This is an introduction to the railways of Leamington Spa and a longer and more detailed Research Paper is available HERE
In the nineteenth century Leamington Spa was blessed with the construction of railway lines radiating in several directions. Leamington missed out on the first main line from London to Birmingham which opened in 1838 and passed through Rugby and Coventry. However, a feeder line was built to the spa town and in 1844 this opened from Coventry to a station on the north of Rugby Road in Milverton. Oddly, this station was over one mile from the centres of both Warwick and Leamington Spa. It was originally called Leamington but had eight different names in following years. The original station had an imposing stone building.
This station was replaced further to the south in 1883 on the north side of Warwick New Road. The main building at street level was made of brick but buildings at platform level were of timber to minimise the weight on the embankment. The Rugby Road station was redeveloped for goods and locomotive servicing.
In 1851 this line was extended as a branch from Milverton to Rugby via Leamington Spa. A station was not built near the GWR station until 1854. This was initially known as Leamington Priors but was later named Leamington (Avenue) with an area outside known as Station Approach. In 1860 a new Avenue Station was opened.
A footbridge from Old Warwick Road crossed the both lines to replace a path known as Upper Avenue. The final evolution of this line was a branch from Marton Junction to Daventry and Weedon with a junction with the main London to Birmingham Line.
Passenger services on the Rugby line ceased in 1959 (before the Beeching report) but freight services continued until the mid-1960s. In 1958 passenger services between Leamington Spa (Avenue) and Weedon were withdrawn. A few goods trains continued to use the line from Rugby and part of the Weedon line was used for access to Southam cement works.
Leamington Spa (Avenue) station closed in January 1965 following the Beeching Report and passenger services to Kenilworth, Coventry, Bedworth and Nuneaton were withdrawn. The track was used for goods until 1969. The line reopened in 1977 and continues in use in 2016 for passengers from the GWR station and for goods.
The GWR line through Leamington began as the Birmingham and Oxford Junction Railway; it was authorised in 1846 and became part of the Great Western Railway in 1847.
The line was mixed gauge from Banbury and opened in 1852. It was engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and completed the route from Birmingham to London (Paddington). The station was built on the site of a grand terrace which was four storeys high and stretched for 140 yards.
Design, construction and completion of this line were not easy. The LNWR, GWR and local people were reluctant to cooperate. The grand opening ceremony was delayed because, incredibly, the train bringing guests from London collided with a goods train on the way.
For many years there were frequent trains from Leamington to Paddington and Snow Hill in Birmingham.
There was a GWR locoshed opposite the Eagle recreation ground which finally closed in 1965.
In 1923 virtually all the existing 123 railway companies in Great Britain were amalgamated into four Groups.
Leamington Spa GWR station was replaced in Art Deco style in 1939. Much of this building survives and is now Listed Grade 2.
In 1948 nearly all Britain’s railways were nationalised and passed into state hands. After the Second World War Britain’s railways were worn out and their owners could not afford to repair them; hence British Railways was born.
At Nationalisation most of the locos were still steam powered. In 1956 some Diesel Multiple Units and Railcars were introduced on some local services on the Leamington (Avenue)-Coventry-Nuneaton line. Steam traction on Paddington-Birmingham-Wolverhampton express services was replaced by diesel locomotives in 1962.
From 1967 all express trains to/from Paddington were rerouted to Birmingham New Street. In a major change some Inter City trains commenced running again between Leamington and Coventry in 1977. In 1996 Chiltern Railways were awarded the franchise running trains between London (Marylebone) and Birmingham (Moor Street) with diesel multiple units.
The station’s garden, which the Friends of Leamington Station help to maintain, was awarded the title of Best British Garden in 2009.
Looking to the future the Government Infrastructure Plan in 2013 includes improvements to the Nuneaton-Coventry-Kenilworth and Leamington line including electrification.
A more detailed Research Paper is available HERE
Mick Jeffs and Barry Franklin, revised June, 2016
Further information can be found on the Warwickshire Railways website
Railways to Kenilworth and Milverton, Robin D Leach, Odibourne Press