Past The Tracks

The Bishop's Stortford, Dunmow & Braintree Railway

History

The Bishop's Stortford, Dunmow & Braintree Railway was original proposed in the 1860's to link the Hertfortshire town of Bishop's Stortford with the town of Braintree in Essex, with the route also passing through the Essex town of Dunmow. Construction began in 1863 but the railway didn't officially open until 1869. Lack of funding slowed construction and when the line was first surveyed, parts of it where declared unsafe and it took the company nearly two more years to raise the capital to improve the line. Stations on the line at it's open included Takeley, Felsted, Rayne and Dunmow. Two later stations, Easton Lodge and Hockerill Halt opened in the early 20th century. A short lived sunday service ran on the line between 1914 and 1916 but wasn't well used, thus was quickly axed. The line remained in regular use until world war two when traffic on the line greatly increased. Most of this was due to the fact that several US airfields where located close to the line and regular ammo trains where a feature throughout the wartime period. However, once the war finished the line was badly in need of investment and lost most of it's passenger traffic to bus competition. As a result of this, when the line passed into the control of British Railways in 1949 it came under very close scrutiny from the start. In 1952 the inevitable happened and the passenger service was withdrawn by British Railways despite the regular protests from local residents. Freight traffic however remained regular and the line settled down for another decade of freight only traffic. The line suffered a cruel fate in 1966 when it survived the attentions of the Beaching Report only to be essential forced into closure by the fact that the Langley viaduct near Dunmow was declared unsafe. Despite local protests for a reinstated passenger service between Bishop's Stortford and Dunmow the line officially closed in 1969 and the track was lifted over the next couple of years. The last section between Easton Lodge and Bishops's Stortford was removed in 1974 despite hopes that it could possibly be utilised as a link to then new Stanstead Airport. Today the course of the majority of the line forms the local walk known as the Flitch Way. Takeley, Felsted and Rayne stations remain, all in decent condition. Takeley station is now in use as offices after recently being refurbished. Dunmow station was demolished in the early seventies to make way for the Dunmow bypass that also used a lot of the former trackbed. Unfortunately the line today would undoubtedly be profitable to passengers, as other lines in the region, including the branch line from Braintree to Witham are very well used. There is still the slight possibility that any future rail link to Stanstead Airport would utilise at least part of the old line, but with a Stanstead Link already in place at Stanstead Mountfitchet, this is unlikely. Also coupled with the fact that the line is severed near Dunmow by the new A120 and also a lot of the trackbed around Dunmow has been built on makes reopening prohibitively expensive. The line however makes an interesting study as if things had only been a little bit different it may well have survived to the present day.

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