Mayflower Line

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Mayflower Line
Wrabness, Rectory Farm - Greater Anglia 321445.JPG
By the River Stour near Wrabness
Type Heavy rail
Locale Essex, England
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) Greater Anglia
Rolling stock Class 321, Class 360
Line length 11.3 mi (18.2 km)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification 25 kV AC OHLE
Mayflower Line
GEML towards London
59m 35ch Manningtree
GEML towards Norwich
61m 14ch Mistley
Priory Halt
65m 06ch Wrabness
68m 72ch Harwich International
Former alignment via 'The Hangings'
70m 19ch Dovercourt
70m 60ch Harwich Town

The Mayflower Line is a branch railway line from Manningtree to Harwich in the county of Essex in England. Passenger services are operated by Greater Anglia. The line is part of the Network Rail Strategic Route 7, SRS 07.07 and is classified as a London and South East commuter line.[1]


Eastern Counties Railway had originally proposed plans to extend the East Coast Main Line from Colchester to Harwich although this was a cause for concern to Ipswich which was a rival port.[2]

In 1846 a railway line from Manningtree to Harwich proposed by Eastern Union Railway (EUR) was approved by the Railway Commissioners. In 1853 an agreement was reached between the companies with the Eastern Counties Railway taking over the working of the EUR from 1 January 1854. The line opened on 15 August 1854.[2]

In 1862 the Eastern Counties Railway and the Eastern Union Railway merged to become the Great Eastern Railway.[2]

In addition to the closed station at Bradfield, there was a halt Priory Halt which was closed in 1965 between Wrabness and Bradfield which serviced the adjacent War Department facility.[3] There was quite an extensive system of sidings fed from a spur on the down side which was controlled by a signal box which was in use from 1918 until 1966.[4] Use of the halt was confined to Admiralty employees only during various periods.

The War Department also had a munitions dump in Copperas Woods between Wrabness and Parkeston served by a spur which was situated on the North [or river ] side of the line just west of the point where the original alignment of the track to Dovercourt and Harwich had been changed when Parkeston was built. This spur was controlled by a signal box, very appropriately named 'Primrose Box' reflecting the profusion of primroses which grew lineside in the area.[3]

First Great Eastern operated the line until 1 April 2004, when all the operators in East Anglia were merged into one new franchise. Passenger services are currently operated by Greater Anglia who replaced the previous operator, National Express East Anglia, on 5 February 2012.


A Class 321 leaving the Mayflower Line at Manningtree South Junction

The line diverges from the Great Eastern Main Line at Manningtree and is today double track for passenger services as far as Harwich International where connecting ferry services are available to Hoek van Holland and Esbjerg. Beyond Harwich International the original double track remains in place but only the up line was electrified and that section to Harwich Town is bi-directional.[3]

East of Manningtree station there is a triangular junction so that trains operating to the port can reach the branch from both north and south. The line is electrified at 25 kV AC using overhead wires and has a loading gauge of W10 (excluding W9),[clarification needed] and a line speed of between 40-75 mph.[1]

Motive power[edit]

Greater Anglia passenger services are generally formed of Class 321 or Class 360 four-car electric units.


  1. ^ a b "Route 7 - Great Eastern" (PDF). Network Rail. Retrieved 2009-05-22. 
  2. ^ a b c "The Mayflower Line History". 
  3. ^ a b c Body, Geoffrey (1986). PSL Field Guide - Railways of the Eastern Region, vol. 1. Wellingborough: Patrick Stephens Ltd. p. 81. ISBN 0-85059-712-9. 
  4. ^ Mitchell, Vic (June 2011). Branch Lines to Harwich and Hadleigh. Midhurst: Middleton Press. plan V and plate 32. ISBN 978-1-908174-02-4.