Station Name: BURWELL

[Source: Darren Kitson]

Burwell Station Gallery 2: c late 1950s - May 2015


An interesting view, probably late 1950s, as the up home signal, visible through the bridge, has been replaced with an upper quadrant arm on a shorter post. There appears to be no form of lighting beneath the canopy, even though this seems rather unlikely. On the left, the weighing machine still sits where it had sat for years while on the wall in the background is what appears to be an Eastern Counties bus timetable case. For a great many years Eastern Counties used wooden cases surmounted by pitched pediments and they were very distinctive. Most bus services to and from Burwell, at least to Cambridge, were provided by the Burwell & District Motor Service whose timetables Eastern Counties would often display with their own. On the face of the up platform 'To Cambridge' was painted, with an arrow pointing in that direction. It is just about visible, roughly in line with the oil drum, or whatever it is, on the platform. This was fairly common practice and also appeared at Fordham. On the road above, and just to the left of the running-in board, can be seen one of the diamond-shaped signs once common in the area. They warned of weight limits on - and damage to - bridges as well as of penalties for failure to comply and/or damage. Wording included such things as 'Locomotive Engines', an archaic but legally correct term for steam traction engines and road rollers. Responsibility for many bridges on the Mildenhall branch had passed to the County Council in the 1930s, including that at Burwell. Negotiations to this end had been ongoing since the nineteenth century and even included bridges on the long-defunct Newmarket & Chesterford line.
photo from John Mann collection

Another view probably taken in the late 1950s. On the left, the area between the dock and lock-up has become very untidy. The damaged railings were not so in the May 1956 view. Beneath the bridge, quite what is going on is something of a mystery. It is not a departing goods train as there is no brake van or even a tail lamp. It is also the wrong end of the station for any shunting, the goods yard being behind the photographer. It is not even clear if a locomotive is present as all that is visible appears to be a box van and one or two open wagons.
photo from John Mann collection


Burwell station looking towards Fordham. The station still has all its trimmings and beyond the bridge the upper quadrant home signal is seen, while the platform edges have yet to be repainted. On the left, two pallet vans are stabled in the dock. That nearest the end of the dock appears to be numbered 782165; if so it was one of a batch built at Faverdale (Darlington) in 1959, so the image will date from the 1959 to early 1962 period. Pallet vans, better known as 'palvans', were introduced from 1952 and were a BR attempt to cash-in on the then new delivery method of pallets and forklift trucks. Over 3000 palvans were built but they were largely unsuccessful and did not enjoy long lives. A few survive in preservation, mainly through having entered departmental service. The presence of palvans at Burwell suggests that the cardboard factory made some use of the railway, but this is by no means
conclusive evidence.
Photo from John Mann collection


Class J15 65460 stands at Burwell's up platform in 1962. The occasion was a Cambridge University Railway Club (CURC) commemoration of the J15 class which was to bow out of service later that year. The CURC had two such trips on the Mildenhall branch for the same reason, on 9 June and 13 June 1962, but unfortunately at the time of writing we do not know to which of those dates the above image applies. We do know, however, that 65460 was a last minute substitution. She was a Stratford locomotive and had been borrowed by Cambridge shed as the booked locomotive had failed. We are unsure of the identity of the failure but it was possibly 65469; a Cambridge locomotive at the time. The headboard on 65460 reads '1884 - 1962' with what appears to be the GER shield. 65460 was withdrawn in September 1962. At the time of this outing she was carrying plain red lining which had been applied in 1961 when she appeared in the film Postman's Knock (released 1962). The location for the filming was at West Mill on the Buntingford branch. The train seen above at Burwell comprised two BR Mk1 coaches and a third unidentifiable vehicle. The Mk1 behind the locomotive is a BFK and the second is either an SK or a TSO. Mk1 stock was rare on the Mildenhall branch and normally appeared only on special and diverted trains. The CURC originated in 1911 and commencing on 9 February 1936 arranged special workings for members to take turns at driving and firing. The Mildenhall and Stour Valley lines were the usual venues and, of course, all was done under the strict supervision of railway staff. The 9 February 1936 event took place between Shelford and Pampisford. These events, it should be pointed out, were not railtours in the modern definition of the word but more 'private hires' along regular sections of branch lines and for that reason information about such CURC events is not easy to come by outside of Cambridge University circles. The last train to visit the Mildenhall branch which could be properly called a railtour was the M&GN Society tour of 26 May 1962 which comprised a lengthy train of main line stock hauled by Ivatt 4MT No.43149. An extract from Postman's Knock showing 65460 in action on the Buntingford branch can be seen here.


Class J15 0-6-0 No.65460, in spruced-up condition, stands at Burwell with a special working on 13 June 1962. The train is returning from Mildenhall to Cambridge and this is believed to have been the last time Mildenhall's turntable was used. The train was a CURC special apparently arranged for the 21st birthday of one of the CURC members and this might explain the date, which was a Wednesday. The hopelessly infrequent service on the Mildenhall branch would have meant the running of this special on a weekday presented no problems from the operational point of view. The train comprised two BR Mk1 vehicles plus one Gresley vehicle and this stock, especially the two Mk1s, had likely been borrowed from a rake stabled at Cambridge during the off peak period. The locomotive was a Stratford-based machine at this time and was withdrawn three months later, being one of the final class members to remain in service. The headboard is not the usual CURC board but a special job to commemorate the Mildenhall branch. It displays '1884 - GER crest - 1962'. Production of this headboard may have presented something of a problem because, of course, the Fordham - Mildenhall section dated from 1885 so neither 1884 or 1885 was correct in the context of the entire line from Cambridge to Mildenhall. The headcode discs are set for 'express passenger', this being common practice for special passenger workings as the disc system did not provide for such trains. In the context of the Mildenhall branch 'express passenger' may seem mildly comical but contrary to common belief 'express' does not specifically mean high speed but merely not stopping at all stations. Whether the stop at Burwell was to allow for photographs or to await a Mildenhall-bound train to clear the single line from Bottisham is not recorded. Today a photographer would not to be permitted to stand on the track without proper authority and certainly not when a train was due. What appears to be the driver is walking down the platform ramp on, presumably, his way to the signal box. Burwell said goodbye to passenger trains three days after this photograph was taken but would continue to be served by goods trains for a further three years,
Photo by John Cartter


Burwell station on 16 June 1962, the last day of passenger service. Note the wartime-style platform edging; BR had applied this refinement shortly before the line closed to passengers. Maintenance and repairs to lines and stations due to close was a not uncommon occurrence in BR days and during the 1960s and 1970s it became something of a standing joke among railway enthusiasts. Unfortunately the press occasionally found out and the resultant lampooning publicity did nothing for BR's image. It was often said that the reason was to help show increasing maintenance costs in order to bolster justification for a line or station closure. Perhaps there was a degree of truth in this but it would seem that the main reason was simply poor inter-departmental communication within BR. On the down platform, many of the station trimmings have disappeared including the long-time-resident weighing machine while more junk is piling up between the lock-up and dock.
Photo by David Pearson


It is 7 June 1963 and almost one year since the passenger service was withdrawn. The process of removal of lamps, signs and the remaining section of the canopy began immediately afterwards. At this time a Monday - Friday goods train still ran over the full length of the branch but only in the up direction on the Fordham - Cambridge section. This is evidenced by the apparent disuse of the up platform road; goods trains simply running through the down platform road to avoid additional shunting movements. A number of wagons are present and Tillotson's factory looms in the background. It is not known how much use the factory made of the railway, if any, as relevant records appear to be non-existent. The company vacated Burwell in the 1990s and at the time of writing now trades as D S Smith Plc from new premises just south of Fordham and close to the site of the former Mayer Parry scrapyard.
Photo by Ben Brooksbank

The site of Burwell station from the overbridge in July 1969. It is not entirely clear if the cardboard factory purchased the station from BR intact and then had it demolished, or if they purchased the site after demolition. As Burwell was the only station on the branch-proper to be demolished, the first scenario is the most likely. The story goes that the factory required the land for additional vehicle parking and that ultimately not all the land was used or even required. This view tells a rather different story. The former station site is in use for stacking of materials and the land to the rear of the up platform, in the foreground, is in use but in a rather haphazard fashion; partly car parking, partly pallet storage and, apparently, partly as dumping ground for surplus materials. However, the fact that the area was obviously not given over entirely to parking suggests a degree of truth to the story that not all the land was required. As other images below show, the area to the right with the Dutch barn (the site of the trackbed, goods yard and west end of the down platform) was later walled in with only a small area outside it being used for parking. The building of the wall was probably a prelude to the land outside it being sold to the County Council for the realigned B1102 road. In the centre of the image the two former railway cottages can be seen. In the right background the trackbed can be seen disappearing through the distinctive gap in the trees as it heads for Swaffham Prior. Just beyond the trees is the point where the railway cut through the Devil's Dyke. At the time of writing the trackbed, much of it in a shallow cutting, is intact as far as the extant bridge carrying the Swaffham Prior - Reach road over the former railway.
Photo by John Mann


The site of Burwell station from the bridge circa the first two years of the 1970s. Tillotson's have now built a wall separating the land they are keeping from the remainder of the station site which would be sold to the County Council. The station was directly ahead and the gap in the trees in the distance marks the course of the line. Compare this with other views looking towards Cambridge,
photo from John Mann collection


The site of Burwell station from beneath the bridge circa the first two years of the 1970s. When the station was demolished in 1967 the land was required by the cardboard factory but some of it was used for only a short period. The nameplates on the wall indicated of reserved car parking spaces. Some can be read: Mr Barton, initial illegible; Mr J Hall, plus what appears to be a Mr Smith and a Mr Longton. On the left the former railway cottages can be seen; these are thought to have been demolished when the bridge was removed and the new road built in 1973.
photo from John Mann collection


An early 1970s view looking towards Fordham. The photographer was standing on what was once the up platform, Tillotson's factory now occupying much of the station site. The car parking area for Tillotson's 'brass', seen in the earlier picture, was around the corner at the far end of the wall. The realigned B1102 road now passes through the right side of this location
photo from John Mann collection

The site of Burwell station seen from the road bridge in 1973, shortly before the bridge was demolished.
Photo from Jim Neale's Flickr phptpstream



Aerial view showing the site of Burwell station in 1999. The trackbed can be seen running between the trees on the right. The wall seen in the pictures above is clearly seen. The lack of vehicles indicates that the St Regis box factory was probably closed by this date and awaiting demolition and redevelopment of the site, which started in 2001. Click here for a larger version


The rather sombre plaque erected in 2008 and seen here on 16 March 2009, marking the site of the station entrance. It is a rather nice gesture but why the reference to the LNER has been included is a little odd as that company existed for only 25 years, and not from 1884 to 1962 as the plaque implies. We can, however, be thankful for small mercies. At least the plaque says station and not train station - that cringeworthy modern expression hated by those who use proper British English! Railway line, too, and not 'train line'. Well done to whoever was responsible for using proper terminology on the plaque.
Photo by Keith Edkins, reproduced from Geograph under creative commons licence


The Burwell station entrance commemorative plaque in context at the junction of Reach Road (to the right) and Swaffham Road (out of view to the left). The station was actually sited in the left background of this view which is looking west and taken in July 2008,
Photo by Nigel Cox, reproduced from Geograph under creative commons licence


The site of Burwell station in May 2015. The site of the station, station approach road and goods yard is now occupied by a housing development called Station Gate which was built in 2001/2 after closure of the St Regis box factory (formerly Tillotson's till 1984 when it was acquired by American owned company St Regis packaging before being sold again in 1986 to D S Smith) in the late 1990s. There is no view along the site of the platforms as the trackbed is covered by houses and gardens at right angles to the former track. This view is looking south-east along the second of two arms of Station Gate which runs through the centre of the main station building on the down platform. The fence at the end of the road (at the back of new housing on Swaffham Road) runs along the line of the up platform.
Photo by Nick Catford


Early 1970s

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Last updated: Sunday, 04-Jun-2017 09:07:59 BST
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