ID DJG_PT1 / Douglas J. Gurton

TitlePublic Transport - the Railway
AbstractThe Railway first came to Essex on the 18th June 1839 inaugurated by the "Eastern Counties Railway" first London to Norwich. Prior to that date, conveyance of passenger and goods traffic had to be effected by horse drawn coaches or carts, a long and tedious journey dependant on where one wished to go. In 1963 a few years before he passed away, I undertook to drive by motor car the late Mr. James Colling over the route he followed with his father the late Mr Richard Collins for some sixty years, when persons living in Tollesbury or hereabouts wished to travel to London. James or "Joyful" as he was popularly known had been the licensee of the "Victoria" Inn for some fifty yaars, and he told me that the "London job usually took three days with an overnight stop at Brentwood and cost five golden sovereigns."

At the turn of the century hay cost £3 per ton, and it was necessary to take two trusses of hay for the journey. En route joining the A12 at Kelvedon one could imagine the scene when there were but few motor cars and the hostelries on the main road advertised "good stabling". Quite a number of the coaching "Inns" had been rebuilt and in most cases we found that the traditional stabling of old had been converted into garages. We made scheduled stops at the "Eagle" and Saracens' Head, Chelmsford, and the "Golden Fleece", Brentwood. Our journey finished at the "Bow Bells", Bow, of which Mr Ted Tugwell, who was proud of his Tollesbury forbears, was the landlord. Our journey had taken a few hours as opposed to a day and a half in the days of old. For James it had been a most nostalgic trip over a much improved A12 road which he had traversed many times in horse drawn conveyances and since 1919 in his T Model Ford tourer taxi being one of the first such vehicles in Tollesbury.

In 1862 the Great Eastern Railway came into being, absorbing the Eastern Counties Railway and off-shoots of that undertaking in the eastern counties. Even before the passing of the Light Railways Act of 1896 strong representations had been made for the construction of connecting railway links with the main London to Norwich line, and one of the prime movers in this area was Sir William Abdy, who was ably supported by Mr. Wilkin of Tiptree, Dr. J.H. Salter of D'Arcy and Messrs. Thomas H. Binney and George H. Wombwell of Tollesbury, and many of the landowners and of the district.

In 1902 after some few years of negotiations, a light single track railway was constructed for the Great Eastern Railway from Kelvedon low level to Tollesbury, with intermediate stations and halts at Feering Halt, Inworth, Tiptree, Tolleshunt Knights, Tolleshunt D'Arcy, Guisnes Court (Halt) and Tollesbury. The line was further extended in 1904 to the south, across the fields and marshland to Mell, where a wooden pier, ¼ mile in length was thrust out into the River Blackwater. The railway was opened on the 1st October 1904, which was a Gala Day for the villages, as passengers were conveyed free in open trucks drawn by the contractors' steam engine "Fashoda". The line extension and Pier were finished in 1907, the Pier Station was situated close by the sea-wall and comprised a wooden waiting room, bucket toilet and obsolete railway carriage to serve as freight office and lamp oil store. Lighted oil lamps, two red horizontal lights, had to be displayed on a mast at the pier-head as a navigational warning to boats. It was hoped that the Pier would attract yachting and passenger traffic, and that the area of marshland adjoining would be developed.

The opening of the Pier on 18th May 1907 attracted much local attention the event was supported by the attendance of many large yachts, including the passenger steamer "Southern Cross" and the G.E.R. Co's yacht "Wyvern" which Was piloted by Capt. William Frost of Tollesbury.

Before 1904 Tollesbury fishermen had to land their catches at Harwich or Brightlingsea for despatch to the markets. At Harwich the fishermen had the assistamce of a friendly railway official to facilitate their despatches, and they were somewhat saddened when told that he was being moved, but were most surprised when they found that their old friend had been appointed to take charge at Tollesbury Station. He was Mr. Jack Gallant who served for so many years at Tollesbury until his retirement.

The train usually comprised two passenger carriages combined with guard's van and quite often a freight van for shunting off at a station en route, and was drawn by one of the G.E.R. classic tank engines. In course of time the train became known as the "Crab and Winkle", this was no reflection on its speed, but was attributed to the amount of shellfish usually conveyed in those days. Mr Jack Gallant told me that his record despatch in one day was 120,000 oysters, firsts and seconds, from Tollesbury. Prior to the 1st World War, Tollesbury became quite a holiday centre, there was a deal of private residential accommodation, various troops of boys' organisations set up tented facilities for their own use on the Little Marsh, and quite a number of yacht owners who had assisted their skippers in the purchase of houses visited the village to inspect their craft. One could purchase coloured comic postcards depicting the "Crab and Winkle" and the passengers picking wild flowers en route. Are there any such cards now in existence ?

No tickets were issued at Tollesbury or the intermediate stations, fares were collected and tickets issued en route by the guard, who was able to traverse the length of the train by central gangways running up inside each passenger coach. The smokers' compartment adjoined the guard's van, lighting of inside the coaches was by gas contained in cylinders under the coaches. On the engine itself and on the stations there were oil lamps. Fares only amounted to a few pence, Tollesbury to Kelvedon 9d (4p) for a single journey. Anyone wishing to travel on to London or elswwhere had to obtain their ticket, at the Kelvedon booking office on the main line.

The guards most popularly known were Messrs. Peter Warne and Maurice Balls. In the days before the G.E.R. was amalgamated with the L.N.E.R., these two gentlemen, were immaculately clothed in blue serge frock coats with silver buttons depicting the GER crest of a "Wyvern's wing", and a peaked cap with silver braid round the peak. Station staff were similarly smartly dressed, but the quality of the clothing deteriorated after the amalgamation.

Nothing untoward happened on the railway during its period of activity. There were the odd disrailments in shunting operations, but no fatality other than the one tragic accident to a local boy during the construction of the line to the Pier.

Trains left Tollesbury at 8.25 a.m., 11.40 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. to connect with the London or Norwich bound trains on week-days, these times were adjusted from time to time. At Tollesbury a member of the railway staff always tried to make sure that no intending passenger was coming down the road. Owing to decline in traffic the Pier was closed in 1921, breached in 1940, and demolished after the 2nd World War. Tollesbury station was finally close down on 7th May 1951. On its last journey the engine had chalked on its side "Born 1904 - died 1951 - There be many a poor soul have to walk".

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Public Transport - the Carriers
Public Transport - the Omnibus
Douglas Gurton Articles

AuthorDouglas J. Gurton
SourceMersea Museum / Cedric Gurton
Related Images:
 Pier Station, Tollesbury
 Tollesbury Pier Station was opened 15 January 1907. Remote at the edge of the marshes, it remained open for only 14 years. From it people were able to walk on to the pier into the Blackwater. Constructions like the old railway carriage on the right were frequently used as station buildings. [Tollesbury Past]  CG17_003
ImageID:   CG17_003
Title: Pier Station, Tollesbury
Tollesbury Pier Station was opened 15 January 1907. Remote at the edge of the marshes, it remained open for only 14 years. From it people were able to walk on to the pier into the Blackwater. Constructions like the old railway carriage on the right were frequently used as station buildings. [Tollesbury Past]
Source:Mersea Museum / Cedric Gurton Tollesbury
 Tollesbury Pier Station. Postcard mailed 13 April 1905.  CG17_023
ImageID:   CG17_023
Title: Tollesbury Pier Station. Postcard mailed 13 April 1905.
Date:October 1904
Source:Mersea Museum / Cedric Gurton Tollesbury