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The Lambourn Valley Railway
Stations & Crossings
Welford Park
Photo : T Palmer

Welford Park Station marked line's approximate half-way point. Named after the nearby private estate of Welford Park, the station served the villages of Welford, Wickham and Weston. Although traffic volumes here were quite sparse, the station itself was unique, being home to the only crossing place for trains on the line. Consequently, it was the only station on the line that required both an up and a down platform. Despite its obvious importance to the daily running operations of the railway, it was one of the quieter stations, although traffic did increase after the airbase spur was opened in 1954. The roots of The Lambourn Valley railway are firmly embedded here by virtue of the fact that Welford Park estate was the ancestral home of one George Branston Eyre, who later changed his name to Archer-Houblon.


This local entrepreneur, as we now know, was the instigator and then Chairman of the original, independent LVR Company.

The station was reconstructed by the GWR in late 1908, and this view dates from around 1920. Corrugated iron pagoda waiting sheds were provided on each platform and a speed limit of 15mph was active through the approaches to the down loop. Also visible is the point rodding which incorporated a 'dog-leg' both to enable it to clear the 'up' platform,
and doubling as an expansion bracket for the metal.
 
 
The 1940s and Signalman Vince Martin poses for the camera outside the signal box. The station nameplate has been painted over as part of wartime security measures, and in accordance with blackout regulations the lamp posts have been overpainted in white.

The station's water supply was primarily ferried in from Lambourn by train, but in 1954, mains water was
piped in for the first time by connecting into the pipeline previously laid by the military line contractors in 1952. Given the fact that the nearby airbase had been established during the course of World War II, Welford saw no major rise in goods traffic.
 
Things however, didn't stay totally static. The movement of additional livestock, plus the odd wagon load of supplies for the camp, did generate some increase.

In 1942, the decision was made to construct a concrete loading dock. This would ease the loading and unloading of goods and livestock between rail and road vehicles. It was to be built into the end of the down platform, and the work would be carried out by the
GWR engineering department at a cost of approximately £120.
A sunny April day in 1959 and the arrival of a Newbury train. The cinder surface of the platform is clearly defined, as are the Tilley lamp posts and associated winding gear. At the Lambourn end of the platform, near the signal box, the ramps were edged with concrete. The signal box lever frame had itself been extended to 23 levers by this time. Situated immediately behind the pagoda and on a slightly higher level, were the airbase exchange sidings, constructed seven years earlier in 1952.

The crossing loop could hold a locomotive and seven carraiges and measured 312 ft. long. The booking office and up platform were accessible from the platform ramps via a boarded crossing.
 

Coal merchants L.J.Bodman & Sons continued their business operations from Welford Park Station after closure of the northern section of the line in 1960. The station approach road took the form of a junction connecting with the Newbury to Lambourn Road. The road continued on past the the loading dock on Lambourn end of the 'down' platform, and thus provided access to the goods yard and siding.

 
Welford signal box was graded as Class 5 and the weekly pay rate for a signalman here in 1934 was 51/9d (£2.58p). Duty times varied over the years in accordance with differing train services. Consequently there would be a number of times in the year when the opportunity to earn extra money, in the form of horse box cleaning over at Lambourn, became available for the signlman on early turn.

On 6th October 1947, the coal-fired stove used for heating the signal box ignited the framework of the roof, resulting in severe damage to the building. Repairs were subsequently carried out and the box was restored to its original design.
     
   Above left: Trains crossing at Welford Park, early 1950s.    Above right: The signal box and booking office, early 1950s.
The cells providing power to operate the signalling equipment were stored in a battery cabinet which was fixed to the rear wall of the signal box. It is just visible in the above picture. The two re-railing ramps would have been used for minor wagon derailments and should have been stored within the signal box, but their sheer weight made it impractical to do so.

Left: 1951, and an ex-MSWJR 2-4-0 awaits departure clearence from the guard before continuing its journey to Lambourn. This photo also shows the vehicle loading dock at the end of the down platform.
 
 

Above: A panoramic view from the down platform. The safety fence on the platform ramp edge protected passengers from the vehicle unloading dock.

Left: The mid-1950s and members of the Branch Line Society pay a visit to the station on-board. In the background, a hired for the day, early type GWR bufferless railcar.
 
Above left: A diesel-hauled goods train bound for
Welford Military Base
Above right: The year is 1950 and a single unit railcar bound for Newbury trundles quietly into the station.
Above: The signal box and station from the north with the duty signalman looking downline. The lamp at the end of the platform provided, light to illuminate both the board crossing and the tablet exchanges, the station re-railing ramps still lean nonchalantly against the front planking.
 
More generally, apart from on Newbury market days, passenger receipts were minimal. Goods traffic however continued to provide returns for the branch. Small quantities of coal were handled, usually for Messrs. Brain who used the yard as a railhead for the surrounding area. Racehorse traffic was non-existent and, in the final years, little or no milk was forwarded from the station, the main income being the conveyance of watercress grown in the nearby river Lambourn, agricultural commodities and small amounts of timber.

Signalman Bert Whale inside Welford Park signal box. The signalmen shared the responsibility for the general cleaning of the station and the internal appearance of the box itself. The quiet nature of the line resulted in the added advantage of allowing staff to enjoy unofficial activities during their hours of duty, such as the yearly crop of Welford tomatoes grown in front of the frame. Throughout the 1930s, signalman worked a two-shift system, the first being 5am to 2pm, and the second covering 1pm through until 9pm. The overlapping hour was used to carry out any work in the yard such as the roping and sheeting of wagons where necessary, or just normal cleaning duties.
 
Closure

Welford Park Station closed to passengers on 4th January 1960. Goods traffic continued on the line for a few more years, until 1965 in fact, when Boxford lost all its freight facilities. Six months later, on 19th July, Welford Park's non-military services were withdrawn, and military use of the line ceased on 3rd November 1973. The USAF then returned control of the line to British Railways.

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