Station Name: WEST MILL

 

[Source: Nick Catford]


Date opened: 3.7.1863
Location: On the north side of an un-named minor road
Company on opening: Great Eastern Railway
Date closed to passengers: 16.11.1964
Date closed completely: 16.11.1964
Company on closing: British Railways (Eastern Region)
Present state: Demolished - no trace of anything remains
County: Hertfordshire
OS Grid Ref: TL373272
Date of visit: November 1968

Notes: Buntingford was one of the many thriving market towns in East Anglia that was bypassed by chance or design by the main lines. When a bill to construct a new route between Ware & Cambridge passing through Buntingford failed, a public meeting was held on 1st August 1856 in Buntingford to discuss the feasibility of building a branch line to the town from Hertford or Ware. At a second meeting later that year a route from the Eastern Counties Railway's Hertford branch to Buntingford was adopted and an application was put before parliament on 11th November 1857 for the incorporation of the Ware, Hadham & Buntingford Railway.

Despite its name, the railway never went to Ware but made its junction further south at St. Margaret's, after a change to the original route was made to avoid offending a landowner. Capital was difficult to raise and there was strong opposition to the route from landowners particularly at the southern end of the line. The line had more than its share of troubles; the bridge at Braughing failed a Board of Trade inspection even before opening and the contractor used low-grade timber on the bridge at West Mill, which was completely rotten by 1868. To these troubles was added the high cost of compensating landowners along the route and but for aid from the Eastern Counties Railway who invested £22,000 in the project and later the Great Eastern Railway (six companies, including the ECR, were incorporated into the Great Eastern Railway on 7th August 1862) the line would never have been completed. There was also an added expense with eight crossings over the rivers Ash & Rib.

Construction started in January 1859 and although beset with difficulties from the start the thirteen and three quarter mile branch from St. Margaret's to Buntingford finally opened on 3rd July 1863 with intermediate stations at Mardock, Widford, Hadham, Standon, Braughing & West Mill. The branch prospered despite its troubled birth and traffic increased allowing most of the line and its stations were rebuilt before the turn of the century.

The growth of the London residential fringe overtook Northeast Hertfordshire by the 1920's when through trains to Liverpool Street were run and walkers were encouraged to use the branch with cheap Sunday tickets. Goods traffic was not so healthy however and the service of three goods trains a day, operated prior to World War 1, fell to only one except at busy times.

Passenger numbers remained healthy until the mid 1950's, when car ownership allowed commuters to try Bishop's Stortford and the Great Northern stations which a much faster service to King's Cross which was far more convenient for the West End offices. Few middle-of-the-day trains had more than a handful of passengers and by November 1960 these were eliminated. The business trains direct to London ceased and the choice of motoring to a main line station became more attractive than a DMU with a change to electric train at St. Margaret's.

The withdrawal of the passenger service was inevitable and closure of the line was proposed by Dr. Beeching in 1963 with only 2000 passengers a week buying tickets to travel on the line. Despite spirited public objections and a proposal to reduce costs by introducing a railbus the line finally closed to passengers on 16th November 1964. A freight service was retained to Hadham, Standon & Buntingford until 17th September 1965. Barely four months after the complete closure of the line the track was lifted. A short section of track at St. Margaret's was retained as a siding serving a gravel pit until March 1969.

During its life the Buntingford branch was used as a location for three films, 'Postman's Knock', 'O'Leary Night' and 'Girls in Arms'

WEST MILL STATION
West Mill had a single platform on the down side of the line with a long goods siding on the up side. There was also a private goods shed and granary adjacent to the siding. The signal box was originally on the down side of the line on the other side of a level crossing but this was replaced by a ground frame on the up side on the north side of the crossing.

The goods yard at West Mill closed on 7th September 1964 as sleepers in the siding were required to replace sleepers elsewhere on the line that had been damaged by fire.

Sources:

  • The Buntingford Railway by P. Paye - Oxford Publishing Co. 1980 ISBN 86093 051 3
  • Railways of Hertfordshire by F G Cockman
  • Forgotten Railway - East Anglia by R S Joby - David & Charles ISBN 07153 7312 9

See also: Hertfordshire's lost railways by Keith Scholey ISBN ISBN 1 84033231 X
Buntingford Railway & Local History Society web site
Buntingford Branch Line Remembered 88 minute video using amateur film and still photographs

Buntingford Brewery and Green Tye Brewery are working together to produce a range of handcrafted beers to recall the days of the former Buntingford Branch Line railway. There are eight beers named after the eight stations on the line.

To see the other stations on the Buntingford branch click on the station name: Mardock, Widford, Hadham, Standon, Braughing & Buntingford

 

West Mill Station in November 1968
P
hoto by Nick Catford



West Mill Station
Photo by J L Smith


 

1969

1969

 



Click on thumbnail to enlarge

[Source: Nick Catford]

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