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Upton's Railway Station

From 'The Railway Magazine'

An article dating from the 1960s, reproduced by kind permission of 'The Railway Magazine'

THE small Worcestershire town of Upton-on-Severn is located in the western part of the county, about halfway between Malvern and Tewkesbury. Situated on the west bank of Britain's longest river, Upton-on-Severn (more recently 'upon') houses a pleasant mixture of half-timbered, brick and stone buildings, and is the focal point of the local farming community who work the lush green fields and meadows of the district.

Incorporated on 25th May 1860, the Tewkesbury & Malvern Railway Company constructed a line from Malvern Hill (latterly Malvern Wells) to Tewkesbury, where it linked up with the former Birmingham & Gloucester Company's branch from Ashchurch (which had opened on 21st July 1840). Because of the alignment of the B & CR branch in Tewkesbury, it was necessary to construct a new passenger station there, situated to the north-east of the original facilities, on the new line; the old station was then used for goods and locomotive purposes only (as described in 'The Tewkesbury Quay Branch', BRJ No. 40). The line from Great Malvern to Malvern Wells was opened on 1st July 1862 and worked by the OWW, and the Tewkesbury & Malvern opened on 16th May 1864, extending the line from Malvern Wells to the replacement station at Tewkesbury, with intermediate stations at Upton and Ripple. The new branch was constructed to double track, whilst the original section between Ashchurch and Tewkesbury was doubled at the same time; there were no significant gradients.

The only engineering features of any note on the 131/2-mile branch between Ashchurch and Malvern were two girder bridges and a tunnel. The first of the bridges was that over the River Avon at Tewkesbury (62 yards), whilst the second crossed the Severn at a point about a mile to the south-east of Upton. The five-span Severn bridge was 145 yards in length, and incorporated a sliding section over the deep-water channel to permit the passage of tall-masted sailing ships that plied the river at that time; this was worked from the river bank by a chain-driven mechanism, and gradually fell into disuse during the 1930s. The tunnel was situated at Mythe, a short distance to the north-west of Tewkesbury, and was 420 yards long. During the declining years of the branch, a further bridge was added where the line crossed the MSO Ross Spur motorway.

Although the company remained independent until 1st July 1877 (on which date it was acquired by the Midland Railway, by an Act of 11th, August 1876), the T & M was worked by the Midland from the outset. The route gave the latter company direct access to the popular spa town of Malvern, by way of Ashchurch.

The station at Upton (Upton-on-Severn from 1889) was situated on the southern outskirts of the town. Having crossed the Severn on its way from Ripple, the line swung to the right as it approached the town, then curved gently to the left on an embankment as it neared the station.

Upton was provided with fairly substantial station buildings, pleasantly constructed in a warmish shade of red brick, with slate roofing. The main structure, situated on the northerly (down) plat- form, was a superb example of Victorian architecture, displaying a considerable array of decorative devices; these included ornate chimney stacks, string courses and diamond inset patterns carried out in contrasting yellow brick, and herringbone-style barge boards on the gable ends. A two story station master's house was provided at the Malvern end of the building, with the adjoining, central part of the structure accommodating the booking office and hall; the easterly portion housed the station master's office, waiting rooms, and lavatories. A fine wrought iron canopy graced the central section on the platform elevation.

Next to the main building, at the Tewkesbury end, stood a small, hip-roofed boxlike structure with a tall, ornate chimney stack similar in style to those of the adjacent edifice. This building contained the porters' room.

At the southeastern end of the 250ft platform was the station signal box, latterly a standard LMS-pattern, gable-ended structure with a 20(?)-lever frwne; this replaced a standard Midland box in May 1946. Amongst the signals to be found at Upton was a curious Midland example at the Malvern end of the station - a single post with two arms, one above the other, each controlling a different direction of travel.

On the up platform stood a waiting room of more modest dimensions, although again reflecting some of the features to be found on the main building. This structure, which possessed a pair of decorative gable ends centrally in the platform elevation roof, also incorporated a gentlemen's lavatory.

Goods facilities consisted of a sturdy, red brick goods shed with through siding, backing onto the northerly platform; this structure could accommodate three wagons. The north-westerly extension of the goods shed road also served a trackside timber-built goods storage shed, added by the LMS, which had disappeared by the late '50s (possibly as a result of a fire?). There were two sidings to the north of the shed road, each with a capacity of about twelve wagons. The southerly of the pair catered for a loading bank, cattle pen and carriage landing, whilst the other was served by a 5-ton hand crane. There was also a weighbridge and office, the latter reflecting the style of the other buildings, again with the decorative use of yellow brick.

Having left the station, the line continued on a shallow embankment carrying it round a left-hand curve, hugging the southern outskirts of the town, with the parish church spire dominating the skyline to its right. It then crossed the Malvern road (latterly the A4104) by means of a plate girder bridge, and took up a course for Malvern Wells, the hills beyond which were now clearly visible.

The market town of Tewkesbury (some 51/2 miles to the south-east of Upton) was the commercial centre for the district, possessing not only convenient rail communication with Gloucester, but also a substantial river trade along the Severn from and to that city. The working of the Ashchurch and Malvern branch largely reflected this situation, with the majority of traffic passing over the eastern section of the line between Ashchurch and Tewkesbury, whilst that portion of the branch between Tewkesbury and Malvern was relatively quiet by comparison, with just five or six passenger, mixed or freight trains in each direction each day. This remained largely the case until the Great War.

The passenger services were generally worked by the numerous Johnson 0-4-4Ts in this period, with Johnson and Kirtley 0-6-Os handling the goods trains. In addition, excursion traffic operated over the line, and such trains were usually hauled by Johnson and Kirtley 2-4-0s. Coaching stock on the branch services comprised standard heel and bogie sub-clerestory vehicles trains.

In addition to the Malvern traffic at this time, there were another nine passenger, two freight and a number of light engine movements in each direction between Tewkesbury and Ashchurch only, highlighting the importance of the eastern part of the branch.

After the war, there were four passenger services each way between Ashchurch and Malvern, plus the goods services. Johnson 0-6-0 'Class 2' engines were now to be seen on both passenger and freight trains through Upton, in company with the inevitable 0-4-4 tanks and other 0-6-0s in the class '2' and '3' categories; of the Johnson 0-6-0s, No. 3078 was a regular engine on the line during the 'thirties. It is not known if there was any motor working on the line, though auto-fitted engines certainly appeared on the route.

The branch trains now generally comprised two bogie suburban coaches of MR (and later, LMS) origin, although in the 'thirties, a single brake third sufficed for some services (an ex-MR areroof or clerestory vehicle), strengthened to two on market days or in periods of peak traffic; the spare coach was stabled at Ashchurch.

During various periods between c. 1910 and 1937, the up line between Tewkesbury and Upton was taken out of use, and utilised for storage purposes; otherwise the line was available for double track operation. After 1937, the section was operated as single line until closure, though the two outermost portions of the route remained as double.

By the latter part of the 1930s, the passenger service had increased to five in each direction, with an extra late evening train on Thursdays and Saturdays. Freight traffic on the line included perishables, livestock, general merchandise, and the staple of many branch lines, domestic coal.

Excursion traffic had been reintroduced after the Great War, with summer visits to such venues as Upton (for the delights of the Sevem), and to Malvern, for the races.

With the arrival of the 'National Emergency' in the autumn of 1939, services were reduced to three westbound and four eastbound passenger trains.

During the 1940s, Fowler and Stanier 2-6-2 tanks appeared on passenger turns through Upton alongside the familiar classes (which included Johnson 0-6-0 No. 3062), though only until the early 'fifties. At that time, Johnson 0-4-4Ts were used on the passenger trains, with Decley 0-6-0s on both passenger and freight. By the latter part of the decade, the 0-4-4Ts had gone, save for a short spell when Stanier '2P' No. 41900 worked on the branch. Towards the end, ex-GW pannier tanks, Ivatt class '2' 2-6-Os and Fowler '3F' 0-6-OTs also operated the services.

At the age of 21 (the minimum for a signalman) and having passed the relevant examinations at Derby, Ted Higgins was posted to Upton-on-Seven during August 1929. This was his first post, a Class 6 box with single line between Tewkesbury and Upton (staff and ticket), and double onwards to Malvern.

As a porter/signalman, his pay was £2 8s 0d per week; this was a signalman's rate, gained because he worked for more than four hours in the box each day on the opposite shift to signalman Jim Bullock. When not on duty in the box, he remembers spending much of his time checking wagons, fulfilling his dual role.

The station staff at Upton during this time included Mr. Johnson (the station master), Jack Rowe (clerk), Jack Griffin (PW ganger) and Frank Bourton (second man), Sam Crump (lorry driver), with George Finch and Alf Woodward (junior porters).

Ted recalls:
"Upton was a very busy station in those days, both with incoming and outgoing traffic. Sam Crump used to deliver goods received to the shops in Upton, and cattle food to the farms in the surrounding district. On his way back from the farms, he would often pick up a load of hay (in bales) which would be loaded into open wagons, double-shected and double-roped, and dispatched to the railway's provender stores at Oakharn (Rutland). We also had a store for cement bags, which would arrive in vans, 10 tons at a time. The only merchant with premises in the yard that I remember was Mr. Biddle, the coal and hay merchant.

"During the season, a fisherman's special used to run from Saltley (Birmingham) to Upton on Sundays.

"Fruit and vegetables were dispatched throughout the year, whilst in the summer months we used to send out racing pigeons; we would also receive pigeons for liberation. "Despite the hard work, it was a very satisfying."

Passenger services in 1946 are shown as four in each direction, with a late evening train from Malvern to Ashchurch on Thursdays and Saturdays only. The light engine to work the trains arrived at Malvern (Great) from Malvern junction at 7.31 a.m., and returned after the last train at 8.35 p.m. (ThSX). The branch train was usually an ex-LMS bogie suburban coach.

After the Second World War, traffic on the Upton to Malvern section declined to such an extent that closure became inevitable. This duly occurred on 1st December 1952, when the 6-mile sector to Malvern junction was closed to all traffic, at which time Upton became the terminus for services from Ashchurch.

Running around the train at Upton was a little unconventional, due to the lack of a second crossover between the original pair of running lines. After the passengers had alighted, the engine would propel its coach back along the running line to a position between the single slip and the goods yard entry point, and uncouple. It would then run round by means of the single slip onto the old up line, across to the goods loop, and back onto the running line at the Tewkesbury end of its coach via the double slip and goods yard entry point. Given the limited nature of traffic at that time, it was obviously not considered worthwhile to install extra pointwork to simplify the procedure. However, in July 1958, with the rationalisation of signalling and the removal of the former up line from Tewkesbury, the situation was resolved. A turnout was provided at the Malvern end of the station, and the single slip was replaced by another turnout to form a crossover, thus providing a conventional run-round.

The station had been fully signalled up to July 1958, when the equipment was removed, followed by the box itself.

Closure of Upton-on-Severn came in two stages. All passenger services between Ashchurch and Upton were withdrawn in August 1961, and freight between Tewkesbury and Upton in July 1963; the section between Ashchurch and Tewkesbury survived for goods traffic until November 1964.

The distinctive station at Upton-on-Severn was demolished during the late 1sixties, and nothing now remains of the once busy site. However, one station building on the route survives as a private dwelling at Ripple, illustrating the architectural style that existed at Upton.


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