Readers who have followed my writings over the years will know that my over-riding passion in railways is GWR stations...
In particular, the rural, wayside, and branch line terminus stations. It all started with a car trip and the search for a place to picnic. Eventually my Dad pulled into a wide ‘farm entrance’ with collapsing wooden gates. My brother and I quickly realised it wasn’t a farm but a railway station entrance.
We went to explore - we had stumbled upon the closed and derelict station at Fairford. Apart from the track, everything was intact. There was an empty station building, its doors standing open and lots of rubbish on the floors. Beside it was a signal box with all its levers still present, and beyond that a goods shed, a turntable pit full of water with dead wildlife floating in it, and a black wooden engine shed. The station nameboard had been broken in two and the ‘O’ had fallen off. I still have it – my first piece of railwayana!
From that moment I was hooked and our trainspotting outings became pilgrimages to look at stations. We went to Adlestrop and walked to Stow-on-the-Wold, for instance. I would go on to write three books, two volumes of GWR Country Stations and The Western before Beeching documenting what I found to be the magic of those places.
One trip which I made alone was from home to Reading, Oxford and a tiny wayside station called Kings Sutton. I’m not sure what prompted me to go – perhaps I’d seen a photo or glimpsed it from a passing train. I spent a Saturday afternoon there. I recall the clank-clank of a ‘WD’ 2-8-0 running light in the down direction. I photographed a couple of trains, but not the ‘WD’. In those days you had only 12 pictures on a roll of film and you needed to conserve it. I’ll include one of the pictures I took.
Surprisingly, Kings Sutton is still an open station, now an unstaffed halt. It was in Beeching’s list of closures but escaped somehow – or did it close and re-open – I can’t now remember... Certainly I have pictures of the station empty and boarded up, and I have one of the station signs, found discarded in a nearby field.
Today, only the down platform shelter still stands. I’m not sure why someone thought it a good idea to paint all its stonework dark blue but at least it’s a good deal more inviting than the bus shelter and conglomeration of bits and pieces that have replaced the main building.
While I was there, hoping in vain to see a Class 68, an EWS Class 66 came through with a long train of car carriers filled with new Range Rovers. The railway lives on even if so many wonderful locations have gone.