13th January 2020 · ‘The Harwich Branch’

Presenter: Dave Goodyear

On January 13th our guest was Dave Goodyear to present The Harwich Branch. The eleven mile route from Manningtree to Harwich, now promoted as ‘The Mayflower Line’ was opened by the Eastern Counties Railway in 1854 and was doubled throughout by 1886,connected to the GE main line by a triangular junction. Stations were at Mistley, Bradfield and Priory Halt both now closed,Wrabness, Harwich Port, Dovercourt and Harwich Town and Continental Pier. A deviation from the original route was opened in 1883 to serve the new port at Parkston Quay with extensive sidings and motive power depot opening adjacent to the station. A wide variety of traffic was seen including many named Boat Trains from London and cross country to the new terminal, including ‘The Hook Continental and Scandinavian’ forever associated with the route. Steam and diesel hauled freight services included many continental ferry vans having been unloaded from the train ferry at Harwich. At Mistley the grain terminal was featured. and withdrawn Brighton Belle Pullman stock was stored awaiting restoration. Parkeston Quay closed to steam in 1962 and a new Freightliner Terminal was constructed on the site with the station being extensively redeveloped in the late sixties giving updated passenger facilities and capacity. The route was electrified in 1986 and all remaining signal boxes closed and replaced by a new control centre at Parkeston Quay.

In later years the number and quality of the Boat Train services declined with the cross country connections now a local DMU terminating at Cambridge. On the freight side the number of services declined over many years and even privatisation was unable to turn this around. The train ferry closed in 1987 and the Freightliner Terminal was closed by 2012. The only scheduled branch freight is the condensate tanks from North Walsham to Harwich although Parkston sidings are still used for stabling purposes.