Morris Cowley railway station

Morris Cowley was an intermediate station on the Wycombe Railway which served the small town of Cowley, just outside Oxford, from 1908 to 1915, and again from 1928 to 1963. The station originally opened as part of an attempt by the Great Western Railway to enable to have more passengers access to the line, at a time when competition from bus services was drawing away patronage. The line through Morris Cowley remains open for the purposes of serving the BMW Mini factory, although the possibility of reinstating passenger services has been explored by Chiltern Railways, the franchise holder for the Chiltern Main Line which runs through Princes Risborough.

Morris Cowley
Morris Cowley station (1963).JPG
AreaCity of Oxford
Grid referenceSP554035
Original companyGreat Western Railway
Pre-groupingGreat Western Railway
Post-groupingGreat Western Railway
Western Region of British Railways
1 February 1908[1]Opened as Garsington Bridge Halt
22 March 1915Closed
24 September 1928Reopened and renamed Morris Cowley
7 January 1963[2]Closed to passengers
Disused railway stations in the United Kingdom
Closed railway stations in Britain


Garsington Bridge HaltEdit

On 24 October 1864 the Wycombe Railway opened an extension of its single track line from Thame to Kennington junction, about 2.5 miles (4.0 km) south of Oxford.[3] The line ran past Cowley but it was a further 40 years before a station was opened here.

In an attempt to stimulate Oxford suburban traffic, the Great Western Railway opened three motor halts on the line, one of which was to be situated to the south of the railway bridge over Garsington Road (now classified the B480). The station was named Garsington Bridge Halt and its opening was approved by the Board of Trade in December 1907. The first services, operated by GWR steam rail motors, ran on 1 February 1908.[4] As with the other halts, Garsington Bridge had a single platform, 150 feet (46 m) long, with a 20 feet (6.1 m) by 70 feet (21 m) corrugated iron passenger shelter.[5] Steps linked the halt with Garsington Road.[6] The halt remained open for only seven years, being closed in 1915 as a First World War economy measure.[2]

In May - June 1917, two loop sidings were opened on the Up side of the line to serve a munitions factory. By September 1917 the sidings were no longer required and were removed.[7]

Growth of Morris MotorsEdit

By 1926, Morris Motors, based in Cowley since 1913, employed some 4,000 workers on their plant which covered some 80 acres (320,000 m2) and produced 1,000 cars per week. Morris decided to concentrate the packing of cars for export at Cowley, the bulk of which would be moved to port by rail. Two sidings were installed in March 1926 to serve the adjacent Pressed Steel Company factory and five more were added in July 1928 for Morris Motors.[8] Around the same time Morris proposed to the GWR to open a passenger and goods station on the site of Garsington Bridge Halt and the new Morris Cowley station subsequently opened to passengers on 24 September 1928 and to goods on 10 December 1928.[9] A new signal box was opened in October 1928 to control the sidings. Basic passenger facilities were provided: a single timber platform 400 feet (120 m) and 12 feet (3.7 m) wide, together with a parcels and booking office, booking hall and toilets. Access to the station was had by a footway leading up from Cowley Road.[10] As production at the Cowley plant increased, so the freight facilities were extended. Car trains ran to Brentford Dock for export, reversing at Kennington junction, whilst a daily train ran from Bordesley. Special services were laid on for the workers, beginning with a through train that departed Banbury at 6.00am, arriving at Cowley at 7.00am. The return working left Cowley at 5.08pm and reached Banbury at 6.06pm. On Saturdays, a service left Cowley at 12.10pm and ran to Kingham where it connected with a Banbury train.[6]

War and post-warEdit

During the Second World War the fields around Cowley were used for the storage of scrap aircraft parts and were depicted in Paul Nash's painting Totes Meer (Dead Sea). Ernest Fairfax also mentioned the scene in his book Calling All Arms.[11] At this time, the factories at Cowley were used for the manufacture of new aircraft and the freight facilities there were substantially extended to handle the extra traffic, including the laying of two new private sidings in 1940 and 1943.[12] Although the post-war period saw a decline in passengers and freight on the line in general, this was not the case at Morris Cowley. Figures from 1933 showed that 1,944 passenger tickets were sold in the year,[8] whereas in July 1957, 1,350 passengers were reported to be using the station in a week. Freight forwarded had also risen from 16,490 tons[8] to 77,147 tons.[13]

Passenger services withdrawnEdit

On the basis of an estimated saving of £34,372, passenger services were withdrawn between Oxford and Princes Risborough from January 1963. Freight services remained, the principal traffic being generated from Morris Cowley which sent five daily freight trains to Oxford. From May 1967, the line between Thame and Cowley was closed, leaving Morris Cowley to take over Wheatley's coal traffic (some 2,000 tons per year). From July 1968, Cowley no longer accepted coal traffic so that the area used could be given over to the loading and unloading of cars.[14]

Preceding station Historical railways Following station
Line open, station closed
  Great Western Railway
Wycombe Railway
  Horspath Halt
Line closed, station closed

Recent historyEdit

Near station site in 2004


Cowley signal box closed from 28 January 1982 and the signals were removed except for the Up distant. A road-rail freight transfer terminal was opened on the site of the old goods shed in May 1984 by David Mitchell, Under-Secretary of State for Transport. The terminal was to be managed by F.C. Bennett, but in the event was only operational for 13 years. Diminishing rail traffic led to the Rover Group, which had taken over Mini production, acquiring the site for further expansion.[15] Track rationalisation at Cowley in the early 1990s resulted in the down loop becoming a dead-end siding and three of the eleven remaining sidings being taken out of use.[16]

BMW MiniEdit

BMW acquired the Rover business in 1994 and ended production of the Rover model, in order to concentrate on the Mini. A new loading terminal was opened and five weekly double-deck car-carrying trains run from the plant, each carrying 264 cars to Purfleet in Essex for onward shipping to Zeebrugge. By 2001, approximately 35% of Cowley's production was sent by rail.[17]

Projected reopeningEdit

As part of its preparations for its bid to run the Chiltern Railways franchise, Chiltern Railways announced in 2000 that it was looking into the possibility of reinstating passenger services on the line between Oxford and Risborough, the cost of which it estimated at £250m.[18] It was decided instead to build a 0.75 miles (1.21 km) link between the Oxford to Bicester Line and the Chiltern Main Line in order to run through services between Oxford and London via High Wycombe.[19]

Though this did not progress, Chiltern Railways announced in October 2014 that the current freight-only line be upgraded to allow passenger trains to run from Oxford station to east Oxford, linking the city centre with business parks (Oxford Science Park) and residential areas such as Blackbird Leys and Littlemore.[20] Since the line runs close to Oxford United Football Club's Kassam Stadium, Blackbird Leys Parish Council chairman, Gordon Roper, suggested that the line could relieve the traffic on matchdays, and the stadium car park could be used by commuters during the week.[20]

In November 2017, the chancellor, Philip Hammond, allocated £300,000 to develop a study to look at how new routes, services and stations could be built in Oxfordshire. This follows after the NIC report suggested the branch line could be reopened in 2019 to a limited service.[21] This has been welcomed by Chiltern Railways who said they would work with other operators to get the line running in two years. In the NIC report it proposed 4 new stations at Iffley, Littlemore, Blackbird Leys and Cowley.[22]

It has been identified by Campaign for a Better Transport as a candidate for reopening.[23]

Station remainsEdit


  1. ^ Butt, 1995, page 101
  2. ^ a b Clinker, 1978, page 65
  3. ^ Oppitz, 2000, page 17
  4. ^ Waters, 1986, p.128
  5. ^ Potts, 2004, page 99
  6. ^ a b Simpson, 2001, page 65
  7. ^ Potts, 2004, pages 105-106
  8. ^ a b c Mitchell and Smith, 2003, plate XI
  9. ^ Potts, 2004, page 123
  10. ^ Potts, 2004, page 125
  11. ^ Potts, 2004, page 149
  12. ^ Potts, 2004, page 252
  13. ^ Potts, 2004, page 204
  14. ^ Potts, 2004, pages 235 and 238
  15. ^ Potts, 2004, page 243
  16. ^ Potts, 2004, page 247
  17. ^ Mitchell and Smith, 2003, plate 41
  18. ^ "New rail links on the cards". Oxford Mail. 16 August 2000. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  19. ^ Shepherd, Tom (11 April 2009). "£200m London link on track". Oxford Mail. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  20. ^ a b Keown, Callum (24 October 2014). "Vision: Passenger trains could run on Cowley branch line". Oxford Mail. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  21. ^ "Cowley branch line moves one step closer to reopening". Oxford Mail. 23 November 2017. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  22. ^ [1] p.57
  23. ^ [2]


  • Butt, R. V. J. (1995). The Directory of Railway Stations: details every public and private passenger station, halt, platform and stopping place, past and present (1st ed.). Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 978-1-85260-508-7. OCLC 60251199.
  • Clinker, C.R. (October 1978). Clinker's Register of Closed Passenger Stations and Goods Depots in England, Scotland and Wales 1830-1977. Bristol: Avon-Anglia Publications & Services. ISBN 0-905466-19-5.
  • Mitchell, Vic; Smith, Keith (April 2003). Branch Lines to Princes Risborough from Aylesbury, Oxford and Watlington. Midhurst, West Sussex: Middleton Press. ISBN 1-904474-05-5.
  • Oppitz, Leslie (2000). Lost Railways of the Chilterns. Newbury: Countryside Books. ISBN 1-85306-643-5.
  • Potts, C.R. (2004). Oxford to Princes Risborough: A GWR Secondary Route. Usk, Mon.: The Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-85361-629-9.
  • Simpson, Bill (2001). A History of the Railways in Oxfordshire; Part 2: The South. Witney, Oxon: Lamplight Publications. ISBN 978-1-899246-06-9.
  • Waters, Laurence (1986). Oxford. Rail Centres. London: Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-1590-2.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 51°43′41″N 1°11′54″W / 51.7280°N 1.1983°W / 51.7280; -1.1983