Station Name: WELFORD PARK

[Source: Nick Catford]

Date opened: 4.4.1898
Location: North side of Snake Lane
Company on opening: Lambourn Valley Railway
Date closed to passengers: 4.1.1960
Date closed completely: 19.7.1965
Company on closing: British Railways (Western Region)
Present state: The down platform is still extant with some rotting of the timbers. An earth mound marks the site of the up platform. The concrete loading dock can still be seen at one end of the down platform. A public footpath (The Lambourn Valley Way) runs through the station site and a public car park for the Welford Park Estate is sited to the west of the station on the site of the goods yard and sidings.
County: Berkshire
OS Grid Ref: SU408735
Date of visit: February 1969 and 21.2.2006

Notes: The station was named after the nearby private estate of Welford Park; it served the villages of Welford, Wickham and Weston.

The original station had a single 9" high platforms but was reconstructed by the GWR in late 1908 with the addition of a signal box, passing loop (making it the only crossing place on the line), and a second platform. Corrugated iron pagoda waiting shelters were provided on each platform. In common with all the intermediate stations on the line the platforms were topped with cinders and fine gravel while the leading edges were built of sleepers. Rails sunk vertically into the ground supported the entire structures throughout their length. A signal box and booking office was located at the Lambourn end of the up platform.

Welford Park was always a quiet station, apart from Newbury market days, passenger receipts were minimal but goods traffic provided returns for the branch. Small quantities of coal were handled but little or no milk was forwarded from the station, the main income being the conveyance of watercress grown in the nearby river Lambourn, agricultural commodities and small amounts of timber. There was little increase in freight traffic following the opening of the US airbase at RAF Welford during WW2 but in 1942 a concrete loading dock was built at the end of the down platform to cater for additional livestock and the occasional wagon load of supplies for the camp.

There was some increase in traffic when a three mile spur to RAF Welford was built in 1952 and exchange sidings for the airbase branch were sited to the rear of the up platform.

After closure to passengers in 1960, the station remained open for freight traffic until 19.7.1965. After that date the line only handled military traffic but this use ceased on 3.11.1973

For further pictures and information on Welford Park Station see Lambourn Valley Railway web site

The railway came late to the isolated Berkshire town of Lambourn. The first scheme for a line to the town was put forward in 1873 with a proposal to build a tramway from Lambourn to Newbury but the scheme foundered through lack of money. In 1881 the proposal was revived when a Bill was put before parliament for a light railway. Despite being passed by the Commons the Bill was rejected by the Lords after some local protests. On 2.8.1883 a new Bill was introduced and passed authorizing the Lambourn Valley Railway to build its line.

Lack of finance delayed the construction of the line and by July 1889 only the first 4 ½ miles was ready for track laying. By June 1890 9 miles of permanent way and been laid but the contractor was unable to complete the line and further work was halted. At the end of 1893 a further Bill was obtained giving the LVR a further 4 years to complete the line but work didn't restart until January 1897 and the line was not ready until the spring of 1898 with a private opening on 2nd April.

The line was operated and maintained by the GWR under an Act of 1895 with 5 daily trains and an additional late evening train on Sunday. The line was initially single track throughout with no signaling and only one engine in steam. Station platforms were all nine inches high and with the exception of Welford Park, sited on the west side of the line.

In January 1904 the GWR expressed an interest in buying the line and a year later the LVR board approved and amalgamation which took place on 2nd July that year.

Plans were immediately drawn up to improve the line; these included a new halt at Newbury West Fields which opened in 1907 and the rebuilding of Lambourn Station with new buildings and a standard height platform. Eventually all the platforms on the branch were replaced; most stations were provided with a siding and passing loops were added at Boxford, Welford Park, Great Shefford and East Garston. The branch was worked by steam railmotors and locomotive hauled trains.

By the mid 1930's, passenger numbers were dropping due to competition from local bus services and in an attempt to win back passengers and save costs and experimental diesel railcar was tried out on the line in late 1936. This proved successful and a rail car was specifically built for use on the branch and once again the line began to make a small profit. By nationalisation in 1946 the railway was in good order with a well used and reliable service.

New traffic was brought to the line in the early 1950's, when a three mile branch was built from Welford Park to the American air base at RAF Welford. It was hoped that this would ensure the survival of both passenger and freight traffic but in 1959 British Railways announce closure of the line to passenger traffic and this took place on 4.1.1960.

Freight traffic continued as far as Welford Park but the remaining track to Lambourn was lifted in about 1962. Freight traffic was withdrawn from Boxford and Welford Park in 1965 but the line was retrained to serve the American air base being leased by the Ministry of Defence from 1.7.1967. The MOD provided its own locomotive from 1.1.1972 but this was short lived with the last recorded military use of the line on 7.8.1972. The last public train ran on 3.11.1973 when a 3-car DMU ran four return trips from Newbury - Welford Park carrying 1997 passengers. Despite proposals to reopen the line as a steam railway then track was finally lifted in late 1976

Further reading: The Lambourn Valley Railway by MRC Price 1964/1976 Oakwood Press
The Lambourn Branch by Kevin Robertson, Roger Simmonds
1984 Wild Swan ISBN 090686724X
Branch Line to Lambourn by Vic Mitchell, Keith Smith, Kevin Robertson
2001 Middleton Press

Other web sites: The Lambourn Valley Railway 1898 - 1973. Excellent web site with a large number of archive photographs of all the stations on the branch and pictures of the branch to RAF Welford..

To see the other stations on the Lambourn Valley Railway click on the station name: Newbury, Newbury West Fields Halt, Speen, Stockcross & Bagnor, Boxford, Great Shefford, East Garston, Eastbury Halt & Lambourn


Diesel railcar at Welford Park Station
Photo by Michael Nimms supplied by The Lambourn Valley Railway web site

Welford Park Station looking south in February 1969. By this date the up platform had been removed leaving an earth mound to indicate its position.
Photo by Nick Catford

The down platform at Welford Park Station looking north in February 2006
Photo by Nick Catford





Click on thumbnail to enlarge




[Source: Nick Catford]

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