The Northampton to Bedford Railway

On 19th August 1864 a meeting of landowners and investors agreed to form the Northampton, Bedford and Leamington Railway Company to construct lines connecting these towns. The only opposition to the plan came from the Marquis of Northampton, who wanted the railway kept away from his estate at Yeardley Hastings. In July 1865 an

Midland Railway Company Crest

Act of Parliament authorised the construction of five lines by the Northampton and Bedford Railway, with a grant of £400,000. The first of these lines would run from a junction on the Leicester to Bedford line to a station in the centre of Northampton. The plans for the new railway were drawn up by the Surveyor Charles R Cheffins and Charles Liddell an Engineer who had been a student of railway pioneer George Stevenson. It was also agreed that the Midland Railway Company would operate the services that ran on the line.

In August 1870 Edwin Clarke Punchard and Co were appointed to construct the line. Edwin Clarke, who oversaw the work, was a renowned Engineer who had worked on railway projects with Robert Stevenson.

Edwin Clarke (1814-1894)

At Hardingstone Junction, where the Engine Shed is located, the Midland Railway Surveyor, Captain Tyler noted that as a single line, traffic coming in and out of the goods yard at Cotton End would disrupt passenger services coming in and out of St John’s Station. The opening of the line was therefore delayed when it was decided to make the route a double line.   Many of the cuttings and embankments were also damaged by heavy rain in 1871.

On Friday March 15th 1872 a special train left the new Station at St John’s to mark the completion of the line. As reported in the Northampton Mercury:

” A small party of gentlemen, at the invitation of Mr. Mkeown, the Engineer of the Line, representing Messrs. Punchard and Clarke, the contractors of the line, were conveyed up the line by a special engine. Amongst the party were Mr. WM. Shoosmith (the Town Clerk),  Mr. AB. Marksham, Mr. HB. Markham, Mr. JB. Hensman, Mr. HP. Hensman, Mr. W.J Peirce, Mr. Alexander Milne, Mr. Arthur Lovell, Mr. Pidcock, Mr. Dunkley, Mr Barnes (of the Midland) &c.

The Party met at the Northampton station, where suitable accommodation had been provided, two open wagons suitably fitted up, accompanied by a closed carriage should the weather prove unfavourable.”

(Northampton Mercury, 16th March, 1872)

Although official celebrations to mark the opening were delayed following the death of the Duke of Bedford, The Northampton to Bedford line opened to traffic on 10th June 1872, with five passenger trains a day running on the line. On 26th July 1872 the official opening was marked at Bedford Assembly Rooms.