Station Name: BLUNHAM

[Source: Nick Catford]

Date opened: 7.7.1862
Location: On the west side of Station Road. In Old Station Court.
Company on opening: Bedford & Cambridge Railway
Date closed to passengers: 1.1.1968
Date closed completely: 1.1.1968
Company on closing: British Railways (Eastern Region)
Present state: The old station approach road has now been redeveloped as Old Station Court with new housing. The stationmasters house and main station building have been retained and refurbished as two private dwellings with part of the platform remaining in the gardens.
County: Bedfordshire
OS Grid Ref: TL149505
Date of visit: December 1967, July 1975, March 1976 & Summer 2006

Notes: Travelling from Oxford in the direction of Cambridge, Blunham was the first station on the Varsity Line which was built in the architectural style of the Bedford & Cambridge Railway, a style which included strong gables in yellow gault brick together with red brick dressings and string courses. As with the other Bedford & Cambridge-built stations with the exception of Potton, the main station buildings were situated on the down side and comprised a two-storey stationmaster's house with the booking office on the lower floor. There was a single storey wing on the west side which formed and open-fronted shelter with a toilet block with narrow vented windows at its west end. An unusual wooden open-fronted shelter served for passengers on the up platform. The two platforms were low and steps were often needed to reach coaches, illuminated at night by the station's oil lamps. The platforms were surfaced with Staffordshire paviors with stone edging. Although the line was single track the station had a very long passing loop. The loop was lengthened in both world wars giving the impression to anyone standing on the platform that the line was double track.

There was a small good yard on the down side. There was a long loop siding to the west of the station and a shorter siding which served a cattle dock on the down side before running through a substantial brick goods shed built to a typical LNWR design, before terminating at the rear of the down platform. The goods shed contained a 25cwt crane. In 1879 a signal box with a 30-lever frame was provided on the up platform opposite the good shed. This controlled access to the goods yard and a long siding the the east of the station that ran one third of a mile to a linseed oil on the banks of the River Ivel.The station, like many others on the Bedford & Cambridge's line, saw considerable vegetable traffic - notably potatoes, leading to special trains being laid on to arrange for the collection of goods for carriage to Bletchley and onward transport to London. The station also had a healthy trade in bananas.

In the early years of the 20th century longer trains began operating on the Oxford - Cambridge line and the platforms were lengthened to accommodate these on 3 August 1916.

The station served a relatively rural community - there were 598 residents in 1901 - and this, coupled with its remote location to the south of Blunham village, left it susceptible to competition from the motor car. The goods yard closed on 13 July 1964 although a private siding remained in use after that date. Within two years the sidings had been lifted and the goods shed had been demolished. Although the line survived Beeching the up platform was shortened as it now only had to accommodate 2-car DMUs.

BRIEF HISTORY OF THE OXFORD - CAMBRIDGE RAILWAY (Bedford - Cambridge section)
The Bedford & Cambridge Railway Bill was put before parliament in 1860 and despite objections from the Eastern Counties Railway the Bill received the Royal Assent on 6th August. As part of the Act, the new Bedford & Cambridgeshire Railway bought out the Sandy & Potton Railway which had opened in 1857 from Sandy to a terminus on Biggleswade Road, Potton.

Work on the line began in April 1861 with the short lived Sandy & Potton Railway closing in December 1861. Much of the route was re-laid and Potton Station was resited close by.

The first train containing directors and shareholders of the company departed from Bedford at 9.04 on 4th July 1862, arriving at Cambridge at 1.30 pm. Three days later the line was officially opened for goods traffic and to passengers on 1st August, finally linking the two university cities of Oxford and Cambridge.

The Bletchley to Bedford line had opened in 1846 and the opening of the Bedford to Cambridge line provided an important cross country link between Oxford and Cambridge forming one of the few east-west routes, with the capability of reaching the east coast ports. Most services however ran from Oxford to Bletchley and from Bletchley to Cambridge.

Intermediate stations were built at Blunham, Potton, Gamlingay, Old North Road & Lords Bridge and a bay was provided at the recently rebuilt Cambridge Station to accommodate the Oxford and Bedford trains. At Sandy the trains from Bedford crossed over the Great Northern line on a lattice bridge running down into the new station which was located alongside the Great Northern station. A new station at Willington was added in 1906 and in 1938 a new halt was opened at Girtford between Blunham & Sandy; this was short lived however closing two years later.

From the offset the train service was run by the London & North Western Railway absorbing the Bedford & Cambridge Railway in July 1865

In 1955 The Railway Modernisation Plan proposed improvements in cross country facilities between Oxford and Cambridge with the aim of maintaining a link between the major main line railways outside the congested Greater London area thereby allowing freight traffic to be transferred between three railway regions and easing the burden on London marshaling yards. Within a few years the policy changed and the line was not upgraded with the Bletchley flyover remaining as a monument to the fruitless proposal.

An attempt was made to close the Oxford - Bletchley - Cambridge line in 1959 but local pressure succeeded in winning a reprieve. There was some relief when Dr. Beeching did not include the cross country Oxford to Cambridge line in his closure proposals in 1963 but just one year later, the British Railways Board published closure plans for the whole route. The introduction of new diesel trains in the 1960's allowed British Railways to run much faster trains and the need for a cross country service declined as passengers found it quicker to travel from Oxford to Cambridge via London. The line closed after the last day of service on 30th December 1967 although the section between Bletchley and Bedford remained open.

Track lifting of the Bedford - Cambridge Line began on 13th August 1968. Track was left in place between Potton and Gamlingay pending negotiations for preservation by the Sandy & Potton Steam Railway Society. Unfortunately the Society was unable to raise sufficient funds and the 5.25 miles of track was eventually lifted. One section of the bed between Lords Bridge Station and the junction with the GER has become the site of a very long radio telescope belonging to the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory (Part of Cambridge University). The long level straight stretch of line was ideal for this telescope which is rail mounted, the track has however been re-laid and the gauge is now about 12 feet!

Route map drawn by Alan Young, tickets from Michael Stewart.

Sources:

  • Oxford to Cambridge Railway (Volume 2 Bletchley - Cambridge) by Bill Simpson - Oxford Publishing Company 1981 ISBN 86093 121 8
  • Forgotten Railways - East Anglia by R S. Joby - David & Charles 1975
    ISBN 0 7153 7312 9

For more pictures of Blunham Station in 2006 click here

To see the other stations on the Oxford - Cambridge line click on the station name: Oxford Rewley Road, Port Meadow Halt, Wolvercote Halt, Oxford Road Halt, Islip, Oddington Halt, Charlton Halt, Wendlebury Halt, Bicester London Road, Launton, Marsh Gibbon & Poundon, Claydon, Verney Junction, Winslow, Swanbourne, Bedford St. Johns, Willington, Girtford Halt, Sandy, Potton, Gamlingay, Old North Road & Lords Bridge - see also The Bedford Railway (stations still open)


Blunham station staff on the up platform in the early years of the 20th century. The typical brick LNWR goods shed is seen on the right opposite the signal box which opened in 1879.
Photo from John Mann collection



1901 1:2,500 OS map show the layout of the station and goods yard which had an unusually long loop siding. A secind shorter siding runs through the goods shed to terminate behind the down platform. The signal box is seen opposite the goods shed.

Looking west from the down platform at Blunham station c1950s. Both the signal box and goods shed are built to a typical LNWR design. The platform surface consists Staffordshire
paviors with stone edging. The platform extensions are clearly seen.
Photo from John Mann collection

Looking east from the down platform at Blunham station c1950s. The LMS 'Hawkseye' signs survived into the 1960s. The station had a brick building which incorporated the stationmaster's house. The single-storey toilet block is seen at the end of the fence.
Photo from John Mann collection

A fine view of Blunham station looking west from the up platform in April 1961. A typical angled LMS 'Hawkseye' sign is seen on the left. The sign on the right has been uprooted, perhaps awaiting its replacement; a BR eastern region blue running in board. The attractive range of brick buildings on the down platform are typical of others on the Bedford & Cambridge Railway with an open-fronted shelter incorporated into the building.
Photo by Ben Booksbank

Blunham station seen from the cab or a Cambridge bound DMU as it pulls into into the station. This photo was taken on 5 July 1962, the day after the centenary of the first train on the line.
Photo by Brian Johnson


Two DMU's pass at Blunham station in March 1966. The Cambridge train stands at the down platform on the left and the Oxford train has just departed and is passing a section of platform that has been cut back. The goods yard closed on 15 July 1964 and the goods shed has been demolished.
Photo from D. Chandler collection from his Flickr photostream

Blunham station up platform in December 1967, a few weeks before closure, seen from a Cambridge-bound DMU. The platform has been further cut back as the station is now only
used by 2-car DMUs
Photo by Nick Catford

Blunham station looking west along the down platform in December 1967. Note the platform surfaced with Staffordshire paviors. The railway man is carrying the single line staff.
Photo by Nick Catford

Blunham station looking west in August 1972, 4½ years after closure. At this time the
station building was derelict.
Photo by Richard Melarange

Photo:Blunham Station in March 1976
P
hoto by Nick Catford

Photo:Blunham station seen from the up platform in February 1977. The building was still
empty at this time.
P
hoto by Alan Young


Photo:Blunham station in Summer 2006; only the main station building survives, surrounded by new residential development.
Photo by
Mike MacKechnie

Click here for more pictures of Blunham Station



 

 

 

[Source: Nick Catford]


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