Personal memories from those who used and remember the LVR
Ken, I used to catch the train from Welford to Stockcross , along with my elder brother and sister, to go to the old Stockcross School. I only have vague memories, one of which was the long walk from Stockcross Station up a lane to the main road which ran through the village – it certainly seemed a long way in the rain! We used to call the man at Welford Station ‘Fuzzy’, but I have no idea why – maybe his hair? I have an intense love of steam trains, presumably fostered by my early days! Regards Nicola Dewfall ( nee Brown)
Ken, Fascinating site. I don't actually have any specific memories that will further your knowledge of the line but I did live in Clifton road from 1956 (born) to the late 70's and remember the line with great affection and nostalgia. I recall the 'railway style' fence and access gate at the top of the road and the layout of various derelict parcels of land relating to the railway at Speen, Western End and at the top of Clifton Road. Probably the strongest memories are those relating to the girder bridges over the Kennett and Avon canal and the river just beyond. As a child but more so as a teenager, I spent a lot of time walking along the line and just enjoying the link into the countryside. Trains were infrequent. I also remember the sad time when the line and bridges were finally removed. The area would then change forever. I'm sure this information is of no use whatsoever - nostalgia isn't what it used to be. Thanks for the site. Regards Graham Gore
Graham ......I did reply to your e-mail but it was returned by Yahoo as undeliverable. Thank you for your interest in the web site...Ken
My Mum and Dad, Freda (nee, Benson) and Jack Pearce, were married in March 1951 at Eastbury Church and had their reception at East Garston Village Hall.
They had planned to catch the train at Eastbury, but the mornings snowstorm, together with the already muddy lane leading to Eastbury Halt, was not very inviting. Frank Marshall (Best Man) decided instead , to take them down the line one stop, to East Garston and catch the train there . When the train arrived, Mum realised that she only had picked up half of the luggage, for their honeymoon trip to London. Dad (Jack Pearce) had a word with the engine driver, who kindly held the train, whilst they went back to Eastbury Village Hall, (to the surprise of the guests) ,to collect the keys to Sunny Side Cottage in Eastbury (home of the Bensons) where they collected the missing luggage, and hastily travelled back to the station to the waiting train to commence the first leg of the journey to Newbury station. Incidentally on return from honeymoon, Mum and Dad started their married life , renting a cottage from Mr Bodman the coal merchants that kept the coal yard at Welford station.
My main memory of the railway is waiting at East Garston station and, on cold mornings, being allowed to wait in the Station Master's hut. His name was Tom Liddiard and he always had a red hot glowing coke fire for us to warm our toes and hands. On the return journey, there was always a welcoming fire in the station waiting room at Newbury. How things have changed.
Daphne Gale Dartmouth
I have just come across your wonderful site on the Internet. I was born in Marsh Benham in 1948 and moved to Stockcross in 1955. I well remember the long walk down 'Featherbed Alley' which was (is) a long muddy slopping lane leading down to Snakey Lane, it runs with water in the winter so wellies were the footwear at that time of the year. The only link my mother and I ever took was the Stockcross (or Stocky as lots of us called it) link to Boxford where my Aunt Babs lived. She was Elsie Huntley and along with her husband Leon, they ran Westbrook Stores, a general shop. It was a long walk for my little legs from our house Bayford Lodge to the station and also from Boxford station to Westbrook Stores, right as the further end of the village. It was slightly better when they moved from there to a newly purpose built bungalow and stores in the centre of the village a little later, and in fact the line ran behind there garden then. My name in those early days was Thelma Wood, and my parents Frank and Ellen Wood worked for The Hon and Mr Peter Weatherby as cook and gardener at Bayford House which is now the old peoples home in Stockcross. I remember it as being a very beautiful line. I have always, even as a child loved nature and the trees, wildflowers etc were stunning. I can also say with personal experience, the old station hut was ideal as a courting place in later years! In the summer from my bedroom window at Bayford Lodge, you could see the line of smoke from the old steam train and we would say "there goes the Lambourne Dilly" which is what a lot of us called the train. Not much information for you, but it has brought back some good memories for me.
My husband is a keen steam train person, and has often at steam events tried to find out if there is a video of any of the LVR line. Do you know of anything? I should love to find even the smallest amount of old footage for him (as I'm sure you would as well).
Kind regards Thelma Atkins
I lived in Newbury and the surrounding area as a child. In the late 1950's, early 1960's and I remember the Lambourn Line well.
Around 1962, I had a friend who was interested in this girl who lived next to the swimming pool at Northcroft. It was just an open-air pool in those days, not the big "Sports Centre" it is today. We would cycle over there and then go for long cycle rides in the general area. These usually involved thelong climb up to Donnington and Snelsmore Common, where I would discreetlymake myself scarce for a few hours.
You do not mention Snelsmore Common but I have distinct recollections of finding abandoned Army hut shells, assorted Ammo boxes (My father had a collection of those I salvaged for storing his pipe fittings) and various railway artifacts. I remember playing with a ground frame and on one occasion, finding a string of two axle wagons rusting covered in brambles. There were definitely several sidings in that area. We always intended returning in the wintertime to investigate those wagons, in case they still contained live ammo. We never did, and I seem to remember around 1966, the Common was burnt back by a large fire. There is probably an NWN article from that date covering the incident.
In the 1970's I moved into my brother's house on Northcroft to look after my niece. We would walk the dog along Old Speen Lane to the railway line and then follow the tracks northwest, under the two bridge tunnels probably as far as the Donnington Halt. I remember the line was nearly always occupied by loose stock (this forced us to walk on the side of the track rather than on top of the rails) with the WD arrow symbol on the sides.
Someone who worked at Thatcham Depot told me that this stock contained mainly live ammo that Thatcham did not want in its sidings because that area was being rapidly developed. I was attending college in Reading at that time and could observe the Thatcham sidings and run around being torn up as the Depotshrunk in Real Estate. I don't know if that was just a tale designed to impress me but it seems incredible in these times to think of live munitions being dumped in an urban area with no security.
One last recollection: if you stood on the bridge next to St John's school, you could look down on the ramp (In this case, that is the correct word) where the Lambourn line joined the Westbury Line. One of my treats when walking between two Aunts' houses on a Thursday afternoon (We always came to town on "pig and paper" day) was to be able to stand and watch the traffic at that junction. If my lucky day, there would be an engine waiting at the STOP board on the Lambourn Line. I cannot recall a peg at that spot. Maybe it was under the next bridge (the "Black boy's" Bridge) and I could not see it from my elevated position, but I do recall the wording on the board to this day: "All descending Engines MUST STOP DEAD here!" then in much smaller letters "before proceeding. By order of the General Manager".
I can only assume that at some time, there had been a runaway at this spot that fouled the Westbury line and attracted the attention of the General Manager. It must have been quite a task to hold loose-coupled stock on that grade with just the steam brake on the loco and stop just at the board, where presumably the Newbury West signaler could see you. That sign lasted well into the 1970s and was a popular target for several generations of young boys with air rifles. I wonder if it was rescued by some enthusiast or at least, if someone has a photograph of it? I've never seen another notice like that.
Paul M Smith
My name is Ken Wise, I lived in East Garston until I joined the army in 1948. The station master in those days was Thomas Liddiard. He worked during the days but in the evenings a good friend of mine use to man the station until the last train had returned to Newbury. His name was Ken Fisher, he also manned the Bockhampton crossing.
I spent many hours in the East Garston station with Ken, I helped him open the crossing gates and waved the green light toward Lambourn to let the train driver know the gates were open. I lived in one of the six council houses in the village which backed onto the railway line.
I grew up in a house in Speen 400 yards short of the Speen Station with my two sisters. The back garden overlooked the Lambourn Branch Line.
Do you have memories of The Lambourn Valley Railway in its heyday? If so, then please share them with us.