Station Name: FORDHAM

[Source: Darren Kitson]

Fordham Station Gallery 2:
c1953 - 16 June 1962 (last day of Mildenhall branch)




Looking towards Newmarket we see Fordham signal box and goods shed. The photograph is impossible to date but everything seen above is in the condition it is known to have been in during 1953 and before any form of BR signage appeared. The lamp beside the signal box is in its original position; when BR totems were applied it was repositioned a little further away from the box. The goods yard is busy, with plenty of wagons in attendance. Note the ground signal, a shunt signal, near the base of the signal post. Just beyond can be seen the water crane, one of two at Fordham. The top section of the signal box was a little bit crooked, especially when viewed from this side, but the photograph appears to have exaggerated things somewhat.
Photo from John Mann collection



A train from Mildenhall stands in Fordham's up platform on a service either to Newmarket or to Cambridge via Burwell. By now, BR signage has appeared and a totem can be seen fixed to the gas lamp on the right. The photograph is undated but the train offers a clue as it comprises an ex-GER brake third and an ex-LNER Gresley composite (it actually appears to be from a batch built for the GNR in 1922). This combination operated on the Mildenhall branch only from late 1956 until sometime in 1957 when Gresley brake thirds were introduced. It was the Gresley brakes which saw the introduction of portable steps at the halts as not all of them used on the branch were fitted with retractable steps. Diesel multiple units had appeared on the branch as early as 1955 on trial and the pending dieselisation was probably the reason BR abandoned the fitting of further Gresley brakes with retractable steps. In the final days of steam on the branch, an ex-NER composite and a Thompson non-corridor suburban brake composite vehicle also appeared. The locomotive is the famous and now-preserved E4 class No.62785 - Britain's last main line 2-4-0 type - seen here with her usual, for the period, tender cab with which she had been paired sometime after 1953. She was withdrawn in November 1959.
Photo from John Mann collection

E4 class No.62796 waits at Fordham's down platform with, presumably, a Mildenhall-bound train in September 1956. As can be seen, at the Ely end of the station the water crane was situated on the platform ramp whereas at the Newmarket end of the up platform the crane was beyond the platform end. The position of the down platform crane was determined by the proximity of the level crossing. On this occasion No.62796 is not in need of refreshments. A long-time Cambridge resident, the locomotive was another of the regular performers on the branch. Withdrawal came in May 1957.
Copyright photo by HC Casserley

A rather unusual view of Fordham station taken from beyond the platform. The date is May 1957 and, as readers will by now realise, the photographer is looking towards Ely. As usual prior to closure, everything is neat and tidy. Behind the signal box an open wagon sits in the dock while to its right the gate provides staff access to the goods yard, although quite why the gate was necessary in this non-public area is not known. On the left, the neatly maintained pathway leads to the water tower, well and pump house. In the foreground one of the short stubs of track used for stabling permanent way trolleys can be seen. There were two of these tracks at Fordham and the photographer was, it would appear, standing on the second track. The rails and chairs are obsolete types, probably of GER origin, once used on the main line and replaced with heavier types as train weights increased. Details of PW trolleys used at Fordham have not come to light, but as the Fordham PW gang covered the section from their base to Swaffham Prior there would almost certainly have been a motor trolley, of either Wickham or LNER build, plus one or two non-powered flat trolleys. It is known that a motor trolley was allocated to the Barnwell - Swaffham Prior section on 22 January 1934 and that the Mildenhall - Fordham gang was never allocated one. The Mildenhall gang was later disbanded, date unknown, and its work taken over by the Fordham gang. Given that the work of the Fordham gang then covered the long section from Swaffham Prior to Mildenhall, it is inconceivable that a motor trolley was not then allocated. Trolleys, including motor types, were simply lifted manually on and off the running lines as necessary and were designed to be so-handled. Motor trolleys were often provided with a small shed but no evidence of such provision at Fordham has been seen. There was once a hut at the end of the platform directly ahead of the camera, above, but this seems to have disappeared long before the advent of motor trolleys (see the 1911 picture of the station being repainted). In any event, this hut was of a different design to those which housed motor trolleys. The lamp on the left bears a BR totem but the casement is missing. There is also no obvious sign of the gas feeder pipe. Perhaps it has been dismantled for repairs. The position of the telegraph poles was not very practical; wires passing directly over the platform would have caused a problem with bird droppings but, as Fordham saw few passengers, complaints would have been infrequent.
Copyright photo by RM Casserley


On 25 April 1959 a Metro-Cammell 79xxx series DMU waits at Fordham to cross an up train on the main line before ambling away to Mildenhall. This is the same train which had been photographed at other stations along the branch: see the Quy, Burwell and Mildenhall pages. As usual there are plenty of staff around but, apart from the man in period raincoat on the up platform, no passengers. Perhaps the passengers, if any, have already boarded or alighted. There are, however, a few parcels. The track has been re-laid with flat-bottomed rail and this work was carried out in 1958. At this time there was something unusual about Fordham station which sharp-eyed readers may have noticed. BR totems have been installed but at least one LNER horseshoe-shaped lamp tablet had been retained; it is just visible suspended from the gas lamp behind the central of the three visible canopy supporting columns on the up platform. The rectangular form of LNER plate found elsewhere was reserved for use with electric lighting.  Some, at least, of the casement lamps also retained the station name on the glass; that to the left of the DMU is known to have done even though it had been given a totem. Note the continued neatness of the station and the ornate windows in the end of the down waiting room which matched those of the main station building. The other end had just a blank wall.


When looking at this neat and tidy scene from around 1959 it is quite depressing to think that although the railway is still very much alive, the rest of the scene is today an overgrown and derelict mess - railway cottages excepted. On the down platform a BR Eastern Region running-in board reflects the light while, a little further along the platform, a totem has been fixed to the gas lamp. Totem provision at Fordham was generous; on the right, on the up platform, two closely spaced gas lamps can be seen and both of these received totems. Beneath the up platform canopy at least one totem was fixed to the wall of the station building. Thus with totems, running-in boards, lamp tablet(s), lamp casement names, platform seat names and the signal box nameboards passengers, when there were any, would have no doubt about where they were. On the down platform a copious range of posters was available to read. The blank end-wall of the down waiting room is clearly visible.
Photo from John Mann collection


Fordham station looking towards Newmarket sometime after 1958. At bottom right, an extension to the platform ramp has been added - perhaps for the benefit of enginemen when operating the water crane. As usual there is little sign of life.
Photo from John Mann collection

Fordham on 28 November 1959. The occasion is a Cambridge University Railway Club special to Mildenhall using the very last 2-4-0 locomotive to run on mainland Britain's national network; Class E4 No.62785. Looking spruced-up and carrying an express headcode with equally spruced-up lamps, she was withdrawn from service immediately afterwards (officially w/e 30 November 1959) to enter preservation albeit not with a tender cab. The points in the foreground were part of the crossover giving access to and from the Mildenhall branch. They have yet to be set for the train so perhaps an Up service is due. The crossover was also used by the Ely - Mildenhall DMU which crossed to Fordham's down platform before reversing and using the crossover again to access the branch. This was the only manoeuvre permitted by the signalling for trains reversing at Fordham plus, of course, use of the down platform meant the train direction sign painted onto the platform faces was valid. Note the totem affixed to the gas lamp on the left.
Photograph by Peter Jamieson and reproduced with his kind permission

Taken onb the same day as the photo above. It is a rare view of a Class N7 0-6-2T which has escaped into the wilds beyond Cambridge. Class N7 was a London suburban design but in later years some were dispersed to depots outside the London area. They could, for example, be seen at King's Lynn with others ending up even further afield but apart from those dispersals the class was rarely seen beyond Cambridge - the northernmost limit of their original territory. At various times a few were allocated to Cambridge including three which worked the Saffron Walden branch. One allocated to Cambridge was No.69616 and this appears to be the locomotive seen above at Fordham with a single-coach train - a situation in which an N7 looked rather silly, the class being better associated with rakes of suburban stock or ECS workings of mainline stock. Just beyond the level crossing, the Mildenhall branch can just be seen curving away towards Isleham. The N7s were not permitted on the Mildenhall branch and the train seen above is probably an Ely - Newmarket local. Single-coach trains were not uncommon on this poorly patronised service and are known to have also operated on the Mildenhall branch (but not, of course, with an N7) during the final months of steam traction. Retractable steps for the halts were not necessary as portable steps had been provided when the Gresley brake thirds were introduced to the branch, not all of them being fitted with steps. In the dock, right, is a parcels train including an LMS-designed full brake. As the photograph was taken just short of a month prior to Christmas, there may have been a surge in parcels traffic.
Photograph by Peter Jamieson and reproduced with his kind permission

A Waggon und Maschinenbau diesel railbus waits at Fordham to cross an up main line train before scooting away to Mildenhall. The railbus has received  ‘whiskers’ and appears to have been repainted from its original shade of green which had been applied in Germany. The year is 1960 but unfortunately no further details are known. Railbuses were not entirely suited to the Mildenhall branch, mainly because the large amount of goods items traditionally carried on passenger trains was difficult to accommodate. Parcels and other items could be carried only in the entrance vestibule, and on the branch the doors on each side were used as platforms could be on the up or down side. With parcels (etc) carried in the vestibule and passengers wishing to board with, say, a bicycle or pram the problems are readily apparent. Nevertheless, in the scene above a few parcels appear to have been unloaded from the railbus. On the left, a smart new BR 'Way Out' sign with arrow has appeared while on the gas lamp on the footbridge the station name can be seen on its casement.


Fordham station looking towards Ely, sometime around 1960. On the up platform the two totem-adorned gas lamps can be seen while, behind the signal box, a van sits in the dock. The van appears to be a Great Western Railway designed 'Fruit D'. These passenger-rated vans (meaning that they could run in passenger train formations) continued to be built by BR until 1958 and were common in East Anglia. They were even known to appear marshalled into King's Cross - Cambridge suburban trains. On the signal box, the nameboard now sports the black-on-white BR standard scheme. In the distance the level crossing keeper's hut can be seen; this is deduced to be a replacement for the original which was probably of brick construction, but this detail remains somewhat mysterious. Yet again there is no sign of any activity. The stationmaster's house now has television. Attempts have been made to ascertain where Fordham's gas supply came from but without success. Possibly it was piped from Newmarket, where the gasworks was located on Exning Road. A gas main is known to pass beneath the track at or near the level crossing, but it is not known if this dates from town gas days or was installed
for natural gas.
Photo from John Mann collection


Class J15 0-6-0 No.65460, in spruced-up condition, takes on water at Fordham with a special working on 13 June 1962. The train is on its way 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 the 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. It will be noticed that in order to take on water the locomotive has stopped beyond the signals yet most of the train remains 'in section'. The train would be protected by the Home signal at Fordham North Junction and movement beyond the Starter signal (that behind the locomotive) authorised by a 'calling on', sometimes known as a 'draw forward' signal, out of view to the right. The signals on the taller dolly controlled the line to Snailwell while that on the shorter dolly was for Fordham South Junction, in other words the branch to Burwell and Cambridge. The signals in the left background control to line to Soham and Ely (tall dolly) and Fordham North Junction, in other words the branch to Mildenhall. Their apparent position well to the left is due to curvature of the track. On the left and close to the platform ramp the short length of track used for stabling a PW trolley can be seen. On the right, basking in the sun in the goods yard are a pair of ex-LNER 12T vans.
Photo by John Carter



Saturday 16 June 1962 and the final day of passenger services on the Mildenhall branch. The service being operated by the Derby Lightweight DMU is the 2.22pm Ely - Newmarket. Judging by the position of the parcels on the up platform, the DMU was departing when the photograph was taken. To the immediate left of the DMUs rear cab the LNER- style lamp tablet can be seen. (click here for a higher resolution version) Photographic evidence suggests this was the sole survivor at Fordham by this date. On the wall of the station building, above the double noticeboard, a totem can be seen. Lamp tablets and totems co-existing was unusual on gas-lit stations. The station clock is visible above the entrance doorway; previously this had been mounted on the wall of the stationmaster's house above where the staff are standing and thus faced along the platform.
Photo by David Pearson


Click here for Fordham Station Gallery 3: July 1969 - c1971


 

 

 

[Source: Darren Kitson]



Last updated: Thursday, 18-May-2017 10:57:39 BST
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