Elmswell railway station

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Elmswell National Rail
Elmswell Station - geograph.org.uk - 1827986.jpg
Elmswell railway station in 1991
Photograph by Ben Brooksbank
Local authorityMid Suffolk
Grid referenceTL989639
Station codeESW
Managed byAbellio Greater Anglia
Number of platforms2
DfT categoryF2
Live arrivals/departures, station information and onward connections
from National Rail Enquiries
Annual rail passenger usage*
2014/15Decrease 74,284
2015/16Decrease 71,498
2016/17Increase 71,556
2017/18Decrease 68,546
2018/19Increase 71,078
24 December 1846[1]Station opens
12 December 1964Closes to goods
National RailUK railway stations
  • Annual estimated passenger usage based on sales of tickets in stated financial year(s) which end or originate at Elmswell from Office of Rail and Road statistics. Methodology may vary year on year.

Elmswell serves the village of Elmswell in Suffolk, England. The station, and all trains serving it, are today operated by Greater Anglia.


Opening and early years (1846-1862)[edit]

The Ipswich and Bury Railway Company (I&BR), was formed to build a line from Ipswich to Bury St Edmunds. Its Act of 21 July 1845 authorised capital of £400,000 and it shared many shareholders and directors with the Eastern Union Railway (EUR) who were in the process of building their line from Colchester to Ipswich. The companies also shared the same head office location in Brook Street, Ipswich.

The proposed line was 26.5 miles long, with intermediate stations at Bramford, Claydon, Needham, Stowmarket, Haughley Road, Elmswell and Thurston.[2]

The ground breaking ceremony took place in Ipswich on 1 August 1845 where twelve local worthies (including the mayor of Ipswich, engineer Peter Bruff and John Chevallier Cobbold) each filled a wheelbarrow with soil.[3] Building the line was challenging with problems at Ipswich with tunnel construction and at Stowmarket where the local marsh swallowed up a lot of material with test probes finding the bog was 80 feet deep![4]

On 26 November 1846 the first test train ran to a temporary station at Bury St Edmunds with stops at most stations on the route with the inevitable lavish celebrations. The official opening followed on 7 December 1846 when a special train ran from Shoreditch (later Bishopsgate railway station) to Bury. The Board of Trade inspection took place on 15 December 1846 and the line opened for traffic on 24 December.[5]

Great Eastern Railway (1862-1922)[edit]

The GER added a waiting room and some toilets on the up platform.

The Woolpit Brick Company operated on a site 1.25 miles south of Elmswell station. Initially a horse-worked narrow gauge tramway operated running along existing roads, to exchange sidings on the south side of the station. On 6 June 1920 a standard gauge line opened slightly to the east of the narrow gauge line on a purpose built alignment to the edge of Elmswell and thence via some street running to the station goods yard. The lease for this line was only 14 years and this duly terminated in 1915 after which the stock was auctioned on 23 September 1915 and the line lifted during 1916. The line operated three steam locomotives during its short life including a former Jersey Railways 2-4-0T called "Haro Haro".[6] (photo).

In 1911 a siding to a new bacon factory was opened.[7]

London & North Eastern Railway (1923-1947)[edit]

Following the 1923 grouping, Elmswell became a LNER station. During World War 2 the station acted as a railhead for RAF Great Ashfield.[8]

British Railways (1948-1994)[edit]

Following nationalisation in 1948 Elmswell became part of British Rail Eastern Region.

According to the Official Handbook of Stations the following classes of traffic were being handled at this station in 1956: G, P, F, H, C and there was a 6-ton crane. Beer & Sons and St Edmundsbury Co-op had private sidings.[9]

Goods traffic was to last another eight years with the goods yard closing on 28 December 1964.

The station became an unstaffed halt in 1967 with the introduction of pay train working. In 1974 the main station building was demolished and since then a bus shelter type arrangement has sufficed for passengers using the station.[10]

Upon sectorisation in 1982 Provincial (renamed Regional Railways in 1989) became responsible for all local passenger services.

The privatisation era (1994- present day)[edit]

In April 1994 Railtrack became responsible for the maintenance of the infrastructure. Railtrack was succeeded by Network Rail in 2002. Passenger services have been operated by the following franchises:

The buildings on the up platform were restored in 1989/90.[16]

Following the introduction of regular hourly services, passenger usage increased by more than 100% between 2005 and 2012.


From the beginning the station has had two platforms – the down platform is for trains towards Ipswich whilst the up platform initially served Bury St Edmunds until the line through to Newmarket and Cambridge was opened in 1854 and to Ely in 1880.

There were goods yards either side of the line to the west of the station. A siding served a tramway from Woolpit Brick Works in the down side goods yard.

The station building was designed by Frederick Barnes (architect), an Ipswich-based architect who had worked under Peter Bruff. The main buildings were located on the down side and featured high brick chimneys, Dutch gables and a timber fronted canopy.

A level crossing crosses over the line to the east of the station and a signal box was located adjacent to this on the up side of the line. Some cattle pens existed on a siding to the east of the level crossing.[17]

Train services[edit]

The following services currently call at Elmswell:[18]

Operator Route Rolling Stock Frequency
Greater Anglia Cambridge - Dullingham - Newmarket - Kennett - Bury St Edmunds - Thurston - Elmswell - Stowmarket - Needham Market - Ipswich Class 755 1x per hour
Preceding station National Rail National Rail Following station
Greater Anglia
Historical railways
Line and station open
Great Eastern Railway
Line open, station closed


  1. ^ Butt, R. V. J. (1995). The Directory of Railway Stations: details every public and private passenger station, halt, platform and stopping place, past and present (1st ed.). Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. p. 90. ISBN 978-1-85260-508-7. OCLC 60251199.
  2. ^ Moffat, Hugh (1987). East Anglia's first railways. Lavenham: Terence Dalton Limited. pp. 49–53. ISBN 0 86138 038 X.
  3. ^ Moffat, Hugh (1987). East Anglia's first railways. Lavenham: Terence Dalton Limited. pp. 54–59. ISBN 0 86138 038 X.
  4. ^ Moffat, Hugh (1987). East Anglia's first railways. Lavenham: Terence Dalton Limited. pp. 62–65. ISBN 0 86138 038 X.
  5. ^ Moffat, Hugh (1987). East Anglia's first railways. Lavenham: Terence Dalton Limited. pp. 66–69. ISBN 0 86138 038 X.
  6. ^ Fisher, C (1993). Industrial Locomotives of East Anglia. London: Industrial Railway Society. p. 107 (map) and 136. ISBN 0 901096 75 X.
  7. ^ Dow, Maureen. "The railway - potted history". Elmswell History Group. Elmswell History Group. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  8. ^ Dow, Maureen. "The railway - potted history". Elmswell History Group. Elmswell History Group. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  9. ^ Official Handbook of Stations, British Transport Commission, 1956.
  10. ^ Watling, John (January 1991). "A-Z of GER stations:Elmswell". Great Eastern Journal. 65: 12.
  11. ^ "GB Railways wins Anglia" The Railway Magazine issue 1149 January 1997 page 11
  12. ^ National Express wins rail franchise The Daily Telegraph 22 December 2003
  13. ^ National Express Group Announced as Preferred Bidder for new Greater Anglia Franchise Strategic Rail Authority 22 December 2003
  14. ^ National Express wins rail franchise The Telegraph 22 December 2003
  15. ^ "Abellio has been awarded the Greater Anglia franchise" (Press release). Abellio. 20 October 2011. Archived from the original on 25 October 2011. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  16. ^ Robertson, Alic (October 1991). "Journals 57-65 Miscellany (letter)". Great Eastern Journal. 68: 24.
  17. ^ Watling, John (January 1991). "A-Z of GER stations:Elmswell". Great Eastern Journal. 65: 12.
  18. ^ Table 14 National Rail timetable, May 2016

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°14′17″N 0°54′45″E / 52.2381°N 0.9126°E / 52.2381; 0.9126