White Colne Station

It would be difficult to describe the station as an elegant building.

It was small, especially as originally built, provision for passengers was extremely basic and provided at low cost.

The original building itself shows some signs of architectural style with the use of pale stone, red brick and moulded glazed brick detailing. This style was used on several stations, including those at Halstead and Hedingham.

The building was to the west of today’s Bures Road, while the platform and luggage store was on the other side of the road. Nothing remains of these, but the original station, and its later addition, remain in use as our Village Hall.

A working station

For Colne station, a promising start serving the neighbouring villages did not last beyond the end of the 19th century, as the new station at Earls Colne was built and later expanded.

White Colne station closed in 1899 but somewhat surprisingly re-opened in 1907 for goods traffic and for passengers in 1908.

This was probably the period of greatest prosperity for the railway, prior to the first world war and before growing competition from road passenger services. With declining traffic and following nationalisation in 1948, the line closed to passengers in 1961 and to goods traffic in 1965.

This German aerial reconnaissance photo was taken in 1940. The long streamer of smoke from a train can just be seen at point 1. White Colne station is on the edge of the picture at point 2.

White Colne Station in World War II

From Chappel station to the east, the track curved westwards, rejoining the valley in White Colne. The route followed the contours on the north side of the valley, before crossing the river to the west on its way to Halstead.

Colne station, later renamed White Colne, served the populations of both Earls Colne and White Colne until Ford Gate station was opened in the 1890s.

Figure 1: Map of Colne Valley, circa 1850,

showing main population centres relative to Colne Station

The Route through White Colne

By Act of Parliament in 1856, a group of local businessmen secured approval to construct a railway connecting Halstead to the recently completed Eastern Counties line at Chappel. Initially they had considered a route from Halstead to Braintree, but due to engineering difficulties and the opposition of several other rail operators the route from Halstead to Chappel was chosen.

Competition between railway companies to build and operate new lines was quite intense and resulted in lack of co-operation over such

such matters as timetables and physical connections between different operators’ networks.

This was the environment in which the Colne Valley and Halstead Railway was established, and which proved difficult to overcome at almost every stage of the line.

A Brief History of White Colne’s Railway

In the beginning

Because of its position in North Essex and the proximity of a number of wartime airfields, White Colne was a vital link in the supply of munitions. Precise details of the frequency, size and nature of the cargoes moving through White Colne are not known, but they were significant and highly risky. In one 3 month period, for example, 100,000 lbs of munitions were shipped through the station.

There are no records of accidents here but one ‘near miss’, a fatal accident at Soham, Cambs, in June 1944, illustrates the scale of the movements and the potential for disaster. This involved a shipment of bombs, detonators, fuses and ancillary equipment from Immingham (on Humberside) to White Colne, for the US Army Air Force.

One of the wagons caught fire and 44 x 500lb bombs exploded, destroying Soham station, killing two railway workers and injuring the driver.

After unloading at White Colne, munitions were stored at various locations, including Station Road, now Bures Road, where the photo was taken in 1948.

In this section you can read about the railway. There is also a Detailed History of White Colne Station and the CV&H Railway which includes references to more definitive books and articles.

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The Colne Valley and Halstead Railway carried passenger and goods traffic through White Colne for just over 100 years.  Although it was only a rural branch line, it had an interesting and troubled history, it served an important function during the Second World War and was the single biggest man-made impact on our landscape.

Today, much of the route has been absorbed back into the countryside, but some evidence remains – our Village Hall is the former station building and the footpath westwards into Colne Engaine follows the track-bed.


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