decided that they didn't want to run suburban services deep into the heart of Buckinghamshire, instead wanting to concentrate on services closer to London, so the decision was made to close the line west of Aylesbury. The Verney Junction branch was closed to passengers in July 1936 and was soon converted to single track for goods transport. In 1956, the line was closed and lifted.

What's there today?

Since the tracks were lifted, the land occupied by the branch has been handed back to local land owners for their use and evidence of the line's existence is slowly eroding away. 50 years after the line's removal there's still much to be seen by an informed observer if you know what to look for. On March 25th 2005 I investigated the original path taken by the track as it snaked its way through rural Buckinghamshire to find out what could be seen.

Quainton Road

Quainton Road is by far the best preserved station on the line today. This is because it is the home of the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre. Here you'll find many preserved coaches and locomotives - it's definitely worth a visit. Today, the line has been reduced to a single track and what few trains that still use the line don't stop here any more as the west of Aylesbury is now a goods only service apart from special deisel services arranged on special days by the BRC.

Quainton Road station. OS: SP738188

The Verney Junction branch from the mainline occurs just west of Quainton Road and although the track was lifted 50 years ago, the branch can clearly be observed from a bridge just down the road from Quainton Road. Looking westwards on the other side of the bridge, the line can clearly be seen as a cutting, running through farmland.

The branch line, looking east and west off the bridge. The cutting shown here is actually far more pronounced than this picture leads you to believe. OS: SP732193

The line's original course then proceeds through privately owned land. The next place where it could be observed was near the viallage Shipton Leigh, where the road once bridged the line just before coming to a T junction. Looking south (the line has by now curved almost 90 degrees from its origina direction) the curve can clearly be seen as the line of trees and bushes that follow its pathway change direction. Northwards, an impressive cutting can be seen going into the distance, punctuated by some bales of hay, being stored there by a farmer. Today, the bridge has been demolished, with the road now running over an embankment.

South then north at location OS: SP731210

From here on, the path of the line can be seen from the road by following the line of bushes and trees that have grown alongside where the trackway once ran. In some places, the track runs through cuttings whereas in other places a clear embankment can be seen. In one or two places however some imagination was required to work out where the lines once ran since all traces had since disappeared!

Granborough Road

On arriving at the original location of Granborough Road station, part of the platform structure could still be clearly seen. All station buildings had long since been demolished as had the western platform. The eastern platform however had been incorporated by a farmer as part of a silage store.

All that's left of Granborough Road station, looking north. OS: SP745241

From this location to Winslow Road station, the track bed ran through private farm land and so was inaccessible. The line's path however could clearly be observed as a line of electricity pylons exactly followed the track bed almost all the way to the location of Winslow Road station!

The pylons give away the track's path, looking north. OS: SP747241

Winslow Road

Just before the location that used to be Winslow Road station, the line runs past a huge National Grid electricity sub station. At this point it is crossed by a public footpath and at this location the tracks path can clearly be seen running along a slightly raised embankment.

Just south of Winslow Road station, looking south. OS: SP750258

Immediately north of where the last picture was taken, the entire platform length of the original location of Winslow Road station is today occupied by dog kennels. The station house is still standing and is now a private home. One hint to the location's past use is the kennel's name - "Station Kennels".

Almost all evidence of the station's existence has since been removed. A brick pig sty was built between the two platforms not long after the station was abandoned and this has since been incorporated into the kennels. Close observation revealed that one tiny fragment of the platform still exists to the left of the brick building.

There's just a couple of metres of the original platform left, running up from the pole to the brick building, looking south. OS: SP750261

Turning around and looking in the opposite direction, the line's course couldn't have been more obvious. Now a farm track, the line's straight course towards it's destination at Verney Junction could be seen running into the distance.

The line running northwards towards Verney Junction. OS: SP750261

Continuing down this pathway would have brought the walker to the next obstacle in following the original path of the branch line. The line needed to cross one final road shortly before arriving at Verney Junction. The bridge to traverse this road has however long been demolished. The crossing point can still be easily spotted on the road between Verney Junction and Winslow.

The scant remains of the bridge at location OS: SP743274

From here, the line takes a sharp turn westwards to link to a line that used to be run by the LNWR, known as the "Varsity Line", which linked Oxford with Cambridge.

The old track path, still easily identifiable, just before Verney Junction OS: SP742274

Verney Junction

Verney Junction was a melancholy location. Once a thriving, bustling station serving not only the branch that I followed that terminated there but also served the mainline LNWR track and also another branch to the north. This was originally also part of the Buckingham & Aylesbury Railway but was taken over in latter years by the LNWR as a route to Banbury.

Today however is a completely different story. Although I believe it's technically still classed as an operational line, it's obvious that no locomotive has passed through this station for years. Bushes and trees have long replaced passengers on the platforms. Worse - trees are starting to take root on the tracks themselves.

The location once had several sidings but today had a single, decaying line running through the main platform. The branch from here to Quainton Road would have run in parallel with the original twin track and would have had a platform of its own. This was entirely overgrown and unless I'd done some research before my visit, completely undetectable.

The densely wooded area to the left of the platform would have been the original Quainton Road to Verney Junction platform. OS: SP737274

Aerial view of Verney Junction

In this aerial photograph, taken on 5th January 2003, you can clearly see the path of the lifted track leading into Verney Junction from the bottom right. The track that runs from left to right on the photograph is still there but as can be seen from other photographs is now rarely, if ever used.

Verney Junction station house

The station house is still in use today as a private residence

Last Modified: March 31st 2005

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Grid Reference data for locations given in Ordinance Survey grid reference notation. You can look at online maps from these grid locations by cutting and pasting them into Streetmap. From here you can also see some detailed and informative aerial photographs of the track route.

Aerial photograph of Verney Junction, taken on 5th January 2003 by Martin Saunders.

All material on this page is © 2005 Hywel Williams unless otherwise noted.

Research material used to derive the line's history:
Buckinghamshire Railway Centre
The Wotton Tramway (Brill Branch) by Ken Jones - Locomotion Papers Number 75

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