The Blenheim and Woodstock Branch Line was a 4 miles (6.4 km) long railway branch line that ran from Kidlington railway station along the Cherwell Valley
Line north to Shipton-on-Cherwell where the line branched off west past Shipton-on-Cherwell Halt towards Woodstock.
Woodstock is an ancient Royal Borough, incorporated in the reign of Henry VI, eight miles north-north-west of Oxford. It population of about 2,500 and is
governed by a Mayor and Corporation, rough includes within its boundaries historic house built, to the of Sir John Vanbrugh, as a gift from the nation to
the first Duke of Marlborough, the victor of Blenheim and other battles. This mansion, known consequently as Blenheim Palace, stands in the ancient royal
park of Woodstock whose original palace, associated with the story of Fair Rosamund, has entirely disappeared. Woodstock also is known for its very long
established glove industry which is now, however, threatened with decline because of the lack of apprentices to the trade.
The Woodstock branch of the former Great Western Railway was opened on May 19th 1890; its construction, mainly at the expense of the then Duke of
Marlborough, had been begun in April 1888. Originally known as the Woodstock railway, it remained nominally independent and was privately run until, in
1897, it was purchased by the Great Western Railway for £15,000. It was worked by that company from the start. The railway is 3 miles 57 ch. in length, and
extends from Kidlington Station (known before the opening of the branch as Woodstock Road) on the Oxford-Banbury main line to a terminus, called Blenheim &
Woodstock, on the east side of the main road from Oxford, almost opposite to one of the great gates of Blenheim Park. The gradients are, considering the
open nature of the country, relatively steep, and include stretches of 1 in 92, 1 in 69, 1 in 129 and 1 in 100 successively, all rising in the direction of
Woodstock. In 1929, a halt was added to the line at Shipton-on-Cherwell primarily to serve the Oxford and Shipton Cement Company limestone quarry and
Woodstock trains mostly start from a bay on the west, or down, side of Kidlington Station, and the line, which is single throughout, is worked by train
staff and one engine in steam. There is no block telegraph on the line. It runs, for the first mile, northwards alongside the main line, but there is no
physical connection after Kidlington is left, the staff being picked up and dropped at Kidlington signalbox. The country through which the line runs is
mainly agricultural. Half a mile from Kidlington, the River Cherwell is crossed close to the village of Thrupp, which is built along the bank of the Oxford
Canal and which was, formerly, largely populated by canal folk. Another half mile brings us, on the east side of the line, to the picturesque and isolated
little church of Hampton Gay with its 15th century tower, behind which can be seen the trees which hide the ruined Manor House, burned down in 1878. Also
close to the line here, on the west side, is the villas of Shipton-on-Cherwell, whose churt is likewise a prominent feature.
The Cherwell is now recrossed bv bridge which stands on the site of the noted railway accident (the worst in the history of the Great Western) which took
place on Christmas Eve, 1874, caused by the sudden fracture of a tyre and wheel on the leading coach of London-Birkenhead train. Thirty passengers were
killed and 65, together with four railwavmen, were seriously injured. The horrors of this event are still remembered in the district. Almost at once, the
Woodstock line bears away to the north-west and crosses the Oxford Canal by a single line bridge, the abutments of which were built wide enough to take a
double track if necessary. It soon runs into a short cutting below the village of Shipton, soon afterwards emerging on to an embankment before crossing the
main road from Oxford to Banbury by a bridge, and arriving at Shipton-on-Cherwell Halt, 2 miles 9 ch. from Kidlington, the only intermediate stopping place
on the line. Bv this time the railway is running almost due west, and so it continues to the outskirts of Woodstock.
The terminus is a single platform station with substantial stone-built offices, waiting rooms and other buildings. There are awnings over the platform and
the forecourt in the main street. The layout includes a loading bay and a small goods yard.
The branch is now worked by a single coach pull-and-push train (for many years in charge of a 0-4-2 tank engine, No. 1473, bearing the name Fair Rosamund,
but now scrapped). The locomotive used is now, usually, a 0-6-0 pannier tank of the 5400 class, shedded at Oxford, but when this is out of service for
washing-out, or for other reasons, the spare pull-and-push set at Oxford with a 0-4-2 tank engine of the 1400 class is substituted.
The present train service consists of six trains from Kidlington to Woodstock and seven from Woodstock to Kidlington, together with two which work through
from Oxford to Woodstock and one through train in the reverse direction. There is provision in the timetable for one freight train in each direction daily
(Saturdays excepted) if required and one train each way may be run mixed. There are no trains on Sundays.
The number of trains serving the station was cut in the late 1930s, and again in 1952 down to only six trains a day. These cuts in the frequency of trains
along the Woodstock branch line produced two-hour waits at Kidlington for a connection.
The branch formerly carried a considerable amount of traffic but now most passengers between Oxford and Woodstock use the local bus service, and freight is
to a considerable extent distributed by road motor from the railhead at Oxford. There are, at certain times, a fair number of passengers to and from
Shipton-on-Cherwell Halt, which serves both Shipton and Thrupp. The existing bus service here is quite inadequate, and is apparently unlikely to be
improved. British Railways finally closed the branch line in February 1957 with the last train adorned with a wreath. The track was lifted in 1958.
Adapted from an article in The Railway Magazine, August 1952.