[Source: Nick Catford]

Date opened: 1.11.1897
Location: On the north side of Campfield Road
Company on opening: Great Northern Railway
Date closed to passengers: 1 October 1951
Date closed completely: 1 October 1951
Company on closing: British Railways (London Midland/Eastern Region)
Present state: Sleeper platform still extant alongside the Alban Way footpath
County: Hertfordshire
OS Grid Ref: TL163071
Date of visit: 11.4.2004
Notes: St. Albans Abbey Station preceded the main line Midland Railway station by 10 years; it became the terminus of two branch lines, the LNWR line from Watford and the GNR line from Hatfield.

There were several early proposals to provide St. Albans with a rail service and on 4th August 1853 the LNWR received parliamentary approval to construct a line from Watford; the single track branch opening on 4th May 1858. In 1861 the GNR lent its support to a proposal to build a branch line from Hatfield in order to attract some of the lucrative commuter revenue. Authority was obtained on 30 June 1862 and the line was built by the Hatfield & St. Albans Railway with the support of the GNR. The branch was opened on 16th October 1865 and eventually absorbed into the GNR on 1st November 1883.

There was initially only one station at St. Albans (later named St. Albans London Road) with further intermediate stations opening at Smallford in 1866, Sanders Siding (later Salvation Army Halt) in 1897, Hill End in 1899, Nast Hyde in 1910 and Lemsford Road in 1942.

The Hatfield - St. Albans branch was an early casualty under British Railways, closing throughout to passengers on 1st October 1951; freight traffic lingered into the 1960's.

The former line now forms 6½ miles long Alban Way, which opened in 1985 as part of National Cycle Route no. 61 between Hatfield and St. Albans. The route is owned by the City & District Council of St. Albans, managed by the Parks & Leisure Department, and Welwyn Hatfield Council. The route acts as a 'wildlife corridor' within two busy urban areas of Hertfordshire. The section along the old 'Smallford Trail' is also a County Wildlife Site.

On the southern outskirts of St. Albans a private business of orchid growing was established Frederick Sander in 1884. Henry Frederick Conrad Sander, born Bremen, Germany, on 4 March 1847. Sander was to come to England in 1865. Initially working as a nurseryman in St Mary Cray he was eventually to arrive at St Albans where he took over Josling's seed merchant business on George Street. Never an astute businessman he was nevertheless able to erect greenhouses behind the George Street premises and this was the beginning of the orchid growing business which went on due, and only due, to Sander's enthusiasm for the plants, to become one of the most respected such establishment in Europe. Among his customers were royalty including By Appointment to HM Queen Victoria. In 1881 Sander purchased land from the then Earl Spencer (the same Spencer family as of the late Diana, Princess of Wales) at Camp Road, opposite the south-west corner of Hatfield Road Cemetery.

Their 12 greenhouses were linked to a siding for the dispatch of orchids to market and the receipt of coal for the nurseries' boilers. The siding was also later used for the carriage of straw hats from Luton to London. A sleeper built platform was built for visitors to the nurseries and possibly for the use of Sander's staff. It was sited on the north side of the line immediately east of the Camp Road bridge at the southern tip of the main greenhouse complex. A pedestrian bridge was later built over Camp Road to enable passengers to reach ground level and for hand pushed coal trucks to be moved from the siding to the nursery.

In 1895 George Orford Smith opened a quality print works known as Campfied Press on the south side of the line and east of Camp Road. A second siding with a loading dock and hoist was built on the south side of the line. This enabled paper to be brought into the works and finished products to be dispatched. By the turn of the century, Campfield Press was in financial difficulty and was sold to the Salvation Army as a going concern in 1901. They were keen to move from their existing cramped site in London's East End. The works was kept busy producing bibles, sheet music and of course the Salvation Army's 'War Cry' newspaper.

At this point it was deemed unworkable for the Sander's platform to remain operational, and a new platform made from sleepers was built on the north side of the bridge in front of Sander's siding. The platform was short with a ramp at the east end. Access was from a public footpath that crossed the line immediately west of the halt. A single lamp standard was placed alongside the track to aid passengers reaching the platform. Essentially this was a passenger halt but no signage, shelter or further lighting was ever provided. The private and untimetabled halt was in use by 1 November 1897. It first appeared in the public timetable on 8 July 1929 and last appeared in September 1942 although it remained in use until the closure of the line in 1951. A footnote in the July 1938 Bradshaw reads 'A platform is provided at the Salvation Army Siding, St Albans at which trains stop when required for passengers holding tickets between Hatfield and St Albans and other LNE stations. Application must be made to the Officer in charge of the station before leaving Hatfield or St. Albans'. (see above).

The orchid industry declined following the First World War and Henry Sander died, in Bruges, Belgium, where he owned another nursery, on 23 December 1920. He was laid to rest in a family grave in Hatfield Road Cemetery. Meanwhile the Camp Road business soldiered in, gradually diminishing, under the control of David Sander - the founder's grandson - until 1956.

The British-transport Commission Hand-Book of Stations including junctions, sidings, collieries, works etc published in 1956 still shows the Salvation Army and Campfield Press siding and Sanders' (St Albans) Ltd siding as still being operational. Sander's greenhouses were subsequently demolished and a school now (2021) occupies the site. There is a reminder in Cecil Road in the form of flats named 'Orchid House' while Sander and his orchids are by no means forgotten, with plenty of information available online. The Salvation Army print works closed in December 1964.

For further reading see Hertfordshire's lost railways by Keith Scholey ISBN ISBN 1 84033231 X

See other stations on the St. Albans Abbey - Hatfield Line: St. Albans London Road, Hill End, Smallford, Nast Hyde Halt & Lemsford Road Halt

The Salvation Army's printing works, siding and loading dock c1910. The photo is taken from the Sanders' Orchard Nurseries platform which was out of use by this time having been replaced by Salvation Army Halt on the west side of Camp Road.
Photo from John Mann collection

1880 1:2,500 OS map shows the Camp Road site before the arrival of Sander's orchid nurseries and the printing works

1897 1:2,500 OS map. Shows the Campfield Printing Works before it was taken over by the Salvation Army in 1901. The print works siding hasn't yet been laid although the low embankment has been widened to accommodate a siding, The St Albans Orchid Nurseries have now been built and a siding on the west side of Camp Road has been laid. There has been some residential development to the north of the Orchid nurseries.

1927 1:2,500 OS map. The Campfield Printing Works has been extended with a new Campfield Road running to the south of the main building. Salvation Army Halt is not named but the platform is shown (indicated by blue arrow). The St Albans Orchid Nurseries have expanded with a new footbridge (FB) across Camp Road linking the works with the siding.

A goods train and staff pose for the camera on the Salvation Army Print Works siding sometime between 1905 and 1918. The Hatfield - St Albans branch runs this side of the train. The third van of the train is uncoupled, suggesting posing for the camera was done in the midst of a shunting operation. The locomotive is a member of Patrick Stirling's 126 Class, of which thirteen were built at Doncaster commencing in 1868 for suburban work to and from the Widened Lines. The locomotives were an 0-4-2WT (Well Tank) design, this necessitating a lengthy gap of thirteen feet between the rearmost driving axle and the trailing axle; the men standing beside the locomotive hiding from view the peculiar appearance which resulted. The class originally had domeless boilers of the typical Stirling design and very rudimentary cabs. They were given slightly larger boilers, but still domeless, in the 1880s and when H.A. Ivatt, father of H.G. Ivatt, succeeded Stirling as Locomotive Superintendent of the GNR he modified five members of the 126 Class further, this time with domed boilers, which modification also resulted in the somewhat uneasy-looking cab design. No.A116, seen here, was one of the five so-modified locomotives and in this form became Great Northern Railway Class F6, while the domeless examples became Class F4. Note that the number is given as "A116" on the cabside but as "116. A" on the rear of the bunker. The addition of the "A" signified locomotives placed on the Duplicate List. In this case it was to make way for Ivatt's ponderous and not entirely successful L1 Class 0-8-2T's, later to become LNER Class R1. Withdrawals of what began life as the 126 Class began in 1905 and the entire class became extinct in 1918.
Photo from John Mann collection

Orchid Van Great Northern Railway No.964 poses for the camera at an unknown location. Note the clerestory carriage just visible at extreme left which shows signs of being an East Coast Joint Stock vehicle. The suggests the location is somewhere on the Great Northern main line. The reversed 'N' on the right is a reflection from an adjacent GN open wagon, this blemish alone tells us this is not an official railway photograph despite the van, or at least its body, being new. The van, believed to have been one of two, is passenger rated (meaning it can be attached to passenger trains), has screw couplings and is apparently dual braked. There are three lubrication points on the solebar, one above each axlebox, and same would have been present on the other side. The six wheel underframe is fitted with safety chains, normal for the time, and runs on Mansell wheels. The underframe possibly began life underneath a passenger carriage of some description. The wording on the lower bodyside, right, states 'To be returned to Sander's siding' followed by two other words which are unreadable but likely say 'St Albans'.
Copyright photo from National Railway Museum reproduced under creative commons licence.
No.931 was a GNR Stirling 766 Class 0-4-4T, built Doncaster 1892. They were fitted with condensing equipment for working down to Moorgate and you can just see the steam pipe above the water tank, to the right of the chimney. The 29 - strong class was removed from London area service in 1907 and transferred out of the area, condensing equipment removed, so the photo will be pre-1907. Some survived to become Class G1 under the LNER but all had been withdrawn by 1927. No.931 was not among those to see LNER service but its withdrawal date is not known.
Photo from Jim Lake collection

The Salvation Army's printing works, siding and loading dock in 1928. St Albans Orchid Nurseries are seen top left, the original Sanders' platform was sited immediately east of the Camp Road bridge seen on the left. Click here for a larger version.
Photo from Britain From Above, reproduced with permission

A passing passenger train is seen at Salvation Army Halt c1950. Sander's siding can just be made out beyond the platform.
Photo from John Mann collection

N7/1 69637 is seen at Salvation Army Halt in August 1955 following a derailment The loco and 25 wagons derailed at 15 mph following vandalism at Camp Road. Nobody was hurt and the loco received little damage and remained in service until withdrawal from Hornsey shed in March 1959.
Photo from Jim Lake collection

Salvation Army Halt in 1958. The points for Sander's siding are clearly seen just before the Camp Road bridge. Sanders' Orchard is seen in the background.
Photo from John Mann collection

Salvation Army Halt looking east towards Hatfield in March 1961. A public footpath across the track is seen beyond the platform.
Photo by David Pearson

Eastern Region Diesel shunter D3709, with a brake van in tow, passes Salvation Army Halt on 24 April 1965, heading towards Hatfield. The bridge carrying the Midland Main Line over the G N R branch is seen in the background.
Photo by David Pearson

Salvation Army Halt looking west towards St. Albans c1966.
Photo from John Mann collection

Salvation Army Halt looking east towards Hatfield c1966. The public footpath across the track has now been fenced.
Photo from John Mann collection

Campfield Printing Works loading dock in 1968.
Photo from Jim Lake collection

Looking east at Salvation Army Halt in February 1986. The track bed is completely overgrown and the platform hidden by undergrowth. Although the Alban Way footpath and cycleway opened in 1985, clearance of the track bed clearly hasn't yet reach St. Albans.
Photo by John Mann

By April 2004 the Alban Way footpath and cycleway had been established for nearly 20 years. Although a little overgrown the halt is clearly visible in this view looking west.
Photo by Nick Pedley
Salvation Army Halt looking west in April.2004
Photo by Nick Pedley

The platform remains overgrown alongside the Alban Way footpath but a new sign identifies the location . It is not intended to suggest that the halt ever had a name board. There is also an interpretation panel nearby with photographs and a history of the site.
Photo by Isaac Kenyon

[Source: Nick Catford]

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