Thaxted Flyer Elsenham Station Elsenham post 1950s Sibleys for Broxted and Chickney to Thaxted Thaxted Rolling Stock and Posters Bylines


We are very grateful to Miss Pimblett, Carol Eaton & Frances Roberts (also for their accompanying text), Gill Turner, Joy Lafferty, Pat Meads and many other residents for their help to build this collection of photographs.

The train line ran through Henham. Construction of the railway commenced on 25th July 1911, and was to be ran by the Great Eastern Railway (GER) Company (later swallowed up by British Railways (BR)). The first train ran on Monday 31st March 1913.

 

The following article is with kind permission of Irwin Press who published this article in British Railways Illustrated in December 1994.

East Anglia was a region served by rural lines. Sometimes they are little more than tramways straddling fields and lanes. Businessmen and landowners were the driving force of the Elsenham to Thaxted line. It penetrated a rural county county where the population lived a peasantry life which was rough, tough and cold for the farmworkers and their families, which made up much of the population and agriculture was the primary occupation which had been in depression for a long time. Decay and depopulation had been happening for years and the building of the line was an optimistic attempt to tap into local resources and transportation links to London and beyond. Essex was still a society ruled

by "Squire and Parson".


The promotors for the scheme were Sir Walter Gilbey (who was a gin manufacturer in Elsenham), George Lee (wholesale confectioner in Thaxted), John Tredgett (farmer Thaxted), Benjamin Tyler (farmer Thaxted), Thomas Franklin (farmer Thaxted), Launcelot Cranmer Byng Esq (Thaxted) and James John Prior (Farmer Great Sampford). Due to the employment of the two prominant promotors it was nicknamed the "Gin and Toffee Line".

 

The estimated cost in 1907 was £31,500 of which a sum of £15,750 was requested from the government. It was anticipated that the building of the light railway would be completed within two years and would benefit the local agriculture. The railway order to commence building the system had further delays, so it took until 1911 when Sir Walter Gilbey cut the first sod ceremony on the site of the Thaxted station. The construction of the line was completed by a London firm at a cost of £4,000. William Bell and Sons won the contract to build the station buildings. The new Elsenham goods shed cost £550. Unfortunately during the construction at Elsenham a ballast wagon crashed with a construction locomotive which killed a labourer.

 

The Great Eastern Railway formerly announced the opening of the line on 1 April 1913. A special first class dining saloon left Liverpool Station for the official opening. A half day's holiday was granted to employees along the route by the local farmers. There was much excitement among the throng, many indeed had never seen a train before. Sir Walter Gilbey purchased the first ticket. One newspaper described that the Thaxted station is "terminating absurdly on a hilltop, to little purpose other than to provide at best a good distant view of the town which was the station was supposed to serve". A postcard printed at the time also infers that it was slower than walking. The local press claimed it would open up for London a tract of country of singular attraction.

The line quickly settled to a pace enjoyed at other similar branch lines, a boon for locals who could explore occasionally nearby towns and an advantage to local farmers and traders. The branch line could not solve the issues of agricultural prices and other general economic woe. The Great War followed by the Great Depression. It missed one cost cutting drive which saw a number of branch lines being closed in the 1930s. During the onset of the second World War, it briefly saw relative prosperity with consignments of bombs and other war material being transported. The first mumblings of the branch line being closed came in 1951 as the buses and lorries could do the trips now. Petitions and the like from people who rarely used the train. The Last Rites came on the 13th September 1952 when No 68579 hauled the last passenger train. Fares were so poor that a taxi took all the passengers to Elsenham, when the train broke down one day. The freight trains still ran three times a week for a year before even they stopped.

The Chickney to Thaxted,Elsenham Station only, Thaxted Station, Rolling Stock and Posters.

 

British Transport Film Picture

Map of the Railway timetable

The map shows the route of the old branch line from Elsenham stopping at Mill Road Halt, Henham Halt (near Woodend Green),
Sibley’s (for Chickney and Broxted), Cutlers Green Halt, and finally to Thaxted. There are additional photograph of Elsenham Station,
before and after the line had closed.

 
Map showing the route in 1950s

The majority of the photographs were taken on 30 June 1951 by Henry Cyril Casserley who visited a number of railways before they closed. Other photographs are from "The Elsenham and Thaxted Light Railway" by Peter Paye.

Elsenham Station Train leaving the Thaxted Branch Line
Elsenham Station with the signal box now demolished

Train leaving on the Thaxted branch line from Elsenham 30 Jun 1951

Elsenham Train
Elsenham Station
The Flyer looking northwards June 1951
The northbound mainline train passing the Flyer June 1951
Flyer Pulling away from Elsenham Station
Elsenham Station
Elsenham
Thaxted Flyer
The Flyer leaving Elsenham Station passing the rear of the ticket office.
The train is leaving Elsenham, the booking office is the brick built building to the right with the
back of the wooded waiting room to the rear. Taken in 1951
Flyer
The last 8:55am passenger train from Elsenham September 1952
 

 

The first station after leaving Elsenham was Henham Mill Road Halt.

 

Henham Mill Drawing Mill Road Station
drawings are kindly provided by Irwin Press

 
Mill Road Statiion Mill Road

 
Mill Road
Mill Road towards Elsenham

 
Flyer into Mill Road Station
Henham Halt Drawing
The Flyer pulling into Mill Road in September 1951
 


After leaving Henham Mill, the train continued to Henham Halt.

Henham Halt Station henham Halt carriage

 

Henham Halt Sttation


Henham Halt
Tom Pimblett's medical friends and 'Bingo' at Henham Halt 1949
The waiting room was an old carriage

Tom Pimblett's medical friends and 'Bingo' at Henham Halt 1949
 
Henham Halt Station

This was taken on 15 August 1936: Ex-GER J69/1' 0-6-0T No 7193 brings its Thaxted branch train into Henham Halt, and the guard hovers politely as a group of villagers see a friend off to the main line at Elsenham, 1 1/2 miles distant. Note the steps which were fitted for passenger use at the low-platformed halts. Even the carriage wheels on Thaxted branch stock were reduced to 2ft 9in diameter from 3ft 6 1/2in. The coach nearest the camera, brake third No 62913, and passenger third No 60866 were two of five six-wheeled vehicles specially converted at Stratford Works for the opening of the branch on 1 April 1913. The pair served faithfully right up to 21 June 1947. They even lived on another seventeen years as service units before meeting their doom in 1964.

In the year 1936 three oil lamps, a garden seat, an old coach acting as waiting room, and a fire bucket offered such sophistication as Henham Halt could summon. Yet there is a timeless charm about this country station scene. Only too typical of modern times, it vanished when BR closed the 'Gin & Toffee' line on 15 September 1952.


Henham Halt Station


Henham Halt
Henham Station in the 1950s
Guard Butt closing 3rd class carriage in September 1951

 
Henham Halt 1936 Henham Halt
Henham Halt August 1936

 
doris and toby at Mill Road
We are grateful to Richard Thomas for this photo, taken between 1934-1936, of his mother Doris Thomas of Pennington View with 'Toby' at Mill Road Station.

platelayers
 
1973 elsenham station
1973 Elsenham station

1956 the fenman
22nd August 1956 - 'The Fenham' express approaching Elsenham
 
henham halt and man Henham Halt 4
Elderly man at Henham Halt station
Henham Halt 1936 Henham Halt 1936


The train continued to Sibleys for Broxted and Chickney.


© Henham History