The Railway

Potted history by Maureen Dow

1844Survey for Eastern Union Railway Extension - Ipswich to Bury. See map.
1846Construction of Ipswich to Bury Line, including Lord's Bridge
Official opening 7.22.1846 before all the stations, including Elmswell, were completed.
1862Amalgamation of the Eastern Union with four other Companies to form the Great Eastern Railway.
1874Two GER guards were charged with stealing 3 bottles of claret from a hamper destined for Elmswell. Two full bottles were found in the brake van's sand locker and the other was hidden beneath a coat. Staff was invariably sacked after such incidents. (Moffat 1987)
1880Derailment. (Moffat 1987)
1884Half Station Blown Down (BNP 21.1.1884)
1888Parish versus Woolpit Brick & Tile Co. (Vestry Minutes)
1892Parish versus Woolpit Brick & Tile Co. Dispute resolved.
1898Tramway from Elmswell to Woolpit Brickworks shown on GER plan.
1900Proposal to upgrade tramway. [Route]
1911Sidings to new Bacon Factory.
1942-1945Tons of munitions and hundreds of personnel destined for Great Ashfield Airfield pass through Elmswell Station.
1964Closed to Goods Traffic 28.12.1964.
Siding to Bacon Factory closed.
Introduction of Paytrains.
1967Station became an unstaffed halt.
Mr Thompson was the last stationmaster. (BFP 1979)
1974The main station buildings on the downline were demolished.
1986Signal box dismantled after the Haughley to Bury re-signalling.
1990MP Michael Lord unveils a plaque. (EADT article 23.4.1990)
1991Travel Stop travel agent opens in the newly refurbished Victorian buildings.
1996John Spanton, who provided dazzling floral displays for the Station, receives an award.
2006Steam trains come through in celebration of 150th anniversary (article)

Memories of the railway, from the oral history interviews

George Russell   -   Fred Buckle

Mike Seeley took this photo in 1967. Crown Mill and the former Crown beer house can be seen in the background. The signal box was demolished in 1986 after the Haughley to Bury St Edmunds re-signalling.

This was about the same time - Full size

Pictures, from the postcard and other collections



3. Elmswell Station 1916, looking towards Stowmarket
"Agricultural produce was the main source of freight with domestic coal being imported from the Midlands." (Suffolk's Railways, by Dennis Cross)

Railway, 1901



Snowie Frost in the old signal box
Picture taken by Robert Rice

What are they doing?
- see closeup


Station, 17 July 1984

(Thanks to Olive Dalton)

(Thanks to Karen Hoskins of JustaClickAgo)
Haro Haro The Woolpit Brick & Tile Co. bought this Sharp Stewart 2-4-0 tank engine, Haro Haro, to add to the 0-6-0 saddle tank engine which they already ran on the standard gauge line into the sidings at Elmswell. Haro Haro had previously seen service both on the Jersey Railway and on the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal.

In these old photos of School Road you can just see the tram tracks running across between Rose Lane and Hawk End Lane.
When School Road was resurfaced in October 2006, the old rails momentarily appeared at the corner of Hawk End Lane.
This old photo was kindly lent to me by Jim and Janet Baker. It shows the Woolpit Brick Co. railway bridge over the stream that runs parallel to Kiln Lane. And here's a route map too.

Article by Maureen Dow in the Newsletter of May 1996

Our cover picture shows Elmswell station in the days of steam. Those days are set to return, if fleetingly, on 15th and 16th June when steam locomotives once again pass through the station - three times each day in either direction. This is one of the events marking the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Ipswich to Bury line.

The first ever train, a 'special' courtesy of the Eastern Union railway company, passed through Elmswell on 26th November 1846. In 1855 White's Directory of Suffolk mentions 5 trains a day in either direction. The whole journey usually took 90 minutes calling at all stations, but the fastest trip knocked ten minutes off this time by only calling at Needham Market and Elmswell - and carrying no 3rd Class passengers.

When the line was built, it involved a great cutting 38ft deep through Norton Great Wood where the contractor had to resort to blasting the heavy clay with gunpowder. A narrow gauge tramway was laid to Woolpit Brickworks in the late 19th Century. This was upgraded to standard gauge in about 1901, and ten years later sidings were added to serve the Bacon Factory. In 1967, Frank Thompson, the last Stationmaster, retired when the stations on the line became un-manned. His memories were of 2 porters, 3 signalmen and a clerk - and of the importance of the station during the War in supplying Great Ashfield Airfield. The signal box, sadly, was demolished in 1986, but when B.R. tried to dismantle the remaining station buildings a year later, the Parish Council - with overwhelming popular support - managed to negotiate a unique deal which not only saved the station but allowed refurbishment and the development of the site for business use, adding another service to this thriving and growing community. A dramatically important element in the life and history of Elmswell is celebrated as the steam trains pass through next month. Don't miss it!

And here are pictures taken by Paul Peachey on that cheerful occasion...