The January Meeting was well attended when Tony Kirby talked about “Railways of Cambridgeshlre 1845- 2005” His talk was based entirely on slides of Southern Cambridgeshire and he spoke fluently with no notes.
In the early stages, GER ran most train services in East Anglia but complaints or dirty and late trains gave it a bad reputation so in 1862 it was taken over and became the GNER and things were much improved.
Freight was more important than passengers and commercial buildings soon grew up around the stations at Audley End , Great Shelford , Newmarket and many others. Our slide tour started at Audley End where the station has an enormous portico suitable for Lord Braybrookes guests. The railway followed the valley to that point but to continue would have taken it close to the front of Audley End House, so it was diverted through two tunnels and back to the Cam Valley at Chesterford.
In the neighbourhood of Shelford. Station, there are many late Victorian houses as some university families lived in Cambridge during the winter months and then moved out to Shelford for the summer where it became easy to commute into Cambridge.
Cement works sprung up at Shepreth and Barrington, and the railway was very important to them. Barrington is the only place left which still uses diesel trains for work inside the quarries instead of conveyor belts.
The University forced Cambridge Station to be built on the outskirts of the town and made regulations such as that no trains were to arrive or depart during the time of divine service.
Later houses in Station Road Cambridge were mostly for the middle class and were on a 99 year lease from Jesus College. The end of this lease has seen many of them turned into commercial offices over the last 30 years. Railway houses, intended for the superior officers such as station masters and inspectors, were built in MW Road where at that time was a level crossing, and it was only after the Bridge was built that Romsey Town was developed for the ordinary railway workers.
We then travelled along the railway into Newmarket which was used by the Norman Cement Works at Cherryhinton until 1970 as they had a contract to supply the cement for runways.
Cherryhinton had a station when the line opened but it was closed after three years though the building still stands. At Dullingham the corn mill stood until the 1970s as they had a contract to sent malting barley to Belgium. The last shunter’s horse, Charlie, worked at Newmarket where at various times there were four stations, Warren Hill being used by the racehorses until 1938. The Mildenhall line was probably the most unprofitable line ever built. It was hoped to continue it to Thetford and Norwich as there had been trouble with flooding on the lines over the Fen, but it never went beyond Mildenhall, He spoke too of lines which ran down to the brickworks at Burwell but he had no photos. Finally we looked at the present state of the St yes line and wondered if ever a guided bus would run along its route.
In the February Meeting, Chloe Cockerell will tie paying a welcome return visit to the Staine Hundred and will be speaking about heraldry “The Lion & the Unicorn — Royal Arms & Attachments.”
The Staine Hundred Outing will be on June 14th when a trip will be made on the North Norfolk Railway from Holt to Sheringham, followed by a visit to Felbrigg Hall. Further details later.