The Anonymous Widower

Up And Down The Crouch Valley Line

The Crouch Valley Line runs from Wickford station on the Liverpool Street to Southend Victoria Line and Southminster in deepest Essex via the sailing town of Burnham-on-Crouch.

This Google Map shows the route of the line.

The Crouch Valley Line

The Crouch Valley Line

Stations on the line are at Wickford, Battlesbridge, South Woodham Ferrers, North Fambridge, Althorne, Burnham-on-Crouch and Southminster.

I took these pictures as I went from Wickford station to Southminster station on the Crouch Valley Line. On the way back, I stopped off at Burnham-on-Crouch station and found an excellent snack lunch at Cafe-Dairy in the town.

It certainly isn’t your average rural railway line.

  • The six stations on the line are in pretty good condition.
  • All except North Fambridge station are single platform stations, so are effectively step-free.
  • The line goes through marshes and country with a lot of birds. Very Snow Goose!
  • Most of the stations, seem to have adequate car parking.
  • The electrification doesn’t appear to be in the best of health, but then that could be said for much of East Anglia’s railways.

If it has one major problem, it is that trains seem to run every forty minutes.

Growth In Passenger Numbers

Two factors will see the number of passengers using this line grow in the future.

Someone in Burnham told me, that they were building a lot of new housing along the line, which surely will generate traffic.

Also, the RSPB’s flagship reserve at Wallasea, that has been built with tunnel spoil from Crossrail, is just across the river at Burnham-on-Crouch.

This Google Map shows the area.

Burnham-on-Crouch, the River Crouch And Wallasea Island

Burnham-on-Crouch, the River Crouch And Wallasea Island

The Crouch Valley Railway goes across the top of the map and stops at Burnham-on-Crouch station.

I walked down to the River, going past the cinema.

Will a proper route from the station to Wallasea Island on the other side of the River Crouch be created using a bus and a ferry?

There is also a very low possibility of a new nuclear power station at Bradwell, which could increase traffic to Southminster.

A Two Trains Per Hour Service

The current schedule meant I had a forty minute wait for a train after my lunch. I made a mistake calculating when the train would leave and I arrived back at the station a few minutes after the train had left.

Forty minutes is a long time to wait for a train in a station with few facilities on a sunny day.

If traffic does grow on the line, as I indicated in the previous section, two trains an hour will be a necessity.

The reason for the current weird interval is that if you look at the time-table, trains take thirty-one minutes to do the Journey.

If you add in the turn-round time, when train staff do what they have to do and that to run the service, the two trains must pass at the only passing loop at North Fambridge station, it becomes obvious, that the fastest sensible time for the journey adding in all the extras is forty minutes.

So it would seem that in order to get two trains per hour, you would need to get the time for the journey down to thirty minutes.

It would seem that it might be possible by using four trains to get a three trains per hour service, but this would probably need extra passing loops or full redoubling of the track with extra platforms in places.

So because of cost this will probably not be an option.

In other words, the only way to get two trains per hour on the branch, would be to speed up the time each journey takes.

New Trains On The Line

New trains on the line could be the key to achieving a thirty minute total journey time.

If something like a new Aventra train replaced the current Class 321 train, there would be certain features that would save time.

  • The higher speed and better performance of the modern train would save some time.
  • Modern trains are designed to stop, unload and pick up passengers and get back to line speed in a shorter time.
  • Level access to platforms could be arranged to cut out loading delays of buggies, wheelchairs and bicycles.
  • Helpful automation for the driver in the turn-round at each end of the line could save a few precious minutes.
  • The precision driving needed would be easier in a modern train.

It might even be possible to do a faster speed in a Class 360 train.

Improving The track

I do wonder, if Network Rail have ideas to improve the line speed, which would mean more minutes saved.

I suspect Network Rail engineers wish that the conversion of this line to single-track in the 1960s shouldn’t have been carried out.


I think that within a couple of years, we’ll see new trains on this line providing a two trains per hour service.




July 18, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Wickford Station

I took these pictures at Wickford station.


  • There is a disused Platform 4  at the London End.
  • The Crouch Valley Line service to Southminster station uses Platform 1 at the Southend End.
  • The service between London and Southend is generally three trains per hour.
  • The service on the Crouch Valley Line is for a lot of the time, one train evrry forty minutes.
  • The station is not step-free.

As one of the station staff says, the station needs a drastic makeover.

But as the station handles over two million passengers a year, I think that it must be a fair way up the list of stations to be improved.

London To Southend Services

Wickford station is on the line route between London Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria station, which is run by Abellio Greater Anglia (AGA).

There is also a line between London Fenchurch Street and Southend Central station, which is run by c2c.

Comparing the two services gives the following.

  • The c2c service has six trains per hour, whereas the AGA service has three.
  • The c2c service is a few minutes faster.
  • The trains on the c2c service are Class 357 trains, a couple of decades younger than AGA’s Class 321 trains.
  • c2c are intending to bring in new trains in a few years.
  • c2c’s stations seem to be in better state than AGA’s.

To add to the problems of the AGA service, in a couple of years time, Crossrail will be running new trains between Liverpool Street and Shenfield.

I also believe that slower trains like the Class 321 trains, are an operational problem to increase capacity and speed on the Great Eastern Main Line South of Shenfield.

Because of the competition from c2c and the problems with running alongside Crossrail into London, I suspect that the new East Anglia Franchise will have to invest in new trains on the Liverpool Street to Southend Victoria route.

As Crossrail will be running Class 345 trains based on the Aventra, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Aventras running to Southend Victoria.

But these will not be designed with a Metro interior, but probably with an interior like a Class 387 train, with lots of space and tables.

Southend will certainly have a much improved train service to London.

If the service on the AGA route through Wickford were to be four or six trains per hour, then this would interchange much better with a two trains per hour service on the Crouch Valley Line.



July 18, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment

An Unusual Double-Headed Freight Train

I travel up and down the Great Eastern Main Line regularly and recently, there seems yo have been a greater incidence of freight trains with two locomotives on the front.

I am pretty certain, I’ve seen several trains with two Class 66 diesel locomotives or two Class 90 electric locomotives on the front.

But today from a train at Shenfield I took this rather poor picture.

Is This A Class 90 And A Class 66 Working Together?

Is This A Class 90 And A Class 66 Working Together?

It would appear to show a Class 90 and a Class 66 working a freight train together.

Does this happen regularly? I can’t find any other pictures on the web.

I should get my camera out faster in future!

July 18, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , | 1 Comment

Frinton-on-Sea Station

My family has had a typical relationship with Frinton, where it has been the butt of several jokes. But then C did get the odd nasty letter after the story of The First Off Licence In Frinton.

I dread to think what would happen to a lawyer doing something like that case these days.

I finished my walk at Frinton-on-Sea station, where I took these pictures.


  • You can clearly see, where the second track used to be.
  • Trains always use the Southern platform.
  • Frinton has rather a retro taste in artwork.
  • The catenary seemed to be not of the best quality.
  • The station has a proper booking office.
  • Like Walton-on-the-Naze station, the platform seems to be able to accommodate eight-car trains.
  • I didn’t see anywhere to park a bike. According tom this station facilities page, there are spaces for six.

According to Wikipedia, it would appear that both Walton-on-the-Naze and Frinton-on-Sea stations get about a hundred thousand passengers a year. Kirby Cross station, the only other station on the branch gets roughly four times as much.

This Google Map shows the station and its location.

Frinton Station

Frinton Station

A One-Sided Station

Note how one-sided the station is, with little except the unused platform and the road on the North side of the track. The station buildings with their traditional barber and the car park are all on the South side of the track.

I assume that anybody coming rom the North side and wanting to get a train on foot or on a bicycle has to go across the level crossing and round into the station.

In When Is A Train Not A Train?, I proposed running lines like this under tram rules.

This station would be ideal, as obviously most passengers arrive on the side with a plattform.

It could even have a light-controlled walk-across the track by the level crossing to allow passengers to cross to and from the north.


I’m no electrification expert, but as an Electrical Engineer by training, I do feel that the wires, I saw at both Frinton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the Naze stations have seen better days and are probably up for replacement in the next few years.

If as I expect that the next East Anglia Franchise orders trains with the possibility of on-board storage, then I believe that instead of renewing the wires to Walton, the shuttle trains to Thorpe-le-Soken and the the direct Liverpool Street trains, could use stored energy on the Walton Branch.

They would charge their batteries, when running between Thorpe-le-Soken and Colchester.

Replacement of the electrification on the five mile long branch would conservatively cost several million pounds and need ongoing specialist maintenance. The money saved would surely pay for the onboard energy storage on the trains needed for the branch.

Removal of the electrification would give the following benefits.

  • The branch would be free of high-voltage electricity.
  • Stations could be of a simpler design.
  • Trains would be quieter with no pantograph noise.
  • Regenerative braking with all its electricity saving would be enabled.
  • The track would be simpler, with less to go wrong.
  • The line would be without unsightly wires.

But the biggest benefit would be that overall the line could be much safer.

New Track

But removal of the electrification would give other advantages, as any new track would not need to be electrified. New track might include.

  • Provision of a siding at Walton-on-the Naze, where the second track used to be.
  • Provision of a proper passing loop at Kirby Cross station.
  • Reopening of Platform 3 at Thorpe-le-Soken station.
  • Installation of a chord to allow trains to go from Walton-on-the-Naze to Clacton-on-Sea directly.

Whatever is done with respect to track, will greatly improve the service on the branch.


I believe that in a few years time, a visitor to Frinton-on-Sea station, will find it very different.

But probably very much better.

However, if the line is run by silent electric trains, will their curiosity bring too many visitors to |Frinton, for the residents’ liking?



July 18, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment