Swindon Station in Old Town existed for just 80 years
Many years ago, Swindon's Old Town used to have its very own railway station.
People familiar with Old Town will know the site where the station once stood is now Signal Way industrial estate, and the old track that lead to it is now a cycle path spanning Old Town.
The station existed for just 80 years to fare-paying passengers.
In the original plans to build a line from Swindon to Andover via Marlborough in the 1870s, no provision was made for a station in Old Town.
The plan was for a line to exit the Junction station from the east, travel through a 700 yard tunnel in Old Town hill, exiting on the south side before making its way to the first station stop at Chiseldon.
As the tunnel (at Queens Park) did not succeed, a line from the western side of Junction station via Rushey Platt was laid and the creation of Swindon Town station resulted.
Swindon Town station was opened in July 1881 just to the east of the Devizes Road bridge and south of Newport Street near the Old Town cattle market.
The last passenger service was in 1961
It had two signal boxes, one almost under Devizes Road bridge by The Plough public house and the other almost on top of Evelyn Street bridge in view of Marlborough Road.
As well as a turntable, the station had a goods shed and a loco shed located just to the east of where the Marriott roundabout is today, three platforms (the longest over 500 feet long), waiting rooms and a main station building, including a very fine refreshment room.
Just north of the station was positioned the Head Office of the line that by the 1890s stretched c.60 miles from Andoversford, near Cheltenham, in the north to Andover in the south.
The line, and therefore station, was particularly busy during the two wars, but for much of the time was a relatively quiet country line that was absorbed by the Great Western Railway in 1923.
After the line was absorbed, the Head Office ceased to be used and fell into disrepair.
Today, Haines Watts accountants are based there and it is interesting to note that on looking up at the ceilings, Broad Gauge railway track can be seen from wall to wall.
September 1961 saw the last passenger service, although the refreshment rooms stayed open whilst goods traffic still existed until 1964.
The station was especially busy during the annual Great Western Works Trip
The line in Old Town was eventually removed after it was used as a rail head to transport stone to help in the construction of the M4 motorway in 1970.
Swindon Town station was used by thousands of Swindon residents during the annual Great Western Works Trip fortnight break to travel to the coast and other holiday destinations.
It was also used for letting off homing pigeons from the north, including Manchester.
Bowley Brewery, located in Old Town Swindon behind Barclays Bank in the High Street and Deacons the jewellers in Wood Street, produced a timetable and it makes interesting reading, not just for the trip times, but also for the cost of alcohol in the 1890s!
Many have mentioned that the line should be reinstated from Swindon to Andover, or at least to Marlborough and Savernake, where it could join the east/west mainline.
It seems doubtful whether it ever will be, but the memory of the line lives on through the Swindon & Cricklade heritage railway in Blunsdon.
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