Moreton-in-the-Marsh to Worcester Shrub Hill
Timeline Part 1 : 1845 -1977

May 1844

A meeting is held in Worcester Guildhall to decide whether to support a rail link from Worcester to either Oxford, or to the London & North Western Railway at Tring. Despite some details on both schemes not being available at this point, the meeting votes almost unanimously in favour of the link via Oxford.

June 1844

The Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway (OW&W) issues its prospectus

August 1845

The OW&W receives Parliamentary sanction to build a railway from Oxford, via Moreton in the Marsh, Evesham, Worcester, Droitwich, Kidderminster, Stourbridge and Dudley, to Wolverhampton. The line initially has Great Western Railway support, but financing proves to be a problem. The agreement with the GWR will prove to serious implications for the line over the next few years. Isambard Kingdom Brunel is appointed as chief engineer for the OW&W.

November 1849

A report for the Railway Commissioners raises doubts on whether the OW&W will be completed. The commissioners order the GWR to complete the line themselves, but relations between the GWR and OW&W have soured since 1845 and the GWR decline to do so. This starts two years of legal battles.


New financing is obtained, which puts the OW&W in a better position to become independent of the GWR, with which relations have soured over the past five years.

October 1850

The first stretch of the line is opened from Abbotswood Junction to a temporary station in Worcester.

February 1851

"The battle of the Gauges" begins on the line as the OW&W signs agreements with the Midland Railway and the London & North Western Railway to work the line. Both are using standard gauge and want the OW&W to use the same, but the 1845 agreement does have a broad gauge clause in it. Despite the obvious breach, the OW&W shareholders agree to standard gauge.

July 1851

A dispute between contractors working on the line at the site of Campden Tunnel leads to clashes between rival groups of Navvies.   Police and the army are called in to restore peace, and the incident becomes known as the "Battle of Mickleton" (Mickleton is a Gloucestershire village just north of line west of the tunnel).

March 1852

Brunel resigns as Chief Engineer to the OW&W. His place is taken by John Fowler.

May 1852

The line is opened between Evesham and Droitwich. The disputes over gauge have resulted in the line being of mixed gauge, theoretically capable of handling both standard and broad gauge traffic.

May 1853

The line from Dudley to Wolvercot Junction is opened, although the Board of Trade has not passed the broad gauge line for use. As the junction at Wolvercot is not completed, passengers cannot get directly to Oxford

June 1853

A Board of Trade Inspection train becomes the only broad gauge train to use the line.

December 1853

The line to Wolverhampton is completed; aided by the threat of financial penalties to the OW&W if work was not completed by September 1853.

July 1854

Trains are now able to run into Oxford.


The OW&W is suffering financial problems, especially as the line is being held to its broad gauge requirements, which are no longer necessary. Finances would improve towards the end of the decade.

February 1858

The GWR agrees to the removal of broad gauge in return for "compensation" from the OW&W.

July 1859

The OW&W completes a single line branch from Honeybourne to Stratford-Upon-Avon. This would later become part of the Stratford-Cheltenham line.


The OW&W becomes part of the West Midland Railway.

October 1861

The first standard gauge Paddington-Worcester services commence, at this point taking 4 hours for the 120-mile trip.


The West Midland Railway is absorbed into the GWR.


The final abolition of broad gauge on the GWR rail network, results in improvements in services as the gauge is now standard both north and south of Oxford. 


A GWR engine shed is opened at Evesham, along with modifications to the station.


Improvements have resulted in a fastest time of 2hrs 20mins for Paddington to Worcester, aided by water troughs at Charlbury, between Oxford and Moreton.


A re-arrangement of the sidings in Evesham results in the formation of Evesham "New" yard (the site of which is currently occupied by Tesco).

July 1939

No 4086 "Builth Castle" records the first certified 100mph achieved by a GWR locomotive, between Chipping Campden and Honeybourne (City of Truro's 100mph earlier in the century being unconfirmed).


The line has little strategic importance during the war, although a Ministry of Supply store is opened at Honeybourne.


"The Cathedrals Express" is the first named train on the line

June 1961

Evesham Engine shed closes.

7th September, 1963

Officially, the OW&W becomes the last local route to convert to diesel motive power. However, reliability issues mean that steam is still rostered for some months.

September 1963

The last scheduled up steam-hauled "Cathedrals Express" from Worcester to Paddington takes place with "Castle" class no. 7005 "Sir Edward Elgar" doing the honours.

March 1964

In preparation for a final high-speed run from Paddington to Plymouth & return, several examples of surviving "Castle" class locomotives are evaluated on the OW&W. The actual run to Plymouth would take place on the 9th May.

28th April 1964

As part of the "Castle" evaluations, 4079 "Pendennis Castle" hauls the evening express to Paddington.

16th May 1964

Oxford University Railway Society runs "The Castle Farewell" tour along the OW&W using 5054 "Earl of Ducie".

The spring of 1964 has seen more failed diesels replaced by Castles.

8th August 1965

4079 "Pendennis Castle" returns to the OW&W with a charter.

January 1966

A lot of the smaller stations and halts close on the line.

May 1969

Honeybourne station is closed, but Pershore is reprieved after a report states that closing the station would cause severe hardship for passengers to Worcester. However, the buildings at Pershore would be demolished in 1970.


Sections of the line are singled; the section from Moreton to Norton Junction is the most notable. Pershore station has now been reduced to a single platform halt.

19th May, 1973

BR Class 9F no. 92203 "Black Prince" hauls what is probably the first steam tour over the OW&W since the final abolition of steam.

24th June 1973

GWR "Modified Hall" class no. 6998 "Burton Agnes Hall" takes the OW&W on a tour to Hereford.

5th October, 1974

Ex-LMS "Jubilee" class no 5690 "Leander" works a tour.

January 1977

A proposal to build a new station for Worcester, Worcester Parkway, near Norton Junction is announced. This will provide a link to the city for Inter-City services currently by-passing it.

September 1977

The Worcester Parkway plan is not approved by the Worcester City Development Committee, in spite of protests from some quarters. However, Wychavon District Council gives outline planning approval, after visiting the site and seeing a "mock-up" of the station.

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