The Crouch Valley Railway Line

The Crouch Valley line is a branch line running 16.5 miles from Southminster to Wickford.

Stations on the line are Battlesbridge, South Woodham Ferrers, North Fambridge, Althorne, Burnham-on-Crouch, Southminster.

Regular electric trains run on the line which include through trains to London Liverpool Street at busy periods.

The line is also used to convey used rods from nearby Bradwell nuclear power station to Sellafield.

   Burnham Railway Station 2007


Construction

The line was built by Great Eastern Railway opening  to Goods traffic on 1 June 1889 and to passengers a month later.

The main engineering contractor for the construction of the Southminster branch was Walter Scott and Co of Newcastle who employed the noted engineer Thomas Middleton to build the stretch from Althorne to Southminster

Over 500 navvies were involved in the construction which cost a total of nearly 1/2 million pounds.

The Railway Stations and other buildings at Burnham were erected at a cost estimated as between 2 and 3 thousand pounds.

The line took about two years to build with materials shipped in to a quay at Stokes Hall, Althorne by Thames barge from brick fields in Kent.

New bridges were constructed in 1887 at Church Road, Burnham on Crouch and Ferry Road, Creeksea.

To celebrate the opening a banquet was held at Southminster for railway officials, contractors and invited guests.

Local shops at Burnham and Southminster were decorated with bunting and many closed at 1pm so that the shopkeepers could join the crowded trains and get their first taste of railway travel.

For the public a flower show was held with fireworks in the evening.

At Southminster Mr J S Prior and at Burnham Messrs.' A B and W A Croxon paid for local children, aged from 5 to 12 yrs, to ride to Wickford and back on the first operating day.

Building the railway line brought with it other problems. In 1889 the Medical Officer for Health for Burnham reported that the large number of navies now lived in the Parish which had resulted in a rise in the number of deaths to 15 partly caused by the introduction of diphtheria.

In 1889 a first class ticket from Burnham on Crouch to London was 8s 8d (44pence) and a second class ticket was 4s 4d ( 22 pence).

First Class to Maldon was 2s 9d first class and 1sh 3d for a third class ticket.

The through trains to London initially terminated at Fenchurch Street but this changed to Liverpool Street with a traveling time of 1 hour 42 minutes. To people used to walking or horse and carts this was really fast travel.

GER became part of LNER ( London and North Eastern Railways) in 1923 although the rolling stock, staff and stations operated unchanged..

 

althorne rail ticket a Ticket from Althorne in the old LNER days.

Regular goods services were required to service the Mildmay Ironworks at Burnham on Crouch

for details of the ironworks.

Southminster Market was held 9 times a year in relation to horses ( not at Christmas or harvest) and weekly for the cattle market. Each market day  trains with 10 or more cattle wagons left Southminster.

Another regular train was the sugar beet train that left Burnham sidings at 6pm each weekday during the sugar beet season.

 

North Fambridge Rail Station 2007

 


During World War I the Dengie became a front line area and the railways played an important part in transporting troops and materials.for details of WW1 in the Dengie 100.


Between the wars a number of schemes were proposed to extend the Crouch Valley Line including bridges at Creeksea to reach Southend and a bridge over the River Blackwater at Bradwell via Mersea Island to reach Colchester.

None of the schemes came to fruition although traces of the preliminary work can be found at Fairhaven Avenue, West Mersea and on some old maps this road is called Station Road.


 

World War 2 once more turned Dengie into a front line area and the Crouch Valley Line again became the central supply line.

The Army, Navy and RAF were all well represented and so service vehicles, 'liberty buses' and Service Uniforms became familiar features at Southminster and Burnham Railways Stations.

for details of Dengie in WW2


In 1948 the railways were nationalised and Great Eastern gave way to British Rail- Eastern Region.

Althorne Railway Station 1956 Copyright Brian Pask

Althorne Railway Station is pictured in 1956 - Picture supplied local transport expert, Brian Pask who holds copyright on the picture

In 1957 a new prosperity came to the line with construction work for the new nuclear power station at Bradwell on Sea.


In 1964 the line survived the ' Beeching Axe' which had closed so many other small branch line including the nearby Maldon to Witham line.

The need for nuclear waste trains and the ballast trains from pits between Burnham and Southminster seem to have been the deciding factors in not only keeping the line alive but in its eventual electrification in  1986.

Burnham signal box before electrification

The negative effect of the review was the closure and removal of the goods sidings at all stations other than Southminster and the demolition of the majority of station buildings .

 


SOUTHMINSTER

 John Hinson runs a site called THE SIGNAL BOX dedicated to Railways with emphasis on signaling.

He has been kind enough to give me permission to use the photographs on Southminster Signal Box. If this interests you please visit his site for more fascinating details.

Great Eastern Railway -Southminster Signal Box

 

Opened: 1889

Closed: c1991

Location code: E35/23

 

Southminster is the terminus of a surviving branch line which turns of the Great Eastern's line to Southend Victoria at Wickford. All of the boxes in this area that dated from the lines' opening in 1889 were a variation on the Great Eastern's final standard of 1885 onwards by having more steeply pitched roofs and other ornate features. All boxes of this type were built by McKenzie & Holland.

As might be expected, the interior view is dominated by a McKenzie & Holland frame of 36 levers, a common type used by many railway companies.

No block shelf is provided - this was not necessary because there were no block instruments to place on it. The single line is controlled by the Miniature Electric Train Staff instrument mounted upon a sturdy cupboard in the far corner.

The line was electrified and resignalled around 1991, but the lever frame seen here was transferred to the nearby Mangapps Farm Railway Museum, where it has been reassembled so that visitors can operate it and examine the workings.

All photographs of southminster signal box copyright � John Hinson unless otherwise stated


The centenary of the line in 1989 was marked by activities up and down the line.

North Fambridge commemorated the centenary by a plaque in the village hall.


The Maldon to Woodham Ferrers Branch Line was completed 4 months after the Crouch Valley Line was completed linking in between South Woodham and North Fambridge Stations.

For details of the Maldon to South Woodham Branch Line  line

For details of the first Station Masters on the line

For details of a public meeting promoting the need for the line in 1882

 

 

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