Cheddington to Aylesbury Line

The Cheddington to Aylesbury Line was an early railway branch line, opening in 1839. It was promoted by local people who formed the Aylesbury Railway to construct it, and it made a junction with the London and Birmingham Railway at Cheddington. That company worked the branch line, and when the L&BR merged with others in 1846 to form the London and North Western Railway, the line was in effect the Aylesbury branch of the LNWR.

It was important to Aylesbury, securing it a cheaper way of bringing in essentials and sending out its agricultural produce, as well as greatly improving passenger communication. The early terminus at Aylesbury was relocated and expanded in 1889. However other railways were built serving Aylesbury, and in time these offered easier communication: the inconvenience of passenger travel involving changing trains at Cheddington made the branch line unattractive.

The passenger service was discontinued in 1953 and the line was closed completely in 1963.


Aylesbury branch
The Aylesbury Railway branch

The London and Birmingham Railway opened in stages, through Cheddington on 9 April 1838, and throughout on 17 September 1838. It formed, with the Grand Junction Railway, the backbone of early railways in Great Britain.[1][2]

As the London and Birmingham line was being built, business interests in Aylesbury were already thinking of how a railway connection might be made between their town and the new railway. In 1815 the town had ensured its connection to the canal network for the transport to market of its agricultural produce, and now wished to do the same with a railway. In these early times, goods traffic was the dominant commercial force. Serious discussions took place over the construction of a branch line and a scheme went to the 1836 session of Parliament. The Aylesbury Railway Act obtained the Royal Assent on 19 May 1836,[3][4][5] without opposition in Parliament.[6]

All seemed to be going well, until a local bank, William Medley, Son and Company, of Aylesbury, failed in January 1837.[note 1][7] The bank had been strong supporters of the line, and many local businesspeople were embarrassed, causing a local financial panic, and the loss of promised subscriptions to the railway. After urgent reflection, the Aylesbury Railway Company decided to proceed with its branch line, but any ideas it may have harboured regarding an extension on to Oxford, were now dismissed.[8]

Construction and opening

Cheddington on the Last Day geograph-2821204-by-Ben-Brooksbank
Aylesbury train at Cheddington on the Last Day

The first sod was cut in July 1838. The delay in starting was due to the banking crisis, but also to reconsideration as to the advisability of proceeding with a line to Oxford, and to the problem in negotiating a working arrangement with the London and Birmingham Railway. It was not until 14 December 1837 that the working agreement was finalised.[5] Construction was easy, as the line was almost entirely straight and level, with no road or river bridges. Space was made for double track, but only a single line was laid. The work had been estimated at £50,000 and the actual cost was £59,000. This included land acquisition and Parliamentary expenses.[9][5]

The construction was under the general direction of Robert Stephenson.[6]

Whishaw described the line further:

The rails are chiefly of the parallel form [as opposed to fish-bellied]... they are in 16 feet lengths, and fixed in chairs by means of wooden keys; the chairs are placed 4 feet from centre to centre along the line of railway; the sleepers are from 9 to 10 feet in length, and of full scantling...

The station at Aylesbury is conveniently laid out: a triple way, connected, at a convenient distance from the offices, with the main line, runs into a railway-dock 33 feet wide at its entrance, and 12 feet at its connexion with the terminal turn-table, the side space of which is 4 feet 10 inches;... the quay [loading dock] on either side is about 10 feet in width. There is a carriage-dock 10 feet 8 inches in length, and 8 feet 10 inches wide, furnished at its entrance with a proper turn-table, and abutting on the yard, conveniently situate for the arrival of common-road vehicles... The booking-office and general waiting-room are in one; there is, however, a separate room for ladies. This is, upon the whole, one of the best-arranged stations for a short line of railway that we have any where met with. There is a locomotive engine-house at each end of the line; that at Aylesbury is about 100 feet in length, and 16 feet in clear width. On the top of this building is a capacious tank for water, for the supply of the locomotives.[6]

The London and Birmingham Railway undertook to lease the line from 15 January 1840[5] for £2,500 per annum, that is to say 5% on the estimated construction cost. At the outset the L&BR had intended simply to own the track, and permit independent hauliers to operate on the line on a toll basis; however on reflection it was realised that this arrangement would hardly work for an intercity line like the L&BR, and the Company decided to operate its own trains.

The Aylesbury Railway opened on 10 June 1839.[10][5]

It was stated at a celebratory dinner later that "Prior to the railway opening the only means of travelling to London had been by coach which left Aylesbury at 6 o'clock in the morning arriving in London at 10 o'clock in the evening, 14 hours travelling. By use of the Aylesbury Railway this will now be two hours."[9][5]

In operation

An ordinary train service started the following day, 1 June; there were three trains on each weekday and two on Sundays, connecting with London trains at Cheddington. Goods trains began regular operation in November 1839.[11]

On 15 January 1845 the lease of the Aylesbury Railway expired, and on 16 July 1846 the London and Birmingham Railway became part of the new London and North Western Railway; the new company purchased the Aylesbury company for £60,000.[5]

When the line was opened there were no intermediate stations, but a new stopping place at Marston Crossing was in use as a station as early as 1857; nevertheless it was not until 1863 that it was recognised as a station proper and included in local timetables.[12]

Quick adds detail about the early days of Cheddington: it was referred to in company timetables of 20 June 1839 as "the Aylesbury Junction"; then as Cheddington early in 1840. It was not shown in Bradshaw until 1844, when only southbound main line trains were shown. Some Aylesbury trains operated to and from Tring.[13]

A form of absolute block working[note 2] was brought into use on the branch on 18 November 1880.[14]

An improved terminus

The original terminus at Aylesbury was cramped and unsuitable for the growing volume of traffic; a new station fronting High Street at Aylesbury was opened on Sunday 16 June 1889; the old station (at Station Street) was transferred to use as a goods station.[15][4][5]

The new passenger station did not have a run-round loop, and arriving passenger trains were generally run round by propelling them to the goods yard points to release the engine, and gravitating the coaches back to the platform under the control of the guard.[16] In 1950 this procedure was rendered unnecessary with the introduction of push-and-pull trains, which did not require the engine to run round the train. Bletchley depot had three LMS push-and-pull sets, one for the Aylesbury line and one each for the Dunstable and Newport Pagnell lines.[5]

After nationalisation of the railways in 1948, the other stations at Aylesbury came under British Railways management as well as the Cheddington line station, and a distinction in names was considered necessary. The goods station was renamed Aylesbury High Street from 1 July 1950, and the passenger station was similarly renamed from 25 September the same year.[17][4]


Aylesbury (High St.) on the Last Day geograph-2821441-by-Ben-Brooksbank
Last day of the Aylesbury branch

Throughout the twentieth century, the line had gradually lost business to more convenient railway routes; London could be reached direct by either of two other routes, and northward journeys were convenient by the Great Central Railway. In the winter of 1952-3 only four passenger trains ran each way on the branch, supplemented by one on Wednesdays and two on Saturdays. Except on Wednesdays and Saturdays the last train for Cheddington left Aylesbury at the early hour of 13:25 and made no London connection, for the branch had long ceased to be a useful route from Aylesbury to London.[5]

The line closed 2 February 1953 to passengers.[4][5] It continued in use for goods traffic until 2 December 1963.[10][2][5]

Location list

  • Aylesbury; opened 10 June 1839; relocated 16 June 1889; renamed Aylesbury High Street 1950;[note 3] closed 2 February 1953;
  • Marston Gate; opened November 1860 (first time in timetables); closed 2 February 1953;
  • Cheddington; main line station; opened 10 June 1839; still open.[13]


  1. ^ In addition, the bank's official auditor appointed to quantify the loss absconded with £2,000 in cash.
  2. ^ Presumably the train staff and ticket system with block instruments.
  3. ^ Quick says that Bradshaw used the designation High Street, and earlier Station Street "much earlier".


  1. ^ Bill Simpson, The Aylesbury Railway: the First Branch Line, Oxford Publishing Company, Sparkford, 1989, ISBN 0 86093 438 1, page 14
  2. ^ a b C J Gammell, LMS Branch Lines: England and Wales, Oxford Publishing Company, Sparkford, 1991, ISBN 0-86093-498-5, page 87
  3. ^ Simpson, page 11
  4. ^ a b c d G Machell, Railway Development at Aylesbury, in Railway Magazine November 1955
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Colin G Maggs, Branch Lines of Buckinghamshire, Sutton Publishing, Stroud, 2000, ISBN 0 7509 1749 0, pages 148, 159, 151 and 153
  6. ^ a b c Francis Whishaw, The Railways of Great Britain and Ireland Practically Described and Illustrated, published by John Weale, London, 1842, pages 10 to 13
  7. ^ Daniel Hardcastle Junior, Banks and Bankers, London, 1843, page 444
  8. ^ Simpson, page 13
  9. ^ a b Simpson, page 15
  10. ^ a b David Gould, The London and Birmingham Railway 100 Years On, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1987, ISBN 0-7153-8968-8, page 15
  11. ^ Simpson, page 17
  12. ^ Simpson, pages 26 and 27
  13. ^ a b Michael Quick, Railway Passenger Stations in England, Scotland and Wales: A Chronology, the Railway and Canal Historical Society, Richmond, Surrey, 2002
  14. ^ Simpson page 24
  15. ^ Simpson, page 47
  16. ^ Simpson, page 51
  17. ^ Simpson, page 56

External links

A4010 road

The A4010 is an important primary north-south road in Buckinghamshire, Southern England. It runs from High Wycombe at Junction 4 of the M40 motorway to Stoke Mandeville, near Aylesbury on the A413.

A412 road

The A412 is a road in England between Slough and Watford. It was the main artery for this corridor and used to continue to St Albans prior to the construction of the M25. It provides interchange to the A4 in Slough, the A40/M40 at the Denham Roundabout, the M25 in Maple Cross, the A404 in Rickmansworth town centre, the A411 on a partially grade separated dual carriageway in Watford town centre, and the A41 in North Watford.

A418 road

The A418 road is a main trunk road in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, England. It begins at a roundabout with the A4146 just north of Ascott, near Leighton Buzzard. It then runs south as a single carriageway through Wing to Aylesbury. This stretch is proposed for a dual carriageway bypass. After diving through Aylesbury the road runs past Aylesbury College before heading out into Stone. From here it runs past Haddenham to the M40 near Thame. The road has been rerouted in two locations so that it no longer runs through Hulcott and Haddenham.

A422 road

The A422 is an "A" road for east-west journeys in south central England, connecting the county towns of Bedford and Worcester by way of Milton Keynes, Buckingham, Banbury and Stratford-upon-Avon. For most of its length, it is a narrow single carriageway.

A5130 road

The A5130 was a minor A-class road in the United Kingdom, from (near) the M1 at Junction 14 to Woburn. Although the roadway still exists, it was declassified in 2017.It started on a roundabout with the A509 just west of Junction 14 of the M1 motorway and proceeded south round (what was then) the eastern edge of the original Milton Keynes designated area. After crossing the A421 the A5130 continued past the village of Wavendon. It then crossed the Bedford-Bletchley railway by means of a level crossing and passed through Woburn Sands. It terminates a short distance to the south upon meeting the A4012 just inside the village of Woburn.

Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway

The Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway (A&BR) was an English railway located in Buckinghamshire, England operating between Aylesbury and Verney Junction.

Aylesbury–Princes Risborough line

The Aylesbury–Princes Risborough line is a rural branch line between Princes Risborough and Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, England. The line is single track throughout with a maximum speed of 40 mph.

Beaconsfield services

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Broughton Crossing

Broughton Crossing is a hamlet / small settlement located between the Buckinghamshire villages of Bierton and Broughton in England. It is in the civil parish of Bierton with Broughton.

It takes its name from a long-vanished level crossing where the road crossed the now-defunct Cheddington to Aylesbury Line a branch line connecting the West Coast Main Line at Cheddington and Aylesbury. It consists of a public house and a few private houses, the easterly part of the former railway has been made into a road. It is a distinct settlement separated from Broughton itself by the Aylesbury Arm of the Grand Union Canal.

There is an urban myth that there was once a railway station or halt there.

Chiltern Way

The Chiltern Way is a waymarked long-distance footpath in southern England in the United Kingdom. It was created by the Chiltern Society as a millennium project.

Denham Roundabout

The Denham Roundabout is where Western Avenue, the A40, flows into the M40 motorway. The roundabout below facilitates junction 1 (J1) of the motorway to connect with the westbound continuation of the A40, together with the intersection of the road from Uxbridge (A4020) and the road from Slough to Watford (A412).When the M40 from Denham to High Wycombe was built, Western Avenue was extended at high level to make an end-on join with the motorway, and a larger roundabout was built below the bridges carrying the motorway. When first laid out, the roundabout had the traffic going round it clockwise in the usual way, but as traffic volumes built up, the layout was altered so that the traffic moved round the roundabout in both directions, making it a ring junction with mini-roundabouts at the points that other roads join the main roundabout.

Greater Ridgeway

The Greater Ridgeway, also known as the Greater Icknield Way, is a 362-mile (583 kilometre) long-distance footpath crossing England from Lyme Regis in Dorset to Hunstanton in Norfolk. It is a combined route which is made by joining four long-distance footpaths: the Wessex Ridgeway, The Ridgeway National Trail, the Icknield Way and the Peddars Way National Trail.

Handy Cross roundabout

Handy Cross roundabout is a major road interchange at Handy Cross, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire; the junction for High Wycombe, the M40 motorway and the A404 dual-carriageway. It is the terminus of the A4010 which runs to Aylesbury.

Magic Roundabout (High Wycombe)

The Magic Roundabout in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England, is similar to the roundabouts with the same name in Swindon and other places. It is located on the junction of the A40 and A404. The junction is the second meeting point of the two roads, they interchange at the start of the A404 in Marylebone, London, with the A40 forming the Westway.

The two roads follow different routes to reach Wycombe, the A40 coming via Beaconsfield and the A404 via North London and Amersham. From the roundabout, the A40 continues towards Oxford, Cheltenham, Gloucester and South Wales, whilst the A404 goes south to Marlow and Maidenhead.

Milton Keynes redway system

The Milton Keynes redway system (locally known as Redways) is an over 200 mi (322 km) network of shared use paths for cyclists and pedestrians in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England. It is generally surfaced with red tarmac, and criss-crosses most of the city.

Some of these Redways run next to the grid roads and local roads, with underpasses or bridges where they intersect major roads. Others run through park land and along the floodplain of the Great Ouse and its tributaries.

Construction of the Redway commenced in the 1970s with the start of the construction of the "new city". By 1980 it was the largest urban cycleway system in the UK with 22 miles (35.4 km) in use.

Newport Pagnell services

Newport Pagnell Services is a motorway service station between junctions 14 and 15 of the M1 motorway near Newport Pagnell and Milton Keynes in north Buckinghamshire. It is owned and operated by Welcome Break.

Ouse Valley Way

The Ouse Valley Way is a 150-mile footpath in England, following the River Great Ouse from its source near Syresham in Northamptonshire to its mouth in The Wash near King's Lynn. The path begins outside the King's Head pub in Syresham (52.0683°N 1.0807°W / 52.0683; -1.0807 (Ouse Valley Way (Syresham trailhead))) and ends on the Green Quay in King's Lynn (52.7512°N 0.3935°E / 52.7512; 0.3935 (Ouse Valley Way (King's Lynn trailhead))).

There is a long-term plan to complete remaining gaps in the path, meanwhile it is possible to walk the entire route, although in places the footpath and river temporarily part company.

The route passes many interesting places and there is much to see, including attractive countryside, pretty villages, ancient English market towns, churches and a cathedral, and abundant wildlife.

Towns from source to mouth include Buckingham, Milton Keynes, Olney, Bedford, St Neots, Huntingdon, St Ives, Ely, Downham Market, and King's Lynn.

The route is way-marked and maintained by The Countryside Agency who also provide maps and written guides online.

A small section of the Ouse Valley Way is used on the Pathfinder March.

Shakespeare's Way

Shakespeare's Way is a waymarked long-distance footpath in southern England, United Kingdom.

Swan's Way (footpath)

Swan's Way is a long distance bridle route and footpath in Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, England. It runs 65 miles (105 km) from Salcey Forest, Northamptonshire to Goring-On-Thames, Oxfordshire. Although designed for horseriders by riders, it is a multi-use trail also available to walkers and cyclists.

For walkers the path links with the Ridgeway National Trail, the western end of the Icknield Way Path, the Ouse Valley Way and the Three Shires Way.

Cheddington to Aylesbury Line
Aylesbury High Street
Marston Gate
West Coast Main Line
Cycle paths
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