North East Essex Railways

Tendring Hundred Railway Company

The mainline arrived in Colchester in 1843 and by 1859 the Tendring Hundred Railway Company was formed with a plan to take the line to Clacton. The bill for the Wivenhoe line went before parliament in 1860 but legal wrangles and money problems delayed the railway until 1863. On Friday 6th May a single track opened and carried six passenger trains a day between Wivenhoe and Colchester. The opening ceremony was marred by the death of 12 year old Emma Sainty who fell off a trolley and was killed when the wheels ran over her head.
Wivenhoe was already an active port for Colchester as vessels too large to dock at Hythe ran lighters (smaller vessels) to and from the Hythe from Wivenhoe. The river was deepened in 1854 which meant Wivenhoe began to decline as a port. The new branch line established Wivenhoe as a yacht building centre in 1870s and also as a major packing centre for oysters and sprats which arrived at the wharf in the Wivenhoe Smacks.

Steam at Wivenhoe Station 1956
Liverpool St Train at Colchester 1959
Wivenhoe to Brightlingsea Train

Great Eastern Railways

Formed in 1862 after the amalgamation of the Eastern Counties Railway and several other smaller railway companies including the Tendring Hundred Railway Company the GER suburban network was, in the early 20th century, the busiest steam-hauled commuter system in the world.
On taking over the entire route in 1862, the GER improved speeds on the Colchester line so that Colchester was reached in 70 minutes (non-stop) from Liverpool Street.
In 1866 the Wivenhoe line was extended to Weeley and the Brightlingsea single track Branch line was built. By now Wivenhoe had one through platform and one bay platform for the Brightlingsea line. East of the station beyond the High St, there was a final cross-over, then the layout was two independant single lines with one to Weeley and the other to Brightlingsea.
By 1867 the Weeley line was extended further to Walton-On-The-Naze and so the Essex Coast was opened up to weekenders from London.
In 1875 Liverpool Street station opened providing the GER with a bigger city terminus.
In 1882 a single line to Clacton from Thorpe-le-Soken junction was completed providing a second beach resort location to weekenders. Marketed as the Sunshine Coast Line see here for more on the Clacton Line.

GER Locomotives

Train pic 1
Claud Hamilton 4-4-0
GER had three classes of 4-4-0 locomotives on express services. Classes S46, D56 and H88 (LNER D14, D15, and D16) were collectively nicknamed "Claud Hamiltons" because the first S46 (built at Straford in 1900, numbered 1900) was named after the then-current chairman of the GER, Lord Claud Hamilton. Most of the "Clauds" were later rebuilt by the LNER and the final one still working was withdrawn in 1960 and scrapped.
Express services (which were getting heavier) on the GER were latterly in the hands of the Class S69 (LNER class B12) 4-6-0 locomotives. Designed by James Holden and also known as the '1500 class', these engines were built at Stratford Works (51 engines) and William Beardmore (20 engines). Ten engines were later built for the London and North Eastern Railway by Beyer Peacock, and it is one of these locomotives that is preserved today.


The London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) was the second largest (after LMS) of the Four railway companies created by the Railways Act 1921 in Britain. Swallowing up the GER it operated from 1 January 1923 until nationalisation on 1 January 1948 when British Railways (BR) was created. In it's time the LNER was divided into the British Railways' Eastern Region, North Eastern Region, and partially the Scottish Region.

LNER Loco's

Train pic 1
A4 Mallard
For passenger services, Sir Nigel Gresley, the Chief Mechanical Engineer built new powerful A3, A4 and the P2 locomotives and new coaches. Later developments such as the streamlined Silver Jubilee train of 1935 were exploited by the LNER publicity department, and embedded the non-stop London to Edinburgh services such as the Flying Scotsman in the public imagination. The crowning glory of this time was the world record speed of 126 miles per hour (203 km/h) achieved on a test run by LNER Class A4 4468 Mallard.

BR Eastern Region

The region was formed at nationalisation in 1948, mostly out of the former Great Northern, Great Eastern and Great Central lines that were merged into the LNER in 1923. Of all the "Big Four" pre-nationalisation railway companies, the LNER was most in need of significant investment. In the immediate post-war period there was a need to rebuild the destroyed stations in London and along the busy East Coast Main Line and former Great Central Railway. Additionally, the LNER had begun a suburban electrification programme which the British Transport Commission was pledged to continue.
The Region continued the LNER's programme of electrification, using the then-standard 1500 V overhead DC system, in the London suburbs, allowing for the removal of steam services from Essex by the mid-1950s. The original plan had called for the eventual electrification of most of the LNER, and the Eastern Region sought to continue this policy as part of the 1955 Modernisation Plan. However, the British Transport Commission felt that many Eastern Region routes would not benefit from this; indeed, many of the rural lines proposed for electrification were in fact closed entirely by Dr Beeching. Instead, the Eastern Region had to content itself with being an early adopter of diesel-electric power, replacing steam at the earliest opportunity.

BR Locomotives

Train pic 1
Class 31
British Rail Class 31 Diesel Electric locos really were quite unique in 1950 and were pretty much restricted to the Eastern Region at Stratford Depot, East London for the whole of the sub classes working life which came to an end in the late 1970s, when a handful were converted to become heating units and taken into Departmental stock, they gained the nickname “Toffee Apples” this was conceived from the shape of the control key which was totally unique to the pre-production sub class of 20. The building of the 263 production locos took 5 years to complete, the first 15 production locos were also delivered with a maximum speed of 80 mph with the remainder being 90 mph, the 80 mph batch were gradually refurbished along with the 90 mph batch in the 1980s and this speed was then corrected to be a standard 90 mph for all survivors at that time.

Train pic 1
Class 37
The first Class 37 diesel-electric locomotive, D6700, was rolled out of Vulcan Foundry in Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire in December 1960 to begin a working life which was to span nearly 40 years. The newly built "BR green" D6700 entered service in British Rail's Eastern region and was soon seen speeding up and down the tracks of East Anglia, often on express passenger trains where it had displaced steam locomotives.
Despite all members of the Class 37 build now being over 50 years old, over 60 locomotives are still mainline registered and remain active undertaking a variety of passenger, freight and departmental duties on the national rail network in 2018.
With the Diesel-Electric loco's the journey time between Liverpool Street station and Wivenhoe was now approx 60mins and this made Wivenhoe a popular location for commuters. This made the town grow rapidly post-war as workers in London moved out of the city into the Essex countryside.

Tornado Steam Train at Wivenhoe

Oliver Cromwell at Colchester