Station Name: WELNETHAM

[Source: Nick Catford]

Date opened: 9.8.1865
Location: At the end of Station Hill
Company on opening: Great Eastern Railway
Date closed to passengers: 10.4.1961
Date closed completely: 13.7.1964
Company on closing: British Railways (Eastern Region)
Present state: The station survives as a private residence although the track bed has been filled in up to the level of the platform.
County: Suffolk
OS Grid Ref: TL897591
Date of visit: March 1976

Notes: Welnetham station had a single platform on the down side of the line. The main station building was brick built and incorporated a two storey stationmaster's house with a single storey block attached which included the booking office waiting room with a separate gents' toilet at the north end. The part of the building containing the booking office was slightly recessed with a small canopy between the two projecting ends of the building.

There was a small goods yard which consisted of a single siding accessed from either direction, it ran partially behind the platform. Welnetham yard handled a limited range of goods traffic and didn't handle livestock. A timber goods lock-up was provided on the platform adjacent to the gents' toilet. Access to the yard was controlled by a signal box on the up side of the line opposite the north end of the platform. The box was built around the turn of the 20th century.

The station was bought in 1981 and was converted into a private residence. It was further refurbished in 1993.

On 1846 an Act of Parliament authorised the Colchester, Stour Valley, Sudbury & Halstead Railway to build a line between Marks Tey and Sudbury. In June 1847 further Acts were obtained allowing the railway company to extend from Sudbury to Clare with a branch from Melford (Long Melford from 1884) to Bury St. Edmunds. The company was leased to the Ipswich & Bury St. Edmunds Railway which was in turn absorbed by the Eastern Union Railway the following month.

The line from Marks Tey to Sudbury opened on July 2nd 1849 but the extension to Bury St. Edmunds was not built. On January 1st 1854, the Eastern Counties Railway (ECR) took over the Eastern Union Railway. Another company now emerged; the Sudbury & Clare Railway which planned to make up for the failure of the Stour Valley company to reach Bury St. Edmunds as approved in the original 1846 Act. By an Act of July 1860, the Sudbury & Clare Company was empowered to build a line from Sudbury to Clare via Melford. However, as soon as the powers were obtained, the ECR took over and immediately sought extended powers to build from Sudbury (via Melford) to Shelford on the London-Cambridge main line, as well as the branch from Melford to Bury St. Edmunds.

On August 6th 1861, the ECR received approval to go ahead. However, further changes were imminent and in August 1862 an amalgamation of companies including the ECR came about and the Great Eastern Railway (GER) came into being.

The Act also renewed the authorisation for the proposed ECR lines to proceed and the Melford to Bury St. Edmunds line opened on August 9th 1865 with intermediate stations at Bury Eastgate, Welnetham, Cockfield and Lavenham. The line was single throughout except for passing loops following the Upper Lark Valley to its first station.

Lavenham was a small textile town but the industry was already in decline when the railway opened. During the period prior to the First World War, the line saw some of its best traffic. The war brought little reduction in traffic but by the 1920s the familiar pattern of road competition was setting in although rail traffic continued quite healthily for some years; some economies were made. After WW1 the economic decline of the area deepened as did the population in many towns and villages in the area together with traffic on the line. At its peak, there were 5 or 6 trains a day between Bury and Long Melford with 2 or 3 of these continuing to Marks Tey or Colchester but this was reduced in later years.

Apart from local traffic, the line provided no real alternative to the Bury - Colchester service via Ipswich and elderly rolling stock finished its life on the line which didn't help with competition from road traffic.

When the Second World War came, the situation changed dramatically; passenger services were reduced although freight services remained active. Changes came when British Railways announced a modernisation programme; from January 1st 1959, steam was scrapped and replaced by Diesel Multiple Units.

Although passenger traffic showed some improvement, it was not enough to overcome the increasing losses being incurred. Passenger traffic between Long Melford and Bury St. Edmunds had become very light and the line closed to passengers on April 10th 1961 with freight traffic surviving between Bury and Lavenham until 19.4.1965.

Route map drawn by Alan Young. Tickets from Michael Stewart, except 0986 David Pearson.

To see the other stations on the Bury St. Edmunds - Long Melford branch line click on the station name: Bury St. Edmunds Eastgate, Cockfield & Lavenham

See also: Stour Valley Railway
Colne Valley Railway
Saffron Walden Branch Line

Welnetham station looking north-west in 1909. The GER running-in board was still in place at closure in 1961; see photos below. The signal box had only been open for a few years and was closed and. demolished before closure in 1961.
Photo from John Mann collection

1904 1:2,500 OS Map shows the layout of Welnetham station which has a forecourt at the end of the approach road. The station buildings are on the down side. The single goods siding runs behind the platform at its north end; it can be accessed from either direction. Access to the yard is controlled by a signal box (SB) on the up side opposite the north end of the platform.

J15 0-6-0 No. 65391 waits at Welnetham with a southbound passenger service circa mid 1950s. This former GER loco was built at Stratford Works in 1900 and was withdrawn from Bury St Edmunds shed at the end of 1958 and cut up in January 1959.
Photo from John Mann collection

0-6-0 No. 65450 waits at Welnetham station in September 1959 with a Cambridge to Colchester train. This J15 was built at Stratford Works in 1906 and withdrawn from Cambridge shed on 31 October 1861 and cut up at Doncaster Works a year later. This and the loco pictures above were  fitted with side windows and tender-cab for working the Colne Valley line. Five of this class had new cabs with single side windows fitted. These were to provide protection for the enginemen when operating on the Brightlingsea branch and the Colne Valley line which lacked turntables. One of this class No. 65462 was purchased by the Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway Society, and survives in working order.
Photo from John Mann collection

A DMU waits at Welnetham station around 1960. The timber building on the platform was a
goods lock-up.
Photo from John Mann collection

The GER running-in board remained in place until closure.

A DMU waits at Welnetham station in March 1961. Note the early enamelled nameboard; this appears to be old and is probably of Great Eastern origin.
Photo by Roger Joanes

A Bury St Edmunds to Long Melford service is approaching Welnetham on 8 April 1961, the last day of public service. The goods yard remained open until 1964.
Photo by David Pearson

Welnetham station looking north-west towards Bury St Edmunds on 8 April 1961, the last day of
public service.
Photo by David Pearson

Welnetham station forecourt in January 1975.
Photo by David Burrows from his Flickr photostream

Welnetham stations buildings in January 1975. The track bed has been filled up to platform level. The building on the right was probably the gents' toilet.
Photo by David Burrows from his Flickr photostream

Welnetham goods yard looking south-east in January 1975.
Photo by David Burrows from his Flickr photostream

Welnetham station building in January 1975.
Photo by David Burrows from his Flickr photostream

Welnetham station looking south-east in March 1976.
Photo by Nick Catford

Welnetham station building in January 1985.

Looking north-west along the platform at Welnetham station in April 2006. A single-storey brick extension was added when the house was refurbished in 1993.
Photo by Roy Williams

Welnetham station building in April 2006 It is clear from this view that the single-storey booking office has also been extended.
Photo by Roy Williams

April 1961

January 1975

January 1975

April 2006

Click on thumbnail to enlarge




[Source: Nick Catford]

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