Lapworth to Henley Branch Line
"Forty years ago a railway was commenced, connecting the old town of Henley-in-Arden with the main line of the Great Western; but financial difficulties intervened, and for thirty years the half finished earthworks, overgrown in places by trees and undermined by rabbit burrows, formed a playground for the children of the district; while the town remained itself 4 miles from a railway station. At last another start was made, the Great Western Railway assisting the project, and the old half-finished track was completed and opened in June, 1894.
At Lapworth station, 13 miles from Birmingham and 10½ from Leamington, the passengers for Henley change into a little train of three four-wheeled coaches which awaits them there. After running a little more than mile in the direction of Leamington, the branch line leaves the main line by a sharp curve to the right. A steep descent at 1 in 60 is followed by an equally stiff climb, and, in fact, very little of the 3 ¼ miles to Henley is level. Running past Bushwood, not far from the birthplace of Catesby, one of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators, the train passes a pretty plantation of fir trees, and with a whistle plunges into a deep and bare cutting, in the centre of which commences the long falling gradient of 1 in 55 to, which extends nearly to the Henley terminus. Running cautiously down, an excellent view of the little town, nestling in a valley surrounded on all sides by hills, can be obtained from the left hand window; and only 12 minutes after leaving Lapworth the train halts at the single platform of the station."
T.R. Perkins, Railways of Warwickshire; Railway Magazine, November 1902
Note: After the present station at Henley was opened in 1908 trains ran direct to Birmingham and the old branch line became less used. It was closed in 1916 as a war time economy measure.
Thomas Perkins was the pharmacist in Henley High Street from 1896 to 1945 and wrote several accounts of his rail travels around Britain.
A description of the opening of the branch line from the Stratford Herald on 8th June 1894:
"A holiday having been agreed to, the school children were allowed a day off, the shops were closed, the town was decorated with bunting and business was set aside for the time being to make room for pleasure. The first train, which left Kingswood at 7:34am, had quite a reception, people walking from Lapworth, Tanworth, Henley and the surrounding villages to take a seat in its initial trip. At Henley they were accorded an ovation by a crowd which had got up early to take the first outward trip at 7:54 to Kingswood Junction. ... By half past nine the picturesque little town was already beginning to fill. "Have you come by train?" was the regular first question put to old acquaintances, and really quite a surprising number of them had. "
Delivering an Engine to Henley
A railway engine making its way up Henley High Street in 1894. The event is described in an article by TR Perkins in the Railway Magazine in 1902:
"During the construction of the line a locomotive was required at the Henley end for contractors' purposes, but as the great cutting was then unfinished it was impossible to convey one thither by rail. The engine was accordingly delivered at Bearley Station, 4 miles distant, and, rails being laid down before it, and taken up after its passage, it travelled to its destination by road under its own steam, passing through the main street of the town to the terminus of the railway."