Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Eastern - Harwich review 1

Liverpool Street train waits at Harwich Town

22/3/07- Manningtree to Harwich Town Cost £?.00 cheap day return

Dept Manningtree  11.26  arrive Harwich Town 11.49  journey time 23 mins

Dept Harwich Town 12.00  arrive Manningtree 12.21 journey time 21 mins

Distance approx 15 miles.

Weather sunny spells /cloudy

Train : 4 carriage EMU twin track from Manningtree to Harwich International.

Single track from Harwich International to Harwich Town no crossing loops

Railway company: One

Name of Line: The Mayflower Line

Frequency of trains - every hour


I had travelled on this track back in the 70's when I caught a boat train from Liverpool Street to Harwich Parkeston Quay, but that was in the dark, so I was interested to see what this branch line was like in the daylight.  Manningtree is where the branch leaves the Liverpool Street to Norwich main line. It's relative importance as a junction is shown by the fact that it has three platforms, plus a stationmaster who blows his whistle and waves his hand as if to say "Off you go!" The station signs proclaim "Manningtree for Dedham Vale" as this is the nearest station to the famous Flatford Mill where Constable did his painting. As the train leaves the station we pass an unusual road layout with a level crossing next to a bridge over a parallel road. Presumably so traffic isn't held up by the level crossing. The only problem is that there is a height restriction and so lorries have to wait at the level crossing which much be used several times every hour to cope with the large amount of passenger and freight traffic using this line. The scenery is very much green fields grazed by sheep and cows and the first station on the line, Mistly is soon reached. There is a large Malt extract factory here and when the doors of the train open the smell of malt wafts in. The down platform has a typical old station building whilst the up platform just has the usual bus stop shelter. Nearby are the Layer Marney Towers. Soon after leaving Mistly we spot the estuary of the Stour to the north, which gives the impression of a lake, but gradually widens as we near Harwich. There are plenty of tress on either side of the track though today work is going on, cutting them back on this part of the track. Wrabness is the next station and this gives an air of a typical branch line station. Someone has taken the effort to paint a mural on the platform showing perhaps local people sitting waiting for the next train. Nice to see no graffiti here. After Wrabness we begin to see signs of industry with large cranes on the other side of the river bank at Felixstowe and then Harwich which soon comes into view. We pass some large gas storage tanks on the south side of the line as the track swerves to the north before Harwich international comes into view. An indication that we are nearing the station are the announcements in both Dutch and German. There are plenty of sidings to the north side of the track but they are empty and rusty, an indication of the fact that this port nowadays seems to concentrate on passengers and not freight. There are no boats in the dock today  - they go at night and first thing in the morning judging by the timetable. For some reason we stop on the up platform today. The station formerly known as Harwich Parkeston Quay still gives the air of a port station though it's pretty deserted at this time. As we leave Harwich International we pass more empty sidings on the left and then the track becomes single as we approach the town of Harwich, which has two stations. The first, Dovercourt looks very rundown with just the one platform next to an old station building noticeable for its boarded up windows. Then not more than about 100 yards further on we come into the terminus of this branch line, Harwich Town. Again we are confronted by a station with boarded up windows. On getting off the train there is no ticket office or even a ticket machine. You just walk straight out of the station and into a car park used by busses and taxis. Next to the platform is a large siding full of rusty old rails, empty of any stock, overgrown with grass. There is even a track that leaves the station and crosses the road only to be buried under the newish Trinity House building. You get the impression that this part of the branch line could be near the end of its life. Although trains do run direct to and from Liverpool Street, there is an air of neglect here. This is further enhanced when on the return journey I venture into the toilet to find a newspaper lying there from three days ago, as well as toilet that won't flush! With the nearness of both Colchester and Ipswich, plenty of people presumably use the train for journeys to these places, but whether people commute to London from here is anybody's guess. Obviously traffic from Harwich International will keep the line going, but as for the other two stations beyond that who knows?     MC

harwich end of line.jpg       mayflower line sign.jpg
End of the line which originally went           Mayflower Line sign at Harwich Town
to Harwich Docks in the old town