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The Northampton and Peterborough Railway was an early railway promoted by the London and Birmingham Railway to run from a junction at Blisworthmarker to Northamptonmarker and Peterboroughmarker.

Origin

There had been two original schemes for lines between Londonmarker and Birminghammarker. One proposed by John Rennie would go via Oxfordmarker and Banburymarker. The other proposed by Francis Giles would go via Bletchleymarker, Rugbymarker and Coventrymarker.

In 1830 the two decided to amalgamate, adopting Rennie's plan which, as a canal builder, he had laid out following fairly level country. George Stephenson was asked to plan the line and he passed it to his son Robert who carried out a further survey favouring a route very similar to that proposed by Giles, much to the annoyance of Rennie.

While there was a certain amount of opposition from landowners, the people of Northampton in were much in favour of the line. However, in the end, it bypassed the town, following higher ground to the west, through Blisworthmarker and Weedonmarker. At that time it was normal for new lines to bypass the larger towns because of inherent complication and the cost of land. On the other hand, in those days, the time taken to travel to the station was not seen as a handicap, given that the total journey would be much quicker than anything that had been known before. In addition, a rail link to Weedon Barracks was seen as strategically importanrt..

The London and Birmingham Railway opened in 1838 and, four years later, a delegation from Northampton approached the directors with a proposal to build a branch which would run through to Peterborough, which at that time also had no railway although a number of schemes were being proposed.

The Peterborough line

The Bill for the line's construction met considerable opposition from those who favoured the Northern and Eastern Railway which was progressing to Cambridge and Peterborough. However the Northampton and Peterborough Railway Act received the Royal Assent in 1843.

Once again the engineer was Robert Stephenson. The line would be relatively easy to build, following the valley of the River Nenemarker to Peterborough, with only a small tunnel to the west of Wansford. Stations would be provided wherever the line crossed a turnpike where there would be level crossings. Most of the line was raised on embankments because of the likelihood of flooding. In spite of this it occurred from time to time. In 1852 for instance several bridges were swept away and the line was closed for a week.

The line opened from Blisworth to Northampton in May, 1845 and then throughout in June, the 47 miles having taken only a year to build. The station at Blisworth was rebuilt next to the junction, and Northampton people at last had their train service to London. In 1846 the line, along with the London and Birmingham, became part of the London and North Western Railway.

Although the infrastructure of the line had been built for double track, only a single track was laid from Northampton to Peterborough, with a passing loop at Thrapston. This single line working was facilitated by the installation of electric telegraph. However it became clear that the traffic would be such that doubling would be required very quickly and this was completed by September 1846. Two stations were unusual to say the least. One, Ringstead and Addingtonmarker was approached on foot from one direction by means of stepping stones. Another, Ditchfordmarker was said to be the location of famous treacle mines.

There were five trains each way on weekdays and Saturdays, with two on Sunday, and extra services between Northampton and Blisworth. Initially the goods was traffic was cattle and coal but later iron ore became important.

In 1857 the Midland Railway built a line from Wigstonmarker to meet the GNR at Hitchinmarker via Wellingborough. It built a spur to the LNWR station for goods. In 1861 the LNWR began running trains from Wichnor near Burton on Trentmarker and the Midland then began running trains between Wellingborough and Northampton. The Midland built a small station in 1866 near the LNWR's (the latter becoming Northampton Bridge Street in 1876). This little station closed in 1872 when the Midland built its main line from Bedford and opened a new station at St John Street.

In 1881, the LNWR opened the Northampton Loop Line which placed the town on a through service suprseding Blisworth.

At grouping in 1923 it became part of the London Midland and Scottish Railway. The use of level crossings had reduced the costs of building the line, but it greatly increased operating expenses and it became be a major reason for the line being closed to passengers by British Rail in 1964. Some passenger trains still ran from the boarding school at Oundlemarker until 1972 when the line closed completely.

References

  1. see Weedon Bec
  2. Butler, P., (2007) A History of the Railways of Northamptonshire,' Great Addington: Silver Link Publishing
  3. http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1843/feb/28/northampton-and-peterborough-railway Hansard 28 February 1843 vol 67 cc14-6 Northampton and Peterborough Railway Bill



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