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Page last updated at 10:36 GMT, Wednesday, 28 July 2010 11:36 UK
Wantage Road station and Oxfordshire's lost railway
Wantage Road Station
Wantage Road station was little used during its final days in 1964

Wantage Road station is long forgotten, but was once an essential part of The Great Western Railway.

The station was opened in 1846 as steam locomotives were increasing in popularity and travelling longer distances.

However, by 1964 it was no longer seen as economical and the rails were scrapped and the buildings destroyed.

Now an exhibition at the Vale & Downland Museum will endeavour to bring the station back to life.

'Holiday line'

The Great Western Railway was engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

It was the first major British railway and it linked London to the west of England and Wales.

It helped to maintain Bristol as the second major port in the country and was also nicknamed the 'Holiday Line', taking people to resorts in the South West.

In 1846 Wantage Road station was opened. This was six years after the section of the Great Western Railway main line that served it.

David Castle
David Castle worked at Wantage Road station during the last years of steam

Final years

The exhibition at the Vale & Downland Museum was made possible because of the expertise of David Castle.

Now aged 74, Mr Castle started out as a porter at Challow station before being promoted to a position at Wantage Road station where he worked on deliveries during the final years of steam.

As local businesses needed cheaper methods to deliver their goods, Wantage applied for a station in the mid-nineteenth century.

Initially Wantage was not thought large enough to warrant a station of its own.

But coal, timber and corn all required transportation, though by David Castle's time this had changed.

"I delivered the parcels and the fish in the morning, " he told BBC Oxford. "In the afternoon it was goods such as steel plate for the Wantage Engineering Company and fertiliser for the farmers.

"It was still a passenger station but the passengers were few and far between. You got your tickets at the goods shed."

'No cure'

By the 1960s British Railways were in need of modernisation, and Dr Richard Beeching recommended the closure of unprofitable railway lines.

"It was part of a pattern," said Mr Castle. "Any station that didn't pay its way, he closed it.

"Obviously Wantage Road didn't pay its way with the lack of passengers so it was closed like a lot of other local stations.

"Steventon, Wantage Road, Challow, Uffington, Shrivenham, they've all gone.

"They all went on the same day."

Mr Castle, who is a member of the Great Western Society, and is regularly involved with the acclaimed Didcot Railway Centre, does not expect a new Wantage Road station anytime soon.

"It just wouldn't be feasible. You couldn't have a train stopping there because it would hold up the timetable for other trains. They wouldn't entertain it."

But those hazy days of steam locomotives live long in the memory.

"It's something that you pick up when you're young. There's no cure for it, you can't forget steam railways. It's an incurable disease!"

The Wantage Road Station exhibition runs at the Vale & Downland Museum in Wantage from Tuesday July 27 to Saturday August 14.

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