Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Eastern - Grays review 1

Grays train at Upminster railway station


17/5/07- Upminster to Grays

Cost: £5.50  (cheap day return)

Dept Upminster: 11.00    arrive Grays: 11.20 

Journey time 20 mins

Distance: 10 miles.

Weather sunny spells

Train: Class 357 4-carriage "Electro star" EMU

(single track no crossing loops)

Railway company: c2c

Frequency if trains - every ½ hour


Upminster station is the eastern terminus of the District line and its six platforms are always busy with underground and c2c suburban trains. The four-car EMU I get on set is about ¾ quarters full, which is quite surprising for a mid morning train, but it's only when we reach Chafford Hundred that I realise why. Originally trains started from Upminster for this branch line, but now start from Fenchurch Street and go all the way to Southend via Grays. We cut across the up line and onto the branch line as we go past the large London Underground depot on the north side of the tracks. Just before the junction on the south side, is a new state of the art signal box. I'm not sure if this is for c2c or London Transport but it looks impressive and shiny. We soon pick up speed reaching about 50mph as the houses give way to fields, many of them covered in yellow oilseed rape. We stop for a signal before speeding up to around 70mph as we pass under the M25. For once the traffic is moving on this busy motorway, but soon we slow down as we come into Ockenden station. The actual village (or is it a small town?) is called South Ockenden as there's a North Ockenden somewhere, but South Ockenden is a mainly vast council house estate.  The station building has its windows covered in grills but there is a coffee shop there and it's open. We set off again and speed through another cutting and over a small river before we emerge at Chafford Hundred station, which is built high up above the old chalk pit to the right which now houses the Lakeside shopping centre. The train empties and I now realise why there's through trains from London running on this stretch of line once again. We go into another cutting again before we see houses and heavy industry of West Thurrock and soon we join up with the Grays line east of Purfleet where the Channel Tunnel rail link emerges from under the river Thames. More houses and then it's Grays station with a level crossing at its eastern end. The train then goes onto to Tilbury and Stanford-le-Hope before joining the main Southend route at Pitsea.

Summary: Although this line was once a quiet branch line with infrequent trains, due to the opening of the Lakeside shopping centre, it has become a busy line.  MC