RAILWAY 1865 TO 1967
The growing traffic problems on the
A1307 have led to many people voicing the opinion that it
was a mistake to close the Stour Valley Railway Line in 1967.
There were once up to six trains a day connecting Linton to
Cambridge, and the journey was completed in under twenty five
minutes. Trains from Linton arrived in Haverhill within eighteen
minutes and Bartlow was just over five minutes away. From
Bartlow Junction a branch line connected the Stour Valley
to Saffron Walden and Audley End, opening up easy access to
London. Imagine how convenient these railway links would be
The railway reached Cambridge in 1845 and most local people
imagined that the link to Colchester would quickly follow.
Yet twenty long years were to pass by before the Stour Valley
section of that route was finally completed. Money was tight
and the steep gradient from Bartlow to Haverhill presented
the railway engineers with serious technical problems.
However, by 1860 the Great Eastern Railway finally approved
the line and the Linton to Shelford section was opened to
general traffic on June 1st, 1865. The Cambridge Chronicle
reported the opening of the railway, "There was much
merrymaking in the quiet town of Linton. Business was suspended
and the Church bells sent forth a peal testifying the joy
of the inhabitants. The Bartlow Hills were literally alive
and many a hearty cheer was given for the success of the line
which was associated with the names of Brassey and Company,
the eminent Railway contractors".
In October 1866 an extension from Bartlow to Audley End was
opened, linking the Stour Valley settlements to the main London
line.The construction of the railway led to the demolition
of some Linton cottages close to where the railway embankment
crossed the Hadstock Road. Two railway bridges were built
in the village, one across the Hadstock Road and the other
over the track leading to Catley Park Farm.
Linton Station became the centre of village activity and
trade. Myhill & Sons and Coote & Warren established
their coal depots here, local butchers brought livestock from
the Cambridge Market and builders used the railway to convey
the fashionable yellowish Cambridge brick to reface or replace
existing Linton properties.
In September 1866 over one hundred and seventy adults and
children made their first ever journey to the seaside at Harwich.
For most children the Sunday School outing was the major social
event of the year, and Clacton with its 1180 ft pier was the
most popular venue. Beaches were segregated until 1900, bathing
machines were still in use and males had to wear bathing suits
which extended from the neck to the knees.
In 1909 the Choir were ecstatic because they had been allowed
to view “HMS Superb”, one of only three Dreadnought
battleships in the British Fleet. Over 150 warships were present
at the review of the fleet off Southend.
During the 1920’s and 1930’s the railway system
suffered from a chronic lack of investment and rolling stock
was rarely replaced. The ravages of the Second World War and
Post War shortages accentuated the decline of the railways.
Rival forms of transport reduced profitability and the closure
of uneconomic branch lines began in earnest.
All still seemed well with our local line in 1951 when Linton
travellers were able to visit the Festival of Britain Exhibition
in London for return fare of 53p, and travel to Cambridge
for only 8p return. However, the Stour Valley line was losing
over £ 26,000 a year by the early 1960’s and the
infamous Doctor Beeching brought down his famous “Axe”
in 1967. The last passenger train ran from Sudbury to Cambridge
on March 4th 1967.
Before the rails were removed our local line was to play
a significant role in the film, Virgin Soldiers.
In October 1968, a stretch of the disused Bartlow railway
line running through a wooded area close to Bartlow Park was
turned into a section of the Malayan jungle. Most of the anti-war
picture was filmed in Malaya by the Columbia British Film
The film starred Lyn Redgrave, as the sergeant’s daughter
and Hywell Bennett, as a National Service private soldier.
The closing sequence showed a train load of “raw”
British troops being ambushed by communist guerrillas, and
that sequence was filmed at Bartlow in mid October. British
Rail supplied the locomotive, four carriages and a brake van.
All the rolling stock was painted to convey the impression
that this was a real Malaysian train. The train was deliberately
wrecked for this final ambush scene. The end scene in the
film shows Hywell Bennett running along the line to stop another
troop train, the last train to run on our local line!
In May, 1976 a plan was presented to the RDC and PC’s
to convert the main station building to a house and a light
industrial site. In May, 1978 Walden Precision Apparatus Ltd.
applied for a two storey factory and offices at the Railway
Station site. No objections were raised by the PC or the RDC.