Station Name: COLE GREEN

[Source: Nick Catford]

Date opened: 1.3.1858
Location: On the east side of Station Road
Company on opening: Hertford & Welwyn Junction Railway
Date closed to passengers: 18.6.1951
Date closed completely: 1.8.1962
Company on closing: British Railways (Eastern Region)
Present state: The station is a now picnic area and car park for the Cole Green Way. Both platforms are extant with some original fencing at the rear. The down platform is kept clear of undergrowth with the east end of the platform and station forecourt used as a car park. The up platform is heavily overgrown with some brickwork from the platform buildings remaining. The foundations of another small building can be found in the undergrowth to the east of the up platform. The goods yard is used as a picnic area with wooden seats and tables. The cattle dock is extant and parallel with the down line but set back from it by the width of a siding.
County: Hertfordshire
OS Grid Ref: TL285111
Date of visit: April 1975, April 1981 & 1st January 2011

Notes: The Hertford branch opened on 1st March 1858 but Cole Green station didn't appear in company timetables until December 1958; it served the villages of Cole Green and Letty Green.

The station had a single platform on the down side of the line with a low, brick-edged platform. The two-storey station building incorporated the booking office and stationmaster's house. There was a modest goods yard to the east of the station comprising a loop and one siding, a cattle dock and cattle pens.

The station was enlarged in 1891. A passing loop was provided together with a second platform. Both platforms were provided with timber waiting rooms which supported long wide canopies. The goods yard was also enlarged with an additional siding running diagonally across the yard and probably serving a coal yard. Access to the goods yard was controlled by a 30-lever signal box, unusually sited under the canopy at the west end of the down platform. The box opened on 1st July 1891 and closed on 1st September 1951 when it was downgraded to a ground frame.

After closure to passengers on 18th June 1951 the station remained open for goods traffic but was downgraded to an unmanned public siding, finally closing on 1st August 1962. The loop line was lifted during the 1950s and all the timber buildings on the down platform were demolished, leaving just the brick stationmaster's house and booking office. The timber buildings and canopy of the up platform were demolished c.1963. After final closure of the line to all traffic in 1962 the remaining track was lifted c.1963. The remaining stationmaster's house stood empty for many years and gradually became more dilapidated; it was eventually demolished early in 1975.

The Hertford & Welwyn Junction Railway Company was formed on 25th June 1853, but before the company could apply to Parliament for authority to build their railway the GNR wrote to the promoters in an effort to take control of the line if it was eventually built.

On 3rd July 1854, the Hertford & Welwyn Junction Railway received parliamentary authority to build a line from the Eastern Counties Railway at Hertford to a triangular junction with the GNR at Digswell with running powers into Digswell (which was later renamed Welwyn North). On 30th September 1854, there was a proposal to extend this line across the GNR to Luton and Dunstable linking three established railway companies (ECR, GNR & LNWR). Not wanting to be left out, the GNR offered to work the line between Hatfield and Luton although it was not prepared to provide any finance.

The Luton, Dunstable & Welwyn Junction Railway Act was passed on 16th July 1855 authorising a junction with the LNWR at Dunstable and a second triangular junction with the GNR at Digswell, together with a bridge over the GNR to allow through running over the H & WJR between Hertford and Dunstable. All three companies were authorised to work the line.

Unfortunately the company was unable to raise sufficient capital to purchase all the necessary land between Welwyn and Luton. The LNWR refused to help by leasing the line although they did offer to work the line for two years after completion. In an attempt to save the line an amalgamation between the H & WJR and the LD & WJR was proposed. This was bitterly
opposed by a minority of disgruntled Luton shareholders who claimed that passengers would be forced to travel to London via the Eastern Counties main line at Hertford rather than using the shorter GNR route via Hatfield. The amalgamation was passed at a heated meeting on 26th January 1858, but although both lines were completed and approach embankments were constructed, the linking bridge was never built due to restrictions imposed by the GNR, nor were the triangular junctions which would have allowed trains to run north into Digswell.

The Hertford line was opened to goods traffic on the last day of February 1888, with passenger services running from 1st March 1858 between Hertford (often referred to as Cowbridge) and Welwyn Junction on the GNR; the service was operated jointly by the GNR and the ECR. 
Welwyn Junction station provided interchange facilities with the Great Northern, and passengers could continue their journey south towards Kings Cross or north towards Peterborough. No intermediate stations were opened with the line, but by December 1858 stations at Cole Green and Hertingfordbury appeared in company timetables. The line continued east for a further 1200 yards beyond Hertford station to connect with the Eastern Counties terminus (later Hertford East) but this connection was never used by passenger trains.

Work on the Luton line had been progressing during the amalgamation negotiations, and the first section of the line between Luton and Dunstable opened for passenger traffic on 3rd May 1858.

Work at the Welwyn end of the line had started in April 1856, but little was done. The formation of the Hertford, Luton & Dunstable Railway was authorised by parliament on 28th June 1858 with new capital available to complete the line. On 28th January 1859 work was once again underway, and there was even a second 'cutting of the first sod' ceremony. On 19th April 1860 the H & LDR informed both the Eastern Counties Railway and the GNR that they were terminating the 1858 agreement. The GNR immediately took steps to take over the line because of its strategic importance as a link between the three main lines; a Parliamentary Bill was prepared to facilitate this. At this time the line was nearing completion, with a special train carrying LNWR officials on 12th June and another 'special' on 17th July for company shareholders. After passing its Board of Trade inspection, the line between Luton and the Great Northern was opened to both goods and passenger traffic on 1st September 1860.

Welwyn Junction station closed on the same day with trains on both lines making a junction with the Great Northern, and the services terminated at Hatfield where a bay platform was provided for Hertford trains..

The Hertford, Luton & Dunstable Railway was absorbed by the GNR under the Great Northern Railway Act of 12th June 1861. This gave the GNR exclusive rights to operate the line. In December 1868 new parallel lines into Hatfield were brought into use for both branch services, and the earlier junctions were removed in January 1869.

In an attempt to attract more passengers to the Hertford line railmotors were introduced in 1905, and two new halts (Attimore Hall and Hatfield Hyde) between Welwyn junction and Cole Green first appeared in public timetables in May 1905, but they were not well used and closed a month later.

In 1920 the new town of Welwyn Garden City was founded by Sir Ebenezer Howard, following his previous experiment in Letchworth Garden City. Howard had called for the creation of planned towns that were to combine the benefits of the city and the countryside and to avoid the disadvantages of both. During the construction of the new town, temporary
contractors’ halts were provided at the junction of both the Hertford and Luton lines, close to the site of the earlier Welwyn Junction station. On 14th August 1920 the halt on the Luton line became a public station, known as Welwyn Garden City Halt; however the halt on the Hertford line did not and was closed once the construction of Welwyn Garden City had been completed.

A new through station at Hertford North opened on 2nd June 1924 with the opening of the Hertford loop line, when the Enfield branch was extended north to create a diversionary route for the main line to King’s Cross.  The new station was less well sited for the town centre than the earlier branch terminus at Cowbridge but it did provide Hertford with a service north to Stevenage for the first time.  Cowbridge was now redundant and closed to passengers although it continued to handle goods traffic as there were no goods facilities at the new station.

Sentinel-Cammell steam railcars were tried on the line in 1930s and, although popular with passengers, could not cater for peak demand. From 17th September 1944 most trains from Hertford terminated at Welwyn Garden City rather than Hatfield.

In common with many other branch lines, passenger numbers went into rapid decline after the war. In 1950 there were 5 down trains on weekdays with an extra train on Saturdays. There were 6 up trains on weekdays and 7 on Saturdays, and no Sunday service. It came as no surprise when closure was announced for 18th June 1951.  The last train, the 7.18 pm service from Hertford North saw a number of passengers wearing Victorian costume to commemorate the passing of the line. The last two passenger service to use the line were railtours, an unadvertised Welwyn - Hertford branch railtour organised by the Stephenson Locomotive Society on 21st November 1959. Passengers arrived at Welwyn Garden City by service train from Kings Cross. They then transferred to a 2-car Cravens DMU for the journey to Hertford East via Cowbridge where they were booked to return to Liverpool Street via Broxbourne on a normal service. The second was the South Bedfordshire Locomotive Club's Lea Flyer on 16th September 1961 which ran from Welwyn Garden City to Hertford North, back to Welwyn Garden City, then on to Luton Bute Street.

The goods service remained in operation until 1962 when both intermediate stations were closed completely; the track was lifted shortly after closure.  A goods service was retained to Hertford North (Cowbridge) until 18th April 1966, and the connecting line to Hertford East closed at the same time. All traffic over the line ceased on 23rd May 1966 with the
closure of the landfill site at Hollywell Hyde.

After closure to passengers in 1951, the branch was used for the location of a number of films until the track was lifted in July 1967, with just a short section remaining to serve two factories, GKN Ltd and Norton Abrasives, near the site of Attimore Hall Halt. During the electrification of the East Coast Main Line the Hertford line was severed between Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City during the construction of a new flyover south of Welwyn Garden City. After this, the only access to the branch was from the Welwyn Garden City goods yard. Traffic to to GKN ceased in the mid 1970s although the siding officially remained open and by 1981 Norton Abrasives received one train per week with four to six wagons. The last working was on 12th November 1981 when a Class 31 collected empty wagons. Two weeks later two short pieces of rail were removed from the track at the point where the branch swung away from the main line and the remaining track was quickly lifted.

The 6.5 mile Cole Green Way cycle and bridleway between Welwyn Garden City and Hertford now follows the course of the line. It is part of National Cycle Network Route 61, and the Lea Valley Walk.

Sources: Hatfield, Luton & Dunstable Railway by G & S Woodward (1977). Published by Oakwood Press ISBN 978-0-853614-58-6.

For further reading see Hertfordshire's lost railways by Keith Scholey ISBN ISBN 1 84033231 X and Branch Lined around Hertford & Hatfield by Vic Mitchell & Keith Smith (2009) Published by Middleton Press ISBN 978-1-906008-58-1

Click here to see an aerial view of the whole Welwyn Garden City - Hertford line line on Google Earth. All the stations are shown. Prepared by Mark Percival.

Tickets from Michael Stewart route map drawn by Alan Young

To see other stations on the Hertford North - Welwyn Garden City line click on the station name: Welwyn Garden City, Welwyn Junction, Attimore Hall Halt, Hatfield Hyde Halt, Hertingfordbury & Hertford North

Cole Green Station looking east in 1890 before the passing loop and second platform were added.
Photo © National Railway Museum and SSPL

1888 1:2500 OS map

1898 1:2500 OS map. Note a passing loop, a second platform and an additional siding in the goods yard have been added.

Cole Green station looking east c. 1890s. A passing loop and second platform were added in 1891. The timber building on the down platform (seen here) was also provided at this time. The station staff are posing in front of the signal box which was unusually sited on the platform beneath the canopy.
Photo received from Marjorie Cook(whose grandfather or great grandfather worked at the station
at this time)

Cole Green Station looking west c early 20th century. The loco, 531, is a Patrick Stirling designed 0-4-4 Well or Back Tank engine.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection

Cole Green station looking west in June 1951.
Photo from John Mann collection

Cole Green station looking west along the down platform in February 1959. The canopy on the down platform has been removed but the signal box which stood under the canopy can still be seen.
Photo from John Mann collection

Stephenson Locomotive Society railtour standing in the down platform at Cole Green station on 21st November 1959. This was the last passenger service to use the line.
Photo from John Mann collection

Cole Green station looking east in 1963 after closure to all traffic.
Photo from John Mann collection

Cole Green station looking east from the up platform in 1968.
hoto by Ian Baker

Cole Green station looking west in 1968
Photo by J E Connor

Cole Green down platform in October 1974
hoto by Alan Young

Cole Green station looking west in April 1975
hoto by Nick Catford

Cole Green station looking east in April 1981.
hoto by Nick Catford

Cole Green station looking west in January 2011.
hoto by Photo by Nick Catford

Click here for more pictures of Cole Green station




[Source: Nick Catford]

Last updated: Wednesday, 17-May-2017 09:16:24 CEST
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