Our story of the Oxford-Princes Risborough railway line brought back memories of Oxford’s important role in war work.

Howard Jenkins rode on the line many times with his parents on their way to visit relatives.

He writes: “We would travel from Princes Risborough, get off at Oxford and walk to Gloucester Green to catch the Black and White coach service to Cheltenham from 1941 until the line closed.

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“My memory is the train passed fields near Oxford piled high with crashed Second World War aeroplanes. I can’t put an accurate date on this or place but it would in the region of 1947-51.”

His memory, of course, is correct – the Cowley factories stopped car production and switched to supporting the war effort.

Cowley became No 1 Civilian Repair Unit and put thousands of damaged fighter planes back into service.

Oxford Mail:

Horspath Halt

Mines, trucks, reconnaissance vehicles and many aircraft components were also produced by the workforce at Cowley which, with hundreds of men away in the forces, included many women.

All the work was supervised by owner Lord Nuffield.

He was constantly on the move between his factories at Oxford and in the Midlands, where Spitfire aircraft and Army tanks and lorries were built.

Lord Nuffield’s patriotism was symbolised by his insistence that the Union flag fluttered over all his factories engaged in war work.

The Cowley factories were alongside the Oxford-Princes Risborough rail line, hence Mr Jenkins’ regular sight of damaged aircraft from the train window.

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As we recalled (Memory Lane, November 2), the line linking Oxford with Wheatley and Thame opened in stages between 1862 and 1864.

It closed to through trains in 1963.

Mr Jenkins remembers brown and cream coloured Western Region diesel railcars being used on services in the latter years.

The western section of the line has remained open for freight trains to serve the BMW plant at Cowley.

There is a possibility that passenger trains will be restored to this section in future.

The eastern part from Princes Risborough to Thame was kept open to serve an oil depot until 1991. The trackbed has now been turned into an eight-mile footpath and cycleway known as the Phoenix Trail.

Oxford Mail:

Thame station

Rail enthusiasts can still enjoy activity from Princes Risborough, with trains running, often steam-hauled, on the heritage line to and from Chinnor.

At one point, it was suggested that the whole line might be resurrected and form a new rail route from Oxford to London Marylebone, but that was ruled out when it was decided to extend the Chiltern line to Oxford via Bicester.