Great Eastern Railways

The Brightlingsea Line

The single track branch line of the Wivenhoe and Brightlingsea Railway opened in 1866 and closed in 1964. The station and line was built by The Wivenhoe & Brightlingsea Railway company, a company incorporated in 1861 to build a line from Wivenhoe to Brightlingsea which opened on 17 April 1866. The company was a separate, but associated, company to the Tendring Hundred Railway which had built the line from Colchester to Wivenhoe. The GER soon negotiated to buy both the Tendring Hundred Railway and the Clacton-on-Sea Railway, and both became part of the GER on 1 July 1883. The Wivenhoe & Brightlingsea was absorbed by the GER on 9 June 1893.

Also known as the "Crab and Winkle line" the track featured several rickety looking wooden bridges built to cross small tidal streams that cut into the planned route alongside the banks of the River Colne. The line was temporarily closed on 1 February 1953 following severe flood damage and was not reopened until 7 December that year.

The service was identified for closure in the Beeching Report of 1963 and was eventually axed in 1964. This was supposedly prompted by the high costs of maintaining the railway swing bridge over Alresford Creek, which was necessary to allow boat traffic to the many sand and gravel pits in the area.

Brightlingsea Station
Alresford Bridge
Wooden Bridge near Brightlingsea
Brightlingsea Train at Wivenhoe
Approaching Wivenhoe from Brightlingsea
Wivenhoe Train at Brightlingsea

The visible relics of the railway's presence today are the Railway public house and micro-brewery, and the old embankment which is now a footpath. It is possible to walk along virtually the whole length of the former route from very near the site of the old station in Brightlingsea along the old embankment to the site of the former swing bridge. This makes for a pleasant, scenic walk alongside the River Colne with its ecologically interesting salt marsh environment and at low tides extensive mud flats.

The video below was recorded on the Brightlingsea Train in 1963 just before the line was closed as part of the Beeching cuts.

Wivenhoe to Brightlingsea Line in 1963