Eastern Counties Railway
|Eastern Counties Railway|
|Dates of operation||1839–1862|
|Successor||Great Eastern Railway|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) (1844-1862)|
|Previous gauge||5 ft (1,524 mm) (1839-44)|
The Eastern Counties Railway (ECR) was an early English railway company incorporated in 1836. It was intended to link London with Ipswich via Colchester, and then on to Norwich and Yarmouth. Construction began in late March 1837 on the first nine miles, at the London end of the line. Construction was beset by engineering and other problems, leading to severe financial difficulties. As a result the scope of the project was truncated in April 1839 to Colchester.
The railway began operating on 20 June 1839 with a train service running from a temporary terminus at Devonshire Street in Mile End to Romford, now part of the Great Eastern Main Line. On 1 July 1840 the line was extended to Brentwood and a new London terminus at Shoreditch (renamed Bishopsgate in 1846). The line was subsequently extended, opening on 7 March 1843 to cover the 51 miles between London and Colchester.
The ECR tracks were originally set to a gauge of five feet on the recommendation of engineer John Braithwaite. It should be noted that at this time there was no legislation dictating the choice of gauge and indeed the directors favoured the Great Western Railways's broad gauge at 7 feet and ¼ inch. Braithwaite persuaded the directors otherwise on the grounds of additional cost but recommended the 5 foot gauge in an effort to reduce wear on locomotive parts. This choice meant that the Northern & Eastern Railway who were planning to share the ECR line between Stratford and Bishopsgate were forced to adopt the same gauge.
With the extension of the ECR in the early 1840s it became apparent that standard gauge (4′8½″) was a more realistic choice and subsequently between September and October 1844 the gauge conversion was carried out. At the same time the associated Northern & Eastern Railway was also converted.
ECR trains eventually reached Norwich, but not at first via the Colchester route. Instead it used the route of the originally separate Northern & Eastern (N&ER) and Norwich & Brandon railways, via Stratford, Cambridge, Ely and Brandon. The ECR took the partly completed N&ER on lease on 1 January 1844, the through line to Norwich opening on 30 July 1845.
The Colchester line was extended to Ipswich in 1846, and to Norwich in 1849, but via the separate Eastern Union Railway, with which the ECR made an end-on connection. After a period of poor relations, the ECR took over the operation of the EUR on 1 January 1854, a situation formally sanctioned by the Act of 7 August 1854. The merged company in turn, in 1862, amalgamated along with a number of other East Anglian railways to form the Great Eastern Railway.
- The Railway Year Book, 1912
- Gordon, D.PI. (1977). Thomas, David St John and Patmore, J. Allan, ed. A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain — Volume 5: The Eastern Counties (2nd ed.). Newton Abbott: David & Charles.
- White, H.P. (1987). Thomas, David St John, ed. A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain — Volume 3: Greater London (3rd ed.). Dawlish: David & Charles.
- Brooks, Lyn (October 1993). "Broad gauge on the Eastern Counties Railway". Great Eastern Journal: 34.