The segment of the branch line parallel to Cleveland Road, in Uxbridge, which used to connect the market town to the Great Western Railway (GWR) at West Drayton, is being opened for the first time in several years on Saturday for one day.
The invitation to visit the site coincides with a public exhibition at the University, to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of the Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, from Tuesday to Saturday.
The IKB celebrations also coincide with Open House weekend, on Saturday, during which numerous public buildings and areas normally closed to the public will be opened.
The cutting is of historical interest because it contains a re-laid section of GWR broad gauge track work, a “seven-foot railway“ designed by Brunel over which the first train steamed, or rather trundled, into the former Vine Street station on September 8, 1856.
Unfortunately, the locomotives did not match Brunel's vision of 100 mph trains and kept breaking down instead. The line was converted to standard gauge in 1871 and was doubled in 1880. A terminus opened in Cowley in 1904, serving local travellers until the “Beeching Axe“ fell in the 1960s, the name given for the Government reform of the railways proposed by Dr Richard Beeching when 3,000 local stations were closed. The end of the line came in 1965 when the track was finally lifted.
The curator of the IKB anniversary exhibition at Brunel University, in Kingston Lane, Uxbridge, George Mogg, said: “The old trackbed and exhibition will appeal to anyone curious about the early days of Victorian engineering.“
The exhibition will feature a waxworks model of I K Brunel from Madame Tussauds, objects and pictures from the University's collection of Brunel artefacts as well as exhibits about the history of local train transport in Hillingdon.
The Brunel 150th anniversary exhibition,15-19 September, Reception, Wilfred Brown Building, Cleveland Road, Uxbridge. Enquiries: 01895 274000. Open, weekdays: 9am to 5pm; Saturday 11am to 4pm. Railway cutting open on Saturday 11am to 4pm only. By car: Kingston Lane. By public transport: bus U3 to Brunel University, Cleveland Road, from Uxbridge tube or West Drayton railway station.
Notes to Editors
The 150th anniversary exhibition runs from September 15-19. The relaid Brunel “seven foot“ wide railway is open on Saturday September 19, 11am to 4am.
For further details, please contact the Brunel Press Office on 01895 274000 or George Mogg on mob. 07815 125108.
Old photos have been provided by Ken Pearce, chairman Uxbridge Local History and Archive Society. For historical queries, please contact him on 01895 230060.
Early 20th century Great Western Railway workers in Cleveland Road, Uxbridge: the old Brunel track is on the left
Steam train, 1912, travelling along Cleveland Road, Uxbridge. The old Brunel track is on the left
The newly opened Cowley station near Uxbridge, 1905
A 1950s steam train approaching Cowley station. St Andrew's church spire is in the background on the right