|The old Upton Station, now a private house|
From Didcot the railway swung south to climb gently for a mile or so as it left Didcot and passed East Hagbourne. The line then began lengthy climb at a gradient of 1:106 along an embankment that in places was 33 feet tall to the station at Upton, where the grade was reduced to 1:530 in the station and for a short distance either side. The line then resumed its climb at 1:106 as it plunged into a massive cutting that swept in a great curve around the hill south of Upton Lodge.
In places the Upton Cutting was 50 feet deep, and along much of its length was around 40 feet deep. In all some 400,000 cubic feet of chalk had to be excavated to make this cutting. It was an awesome task, but Falkiner and Tancred were equal to the work. They brought in what they termed a “steam navvy” to carry out the work. This was a steam powered digging machine that hacked its way through the chalk hills much more quickly than could the traditional teams of navvies – men armed with picks and shovels. The machine became something of a novelty while it was at work, attracting sightseers from the nearby towns and villages.
After crossing the Downs, the Didcot Newbury and Southampton Railway line joined the GWR mainline just east of Newbury.
The line was therefore of a much gentler gradient throughout than was normal for branch lines over hilly country. The reason was that the company expected to be hauling heavy goods trains carrying coal and industrial goods to and from the port of Southampton. Steep grades and sudden changes of slope therefore had to be avoided.
from Lost Railways of Surrey by Rupert Matthews
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