Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways


Liverpool Street train at Hertford East railway station

Broxbourne to Hertford East

Name of Line: The Hertford East Line

Length of Line:

Train Operating Company: Abellio Greater Anglia

Stations: Broxbourne, Rye House, St Margaret's, Ware, Hertford East

Description: This branch line leaves the Cambridge mainline soon after Broxbourne and goes west along the Ware valley to Hertford.


Journey review

Ipswich railway ststion - Cambridge train

Cambridge to Ipswich

Name of Line:

Length of Line: 

Stations: Cambridge, Dullingham, Newmarket, Kennett, Bury St. Edmunds, Thurston, Elmswell, Stowmarket, Needham Market, Ipswich

Train Operating Company: Abellio Greater Anglia



Journey review - coming soon


Chingford Railway Station in 2021

Clapton to Chingford

Name of Line: The Lea Valley Line (one of three)

Length of Line: 

Stations: Clapton, St James Street, Walthamstow Central, Wood Street, Highams Park, Chingford 

Train Operating Company: Abellio Greater Anglia

Description: The line leaves the main Liverpool Street to Cambridge line soon after Clapton, before cutting across hackney marshes before passing through the town of Walthamstow. It finally ends at Chingford just before the Greater London border reaches Essex.

Journey review

Trivia: This route used to have the nickname of "The Jazz Service"

Thorpe-le-Soken railway station - Clacton and Walton trains

Colchester to Clacton & Walton-on-the-Naze

Name of Line: The Sunshine Coast Line

Length of Line:

Stations: Colchester, Colchester Town, Hythe, Wivenhoe, Alresford, Great Bentley, Thorpe-le-Soken, Kirby Cross, Frinton, Walton-on-Naze/ Clacton

Train Operating Company: Abellio Greater Anglia

Description: This branch line off the Great Eastern mainline first passes right through the centre of the ancient town of Colchester before going eastwards to the North Sea coast. At Thorpe-le-Soken the line splits in two, with one branch going to the large seaside town of Clacton-on-Sea, whilst the other branch goes to the more sedate Walton-on-the-Naze.

History: The railway to Clacton was first opened in 1882. The line was first electrified in 1959 but not completed all the way to London (70 miles away) until 1962.

Journey review

Trivia: Colchester Town station was originally called "St Boltophs" after the church next to the station.

clacton 1.jpg     walton-on-the-naze 1.jpg

Clacton Railway Station                             Walton-on-the-Naze railway station

Darlington railway station north end

Darlington to Bishop Auckland

Name Line: The Tees Valley Line

Length of Line: 12 miles

Stations: Darlington, North Road, Heighington, Newton Aycliffe, Shildon, Bishop Auckland

Train Operating Company: Northern

Trains start at: Saltburn, Middlesborough, Darlington

Description: This branch line goes in a north westerly direction from Darlington to Bishop Auckland on the eastern edge of the Pennines. It passes through Shildon where the "Locomotion" museum is situated.

History: This branch line forms part of the original Stockton and Darlington railway line which was opened in 1825. At first freight trains went from Stockton-on-Tees to Witton Park Colliery near Shildon. In 1833 regular passenger trains first travelled on the route. The section north to Bishop Auckland was opened in 1843. Then by 1895 the line had reached beyond Bishop Auckland up the Wer Valley to Eastgate. In the early 1900's the line was electrified between Shildon and Newton Aycliff, though by 1933 the electrification was ended. The beeching cuts of the 1960's swa many lines in this area closed to passenger traffic, though the section between Darlington and Bishop Auckland was saved. 

Journey review

Websites: Locomotion   Weardale Railway   Darlington Railway Centre

Darlington junction for Bishop Auckland branch.jpg          Darlington 2.jpg

Bishop Auckland branch leaving the ECML  Darlington Railway Station facing south

Enfield Town railway station

Edmonton Green to Enfield Town

Name of Line: The Lea Valley Line (part of)

Length of Line: 2 miles

Stations: Edmonton Green, Bush Hill Park, Enfield Town

Train Operating Company: Abellio Greater Anglia

Description: This short branch off the main line to Cambridge out of Liverpool Street has just one station on its branch at Bush Hill Park. 


Journey review

Kings Lynn railway station

Ely to Kings Lynn

Name of Line:

Length of Line: 

Stations: Ely, Littleport, Downham Market, Watlington, Kings Lynn

Train Operating Company: Great Northern



Journey review - coming soon

Moorgate train coming into Finsbury Park railway station

Finsbury Park to Moorgate

Name of Line:

Length of Line: 

Stations: Finsbury Park, Drayton Park, Highbury & Islington, Essex Road, Moorgate

Train Operating Company: Great Northern

Description: This busy commuter branch leaves the East Coast mainline at Finsbury Park and apart from a short open-air stretch to Drayton Park is underground for most of its route. It changes from using overhead power to third rail at Drayton Park. 

History: This mainly underground branchline was first opened in 1904 as the Great Northern and City Railway. At times it belonged to London transport and at other times British Railways. In August 1976 through trains from the northern suburbs of London and beyond started using this line after it had previously belonged to London Underground. More

Journey review

Bradford train at Guiseley railway station 4/9/09

Guiseley to Bradford Forster Square

Name of Line: The Wharfedale Line 

Length of Line: 

Stations: Guiseley, Baildon, Shipley, Frizinghall, Bradford Forster Square

Train Operating Company: Northern

Description: The Southe western part of the Wharefdale Line runs north from industrial Bradford to the edge of the Yorkshire Dales at Guiseley


Journey review

Barton-on-Humber railway station

Habrough to Barton-on-Humber

Name of Line: The Barton Line

Length of Line: 11 1/4 miles

Train Operating Company: Northern

Stations: Habrough, Ulceby, Thornton Abbey, Goxhill, New Holland, Barrow Haven, Barton-on-Humber 

Frequency of Trains: One every two hours 

Rolling Stock: Class 153 Super Sprinter

Trains start from: Cleethorpes

Description: This branch line leaves the main Cleethorpes to Barnetby line at Habrough and goes north to New Holland and then west to Barton-on-Humber, where there is a bus connection to Hull via the Humber Bridge.

History: The line was first opened in 1849 as part of the Great Central Railway. In 2007 the line was designated as a community rail line by the Department of Transport.

Journey review

Web links: Friends of The Barton Line -       Barton to Cleethorpes Community Rail Partnership  -

Barton-on-Humber 2.jpg         Habrough.jpg

150th anniversary plaque at Barton station          Harbrough railway station

Scarborough train at Bridlington railway station

Hull to Scarborough

Name of Line: The Yorkshire Coast Line

Length of Line: 53 miles

Stations: Hull, Cottingham, Beverley, Arram, Hurtton Cranswick, Driffield, Nafferton, Bridlington, Bempton, Hunmanby, Filey, Seamer, Scarborough

Train Operating Company: Northern

Description; The line runs roughly north from the port of Hull in the south through the East Yorkshire Wolds and along coast to the seaside resort of Scarborough in the north.

Journey review

Trivia: There used to be a small branch line from Filey to Butlins Filey Holiday Camp until the line closed in 1977

Links:- Yorkshire Coast Community Rail Partnership    Yorkshire Coast Line

Felixstowe railway station

Ipswich to Felixstowe

Name of Line: The Felixstowe Branch Line

Length of Line - 12 miles

Stations: Ipswich, Westerfield, Derby Road, Trimley, Felixstowe

Train Operating Company: Abellio Greater Anglia

History: The line was the brainchild of Colonel George Tomline, a local landowner, whose Felixstowe Railway and Pier Company, opened its line from Westerfield to Felixstowe Pier in May 1877. In 1887 the Great Eastern Railway absorbed the line and built an extension to Felixstowe Town in 1898. In the first half of the twentieth century the line became popular with hoildaymakers, with summer specials from the Midlands and London. From the 1960's on Felixstowe docks grew rapidly as a result of the container revolution, increasing freight traffic on ther line. there are plans to double the line due to the amount of traffic on the line.

Description: The line goes almost in a circle round Ipswich before leaving the Suffolk line at Westefield and going South Eastwards along a busy single track line to Felixstowe Town, past the massive container port on the right.

Journey Review

Oulton Broad South - old station

Ipswich to Lowestoft

Name of Line: The East Suffolk Line

Length of Line:

Stations: Ipswich, Westerfield, Woodbridge, Melton, Wickham Market, Saxmundham, Darsham, Halesworth, Brampton, Beccles, Oulton Broad South, Lowestoft

Train Operating Company: Abellio Greater Anglia

Description - This picturesque line travels north-east through the east Suffolk countryside passing through several quaint market towns before it crosses into Norfork and moves east to the coast at Lowestoft.


Journey review

Websites: The East Suffolk Line 

Knottingley railway station looking west

Knottingley to Wakefield Kirkgate

Name of Line: The Pontefract Line (part of)

Length of Line: 10 miles

Stations: Knottingley, Pontefract Monkhill, Pontefract Tanshelf, Featherstone, Streethouse, Wakefield Kirkgate

Train Operating Company: Northern

Description: This is just one of many minor lines to the south of Leeds in a former mining area. 


Journey review

Ilkley train at Leeds railway station 4/9/09

Leeds to Ilkley

Name of Line: The Wharfedale Line

Length of Line:

Train Operating Company: Northern

Stations: Guisley, Menston, Burley-in-Wharfedale, Ben Rhydding, Ilkley 

Description: This picturesque line runs northwestwards friom Leeds out into the Yorkshire Dales.

History: The line to Ilkley was first opened in 1865. It was electrified in 1995.

Journey review

Harwich Town railway station in 2007

Manningtree to Harwich Town 

Name of Line: The Mayflower Line

Length of Line:

Stations: Manningtree, Mistley, Wrabness, Harwich International, Dovercourt, Harwich Town

Train Operating Company: Abellio Greater Anglia 

Description: This branch line leaves the Great Eastern mainline to Norwich at Manningtree where it follows the southern edge of the River Stour estuary until it comes to Parkeston Quay Docks. It then continues along the coast into Harwich Town where the line terminates.

History: Railway first opened in 1854. Then in 1879 the Great Eastern Railway began to reclaim land to the west of the town which eventually became Parkeston Quay and succeeded in overtaking nearby Ipswich as the main port for sailing to Holland from. In 1925 the LNER started a train ferry service from Harwich to the Hook of Holland, carrying mainly perishable goods trains. In 1968 a container port was opened at Harwich. In 1986 the line was finally electrified from Manningtree to Harwich Town.

Journey review

Trivia: Maningtree station has the reputation as being one of the windiest railway stations in the whole of Britain!


Harwich.jpg           hatwich town 1.jpg    

London train arriving at Dovercourt          Harwich Town station        

Chappel & Wakes Colne railway station sign

Marks Tey to Sudbury

Names of Line: The Gainsborough Line / The Sudbury Line / The Stour Valley Line  

Length of Line: 12 miles

Stations: Marks Tey, Chappel & Wakes Colne, Bures, Sudbury

Train Operating Company: Abellio Greater Anglia

Description: This branch line goes from Mark's Tey in Essex, on the Great Eastern Main Line to Sudbury in Suffolk, a market town famous as being the birthplace of artist Thomas Gainsborough. It passes through the valley of the River Stour in some of England's most beautiful countryside. Much of this area was painted by the artist John Constable. Chappel and Wakes Colne station is the home of the East Anglian Railway Museum and the station here is a recreation of a 1930's rural station.

History: The line originally went all the way from Mark's Tey through to Cambridge via Sudbury, Long Melford and Bury St Edmunds, with a branch going off to Haverhill and Cambridge at Chapel and Wakes Colne. The single line to Sudbury was opened on 2nd July 1849 with Cambridge being reached in 1865. By 1962 all the lines north of Sudbury had been closed, but the line has survived to this day and is popular with commuters and tourists alike. More 

Journey review

Nearby places of interest:  

Trivia: The footbridge at Chappel and Wakes Colne station was originally the one at Sudbury station.

Websites:  The Sudbury Line   The Gainsborough Line   Bures on-line  Cambridge to Sudbury Railway Renewal Association  Photo link   

Nearby places of Interest:  Sudbury  Long Melford   Melford Hall  Kentwell Hall

 chappel & wc station 2.jpg
 York 1.jpg

Chappel & Wakes Colne Station
looking west over the viaduct 

 Station sign at Marks Tey station

Saltburn train at Middlesborough railway station

Middlesbrough to Saltburn

Name of Line: Tees Valley Line

Train Operating Company: Northern

Length of line:

Stations: Middlesbrough, South Bank, British Steel Redcar, Redcar Central, Redcar East, Longbeck, Marske, Saltburn

Description: The line moves eastwards from the heavily industrialised landscape around Middlesbrough towards the North Sea coastline and the seaside town of Saltburn.


Journey Review

Whitby railway station - Middlesborough train

Middlesbrough to Whitby

Name of Line: The Esk Valley Line

Train Operating Company:  Northern

Length of line: 35 miles

Stations: Middlesborough, Marton, Gypsy Lane, Nunthorpe, Grest Ayton, Battersby, Kildale, Commondale, Castleton Moor, Danby, Lealholm, Glaisdale, Egton, Grosmont, Sleights, Ruswarp, Whitby

Description: From the industrial scenery of Teeside, through the North York Moors to the North Sea Coast at Whitby, this fascinating branchline has it all. Steam trains of the North York Moors railway now run right through to Whitby from Pickering, joining the line at Grosmont in the summer months.

History: The eastern section of the branch was the first to be opened. This was the Whitby & Pickering Railway which opened as early as 1836. The next section of this branch, between Middlesbrough and Nunthorpe was opened in 1854, as part of the Middlesbrough & Guisborough Railway. Then in 1865 the North Yorkshire & Cleveland Railway opened the section of line between Battersby and Grossmont. The final section between Nunthorpe and Battersby was opned in 1868.  

Journey Review

Wesbite links: North York Moors Railway

Hexham train at Prudhoe railway station

Newcastle to Carlisle

Names of Line: The Tyne Valley Line / The Hadrian's Wall Line 

Length of Line: 40 miles

Stations: Newcastle, Dunstan, Metro Centre, Blaydon, Wylam, Prudhoe, Stocksfield, Riding Mill, Corbridge, Hexham, Haydon Bridge, Bardon Mill, Haltwhistle, Brampton, Wetheral, Carlisle 

Train Operating Company: Northern

Trains start at: Newcastle, Sunderland, Middlesborough, Carlisle, Stranraer

Description: This line goes right across the "top" of England through the Pennine Hills, from Newcastle to Carlisle, following the valley of the river Tyne for much of its route.

History: The complete line was first opened in 1839, making it one of the earliest railway lines in the country

Journey review

Links:  Tyne Valley Community Rail Partnership  Tyne Valley Rail Line Users Group

Norwich train at Cambridge railway station

Norwich to Cambridge 

Name of Line: The Breckland Line

Length of Line: 

Stations:  Norwich, Wymondham, Spooner Row, Attleborough, Eccles Road, Harling Road, Thetford, Brandon, Lakenheath, Shippea Hill, Ely, Waterbeach, Cambridge

Train Operating Company: Abellio Greater Anglia



Journey review

Sheringham railway station - train from Norwich approaching

Norwich  to Cromer/Sheringham

Name of Line: The Bittern Line 

Train Operating Company: Abellio Greater Anglia

Stations: Norwich, Salhouse, Hoverton & Wroxham, Worstead, North Walsham, Gunton, Roughton Road, Cromer, West Runton, Sheringham

Description: This community railway line travels north from Norwich, through the North Norfolk countryside where the Norfolk Broads are situated, before reaching the coast at Cromer. The train reverses here and then runs westward along the coast to Sheringham where it terminates next to the North Norfolk Railway.


Journey review

Websites: The Bittern Line   North Norfolk Railway   Bure Valley Railway

Berney Arms railway station

Norwich to Great Yarmouth

Name of Line: The Wherry Line

Length of Line -

Stations: Route 1 - Norwich, Brundall Gardens, Brundall, Buckenham, Cantley, Reedham, Berney Arms, Great Yarmouth

Stations: Route 2 - Norwich, Brundall Gardens, Brundall, Lingwood, Acle, Great Yarmouth

Train Operating Company: Abellio Greater Anglia

History: The line was opened on 1st May 1844, having been engineered by George and Robert Stephenson. This was the very first railway line from Norwich to anywhere else in Norfolk. (Norwich wasn't actually connected to London by rail until 1845 and only then via Cambridge). The original line wasn't the most direct and had to go north east from Reedham across the  marshes. The owner would only allow a railway to cross his land on condition that a station had to be built in the middle of the marshes for trains to stop daily there in perpetuity. This station is Berney Arms and has no road connection to it, but trains do stop there on request every day.


Journey review

Trivia: Berney Arms station is believed to be the only station in England which cannot be reached by road.

Lowestoft railway station - original sign

Norwich to Lowestoft

Name of Line: The Wherry Line 

Length of Line:

Train Operating Company: Abellio Greater Anglia

Stations: Norwich, Brundall Gardens, Brundall, Buckenham, Cantley, Reedham, Haddiscoe, Somerleyton, Oulton Broad North, Lowestoft

Description: The line goes in an easterly direction from Norwich across some very flat land, before it leaves the Yarmouth line at Reedham and moves in a south easterly direction where it reaches the Suffolk coast at Lowestoft.


Journey review

Trivia: Lowestoft railway station is the most easterly station in the whole of Britain.

Websites: The Wherry Lines    Photolink

A South West Trains unit at Ely Railway Station August 2008

Peterborough to Ely

Name of Line: 

Length of Line: 

Stations: Peterborough, Whittlesea, March, Manea, Ely

Train Operating Companies: Abellio Greater Anglia Cross Country East Midlands Trains



Journey review

Upminster train at Romford railway station

Romford to Upminster

Name of Line: The Romford to Upminster Line

Length of line: 3 1/4 miles

Stations: Romford, Emerson Park, Upminster

Train Operating Company: Abellio Greater Anglia 

Description: A single-track branch line on the outer edges of London. It links the Great Eastern mainline out of Liverpool Street with the Fenchurch Street to Southend line. The track is surrounded for much of its route by suburban housing, with the occasional swathe of greenery.

History: This branch line was originally opened in June 1893 by the London, Tilbury & Southend Railway Company. It was electrified in the 1980's.

Journey review


Nottingham Train at Skegness Railway Station

Sleaford to Skegness

Name of Line: The Poacher Line

Length of Line: 40 miles

Stations: Sleaford, Heckington, Swineshead, Hubbert's Bridge, Boston, Thorpe Culvert, Wainfleeet, Havenhouse, Skegness

Train Operating Company: East Midlands Trains 

Description: This line passes through some of the flattest land in Britain, over the northern fens, which were once sea.

Traction used: Class 156 DMUs

Trains start at: Nottingham and Grantham

History: The line from Boston to Louth was opened in 1848. The line south from Boston to Grantham was opened in 1855 and the last section from Wainfleet to Skegness was first opened in 1873.

Journey review

Trivia: The line north of Boston is the second longest stretch of straight railway line in England

Wainfleet 120708.jpg     Sleaford 3 120708.jpg

Wainfleet station sign                                  Skegness train at Sleaford station

Grays train leaving Upminster railway station


Upminster to Grays

Names of Line: The Upminster to Grays Branch / The Ockendon Branch

Length of Line: 

Stations: Upminster, Ockendon, Chafford Hundred, Grays

Train Operating Company: c2c 

Description: This single-track line has grown in popularity in recent years with the growth of the Lakeside Retail Park west of Grays, whose station is the new Chafford Hundred station. The journey goes through the first piece of greenbelt to the east of London, but soon rejoins the urban landscape after Ockendon, as it comes into the Grays area. Through trains from Fenchurch Street to Southend via Tilbury now use this route, whereas before they used to start and terminate at Upminster, the start of London Transport's District line.


Journey review

Shenfield and Southminster trains passing at North Fambridge Railway Station

Wickford to Southminster

Names of Line: The Southminster Branch Line / The Crouch Valley Line

Length of line: 16 1/2 miles

Stations: Wickford, Battlesbridge, Woodham Ferrers, Fambridge, Althorne, Burnham-on-Crouch, Southminster

Train Operating Company: Abellio Greater Anglia 

Description: This branch line off the Liverpool Street to Southend Victoria line starts at the commuter town of Wickford, near Basildon and follows the valley of the River Crouch to Burnham-on-Sea, before turning north to the village of Southminster, not far from Bradwell nuclear power station.

Trains start from: London Liverpool Street, Shenfield, Wickford

History: The first stage of this line was the opening of the railway to Burnham which was completed in 1889. Due to the area north of Burnham being rich in sand deposits the line to Southminster was opened a few years later. The line was electrified in 1986.

Journey review

Websites:  Southminster branch line   Crouch Valley Line  Photolink

Mangapps Railway Museum     Bradwell Nuclear Power Station

London train at Braintree railway station

Witham to Braintree

Name of Line: The Braintree Branch

Length of Line: 6 miles

Stations: Witham, White Notley, Cressing, Braintree Freeport, Braintree

Train Operating Company: Abellio Greater Anglia 

Description: The line leaves the Great Eastern Mainline at Witham and travels in a north westerly direction, parallel with Pod's Brook, a tributary of the Blackwater. It terminates at Braintree, a town situated half way between Bishop's Stortford and Colchester.

History: The line was originally opened in 1869 running east from Bishops Stortford via Braintree to Witham. The line west of Braintree closed in 1969. The line was electrified in 1977, allowing through trains to run from Liverpool Street.

Journey review

Websites: Colne Valley Railway   Cressing Temple   Braintree Freeport   Braintree    

Barking to Barking Riverside