Top Ten Least Used Railway Stations in Suffolk | 8 – Wickham Market

The station was opened in 1859 by the East Suffolk railway, although this would be almost immediately amalgamated into the eastern counties railway the same year.  Eventually like all along the line it would become part of the Great Eastern railway in 1862.

A branch line to Framlingham carried freight and passengers from Wickham Market station, up until 1952 when it was closed to passenger traffic, and the line was fully closed in 1965. However the branch line platform can still be seen at the far end of the current platform towards Ipswich.

The station was quite popular right up until the late 1950’s, it even boasted a WH Smith bookstore.  A level crossing went over the tracks at the north end of the platform, but was replaced by road bridge in 1902, and the current bridge was erected in 2005.

The most important thing about the station however is that it not actually in Wickham Market, but in a small village called Campsea Ashe.  The reason for this placement was all due to the river Deben, which had a tendency to flood around the village.  Also the village was also on a gradient, so the decision was made to build it on this current site.

It does however take around 45 minutes to walk to Wickham Market from here. As there are no direct paths over the river.  A taxi will take 10 minutes.

The station building has had a chequered history.  Designed by Francis Thompson, it is very striking and quite large for a station of this size.

It had largely laid dormant since 2005, but in 2013 a charitable community benefits society was set up to regenerate the building.  Called “Station House Community Connection LTD” its aim was to refurbish the station and bring it back to life as a community hub.

After a lot of fundraising efforts and a lot of dedication, the fully refurbished building re-opened in 2017.  It shows off not only the buildings history, but combining it with a community function.  The very impressive canopy on the platform was re-instated, with a complete recasting of the colonnades, based on the original 1880 design.  This was carried out by Hargreaves foundry in Halifax.

Benches on the platform still contain the Great Eastern Railway insignia, and are also lovingly restored.  On the walls can be seen two plaques commemorating the regeneration of this fine building.

Entering the building you will see an electronic information board, as well as interactive screens telling you about the history of the station.  A small lending library is near the doors, and disabled lift is also here to get you up to the second floor meeting areas.

To the rear is a fantastic café, with both indoor and outdoor seating.  A good variety of drinks, cakes and sandwiches are on offer, and it is a very pleasant place to spend a while whist waiting for your train.

On the walls are pictures about the stations history, with a few dedicated to the refurbishment.  Various rooms are available for hire and the whole project is a testament to all involved.  It just goes to show what can be achieved if everyone pulls together.

The station building does not have a booking desk though, so buying a ticket must be done via the electronic machine on the platform.  Other facilities include information boards, timetables and a small bike rack on the platform.

At time of writing, one hourly passenger services (in each direction) are provided by Class 755 Bi-Mode units.

I really enjoyed this station, the staff were very helpful in telling me the history of the station, and the care and attention to detail is to be commended.  A good place to visit for a drink and snack and a must to see the platform with the excellent restored details in place.

A link to a Vlog I filmed in 2020 is here :

A link is here to the station building :

Station House Campsea Ashe for Community and Business

And also to a video showing the colonnades casting :

Casting the colonnades (stationhousecampseaashe.co.uk)

Top Ten Least Used Railway Stations in Suffolk | 9 – Darsham

Darsham was opened in 1859 by the East Suffolk Railway Company, which was soon taken over by the Great Eastern Railway.

It boasted several sidings in its time, and these remained until 1966 when they were closed due to lack of traffic.  It was also at this time that the station became unmanned, like most adopting the ‘Pay-Train’ system.

Luckily however the station building still stands today.  It is not however in use as a booking office, but is used by the Darsham Country centre, a subsidiary of the Woodcraft folk.  It is let out to groups, and has accommodation available. It is however great to see the building still being used, and hopefully this will continue for many years to come. 

Next to this is the only remaining level crossing on the A12 between London and Great Yarmouth.

Of interest on platform one is what seems to be either an original or at least early 20th century shelter.  It is quite a structure, and as the main station building great to see it still intact, and not demolished for a more modern design.

The station has help points, new electric information displays and an electronic ticketing machine. There are no booking office or toilet facilities.

A view here gives us a look at the line as it goes towards Lowestoft.

And here is the view of the line as it curves away in the direction of Ipswich.

Passenger entry and exit figures for 2019 / 2020 were 61, 534 .

Darsham, although not that well used, still retains a lot of the charm of a rural station.  Both the main station building and the shelter on platform one are in very good condition, and I do hope this remains the case as it gives this station a lot of character.  The sight lines are excellent for the enthusiast, however the noise from the A12 does impair sound for video recording, but if its photography you are after it’s a great setting.

Top Ten Least Used Railway Stations in Suffolk | 10 – Elmswell

A large village between Stowmarket and Bury St Edmonds, Elmswell is certainly deserving of a station with a rich history of manufacture.

The line was opened by the Ipswich and Bury railway company in 1846, serving the towns of Bury St Edmonds and Ipswich. A lavish station building on the Ipswich side was built and opened at the same time.

The station passed onto the newly formed Great Eastern Railway in 1862, who added a waiting room and toilets on the Bury St Edmonds side of the station.

In the early 1900’s, a line ran from the sidings to the west of the station to the Woolpit Brick Company, which famously produced white bricks. It used three steam locomotives. Other companies which used siding space during the 1900’s were a bacon factory, Beer & Sons and St Edmundsbury Co-op. Due to lack of traffic, the yard closed in 1964.

Elmswell became an unstaffed halt in 1967, and ‘Pay-Train’ working was to be introduced on the line. Unfortunately the main station buildings on the north platform were demolished in 1974 and the signal box succumbed to the same fate in 1986.

However, the buildings on the other platform remain. These still retain the Great Eastern Railway marking on the canopy steel works, and look to have been freshly painted when I visited in 2021.

The actual building is being let out as business space, and I was pleased to see them being used.

Behind these buildings is a very small car park, perhaps for only 3 or 4 cars. The level crossing has for some time been fully automatic. The rest of the station has small waiting shelters, help points, regional and local maps. There is even an amazon pick up point on platform one. Flower boxes enhance this little station, and it is clean and tidy throughout.

Passenger traffic at time of writing is provided by class 755 Bi-Mode Units. There is quite a lot of freight based traffic to and from Felixstowe also, mainly hauled by class 66 Locomotives.

Entry and exit figures for 2019 / 2020 were 71, 050.

Elmswell is a functional station, and even if the main station building has gone, the other smaller building complete with its nods back to the past helps keep the history alive

Below is the vlog I shot for this series, there is a link at the end to the playlist for the whole series, I hope you enjoy watching it.

Top Ten Least Used Stations In Kent : 1 – Swale

Swale really is remote, no real housing or commercial buildings are nearby, and it is amazing it is still used. However it does have an interesting and important part to play in the history of the line.

The station was opened in 1913 as Kings ferry bridge halt, and as such had no station building, just a couple of small huts for shelter. It traversed the River Medway over a bridge, but after a ship collided with the bridge in 1922, it was deemed unfit for railway traffic.

This meant that passengers were required to exit this station and walk over a temporary bridge to another station which had been provided to continue their journey.  This change meant the renaming of the station to Kings ferry bridge south halt.

It was renamed again in 1929 to Swale Halt when the railway bridge reopened after repairs, and continued with this name until a new bridge was opened in 1960, when it became known just as Swale station.  The station is very remote, the nearest village being Iwade, which is a 25 min walk away.

There is one dot matrix display, positioned at the top of the ramp which from the very small car park (which is in fact where the replacement bus service would pick up and set down.  At the bottom of this ramp is an electronic ticketing machine.  Turning back to walk up the ramp, on your left are various poster boards.

These include timetables, service information, a board for the Kent community rail partnership and of course an onward travel information board.  Like others on this list, there are no other facilities here. Trains at time of writing are class 375 electric multiple units.

Passenger entry and exits for 2019 / 2020  were 8, 044. I am using these figures as the figures for 2020 / 2021 are skewed due to the pandemic, and so are unreliable.

The video for Swale, recorded before the Class 375’s took over the line can be seen below.

Covid-19 – changes and support your local heritage railway

Well, all my best laid plans are in tatters, as least for now!! But on a serious note we should all as rail enthusiasts be observing the nations ‘lockdown’ and not going out enjoying our hobby. It will pass, and we will soon be able to once again photograph and video to our hearts content.

In the meantime, two things. Firstly, I am working on my London Transport Museum video. I shot this in November last year, but wasn’t happy with it and was going to re shoot. This however is now not possible at the mo, and so I will do an edit with the best footage I got. The reason for wanting a reshoot? Well basically I have a new camera, which enables me to get cleaner, less jerky footage. But I will put this together for now and hopefully later in the year update it with new video.

Secondly, and more importantly, as railway enthusiasts we all like the modern, but many value the past as well. Many of us visit our heritage railways during the year and sort of take them for granted. But this situation we find ourselves in couldn’t happen at a worst time of year for these attractions. Many would have been working towards a profitable Easter and summer period, but now just lie dormant, with only a handful of volunteers able to tend to and maintain both stock and building infrastructure.

This is where we can still help. If you are able, why not donate a small amount to your local or favourite (or both) heritage railway. It doesn’t need to be much, but if we can all pull together, we can help save rolling stock and these attractions for others to enjoy in the years to come. I myself have applied to become a member of the East Kent Railway Trust, where unique rolling stock is situated. It may only be a small line, but it’s importance in keeping the memeories of the Kent coalfields alive is invaluable. I am sure there are many more heritage railways around the country with similar ties to long gone industry which now more than ever need our help.

So please if you can, give a little to help keep these running. Lets hope that by at least mid summer we can get out and about again, and hopefully get back to video and photography.

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London Transport Museum Depot Open Day – September 2019

On sunday 29th September 2019, I visited the LTM Depot open day. The museum is in Acton, and can be reached on the Underground network via the Picadilly and District lines. The museum itself is a 5 minute walk across the road from the station.

The first thing to note as you approach the entrance was a small miniature railway which runs on event days such as this. Entrance to the site was very fluid, a quick check of my printed ticket and I was in.

You will see various large equipment from the underground network either side of you as you enter, and straight ahead there are rows of shelving stacked high to the roof with boxes. Stairs to the right of you take you up to a mezzanine level where on this day an interactive area was laid on for children. Great views can be had over the museum here, especially the tube stock.

Before you get to the actual tube trains, go up the stairs to your left. This will take you to an area which contains a fantastic amount of old signage, and various models used in planning. As seen in these photos, you can easily spend 15 minutes + up here.

Before you view the tube stock, have a look at the old equipment in front of them, old ticket machines and barriers, and signalling equipment.

The variety of tube stock here is amazing. Everything is well laid out, and you can even enter some of the old trains. The level of refurbishment is exceptional, and has quite a nostalgic feel.

To the extreme right of the tube stock is an area dedicated to buses. Again the level of care in refurbishing these is exceptional.

Outside there was an area to buy various food and drink, and a place to sit down. No food and drink is allowed in the museum for obvious reasons.

I came on a day which was all about the London Termini, and the lectures provided were excellent. I also went on an included tour of the small item store, which was fantastic and lasted around 20 minutes. You have to sign up for this on the day, but they were quite regular.

Overall I would recommend going to visit this museum during its open days, the amount of heritage equipment, stock and signage on display is astounding. They only open it on select dates, and more specific tours are held on Saturdays throughout the year. Follow the link below the video to see if anything interests you.

Below is a video which i shot on the day, which gives an overall view of the museum.

Here is the link to the depot website : https://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/visit/museum-depot


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London Termini – Liverpool Street

Liverpool street, from the Bishopsgate end

Once one of the busiest stations in London, Liverpool street has a very ornate interior much overlooked by its passengers. Having undergone many refurbishments in the years, the concourse now fills with natural light from the vast roof which spans it. Although now not as busy, the soon addition of the Elizabeth line may make this station a true hive of activity again.

A Brief History

London Liverpool Street was built to be the London terminus of the Eastern Counties Railway. Opened in 1874 with 10 platforms, two of which extended under the station forming a junction with the Metropolitan Railway.

Originally the buildings were 90ft high, with a spired clock tower. A hotel named “The Great Eastern” was built down the entire length of the new frontage. Many expansions came in the early years, which unfortunately created a myriad of entrance and exits. As well as this, the bridge used across the station was not wide enough and on two levels, which caused congestion and confusion for passengers wondering which part of the bridge they should be on.

The station is probably most famous for its role in welcoming children of the “Kindertransport”, an operation started in 1938 to bring children from the ever expanding Nazi Germany. The first children arrived on December 2nd 1938, and by September of the following year, almost 10,000 children would arrive into Liverpool Street, many of which landed at Harwich.

After being damaged in the Second World War, the station remained in a poor state until the 1960’s, when British Rail rebuilt and refurbished the station, giving it a new clock tower.

It was therefore a surprise that in 1974, British Rail would earmark the Liverpool Street station building to be demolished, and an underground terminus put in it’s place. Many campaigns were launched by eminent figures of the day, including the comedian Spike Milligan, to stop the bulldozers from destroying such a beautiful example of a London Terminus. Eventually after a few years, the tireless campaigning worked and Liverpool Street was saved.

A full refurbishment was again undertaken in the 1980s, with the train shed roof being fully repaired and restored. The main roof would follow in 1987. At this time a link would be established to the Cambridge line, enabling trains to terminate at Liverpool Street instead of Broad street. The entire work was finished in 1991, and the station was officially re-opened by the Queen.

Since 2013, the site has had many excavations in preparation for the Elizabeth Line. During one of these, a mass grave was found on the site of the “Bedlam” burial ground, dating back to the 17th Century. This lead to a full excavation of the area, recovering what is believed to be 3,000 bodies.

A quick view of the station today

Due to its complex nature, you could start anywhere at Liverpool street and still get great views. Howver for the sake of this quick walkthrough, we will start at the entrance at Hope Square in Liverpool Street.

Going through the gates, you will be greeted by the ‘Kindertransport’ statue in front of the glass fronted entrance. Take time at this statue to read the plaques and appreciate this significant event in history.

The ‘New’ Kindertransport Statue in Hope Square

If we now go through the entrance, you will gain the first look at the roof, with the concourse opening out below you. You are on the mezzanine level at this point, so take some time to look around you, admiring the columns which hold up the glass roof which is allowing natural light to flood in.

Looking left, you will see some arched windows, move toward these and then turn towards the concourse, so that you are looking straight down it. It is one of the best views of any London Terminus in my opinion, and a great photo if you can get it.

Move back along the mezzanine, a row of retail is ahead and to your right, but if you carry on down into a corridor, the exit to the bus station will eventally be on your left. Keep going down here for a very good view across the platforms.

A view across the platforms, note the abundance of highly decorated columns.

Once, you have seen the the platforms, with the fantastic train shed above, head back to the mezzanine level and turn left, so that you can see the arrival and departure board ahead of you, hanging above the concourse.

Once you get to the board, turn right and go underneath it, good views can be had of the concourse left and right here. At the other side, turn right and then left, you should see a rather large marble mural which reaches up toward the roof. This great marble structure is one of the best dedications to those who lost their lives during the First World War at any railway station. Below it are dedications to Captain Charles Fryatt and Sir Henry Wilson, both of whom were decorated in the Great War. Many other dedications and wreaths are normally to be found under these.

The First World War Memorial

Go back past the memorial and then past the departure board, and you should find on your right three brick reliefs. These depict a steam train, a ship and a scene involving coal being put into a firebox.

You will now see an exit which takes you out onto Bishopsgate. The former Great Eastern Hotel is to your left, and the original ballroom ceiling can be seen if you enter this building (which is now a major chain pub). Looking back towards the station you will see a glass canopy with escalators down to concourse level. This is framed with two brick columns, one with a clock tower. Also to be found here to your right is a very unusual metal totem with a London Underground roundel and the Liverpool Street name underneath.

Totem in Bishopsgate

Take the escalators down to the main concourse. Walk forward here and again admire the roof structure. Keep to your left here as you walk along. There are lots of places to sit here, and a set of escalators will take you down to the toilets. Go past these, keeping left until you almost reach the entrance to the Underground station.

You will then see another statue dedicated to the Kindertransport. This was the original one dedicated in 2003, and used to sit in Hope Square. When it was there it contained a glass box with actual artifacts from some of the children, with the standing girl only. When it was relocated however, a sitting boy was added and the glass box removed.

Kindertransport statue near Underground entrance

Moving past the Underground entrance, there is another exit ahead of you which takes you to an area with a low veiling and retail outlets. Eventually it leads to the Bus station.

London Liverpool Street is not the largest London Terminus, but this and Marylebone do keep the charm of the old railway, and although I have detailed a few hidden gems, but there are more (but that’s for another time…)

A view from the Liverpool Street end

You can see a short video of the trains at Liverpool Street on my YouTube channel below:


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London Waterloo Station Walkthrough

On my other YouTube channel, John Explores, I take a small walk through Waterloo Station.


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London Bridge re-signalling scheme 1970’s

Before the re-imagining of London Bridge station in the 2010’s, it was the subject of a huge re-signaling scheme in the mid 1970’s. The idea was to completely redesign the approach, especially across Borough Market Junction. This was a notorious bottleneck where trains from Charing Cross and Cannon Street, as well as approaching traffic from Kent and Sussex would almost always grind to a halt at peak times.

The solution was to create more throughput by using crossovers from Charing Cross and Cannon Street and using a new flyover at St Johns. Some terminal platforms were also connected to the Charing Cross lines in order to facilitate more throughput.

The entire area would be controlled via a massive new signal control room at London Bridge, which would mean the demise of at least 16 smaller signal boxes nearby.

Amazingly for such a large project, it was finished on time, at a cost of £21.5 million pounds in 1978. Below are some scans from a mini booklet produced by British Rail to commemorate the achievement.

I must thank Mr David Bonnett, who very kindly donated this leaflet and other materials to myself.


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London Termini – Marylebone

The last terminus to be built in London, Marylebone has never really been finished. It was designed with future expansion in mind, but still only has 6 platforms today, and for much of its life only had 4. Very quiet during the day it springs into live during the rush hours, or when a major event is going on at the nearby Wembley complex. However this is its charm. With an expansive concourse, it’s just a nice place to sit and reflect during those quiet times.

A Brief History

The station was built for the Grand Central Railway, a company formed out of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. The terminus for that railway was only 2 miles north of Marylebone, but building an extension down to Marylebone would come with massive planning problems.

One of these was from the MCC at the Lords Cricket Ground, who massively objected to the original proposals which would see the railway go straight through the nursery end of the ground. After many years of argument, it was agreed that the railway company would purchase and relocate the orphanage next to the ground. This would enable the railway to be put in place using the ‘cut and cover’ technique. The ground was then put back as it was, with the railway running under the Nursey end.

The work on this completed in 1898, and it was then that the Grand Central Railway title was introduced. The new terminus however suffered from the money spent to do all the extra work, including a high speed railway link for the railway to Nottingham. It was therefore proposed to be a simple but elegant terminus.

A four platform trainshed was put in place, which only covered 495ft of the total 950ft platform length. It was envisioned that more platforms would be added during the early 20th century, but low passenger numbers would mean that this didn’t happen at this time. However the station would boast an extensive concourse, and the glass roof provided natural light which flooded in.

A station hotel was built opposite the station on Melcombe place, and is arguably the most opulent of all the London station hotels. A massive central atrium is inside and it still has that feel of early 20th Century rail travel. It was only converted once, into railway offices between 1945 and 1986. It was then purchased in 1986 and re-opened as a hotel in 1993.

Marylebone was never going to be a busy station however. The nearby Euston and Kings cross had been taking passengers north for over 40 years. Many attempts to close the station occurred between 1960 and 1986 (the Beeching review and cuts of 1966 meant that Marylebone would only provide trains as far north as Birmingham), but eventually was given a full reprieve as British Rail decided to creative a new working group for the station.

This allowed it to be more adventurous with its route planning, including heritage excursions and special event trains. The privatisation of the UK rail network in 1996 saw Chiltern Railways take over, and they have successfully managed it ever since.

A quick view of the current station

Moving toward the main entrance at Melcombe Place, you will see the ornate canopy over the road and taxi rank. Behind you is the impressive Landmark London Hotel. The pillars here are great, black with a red motif around a third of the way up.

As we enter via the main entrance on Melcombe Place you will see above the writing of Marylebone Station in stonework. Next to this you can still see the uncoloured logo of Network South East (the last British Rail operator for the line before privatisation).

Entering the station, note the GCR logos on the gates. In fact this logo can be found all around the station, especially over exits in the brickwork. The station here opens out in front of you, with the platforms directly ahead under the impressive canopy and trainshed.

Move slightly further in and you will se an electronic information board to your left. Underneath this are electronic ticketing machines. Turn left now, and go towards and past these information boards so that they are on your right as you go past. You will see the station information booth in front of you. This is also the station reception as well.

Moving past the information centre you will see yet more electronic ticket machines below some distinctive Network South East branding. If you now turn directly to your right you will see the ticket office. Moving forward a little further and the entrance to the Underground station is on your left.

Ticket machines with the old Network Southeast branding still visible

Turn 180 degrees back towards the information centre and go past it. The ladies toilets are directly in front of you. Now turn right and walk down this part of the concourse. Various retail outlets are on your left, the current M&S store is housed in what used to be the ticketing hall. Some Cash machines are on your right.

Around half way down this hall on the left are three plaques. The top one is the coat of arms of the Great Central Railway, the next is dedicated to the centenary of the birth of Sir John Betjeman, and the last one is dedicated to the centenary of the station in 1999.

Moving back down the concourse to the end wall, where a further three plaques sit. These are dedicated to those railway employees who died during World War One. Two are on bronze sheets and the third is on a marble stone.

The marble plaque dedication to railway workers who were killed in the First World War

Carry on down past the plaques, and as it narrows, the Gents toilets are on your right. Now carry on through the arch and past a public house. You will see an exit here, but of more interest is the framed information on the walls, detailing the history of the station. They are very interesting and worth spending time reading.

Information boards at the entrance to the station at Harewood Avenue

Instead of exiting into Harewood avenue, lets re-trace our steps back into the station and go towards the Information centre once more. Take time to look up an appreciate the roof here, with the light flooding in over the whole concourse.

Go past the information boards and turn left to see the platforms ahead of you. If you are able, go through the gate lines onto these platforms. You really get the sense of the wider than usual platforms, and there is an extensive bike rack on platform 3 which is nearly two thirds the length of the trainshed.

The huge bike rack at platform 3

Move out further past the edge of the roof and look back. This shows off the trainshed really well, with the ornate pillars of red which hold it up. The station really does have a great feel, and although not as grand as say St Pancras, is nonetheless extremely appealing.

A view back to the trainshed

A view of trains departing and arriving at Marylebone can be seen below


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