Station Name: AUDLEY END
(Saffron Walden Branch Platform)

[Source: Nick Catford and Darren Kitson]

Date opened: 23.11.1865
Location: On the south side of Station Road and on the east side of the existing Audley End Station.
Company on opening: Saffron Walden Railway
Date closed to passengers: 7.9.1964
Date closed completely: 7.9.1964
Company on closing: British Railways (Eastern Region)
Present state: Much of the platform and the building are still extant although some of the platform is very overgrown. The platform now stands in the middle of Audley End Station car park. The waiting shelter retains its original seats and is now used a bicycle park.
County: Essex
OS Grid Ref: TL517363
Date of visit: 20.6.1964, 1971 & 10.9.2005

Notes: The simple branch platform at Audley End included the station master's office, store room and an open fronted waiting shelter. Passengers changing from the main line platforms had to leave the station through the booking office, cross the station forecourt to reach the branch platform. To the south of the platform there was an 80' long shunting spur.

The track through the branch platform and the siding were lifted by June 1965 to make way for an extension to the car park.

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 in 1970.

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

For pictures of other stations on the Saffron Walden branch see UK Branch Lines - Saffron Walden then and now web site and Audley End to Bartlow Branch web site

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

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

Audley End Station Gallery 1: c1930s - 1956

Audley End branch platform looking towards the junction. The photograph is difficult to date but a number of features pin it down to the 1930s - c1947 period. Even under magnification the uniform of the employee on the platform is hard to identify, other than that his greasetop cap bears a badge which is definitely not British Railways. The missing pieces of wood above the waiting shelter are known to have been absent during the period suspected and the wooden fencing behind and to the right of the platform building had gone by nationalisation. The seldom photographed up starter signal, left background, has an upper quadrant arm on a concrete post and these changes are known to have been made by the LNER. The platform bench seats do not appear to have nameplates on their backrests and by nationalisation they did have; these, too, were an LNER embellishment. Behind the up starter signal part of the signal box can just be seen. The building behind the platform is Barnard's warehouse and appearances are deceptive. What appears to be two separate buildings is in fact one. In Eastern Counties Railway (ECR) days Barnard had been busy opening numerous granaries and warehouses at, among other places in the region, stations on the Cambridge line including the well known granaries at Sawbridgeworth. Surviving records concerning Barnard at Audley End are rather patchy but it seems the original premises was that seen, above, on the left and which seems to have dated from ECR days. With the arrival of the Saffron Walden Railway at Audley End, the premises were expanded and in such a way as to make best use of the available land within the 'V' between the two railways. This accounts for the odd and deceptive shape of the building which, photographic evidence suggests, disappeared sometime after 1956. Barnard's premises at Saffron Walden, opposite the station, and elsewhere survived considerably longer. Today, with almost the entire area adjacent to Audley End station given over to car parking for commuters, it is difficult to appreciate what it was once like to walk from the main line station to the branch platform among the hustle and bustle of the commercial activities in and around the goods yard.
Photo from Duncan Chandler collection from his Flickr photostream

Audley End station and environs on an 1877 1:2500 OS map. Note the spelling 'Audleyend'. This may be an archaic spelling or a map error; the railways always gave the name as two words. The Saffron Walden branch platform sits rather insignificantly to the right of the main station and Audley End viaduct can be seen at the bottom centre of the map. Track alterations later placed the end of the branch trap siding closer to the viaduct. Around the branch and adjacent to '195' the first level crossing on the branch can be seen. This was a gated crossing on a private road serving Mutlow Hall and, unusually for a private road, appears to have had a gatehouse. There was only one public level crossing on the Saffron Walden branch: that at the site of what would later become Ashdon Halt. The Neville Arms is shown; this would cease to become a public house between the wars but the building survives as of 2015 in use of offices. Over at the main line station the black buildings are, top to bottom, the goods shed, station building and Barnard Brothers granary and warehouse. The goods shed was a peculiar affair. It is visible in some photographs of the branch platform and, in those, what appears to be the side of the shed is in fact its south end. Rail access was as seen above, via two wagon turntables entering through what would normally by the side of the building. A cattle dock is seen on the down side to the north of the station with its own entrance in Station Road; pens are identified on the north side of the dock. Shunting in the early years was by horse. The Eastern Counties Railway is known to have provided the necessary stables in 1853 located, apparently, at the gasworks. Two curious records survive from 1858; one states the horses at Audley End were well tended but the other mentions the stables being in a disgusting condition. The 1877 map also shows two little-known features of Audley End: the gasworks and the wagon turntable which gave access to the short gasworks siding. Technically, the use of the word 'gasometer' is incorrect as the plant produced gas rather than simply storing and pressurising it. The latter is the purpose of a gasometer. More on this can be read in the dedicated section.

Audley End station and environs on a 1919 1:2500 OS map. In comparison with the 1877 map, a number of changes to track layout are apparent and not least on the Saffron Walden branch. The long siding has appeared and extends as far as Mutlow Hall level crossing, while a trap siding has appeared at the long siding's southern end. The trap siding from the branch platform loop has been realigned and now extends closer to the viaduct. In the main line department, a third trap siding has appeared, protecting the junction of the up main line from Barnard Brothers siding. The footbridge is shown connecting the staggered up and down platforms but the goods shed is now served only by one road. The southernmost of the two goods shed wagon turntables is still apparently in existence, but the road from it into the south end of the shed has been lifted. The reason is clear from the map: the installation of yet another trap siding - this time adjacent to the west face of the shed. The area between the goods shed and the station building (where F.B. is seen) is a small goods dock. The larger cattle dock is seen to the north of the station on the up side, immediately south of the Station Road bridge. There is a livestock pen at the north end of the dock. The wagon turntable and short siding serving the gasworks has gone although the gasworks itself still exists but is not marked as such. Small rural gasworks were once very common with some, including that at Audley End, being built by railway companies but many had ceased to operate in the years prior to WWII. Click here for a larger version of this map.

A 1952 aerial view of Audley End station. The line to Cambridge is to the bottom left - as are Audley End and Littlebury tunnels - and to Liverpool Street towards the top right. The staggered platform arrangement and footbridge of the main line station are visible with the station building on the up side with Barnard's building beyond. Audley End's main line platforms had been extended in 1862 - the first of several extensions. To the left of the mail station building is the goods shed, the design of which is more apparent from this angle. The shed had been enlarged in 1858. A single wagon waits in front of the shed and ahead of the wagon can just be discerned what was, by the, the sole remaining wagon turntable. Between the shed and the station building is the small goods dock with one siding running alongside the dock and another terminating end-on to it. At the top is the Saffron Walden branch and the branch platform waiting shelter, with its two chimneys, can be seen to the left of Barnard's building. Close to the junction (top right) and on the up side of the branch the grounded carriage body can be seen in use as a store by the Signalling & Telecommunications Department. The carriage began life with the GNR in 1897 and is believed to have been a 6-wheel lavatory brake composite. Withdrawn in 1941 as LNER No.81994, its body was taken to Audley End where it went on to outlive the Saffron Walden branch. It was removed, probably demolished on-site, by 1970. The tall chimney on the right and the building at its foot, but largely hidden, was possibly a pumping station which stood on the site of, or was converted from part of, the one-time Audley End gasworks.
Reproduced with the kind permission of Simmons Aerofilms Ltd

An interesting 1952 view of Audley End goods shed, looking due east across the mill, down platform building, water tower and what is thought to have been a pumping station. The gasworks was located at the extreme bottom right. The wagon at bottom right was at the end of the down siding which extended from Audley End Junction. Due to a number of platform extensions over the years, this siding was gradually reduced in length until, by the 1970s, it was effectively reduced to a short trap siding trailing from the down main adjacent to the signal box. Today there is no trace of this or any other siding at Audley End. The main point of interest above is the peculiar goods shed with, by 1952, a single track running through it and with access via the wagon turntable. There was once a second such turntable giving access to the southernmost bay of the shed. To the right of the wagon in front of the shed can just be made out the points and short siding which gave an end-on loading facility to the dock just visible behind the footbridge. It was the provision of this siding which necessitated the removal of the second wagon turntable, this alteration occurring around the turn of the twentieth century. To the left of the goods shed is the Neville Arms, and the relationship between this building and the goods shed gave rise to the unusual situation whereby the track through the shed was on a curve; most maps and plans incorrectly show the track as being straight. The former second track also ran through the shed but was somewhat shorter. In all probability this track was straight as there was no reason for it to be otherwise. The wall along the front of the Neville Arms still exists but the site of the track alongside and of the shed itself is now part of the station car park. A number of period cars can be seen above but most are unidentifiable. Of those which can be identified, one is a Morris 8 Series E while another is an Austin Devon estate. The somewhat larger car, third from left, appears to be American and could be a 1940s Studebaker Commander sedan. The Saffron Walden branch can be seen in the background with an apparently end-loading wagon stabled on the siding. The end of the branch platform can just be discerned on the right. The above scene is totally unrecognisable today, excepting the former Neville Arms building. The multi-storey mill building towards the bottom left also still exists but is now nestled in a business park comprised largely of modern buildings.
Reproduced with the kind permission of Simmons Aerofilms Ltd

Today when you park your Dacia Duster, Vauxhall Mokka, Mitsubishi Lettuce or other hilariously named car in Audley End station car park to catch the 07:40 to Liverpool Street, it would be hard to appreciate that back in 1955 this delightful scene could be witnessed. Most photographs of Audley End branch platform are taken along the platform and / or of the front of the waiting shelter so the above view is something of a rarity, and were it not for the name on the gas lamp casement it would be hard to identify the location. The locomotive is one of the three ex-North Eastern G5 0-4-4Ts which Stratford had fobbed-off onto Cambridge in 1951 to work the branch. The starter signal, partly obscured by the tree, is 'off' and the train will shortly commence its three-minute run to Saffron Walden.
Photo by Peter Jamieson

This 1956 view of Audley End branch platform scores no points for delightfulness, unlike the view above, but is of interest from the operational aspect. One of the push & pull sets which came to the branch in 1951 with the G5s stands at the platform, but the locomotive is Class E4 2-4-0 No 62787. No E4 was push & pull fitted so when one appeared on the branch the normal push & pull set continued to be used, but the locomotive had to run round at Audley End, Bartlow and Saffron Walden. This is what is happening here. The duties of Saffron Walden crews varied in length but on average when a non-push & pull locomotive was used the fireman had to climb down to uncouple and recouple 22 times. The same applied, of course, before push & pull working was introduced to the branch. The G5s were not the best of locomotives by the time they appeared at Saffron Walden and failures occurred from time to time. When this happened, Cambridge usually sent an E4 as the replacement. The E4 class was liked by Saffron Walden crews whereas the G5s were not so this, no doubt, compensated somewhat for the extra work required when constantly running round. On the platform, some parcels and other items have been unloaded or are about to be loaded. The main line part of the station is off the picture to the left. No.62787 was allocated to Cambridge in August 1956 (it was previously at Norwich) but withdrawn in November of the same year so the image dates from that four-month period.
Photo by Peter Jamieson

This view at Audley End might be of interest to modellers. Click here for a larger version. The driving trailer is one of two on the branch at this time; E63423E and E63426E with that seen above being the latter. Some authors quote these carriages without their 'E' suffix, leading to confusion regarding if suffixes were actually carried but clearly they were. These prefix and suffix letters were introduced by BR for pre-nationalisation stock and post-nationalisation stock built to pre-nationalisation designs. The prefix letter indicated the region the vehicle was allocated to and the suffix the equivalent of the pre-nationalisation company, thus the 'E' suffix indicated LNER or one of its pre-grouping  constituents. Elsewhere in the pages covering the Saffron Walden branch one of these driving trailers having 'Audley End Saffron Walden Bartlow' on a cast metal plate with 'P&P' painted onto the bodywork was mentioned while the other had all these details painted onto the bodywork. As is clear above, E63426E was the vehicle which had all details painted onto the bodywork. The driving position was behind the second window from the left and E63426E was clearly fitted with a windscreen wiper. Photographic evidence suggests the other driving trailer did not have a wiper but it should be remembered both could have been so fitted at a later date, the date of the above image being unknown. However, just visible above is the BR totem above the waiting shelter so the image will date from towards the end of the life of the G5s and these push-and-pull sets so probably late 1956. On the bufferbeam, towards the left, the vehicle's worksplate can be seen. Most companies placed this device on the solebar. The door to the driving cab is lettered 'DRIVER' and the white painted grabrail should be noted. This was to aid staff when climbing up from track level during the hours of darkness. The compartment midway along the carriage with no external door was a lavatory compartment, both vehicles being built originally for the Cromer expresses with E63426E originating as GER No.523 in 1897. It appears the lavatories were removed when the vehicles were converted for push-and-pull working but details are unclear.The open door further along was the luggage compartment. This compartment was accessed via a pair of outward opening doors and the second door, above and nearer the camera, is closed. Less obvious on the above view but more so on the larger version is the general condition of the rolling stock, it had become quite shabby and especially along the bodysides. As always, ample luggage trolleys are available on the platform. No doubt these were welcome when luggage and parcels needed to be conveyed to and from the mainline part of the station.
Photo from David Hey collection

Click here for Audley End Station Gallery 2:
September 1956 - July 1970




[Source: Nick Catford and Darren Kitson]

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