THE FAIRFORD BRANCH LINE

CASSINGTON

Cassington Halt was opened by the GWR on 9 March 1936 and was situated just to the south of the A40 road overbridge (SP460105). However, after the war it was relocated to the north of the road to obviate the need for passengers to cross the increasingly busy trunk road. A single pre-cast concrete platform was provided on the up side of the line, on which was a wooden shelter complete with miniature awning.

Cassington Halt on 29 September 1956, looking towards Yarnton Junction. This view clearly shows the construction of the concrete platform. In addition to the simple wooden shelter, note the ingenious use of the concrete posts; not only for platform fencing but also supports for the nameboard and lamp standards. The halt relied on oil lamps which were maintained by the train guard using the brick built steps below each lamp, which would not be acceptable to today's Health & Safety Executive! Note also the small corrugated iron store at the end of the platform. 
Martin Loader Collection

Cassington Halt in 1962

Cassington Halt pictured shortly before closure. Nothing has changed in the few years since the previous picture, except that the lamps (now empty) have been painted white, while the woodwork of the platform shelter has weathered and been patch repaired. Another feature evident in both views, and in a lot of the other pictures taken along the line, is a complete lack of other visible buildings.
John Strange

Another view of Cassington Halt, this time taken in 1949. Collett 0-6-0 No. 2221 departs with a train for Fairford, and is about to pass under the A40. These lightweight tender engines were quite common in the latter days of the branch, sharing duties with pannier tanks of various classes. At the end of the platform can be seen the start of the dedicated path that ran parallel to the A40, and connected with the village of Cassington. 
Dorothy Waters

2221 departing from Cassington Halt in 1949

Cassington Halt in 1959

A third view of Cassington Halt, this time from underneath the A40 road bridge, and with a clear view along the straight section of track towards Yarnton Junction. This 1959 view also shows the notice board and the start of the path leading off towards Cassington village. 
Tony Doyle

The site of Cassington Halt pictured in around 1970. It is not clear whether this is before the line closed, as the original negative is undated. The rails are clearly rusty, but with just two trains a week in the last years there was plenty of time for a good film of rust to develop between trains! In the foreground of this view is the bridge over a small stream that rises near Burleigh Woods, and after a surprisingly straight (and therefore presumably man made course) to the east of the village of Cassington, enters the Thames not far from the point where the short Cassington Canal also enters. This bridge can just be seen in the 1956 picture at the top of this page, at the point where the shadow off a tree crosses the line. The concrete plinth just passed the bridge is where the small corrugated hut (also clearly visible in the 1956 picture) stood. The platform commenced immediately afterwards. Obviously the line continued to receive periodic applications of weed killer, as the track is totally weed free, which is in marked contrast to many similarly lightly used freight only lines a few years later. Just visible on the original negative through the arch of the A40 bridge is one original permanent way huts.
Martin Loader Collection

This view from the A40 bridge was taken on a very dull 5 May 1979, long before the line at this point was turned into a road for access to gravel pits and a waste recycling plant. The platform was situated just to the left of the walker. The trackbed can be seen extending in a dead straight line for nearly a mile before turning sharp right at Yarnton Junction. A point of reference between these two pictures is the hawthorn hedge at 90 degrees to the line on the left. The A40 road can just be glimpsed in the top right of the picture. 
Martin Loader

The site of Cassington Halt in 1979

7404 & 7412 departing from Cassington Halt

Ex GWR 74xx Class 0-6-0PT No. 7404 makes a spirited departure from Cassington Halt with the 14:25 Fairford to Oxford service on 11 June 1962. The loco is about to cross one of the many footpath crossings on the line, in this case the Cassington to Wolvercote path. The filthy condition of the locomotive is typical of the period, no polished copper cap to the chimney in BR days! The photographer was being treated to an impromptu cab ride from Witney to Oxford, an example of the easy going nature of rural branch lines, even at this late date. In the latter years the branch services were usually worked either by 74xx Class pannier tanks or the similar 57xx Class, supplemented by 2251 Class 0-6-0 tender engines. Very occasionally 45xx Class 2-6-2T and 14xx Class 0-4-2T made an appearance. 
Paul Strong

Although virtually all trace of the halt has disappeared (apart from a few odd bricks in the undergrowth), the footpath that lead from the Cassington road to the platform, and ran parallel to the A40, can still be seen. It is pictured here looking towards the site of the halt on 30 April 2005. 
Martin Loader

The path to Cassington Halt

The early 1930s saw the construction of the Oxford northern by-pass (the A40), which crossed the line at Cassington with an impressive stone overbridge built at an acute angle to the railway. A wide carriageway with footpaths and cycle tracks on either side was provided. As was customary at the time, temporary narrow gauge railways were employed in the construction, a number of Kerr Stuart 0-4-0T locomotives were hired from Aubrey Watson Ltd by Oxfordshire County Council. This bridge survived in its original form until 2004, as it was well engineered with gradual approach gradients and so even though the volume of road traffic has increased enormously, no rebuilding was thought necessary until recently. The rebuilding work was sympathetic to the original design, only the upper parapet being noticeably different in design.

Cassington A40 bridge in 2005

Cassington A40 bridge in 1989

These two views show the bridge on 25 March 1989 (left), and 30 April 2005 (upper). As can be seen, in 1989, nearly two decades after the line closed, apart from the lifting of the track little has changed.  Both these views are looking in the same direction as the previous pictures. The scene has changed somewhat by 2005, and this view shows the access road built in the early 1990s. The Armco barriers afford some protection to the bridge sides from lorries, unfortunately the top of the arch had no such protection and until the recent rebuilding, was heavily scored from various impacts! Note that although the top half of the bridge is new, the arch itself and the wing walls are original. The slight change of viewpoint in these pictures is the result of bush growth obscuring the 1989 view, while conversely the removal of the hedge in the earlier view affords a slightly wider view today.  
Martin Loader

57xx 0-6-0PT 9654 blasts away from Cassington Halt with the 12:18 Oxford to Fairford service in May 1962. The A40 embankment can clearly be seen in the background, with Cassington Halt just visible through the arch of the bridge. The slightly damaged 6 of 9654's smokebox number can be clearly seen in this view. This features in a number of photos of the locomotive in the 1962 period, so was presumably more than some missing paint. Note the well maintained hedge on the right and even at this late stage in the line's history, the immaculate state of the track.
Howard Burchell

With a mass of buttercups in the foreground, 74xx 0-6-0PT 7404 approaches Cassington with the 08:23 Carterton to Oxford service on 8 June 1962. Normally all trains ran chimney first, but of course those operating only as far as Carterton had no way of turning and so worked bunker first back to Oxford.
Howard Burchell

From the A40 bridge the line continues its dead straight course, crossing the lane that leads from Cassington to the River Thames (SP459103). This section is not only perfectly straight, but also perfectly level - the longest level section on the whole line at nearly 1 miles. Although the line passes through relatively flat countryside, it was also engineered to follow the contours, thus saving money on earthworks, consequently there are numerous small changes of gradient. This long level sections ends just before the River Evenlode bridge, and in 1980 the remains of the gradient post was still visible (right). However, the arms indicating the change of gradient from level to a 1 in 264 rise had already gone. The gradient posts on the Fairford Branch seemed to have succumbed even quicker than the mileposts. 
Martin Loader

Gradient post near Cassington

Approximately mile south-west from Cassington Halt, the line crossed the River Evenlode by means of a sizeable girder bridge (SP451098), followed shortly after by a smaller bridge over the Cassington Canal (SP450097). This 4 April 1980 view looking upstream clearly shows the two 45 ft spans needed to cross the River Evenlode. This was by far the largest bridge on the branch and like the other major river crossings, was substantially reinforced in later years. 
Martin Loader

River Evenlode bridge near Cassington

The bridge over the River Evenlode has survived in a well maintained condition and has been used recently for road access to a holiday caravan park. It is pictured here looking west on 2 February 2003. The bridge over the Cassington Canal (which was a single 32 ft 10 in span) had been removed by 1980, the course of the canal is indicated by the hedge in the background.  
Martin Loader

The substantial side girders and central brick pier of the Evenlode bridge can be seen to good effect in this 2 February 2003 picture, looking back towards Cassington. Considering this is one of the main engineering features of the line, I am surprised that I have not been able to locate a picture of the bridge when the line was in use. Admittedly there was no road access and no public footpaths nearby but I am sure some intrepid railway photographer must have made the effort. Imagine the picture above with a pannier tank steaming towards the photographer! 
Martin Loader

River Evenlode Bridge near Cassington

The River Evenlode bridge in 1971

A rare picture of the River Evenlode bridge with the track still in place, albeit after the line had closed. With Cassington church just visible on the skyline, this summer 1971 view is looking east and clearly shows the slight curve as the line heads towards Cassington Halt. The late John Strange, a noted railway photographer, some of whose pictures feature on this website can be seen leaning against the bridge girder.
Stanley C. Jenkins

An even rarer view of the Cassington Canal bridge, also taken in the summer of 1971. Note the generous headroom of this 32 ft 10 in span bridge, a requirement to allow for the passage of boats up the canal to Cassington Wharf. Ironically the canal ceased to be used a few years after the line opened. In order to achieve this height the line approached the bridge on a 1 in 100 gradient from either side, as can be seen on the gradient plan.
Stanley C. Jenkins 

Cassington Canal bridge in 1971

After crossing the canal, the line curved gently to the right on the approach to Eynsham, on a low embankment, which is being considerably undermined by rabbits. This section is in the flood plain of the River Thames and a whole series of drains and culverts pass under the line, sometimes only a few yards apart. The bridge over the stream approximately mile from the canal (SP448094) has been removed, but the remainder of these culverts are still in place. Typically they are either 1 ft or 1 ft 6 in diameter earthenware pipes, but the second one after the stream is a little unusual (see below).

Barlow rail decking on bridge between Cassington & Eynsham

One of the unusual features of the Fairford Branch was the use of Barlow rail for the decking of some of the smaller bridges over streams. Barlow rail was initially intended to take the baulk road principle a stage further by having such a wide base to the rail as to make sleepers unnecessary. Needless to say this didn't work! The first of these bridges, and one of the few to survive is situated between the Cassington Canal and Eynsham (SP447093). The culvert is constructed from a pair of brick walls 1 ft 6 in apart, with Barlow rail used for the decking for the entire width of the bridge. This view taken on 21 February 2004, clearly shows the highly corroded rails still in place.
Martin Loader

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