|Trumpington Local History Group
The Railways of Trumpington,
This history of the railways of Trumpington is based on a presentation
given to the Local History Group on 25 November 2010. See Railways
for a general introduction to other pages about railways in Trumpington.
|Up Liverpool Street
hauled by B12 Class
4-6-0. Source: Edmund
Trumpington now has and always had no railway station, but you may be surprised to learn that
it did have one (albeit temporarily for 1 week) and three pre-grouping (i.e. pre-1923) railway
companies did run through or alongside the parish. This paper explores the history of
Trumpington's railways and at least one tramway and three garden railways, of which two are
First I must explain some key dates in British railway history. There are essentially four epochs.
Pre-1923: Before 1923 the standard gauge railways of Great Britain were all independent (after
initial amalgamations), with many having running rights over other companies tracks (this
affected Trumpington's railways where the Great Northern Railways had running powers over
the Great Eastern Railway from 100 yards east of Shepreth and the London & North Western
Railway (the Midland also from Huntingdon East) had running powers into Cambridge Station.
1923-1948: After the Great War, the railways were in a very parlous state as they had been
under state control and thrashed mercilessly to carry all the cargoes (human and freight) that
were necessary between 1914 and 1918 for the Allies to win the war. Totally inadequate
compensation from the Government (paltry is a kind word) in no way covered the reparations
necessary, the true cost which exhibited itself in a lack of maintenance and a run down of the
assets. The Government brought in a Bill which forced them to combine into four big
companies. Of these, the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) and the London Midland
& Scottish Railway (LMSR) served Cambridge. It is ironic that before the Great War,
Parliament had obstructed attempts by the companies themselves to combine.
1948-1994: The nationalisation era. The 'Big Four' were very run down after inadequate
compensation for the havoc World War II caused to the railways and were nationalised in 1948.
1994- the present: The privatisation era.
Bacon's New Survey Map of Northampton, Huntingdon, Cambridge and Bedford (pre-1923)
shows the eastern boundary of Trumpington as Hills Road as far north as Homerton College,
where it strikes west to Hobson's Brook and then north to the River Cam. Trumpington was
then part of Chesterton Rural District Council and I have used this area definition in this paper.
The First and Second Railways
The first two railways (what are effectively the Great Eastern and Great Northern routes to
London) have been quite closely connected for most of their history but in the very early days
this was not so. Bearing in mind that the Stockton & Darlington Railway was only opened in
1825, in that year there was an epidemic of Railway Fever. In that year Messr Rennies made a
survey for a line northwards from London, up the Lea Valley and then by the valleys of the Rib
and Quinn and the 'towns' of Braughing and Barkway to Cambridge. The plan stopped there
but was extended directly to Lincoln and York in 1827. In 1835 Mr Joseph Gibbs (a clever and
sanguine engineer) projected a line from London (Whitechapel) to York via Dunmow,
Cambridge and Lincoln. The Board of Trade Commissioners did not find favour with this but
preferred a route via Derby and Rotherham which would be more remunerative. Hudson, the
manipulative Railway King, was still keen to see Cambridge on the main route to the north
which from the "Cambridge and York" became the "London and York" (the eventually built
route which became the GNR) (Grinling, 1898). What follows is very much a synthesis of a
complex battle of intrigue and subterfuge which led to two routes to Cambridge.
Nevertheless I will consider the arrival of the two lines as part of one group (which they
eventually formed in 1923).
The Northern & Eastern Railway (later the Great Eastern Railway)
We nearly had the first Cambridge Station in the parish. The Northern and Eastern Railway Act
received Royal Assent on 4 July 1836, so it was quite an old railway. Bear in mind that the
Liverpool & Manchester Railway was only opened in 1830. The Northern & Eastern Railway
(N&E) was to build a railway from London to Norwich as what is now the main route to
Norwich through Colchester was only slowly being built and piecemeal. The Act specified that
Cambridge Station should be "on the south side of the river Cam near a certain farm house
called Eddleston Farm in the Parish of Trumpington, and to communicate with the town of
Cambridge by a branch road to join the London to Cambridge turnpike road at or near Leys
and Cow Common in the parish of Little St Mary, Cambridge". Fellows suggests that location
was probably near the old farm house (River Farm) (Grinling, 1898, page 9). Construction of
what is effectively the Liverpool Street Line did not progress smoothly, as was the case with
many railways then. To save money the N&E Railway actually started at Stratford using what
are still called the Cambridge Platforms, before a cut off to Hackney was built years later. This
accounts for the right hand swing these days at Coppermill Junction onto the Chingford Line,
although the original mainline is now gaining increasing importance as a route to Docklands and
it runs right through the Olympic site. Construction did not begin until 1840 and it was opened
in stages to Bishops Stortford which was reached on 16 May 1842 where an 1840 Act
permitted the abandonment of the route north.
|Map of Northern & Eastern
Railway from Stratford (London)
to Cambridge, courtesy Railway
Magazine. Source: Edmund
The N&E was actually built to a gauge of 5'0", compared
with the then narrow (now standard) gauge of 4'8½"
(compared with Brunel's Broad Gauge of 7'0¼") as it ran
from Stratford to Shoreditch over the tracks of the Eastern
Counties Railway (ECR) which went to Colchester (and
never reached Norwich as it ran out of money). After
much skulduggery the N&E set off north again and in 1843
secured an Act to extend to Newport, Essex. Later that
year the ECR took a 999 year lease on the N&E which
continued until the latter was dissolved in 1902. The ECR
obtained powers on 4 July 1844 to extend from Newport to
Brandon to link up with the East Anglian Railway to
Norwich with a branch from Ely to meet the London &
Birmingham Railway at Peterborough (East). It was
converted to standard gauge in late 1844 and was formally
opened through to Norwich (Trowse) on 29 July 1845.
In the early days, the service to London and through the
parish was not very good and indeed deteriorated after
opening, taking nearly 2 hours to London. This was
obviously a great improvement on a stagecoach though.
The East Anglian railways came together as the Great
Eastern Railway in 1868 and Liverpool Street Station was
opened in 1874. From 1870 to 1917 a number of
Cambridge Line trains, including those through trains from
Doncaster and York worked to London St Pancras over
the Tottenham and Hampstead Junction Railway (T&HJ),
partly to avoid the congestion at Bishopsgate and also for
convenience for the West End (remember the first
Underground railway opened from Paddington through
Kings Cross to Farringdon in 1863). You can still see the
site of the curve south of Tottenham Hale station adjacent
to the old paper works and under the bridge which takes
the T&HJ over where southbound trains diverted. Most
trains only stopped a couple of times at the maximum to
Cambridge and some slipped a carriage at Broxbourne for
|Up Liverpool Street
Trumpington Box hauled
by B12 Class 4-6-0.
Source: Edmund Brookes.
|Up Kings Cross Express
passing Long Road
Bridge hauled by Gresley
A3 Pacific on a running
in turn from Kings Cross
Top Shed. Source:
Traffic from Cambridge to and from Colchester was worked on the line, often by the ubiquitous
Class E4 2-4-0 Locomotives, almost up until the line was closed.
I will not dwell on the trials and tribulations of the siting of Cambridge Station where it now is,
but years ago it did have a second platform (Grinling, 1898, page 13) so the current proposal for
new island platforms to be numbered 7 and 8 is nothing new!
The Great Northern Railway
The London & York Railway had opened from Peterborough to Maiden Lane (effectively
Kings Cross Goods Shed where the Channel Tunnel Rail Link now goes over the line) in 1850
and had become the Great Northern Railway (GNR). It had set its eyes on Cambridge and an
idea for a 73 mile single track railway from Oxford to Cambridge in 1846 emerged as the 13
mile Royston and Hitchin Railway (R&H). The GNR saw the potential to attack Cambridge and
an 1847 Act sanctioned a lease on completion, although an extension to a separate Cambridge
station was rejected. The line opened to Royston on 21 October 1850 and was extended to
Shepreth on 1 August 1851. From there it ran five daily omnibuses to Cambridge! Concurrently
(but after much prevarication) the ECR put in hand the construction of it's Shelford to Shepreth
branch (as a single track) which also opened on 1 August 1851. It actually terminated a couple
of hundred yards east of the R&H Shepreth Station! A Third Class through fare was 5/-. The
GNR offices were at 23 Trinity Street, Cambridge.
In the next section I refer to attempts by the GNR to secure its own line right through to
Cambridge as the two parties, the ECR and the GNR, were not on the best of terms, but on 1
April 1852 common sense prevailed and an end on junction was laid. However, the GNR
stopped running its (loss making) coaches and the ECR assumed a lease of the R&H and
thereby ran trains from Cambridge to Hitchin, but would not allow GNR trains from London to
run to Cambridge. In the next section we will read about the building of the Bedford line, but
the political implications associated with this and the possibility of GNR trains approaching
Cambridge via Sandy led to an 1864 Act in which the ECR ceded running powers over its now
double track line to Shepreth to the GNR which promptly assumed responsibility for the
services and quick through trains to London. Incidentally, this is the reason that the old signal
box and still the junction at Shelford are known as "Shepreth Branch Junction".
So by 1868 the pattern of services on the main line south was established with trains to both
London Liverpool Street and Kings Cross. Kings Cross trains usually started and terminated in
Platform 2 at Cambridge Station, as working through to Kings Lynn only started in the 1990s
with electrification. The reason for this change was firstly that it was quicker (despite being
longer) and to relieve pressure on the line down the Lea Valley as Stansted Airport traffic
assumed greater importance. When I have been commuting to London, the presence of two
high quality routes has meant that I have hardly even failed to get to London.
That then is the story of how the current railway along the eastern boundary of the parish
The Third Railway: The London & North Western Railway
We have read already about the London & Birmingham Railway at Peterborough. It
amalgamated with other lines such as the Grand Junction to form the London & North Western
Railway which in the 19th century was not only the most powerful railway in the land but also
one of the largest Joint Stock Companies in the world!
The Bedford & Cambridge Railway (B&C) started as a local railway between Sandy and
Potton, promoted privately by Captain Sir William Peel, and opened to freight on 23 June 1857
and passengers in April 1858. The B&C began passenger services to Cambridge on 7 July 1862
and was absorbed by the LNWR in 1865. The LNWR and the GNR then enjoyed very cordial
relations (then known as the Euston Confederacy which was effectively a cartel run by Captain
Huish the dictator Chairman of the LNWR which dictated who and when it did business with).
It was this friendship which enabled the GNR to put very heavy pressure on the ECR to give it
access to Cambridge over the Shepreth Branch referred to above. At one time the GNR
contemplated its own line from Shepreth through Haslingfield to join the B&C about 3 miles
west of Cambridge at Lords Bridge, and then to its own terminus near Christ's Pieces.
The politics surrounding the Act of Parliament
for the Bedford & Cambridge Railway, its
purchase of the Sandy & Potton, and the
agreement by the ECR to allow the GNR to use
the Shepreth Branch are detailed in Fellows
(1976). The Act of Parliament allowed for a
separate station in Cambridge, roughly where
Pordige's warehouse used to be and in what
became the LNWR goods yard. However, by
the time it came to build the station relations
with the ECR had improved and it was agreed
to make a small contribution to the enlarged
Cambridge Station then being rebuilt by the
The railway was always bridged by Long Road
whereas the ECR had a level crossing. The
original bridge is shown in Fellows (1976, page
140). Reference has often been made to a
Coprolite Siding and it did exist, but its site
remains a mystery. Railway Magazine of
January 1918 quotes "Readers will be
interested to know that a 0-6-0 tank carrying
the name Easingwold is at present working on
some coprolite excavations near Grantchester,
Cambridge. This line joins the LNWR line
between Cambridge and Lord's Bridge". There
was also a siding on the site of Cambridge
University Press, roughly adjacent to the
LNWR Goods Shed. Given the size of
Trumpington in the mid-19th century, the line
swept in a long left hand curve up from the
Cam valley to clear the village and head to what
it now Hills Road bridge
The LNWR used the B&C to take traffic to
feed into it's long distance services at Bletchley
(where long distance trains stopped long before
Milton Keynes was even thought about) and the
line settled down to a steady existence, usually
being operated in two sections east and west of
Bletchley, with a couple of trains through
to/from Oxford where it had its own station (a
feat about to be repeated by Chiltern Railways).
Right up to closure, the signalling remained
mechanical, with a Block Section from the
LNWR Trumpington Box to Lord's Bridge and
a Ground Frame.
|Letter to Ebenezer Foster, 17 May 1861,
advising that the Bedford & Cambridge
Railway was about to enter his land to build
the trackbed. Source: Edmund Brookes.
19th Century and Later Consolidation
Both the London main lines and the Bedford railway were relatively early railways, being
completed in the first 30 years of the railway age whereas many other branches and main lines
were not built for a further 40 years. It was always considered that the GER main line was built
cheaply, going round hills (as between Newport and Elsenham) and using level crossings,
whereas the LNWR was built straighter at greater capital cost. As an example the LNWR was
built with very few level crossings, the first out of London was at Weedon, nearly 75 miles
from Euston (and that was finally removed 3 years ago) whereas the GER had 19 to Cambridge
(the first was 7 miles out at [Northumberland] Park) and still has 17 in 54 miles!
As the railways matured and the industrial revolution continued there were improvements to the
basic infrastructure (though the Bedford line was fairly immune to these). Proper signalling was
installed, refuge sidings and then goods loops were built to allow the many freight trains
(including bricks and coal for the capital) which were effectively unbraked to be passed by
passenger trains. An up goods line was provided in 1922 to Trumpington (Long Road) from
Cambridge where a signal box was installed to divide the section to Shepreth Branch Junction.
Hitherto there had only been a Crossing Keepers hut. A similar down loop (known as The
Cupboard) was completed at the same time for the 1922 Royal Show. Eventually the Long
Road LNWR bridge was rebuilt and the level crossing for the London line replaced by a similar
style bridge which had (and still has) space for 4 running lines.
Train services settled down and slowly developed. Bradshaw of 1910 shows 24 trains to and
from Liverpool Street/St Pancras with 2 extended to York and several to Norwich apart from
Kings Lynn/Hunstanton trains. Splitting and joining at Ely was common. There were only 6
trains on a Sunday. The first arrival in London was not until 0857 and that took over two
hours! The 1922 service was broadly similar.
In 1910 there were 14 trains to/from Hitchin, with 3 on a Sunday, the line being shown as a
branch. Of the above 5 only ran to/from Hitchin with no connection to Kings Cross. The first
arrival into Kings Cross was not until 0934!
On the LNWR, Bradshaw of 1910 shows 6 daily Bedford - Cambridge services with 1 on
Sundays with 6 and 2 respectively in the return direction. Three of the weekday services ran
to/from Oxford. In 1922 it was virtually the same but with 2 in both directions on Sunday
While we may moan the loss of the Bedford service, the current London service is by far the
best we have ever enjoyed, even if the rolling stock is not so comfortable as 20 year ago. Class
317/321/365 25KV EMUs replacing Class 31/37/47 diesel locomotives and then 7/9 Mark I and
latterly Mark IIA & B coaches hauled by Class 86 AC Electric Locomotives. The Kings Cross
trains were often hauled by locomotives being run-in from Kings Cross, hence Pacifics and
Deltics pulled trains quite small for their capabilities.
The 1922 Royal Show
The Royal Shows of 1951, 1960 and 1961 were held on what is now known as the Clay Farm
site, but there were no special rail facilities and any traffic was handled at Cambridge Station.
However, the 1922 Royal Show took place on a site between Long Road, Trumpington Road
and Hobson's Brook and warranted a special station built from railway sleepers with 3
platforms (one for goods traffic). The station was built by the GER essentially in the gap
between the London and Bedford railway lines to handle machinery, livestock and passengers
in very large numbers. The main platforms were built alongside what became the up and down
loops which were extensions of headshunts at Cambridge South. The third platform was
effectively a siding with a platform face. Any LNWR traffic was handled at its own goods
station or handed over to the GER. Some limited traffic was handled at the main station.
All of these facilities were installed for a few days use and then mostly stripped out. The use of
the facilities was planned like a military operation and the staff provided to suit. Few trains were
stabled on site and trains came from all over the country. Southbound passenger trains were sent
on to [Northumberland] Park for servicing and turning round, northbound trains sent to
Whittlesea or Norwich (Crown Point). Twenty five livestock trains alone were scheduled to
arrive in a period of 21 hours, apart from long distance trains from as far as Manchester (via
Lincoln) on a day trip. Special trains were provided locally to visit and return from the site. Such
an operation would take several years to action these days and all this was done without the aid
of any computers, etc! For a full report read the article in The Railway Magazine of that year.
See also Disused Stations.
The Effects of the 1923 Grouping
After the first amalgamations to form railways such as the GER and LNWR, schemes to
seriously amalgamate railways did not start to gestate until towards the turn of the 19th-20th
centuries. One involved the GER and GNR with the Great Central Railway. Despite obvious
advantages, Parliament did not look favourably on these plans and until the LNWR/L&YR
amalgamation of 1922 none came to fruition. As mentioned in the introduction, the 1923
amalgamations were forced on the railways by Parliament who also looked even then at
nationalisation. So far as Cambridge was concerned, the GER and GNR combined which meant
the small GNR engine shed could be closed but there were few other manifestations. The
LNWR goods yard at the corner of Brooklands Avenue and Hills Road remained (where
Pordiges subsequently had their depot).
The Kings Cross services remained distinct, often being hauled by engines being run-in from
Kings Cross after overhaul, including the famous Cambridge Buffet Car Expresses (known as
Beer Trains to generations of Cambridge students) were very successfully introduced on a 2
hourly basis. The Royal Train continued to run from Wolferton (for Sandringham) to and from
Kings Cross to avoid unnecessary procedures when the Monarch entered the City of London at
The Second World War brought further strains to the railway system with the vast quantities of
materials being brought to build the many airfields in East Anglia. The land between the London
and Bedford lines north of Long Road was completely filled with an additional down loop
(which I saw used once) and a series of sidings for wagon sorting and storage. This was
effectively started after the 1922 Royal Show. After World War II, the usage dropped and by
the early 1960s they were effectively out of use except that I once saw them full of old 16T
mineral wagons. A west to north curve, still visible, was built at Sandy to create the M25 of the
To increase line capacity what were called IBS (Intermediate Block Signals) worked
automatically were installed between signal boxes. One was installed in each direction between
Trumpington and Shepreth Branch Junction as this line was very heavily trafficked with trains
for both London termini.
Nationalisation and Rationalisation
World War II had the same effect on the railway system as World War I. The railways were
run by a Railway Executive directed by the Government, and they were only really returned to
full private operation as the railways' nationalisation loomed. Taking effect from 1 January
1948, there were little obvious changes to the Trumpington lines except for re-liverying -
Eastern Region green and London Midland crimson red. However the rationalisation of
transport facilities (not all of which can be blamed on Dr Beeching) inevitably lead to changes.
Dieselisation meant that the weekly Sunday train of dead locos from Stratford to Doncaster
which I remember (when we got home from Church) were no more. The Haverhill/Colchester
line shut and the ubiquitous Class E4 2-4-0 tender locos which dated back to the GER days
were withdrawn. Surprisingly, freight facilities on the Bedford line were withdrawn before
passenger services, the former on 18 April 1966 and the latter on 1 January 1968. I have a slide
of a Bedford train from the Church tower ploughing its lonely way across the PBI land.
Surprisingly in 1955 the Oxford-Cambridge line had been identified for development as an outer
London ring for freight traffic. It is just possible that that may yet come to pass. While flyovers
were built at Bletchley and rebuilt at Sandy it was all wasted.
|Schematic Plan of Royal Show Station, 1922, courtesy
Railway Magazine. Source: Edmund Brookes.
|The Royal Show Station in use by freight and
passengers, 1922. Source: Edmund Brookes.
|Cambridge-Bedford 2 Car Cravens DMU approaching the River Cam
Bridge (far right), just before passenger services ceased in the late
1960s, taken from the Church tower looking across Anstey Hall farm
and the PBI land. Photo: Edmund Brookes.
The rundown continued with local freight services being withdrawn south of Cambridge. The
nadir was probably reached in the early 1980s despite a healthy development of long distance
London commuter traffic. At long last, investment in electrification recommenced. The
Liverpool Street-Bishop Stortford scheme of 1958 had enticingly continued about 1 mile north
of Bishops Stortford. In 1968 the Cambridge main line down the Lea Valley had been electrified
from Cheshunt to Clapton/Hackney, but further work was piecemeal. The Kings Cross-Royston
line was electrified in 1976 with an hourly DMU shuttle to Cambridge. Bishops Stortford to
Cambridge was completed in 1988 followed by Royston-Cambridge and Cambridge-Kings Lynn
in 1990. The latter coincided with the abolition of Trumpington Signal Box and the opening of
the large NX(Entry/Exit) Panel Signalling centre at Cambridge which controls all the lines from
Stansted to near March.
There are now 7 trains each way per hour along the London line out of the peak and 12 in the
peak hours, quite some service.
A tramway was used in the coprolite workings and this then ran up the ramp to the loading bank
beside the A10. Long disused, the bank was removed in the 1960â€™s leaving the concrete
bund free standing. This was demolished/blown up by the Engineer Wing of the Cambridge
University Officer Training Corps in early 1970, an exercise which nearly went badly wrong and
a friend of mine was quite seriously injured in the incident. Nothing now remains. As I said, at
one time there was a siding off the Bedford Line, but not where a 'Trumpington' Ground Frame
was located (referred to in Simpson (1983).
I am aware of three garden or miniature railways (two of which are extant and one has a web
site). As they are on private property I will not reveal other details, except to show a picture of
the 7¼" passenger carrying Trumpington Miniature Railway. I will pass no comment!
Photo: Edmund Brookes.
Railway status, late 2010
There are regular but infrequent block freight train services through Trumpington. Stone trains
to Harlow, Hoddesdon and Freightliner/Intermodal trains from London to the Midlands and
north, but no pick-up services. Some container trains from London to Felixstowe pass and then
travel via Newmarket. This avoids a bottleneck around Stratford and is one reason why the Rail
Freight Group want access to Cross Rail for intermodal trains! Also, if the GN Main line is
blocked between Hitchin and Peterborough trains can be diverted via Cambridge (with suitable
pilots). If there are engineering works, Hull Trains regularly come to and terminate at
Cambridge, passengers then transfer to First Capital Connect. Given both are owned by the
same company it is probably not surprising.
Though the Up Goods loop to Trumpington Box was lifted years ago, the Down Goods Loop
has now been signalled for passenger trains to ease congestion south of the Station. It is possible
for a train to run into Platform 1 from the south and be stationary ahead of a train in front
which has run into Platforms 2 or 3!
The passenger service has been transformed from a 2-hourly train to Liverpool Street with a
Buffet Car Express in the intervening hour to Kings Cross, supported by bi-hourly stopping
services operated by 1st Generation DMUs. Cambridge now has 2 express, 2 semi-fast and 2
stopping trains an hour - all to London, coupled with an hourly 2nd Generation DMU train from
Birmingham to Stansted Airport. That makes seven trains each way each hour off peak on the
lines through Trumpington. Obviously the Bedford Line is no more and cannot be and I will
pass no comment on the Guided Bus. There is occasionally talk of a station for Addenbrookeâ
€™s Hospital and while it would be very sensible it would need feeder services to make it
worthwhile and the line occupation there is now so intense that relief loops would surely be
required. Long Road bridge was built for and still has space for 4 tracks.
Both the Guided Bus and Addenbrooke's Road bridges allow for a third railway track on the
west side, if it is ever felt necessary to provide a separate track from Cambridge to Shepreth
Branch Junction. It would however have to be signalled for reversible working, with some high
speed crossovers at Shelford to make it worthwhile.
Thanks to Stephen Brown and Nick Pygott, Editor, The Railway Magazine.
Allen, Cecil J. (1955). Great Eastern Railway. Ian Allan.
Bonavia, Michael R. (1995). The Cambridge Line. Shepperton: Ian Allan.
Fellows, Reginald B. (1976). London to Cambridge by Train 1845-1938. The Oleander Press.
Grinling, Charles H. (1898). History of the Great Northern Railway. George Allen & Unwin.
Simpson, William (1983). Oxford to Cambridge Railway. Vol. 2: Bletchley to Cambridge.
Poole: Oxford Publishing.
Railway Magazine - Various volumes
|Lifting in the beams for the Addenbrooke's Road bridge over
the railway line, September 2008. Photo: Edmund Brookes.
|NXEA (National Express East Anglia) Liverpool Street train formed by
a Class 317 EMU on New Years Day 2010. Photo: Edmund Brookes.
|Guided Busway trackbed, 1 January 2010. Photo: Edmund Brookes.
|Heavy protection for the Guided Busway, Shelford Road Bridge, 24
November 2010. Photo: Edmund Brookes.
|Guided Busway from Shelford Road bridge 24 November 2010.
Photo: Edmund Brookes.