Station Name: ACROW HALT

Date opened: 25.3.1957
Location: On the south side of Station Road
Company on opening: British Railways (Eastern Region)
Date closed to passengers: 7.9.1964
Date closed completely: 7.9.1964
Company on closing: British Railways (Eastern Region)
Present state: The heavily overgrown platform and waiting shelter are still extant and easily accessible from alongside the Ashdon Road Bridge. Although most of the platform is covered with impenetrable undergrowth the central section with the waiting shelter is clear of undergrowth. Some embedded rail can still (2014) be seen in the Coronation Works but a planning application has been submitted to the council to redevelop the 45 acre site.
County: Essex
OS Grid Ref: TL554389
Date of visit: September 1969, July 1975 & 2.8.2005

Notes: On 25 March 1957 a new halt to serve the workers at the Coronation Works of Acrow Engineering Ltd on the outskirts of Saffron Walden just north of the Ashdon Road underbridge. The halt was constructed by Acrow and donated to British Railways on completion in 1957. The opening ceremony was attended by the mayor of Saffron Walden and the driver and fireman of the first train to call at the halt were presented with a bottle of champagne. The train was hauled by N7 No. 69651.

A steeply inclined siding serving the factory left the line via a trailing connection at the east end of the platform; after a short distance this split into three sidings. The sidings were accessed via a ground frame released by a key from the single line token. The factory was not rail served until c1957.

The new halt consisted of a concrete platform with an openfronted concrete waiting shelter in the centre of the platform. At the back of the shelter and inclined concrete path led up to the factory. There were two electric lights over two yellow nameboards that featuring the company 'Acrow' logo. Some of the concrete edging was also pained yellow; this was the company livery.

Click here to view a series of photographs of the Coronation works sidings taken in April 2013.

In 1835 Saffron Walden was surveyed as part of the London to Cambridge railway line and hopes for its future prosperity were raised. Unfortunately the intervention of Lord Braybrooke made the siting of a station in Saffron Walden impossible, and a new station was constructed two miles from the town at Audley End.

It was soon apparent to the town council that they needed a railway connection to arrest the economic depression which had descended on the town. A public meeting was held in 1860, and a proposal was put to the Eastern Counties Railway for a branch from Audley End to Saffron Walden. Sufficient local finance was soon forthcoming, and a Bill was put before Parliament on 14 November 1860 with the Saffron Walden Railway Act receiving Royal Assent on 22 July 1861.

Even before the first sod was cut, there was a proposal, unpopular with some directors, to extend the line northwards to a junction with the recently authorised Eastern Counties Shelford - Sudbury (Stour Valley) line at Bartlow.

Construction of the Saffron Walden branch started on 18 May 1863, and on 2 June 1863 the Saffron Walden Railway Extension Act received Royal Assent. The construction of the line was virtually trouble-free and, after passing a Board of Trade inspection on 18 November 1865, the branch to Saffron Walden opened five days later. The extension to Bartlow, although running through a much hillier terrain requiring cuttings and embankments, was completed 11 months later opening on 26 October 1866

From the outset the line was beset with problems. Passenger numbers were disappointing, not helped when the state of the track required a 10 mph speed limit to be introduced. To avoid insolvency the Saffron Walden Railway Company eventually sold out to the Great Eastern on 1 January 1877.

The new ownership brought changes, with a through service to London being introduced in an attempt to increase passenger revenue, Goods traffic handled at Saffron Walden yards was increasing steadily each year.

WW1 brought added prosperity; although the line was now under government control, the pre-war passenger timetable was retained, and goods traffic flourished as home grown produce was dispatched to towns and cities to make up for the loss of imported food. The countryside around Saffron Walden was also used for troop training which brought added traffic to the branch.

After the war the 1919 General Railway Strike led to a decline in railway freight with local farmers turning to the improving road transport. Passenger numbers remained healthy, however, as few local people owned cars.

On 1 January 1923 the GER was absorbed into the London & North Eastern Railway. Initially there were few changes, but a railway strike in 1924 brought a decline in use of the branch with passengers turning to road transport. The 1926 General Strike brought a further decline in freight traffic from which the branch was never to recover.

Passenger receipts began to pick up in the mid 1930s when holidays and rambles in the country became popular. Shortly after the start of WW2 the branch began carrying evacuees from London, and with petrol rationing curtailing road transport the line began to prosper with most trains running full.

After the war the service began to deteriorate with freight traffic in decline once again following the lifting of petrol rationing. By the early 1950s the increase in car ownership led to a dramatic loss in passenger revenue, but as several of the surrounding lines closed the Saffron Walden branch survived and, as part of the 1955 BR Modernisation Plan, diesel railbuses were introduced on 7 July 1958. Despite their success the line was listed for closure in the 1963 ‘Beeching Report’; and despite a spirited local attempt to keep the line open the passenger service was withdrawn from 7 September 1964. Within a month of closure, BR announced their intention to withdraw freight facilities from 28 December 1964.

The junction at Audley End was severed by June 1965 and the majority of the track was lifted during the summer of 1968. A short section at Bartlow was retained, and this was used during the making of the film Virgin Soldiers. The last section of track was finally removed when the Stour Valley line was lifted in 1970.

Further reading: The Saffron Walden Branch by P. Paye - Oxford Publishing Company 1981 ISBN 86093 107 2

Ticket from Michael Stewart & route map drawn by Alan Young.

To see the other stations on the Saffron Walden branch click on the station name: Audley End, Saffron Walden, Ashdon Halt & Bartlow

See also Colne Valley Railway
Stour Valley Railway
Long Melford - Bury St. Edmunds Branch Line

An unidentified Waggon and Maschinenbau railbus is seen at Acrow Halt on an unconfirmed date. Information with the image (click credit below) states '1958-07-06' and then contradicts this with '16 July 1958'. Certain features of the image are not quite what they seem at first glance; the driver is in the near cab of the railbus yet the tail lamp is also in position on this end. Under magnification the 'driver' does not appear to be wearing a drivers' uniform and he is standing rather than sitting. This suggests the person in the cab is some other railway official who has positioned himself in the cab for what is clearly a deliberately posed official photograph. On the conflicting dates, if we take '1958-07-06' (in other words 6 July 1958) as being the correct version, this was the day prior to railbuses taking over the service and this bears out the suspicion of this view being deliberately posed. The destination blind set to Saffron Walden was probably also deliberate as a subtle way of publicising on which particular line railbuses were being introduced: railbuses also took over the Braintree and Maldon branches on the same day. This view also makes clear the simple and clinical, yet perfectly fit-for-purpose, design of the halt. The sloping concrete ramp up to the factory is seen on the right. Note that there was apparently no form of platform lighting at this time.
Photo from National Railway Museum and SPPL

This is a simulated 1:2,500 OS map showing the halt and siding serving the Coronation works.

An enlargement of the above map shows the platform shelter and the ramp down from the factory.

Acrow Halt looking north-west c early 1960s. Note the two nameboards, each featuring the Acro logo.
Photo from John Mann collection

Diesel railbus E79960 bound for Haverhill speeds through Acrow Halt in April 1963. With the passage of time, some confusion has arisen concerning Audley End - Haverhill services. None called at Acrow Halt; however they called at Ashdon on weekdays, but not on Sunday. Contrary to some reports, all called at Bartlow. By the time of the above photograph, Acrow Halt had been propelled into the modern age by the installation of electric lighting. The arrangement, which can be seen above, was quite crude. One lamp was fixed to each of the running-in boards with power supplied via an overhead cable. This cable was presumably connected to a supply at the factory. Lighting was probably switched on only when services were due to call, and then only during the shorter daylight hours of the winter months. The lighting, and indeed the provision of the halt in the first place, suggests that Messrs Acrow were keen to promote use of the railway. Quite how much use was made of the halt by Acrow staff is not clear; one down Audley End - Saffron Walden service, the 8.11am SX was booked to work forward to Acrow Halt 'if required' and this clause suggests that usage was not especially heavy. Perhaps, however, the previous service to call at Acrow was more convenient for the workers, this being the 7.0am Audley End - Bartlow which called at Acrow 7.7am. The walkway behind the railings leads to the inclined
ramp up to the factory.
Photo from John Mann collection
Acrow Halt looking north-east from the Ashdon Road underbridge in September 1969; one year after the track was lifted. The junction with the siding is out of view round the bend.
Photo by Nick Catford

Acro Halt looking south-west towards Saffron Walden in September 1969.
Photo by Nick Catford

Acrow Halt looking south-west in July 1975; nature is gradually taking over the trackbed and encroaching onto the platform.
Photo by Nick Catford

Acrow Halt looking north-east in the early 1980's. By this time the platform was also heavily overgrown.
Photo by John Wells

Despite difficulty accessing the platform fly tippers have managed to find a route there to dump their rubbish as seen in this view from August 2005.
Photo by Nick Catford

In April 2013 it was a pleasant surprise to find the rubbish had been removed but the graffiti artists had discovered the site. Perhaps they should have been invited to decorate the rather bland waiting shelter when the half first opened!
Photo by John Wells

The inclined path up to the factory in April 2013. Some undergrowth has been cut away since 2005 making access to the platform easy.
Photo by John Wells




[Source: Nick Catford & Darren Kitson]

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