Monday, 16 May 2011

The Didcot Newbury Southampton Railway nears completion

While the disputes over the southern route dragged on, the northern section of the DNS was completed. On 12 April 1882 the formal opening of the line took place. The GWR provided 30 special saloon cars, divided into two trains, to run from Newbury to Didcot. The opening ceremony was performed by Lady Loyd-Lindsay, soon to become Lady Wantage when Sir Robert was raised to the peerage. She cut a ribbon and made a short speech on a platform erected on the London Road bridge, just outside Newbury. A noisy salute of anvils followed, as gunpowder charges were set off between pairs of anvils. The two special trains then set off,waved on their way by a crowd of thousands that had gathered at Newbury station. The trains were met at Didcot by more cheering crowds. The events were captured by an artist from The London Graphic, which published several pages of copy and illustrations to celebrate the opening of the new railway.

The full public service between Newbury and Didcot opened the following day. There were to be five passenger trains each way on weekdays only, with no passenger service at the weekends. Sir Robert and Lord Carnarvon were frank about their inexperience of actually running a railway. They therefore opted to contract in services from the GWR. The GWR provided engines, rolling stock and train crew for the services that ran on the DNS in return for 60%, later reduced to 51.5%, of the fares and freight charges.

The GWR usually provided tank engines for use on the Newbury-Didcot section of the DNS. At first this was because of the lack of a turntable, which was planned for further south. When the southern section of the line was completed, with its turntable, tender engines could and did run from Newbury to Didcot. The tanks remained more usual, however, with engines of the 2-4-0 Metropolitan or 2-6-2 6100 classes being common. Passenger coaches were almost always older rolling stock that the GWR did not want to use on its own lines and routes.

In 1883 Loyd-Lindsay suffered a sudden bout of serious ill health. His doctor ordered complete rest and a prolonged holiday in sunnier climes. Carnarvon turned to James Forbes, who was already Chairman of the London, Chatham & Dover Railway, to take over. It was Forbes who abandoned the idea of pushing the DNS line to Southampton docks, opting to link with the LSWR at Winchester instead. And it was Forbes who oversaw the opening of the line along its entire length in 1891.


1 comment:

  1. A good write up but would like to query your account of the event. The news articles I have read (Lancaster Gazette - Saturday 15 April 1882, Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 15 April 1882, Reading Mercury - Saturday 15 April 1882) all say they people (Lindsay, etc) traveled from Newbury Station to Didcot and then on their RETURN stopped at a temp. station on London Road where the festivities and official opening took place. Please do correct me if I am wrong, but that is what I seem to be finding.