A New Year, A New Layout

Shelford (Cambridgeshire) around 1924.

Things have been rather quiet on this blog in January. Yet, behind the scenes there’s been a whole lot of thinking going on.

I have an idea for a new layout. Here’s the inspiration behind the idea.

A Little Bit of Railway History.

Shelford is a small village about 3 miles south of Cambridge and has had a station since 1845. On the 1st of June 1865 a branch line from Shelford to Haverhill was opened. This branched off the London to Cambridge main line just south of the Shelford station, near the small village of Stapleford. It ran through Pampisford, Linton, Bartlow and into Haverhill. Initially, the line ran close to the River Granta along what’s sometimes called the Granta Valley.

Sketch map of part of the Stour Valley Branch Line (Shelford to Bartlow).

On the 9th August 1865 the section of track from Haverhill to Sudbury was opened allowing travelers to go from Shelford to Sudbury and on to Marks Tey and Colchester. The line became known as the Stour Valley Railway.

Initially, many of the stations were well appointed with goods yards of varying sizes and the line did a useful service transporting goods such as coal, corn, beet and livestock.

Shelford Station, look at that lovely Great Eastern Railway goods shed.

The line between Shelford and Haverhill fell into decline and was eventually closed to passengers in March 1967 as part of the Beeching cuts (boo hiss to Beeching!).

In Stapleford some local people discussed running a preserved steam railway along the old line from Shelford to Linton, a distance of around 7 miles. Unfortunately, the track was lifted in 1970 and nothing came of the idea.

The Shelford to Haverhill Line Today

Today, the route of the old line through Stapleford, to Pampisford and Linton is quite easy to trace. Some bridges still exist and much of the track ran on raised earth works which are still clearly visible in many places.

Stapleford with the Cambridge to Liverpool Street line in the background. The Haverhill branch line ran alone the raised earthworks in the field.
The branch line continued across the field behind the line of trees in the distance.
At the end of the field this bridge carried the A1301 over the branch line. It still carries the road, even though the line has disappeared.
Between Sawston and Babraham the line crossed this country road. The bridge has gone but the embankments either side and the dip in the road are still visible.
In the dip of the road is the base of the old bridge.
Scramble up the slope and you are greeted with this view of the old trackbed heading towards Linton. It is amazing that the line is still so clearly visible.
In Linton, the station building still exists and is used as offices. What an elegant place to work.

At the southern end of the line, the route from Sudbury to Marks Tey is still open, and has been branded ‘The Gainsborough Line’ to commemorate the painter Thomas Gainsborough, who was born in Sudbury.

Here’s Where I Have to Declare an Interest

I moved to Stapleford last year. I live close to the London Liverpool Street to Cambridge line, and opposite the field where the Stour Valley Branch left the main line and started its journey to Pampisford and Haverhill. Along one edge of the field runs the Granta River which meanders from Haverhill, past Linton and on into Cambridge following a similar, but not indentical, route to the old branch line.

What If….

…an enterprising group of railway enthusiasts built a narrow gauge line along the old standard gauge track bed…

It’s has happened elsewhere (The Bure Valley Railway, The Wells and Walsingham Railway and the Steeple Grange Light Railway to name only a few examples). Perhaps the idea is not that far-fetched.

I am thinking of building a freelance fantasy… ‘The Granta Valley Railway’… a narrow gauge railway with a terminus in Stapleford, in the field opposite my house, and a line running along the old trackbed to Pampisford and beyond….

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