Station Name: WELWYN JUNCTION

[Source: Nick Catford]


Date opened: 1.3.1858 (Workmen’s station before 1920)
Location: North side of Bridge Road
Company on opening: Hertford & Welwyn Junction Railway
Date closed to passengers: 1.9.1860 (Workmen's station 1923 or later)
Date closed completely: 1.9.1860 (Workmen's station 1923 or later)
Company on closing: London & North Eastern Railway
Present state: Demolished - no evidence of the station remains
County: Hertfordshire
OS Grid Ref: TL240132
Date of visit: 15.1.2011

Notes: When the Hertford line opened on 1st March 1858 the original plan was for the line to make a triangular junction with the GNR, with running powers north to Digswell where passengers would have interchange with the Great Northern. Only the south facing junction was built, and a station called Welwyn Junction was provided at or near the junction, a mile south of the village of Digswell. At this time there was no community at the junction, and the station was only provided so that passengers from Hertford could interchange with the Great Northern.

When the second stage of the Dunstable line opened on 1st September 1860 Welwyn Garden City didn't exist. The line made a junction with the Great Northern within what is now Welwyn Garden City, and ran south along the main line into Hatfield station. At the same time Welwyn Junction station closed with trains from Hertford also running south into Hatfield.

No photographs of this short-lived station are known to exist, and there is no further information available about it.

In 1919 Sir Ebenezer Howard arranged for the purchase of land in Hertfordshire that had already been identified as a suitable site for a new town. On 29th April 1920 a company, Welwyn Garden City Limited, was formed to plan and build the garden city, similar to the one he had founded at Letchworth in 1903.

To help with the transport of workers and building materials to the construction site, temporary wooden platforms were built on both the Dunstable and Hertford branch lines. The platform on the Hertford line was a short distance to the north of Hunters Bridge with access along a footpath from Bridge Road. The platform was built of timber with steps up from the footpath at its north end. There were two lamp standards, one at each end of the platform.

The platform on the Dunstable line eventually became a public station, remaining in use until a new station at Welwyn Garden City opened on 20th September 1926. The Hertford line platform was only ever used by workmen. It is not known when it was last used but it is still shown on the 1923 Ordnance Survey map. It is assumed to have been quickly demolished once it was no longer required.

BRIEF HISTORY OF THE HERTFORD NORTH TO WELWYN GARDEN CITY LINE
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.

Ticket 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, Attimore Hall Halt, Hatfield Hyde Halt, Cole Green, Hertingfordbury & Hertford North


In the early 1920s halts were provided on both the Hertford and Dunstable lines at their junction with the Great Northern line to serve workmen who were involved in the construction of Welwyn Garden City. The halt on the Hertford line was at, or near, the position of the former Welwyn Junction public station that closed in 1860. This picture of the Hertford line halt is pre-1920 as the halt on the Dunstable line hasn't been built yet. (The platform would have been in view as it followed the curve of the line)
Photo from Jim Lake collection


1878 1:2500 OS map. The junction with the Dunstable line is shown but there were no stations there at this time.

1898 1:2500 OS map. The new road and bridge is under construction at this time.
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1923 1:2500 OS map. Both Welwyn Garden City Halt on the Dunstable line and the workers halt on the Hertford line are shown.
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The workmen’s halt on the Hertford line in 1921.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection

The site of both Welwyn Junction public station and the workmen’s halt in January 2011.
Photo by Nick Catford

This aerial view clearly shows the course of the line from the junction. The site of the Hertford line junction can also be seen top right. The Hertford line workmen’s halt was where the white containers are adjacent to the track.



 

 

 

[Source: Nick Catford]





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