following is a slightly edited and updated version of
an article produced by David Heath at about the time
of the Millennium and which itself is an updated version
of the one that appears in the 1994 Radley
Rail Gala souvenir programme.
The Railway & RADLEY
by David Heath
In June 1994, Radley played a key
role in celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of
the opening of the GWR's Didcot & Oxford Railway.
Day was a huge success: a large number of visitors
enjoyed a variety of attractions, spearheaded by the
special steam-hauled trains. During these festivities
it was easy to overlook one important point: although
the railway came to Radley in 1844, it was in fact another
30 years before the village was blessed with an actual
In many ways, the history of Radley station is interwoven
with that of the Abingdon Branch. This famous line opened
in 1856, but the original junction station was actually
located 3/4 mile south of Radley at Nuneham Bridge.
This station closed in September 1873 when the Abingdon
Branch was extended northwards to a brand new station
at Radley. Though originally envisaged by the GWR to
serve the village (and the college), Radley station
would be known for almost a century as the 'Junction
for Abingdon'. Indeed, the branch generated most of
the station's traffic. Oxford-London expresses would
make their only stop en route at Radley to pick up passengers
brought from Abingdon. Even today, Radley boasts a superior
service to that offered by the neighbouring stations
at Culham and Appleford.
Radley had quite an interesting
layout which remained virtually unchanged for nearly
a century. In addition to the two main running lines,
there were three loops and two sidings in the yard,
one of which served the College. Goods facilities were
introduced during the mid 1890s, and a cattle dock established
in 1903. Access to the station was by means of a long
drive from the Lower Radley side of the road bridge.
By the early 1980s, this road bridge had begun to subside
due to a continual pounding by the heavy lorries serving
the gravel pits in Lower Radley. During one weekend
in November 1983, the line between Oxford and Didcot
was closed whilst the bridge was demolished and replaced
by a new faceless concrete structure.
In September 1963, passenger services ceased on the
Abingdon Branch. The rationalisation of the Beeching
era saw Radley downgraded to an un-manned halt: the
buildings were demolished and the superfluous track
in the goods yard lifted to form a car park. By the
1970s, the station was only a shadow of its former self
- weeds growing on the platforms which were devoid of
all structures apart from a solitary brick shelter on
the Up side. The Abingdon Branch continued as a freight
only line until its eventual closure in June 1984. Although
the trackbed has now been truncated by redevelopment
at the Abingdon end, the rest of the formation remains
in situ, and could potentially form the basis of a Light
Rail Transit system.
Radley station has undergone three facelifts in the
last 20 years. Following the launch of Network SouthEast
in 1986, the station received new nameboards and red
lamp-posts. The footbridge was also repainted in an
attractive chocolate and cream scheme. In 1998, Railtrack,
in conjunction with Thames Trains, undertook a £340,000
refurbishment of the station. The platforms were resurfaced,
new railings erected and a ramp built for improved access.
A public address system was also installed together
with a customer help-point. More recently the car park
has been properly surfaced and the lamp-posts and railings
repainted in blue from the livery of Thames Trains which
operates the station. Future plans include the provision
of CCTV. The old diesel multiple units have long gone,
replaced by Networker Turbo trains which offered huge
improvements in safety, comfort and reliability.
Although passengers have yet to see the full benefits
of rail privatisation, in fairness things are no worse
than they were under British Rail. Radley continues
to enjoy an excellent rail service, and long may it
continue to do so.