Notes: After a local campaign the residents of Ashdon were
given a new halt which opened on the up side of the lone on
14th August 1911. The platform was constructed of raised earth
and clinker with sleeper frontage to the track and sleeper edging.
An old GER carriage body was mounted on the platform in 1916
to act as a waiting room. The carriage was stripped internally
and wooden benches fitted to the sides. The halt was never staffed.
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SAFFRON
WALDEN RAILWAY 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
14th November 1860 with the Saffron Walden Railway Act receiving
Royal Assent on 22nd 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 18th May
1863 and on 2nd 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 18th November 1865 the branch to Saffron Walden opened 5
days later. The extension to Bartlow, although running through
a much hillier terrain requiring cuttings and embankments was
completed 11 months later opening on 26th 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 1st 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 prewar 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 improving road
transport. Passenger numbers remained healthy however as few
local people owned cars.
On 1st 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 1930's 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 back in decline following the lifting of petrol rationing.
By the early 1950's 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 rail buses were introduced
on 7th 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 7th September 1964. Within a month of closure,
BR announced their intention to withdraw freight facilities
from 28th 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
Further reading: The Saffron Walden Branch by P. Paye - Oxford
Publishing Company 1981 ISBN 86093 107 2
For pictures of other stations on the Saffron Walden branch
Branch Lines - Saffron Walden then and now web site and
End to Bartlow Branch web site
To see the other
stations on the Saffron Walden branch click on the station name:
Audley End, Saffron
Walden, Acrow Halt
See also Colne
Stour Valley Railway
Long Melford - Bury St.
Edmunds Branch Line