Ipswich station and Westerfield-Felixstowe Branch Line

These photographs by Richard Casserley (RMC) – with some by his father, Henry Casserley (HCC), also a noted photographer of railways  – date from the 14.5.1956, unless shown. (See also Richard's accompanying set of the Saxmundham to Aldeburgh branch line). Notes to the photographs by the photographer in italics.

Ipswich Station exterior
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1.  Ipswich station exterior, 7/6/69 (HCC).  
Ipswich station was re-sited to its present location in 1860 and the main building was thought to be principally the work of Peter Bruff; who had certainly started the structure. See our EUR page for the site of the original station in Over Stoke, prior to the building of Peter Bruff's curving tunnel through Stoke Hill. The actual design was in the Italianate style and submitted by architect Sancton Wood (1816-1886) as part of a competition. When the new station was completed, a new road (Princes Street, originally 'Railway Station Road') linking the station to the town was also opened. Originally the station did not have the island platform which provides platforms 3 and 4.
Platform 1 is a bay platform for trains to/from Lowestoft and Felixstowe.
Platform 2 is used for through-trains to London from Norwich as well as some Felixstowe services.
Platform 3 is used for through-trains to Norwich from London as well as some Cambridge services.
Platform 4 (4A, 4B and 4C) is used for services to Cambridge and Peterborough, and stopping services to London.
From 2015 to 2017 major reshaping of the station buildings took place to introduce a new, larger booking hall with seating and new retail spaces.

Ipswich Station trackside
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2.  Ipswich; 14/5/56 (RMC). With semaphore array.            3.  Ipswich station; 14/5/56 (RMC). Facing north.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Felixstowe railway 3   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Felixstowe railway 4
4.  Ipswich station; 1/9/51(HCC). 34039 on the 14.38 Lowestoft-Liverpool Street – see detailed note below.            5.  Ipswich station; 7/6/69 (HCC). The tunnel entrance through Stoke Hill is to the left.
"The 'West Country' class loco was built at the Southern Railways works in Brighton and entered traffic on 16th September 1946 in full Southern malachite green livery. It worked trains principally from London Victoria station to the Kent coast resorts of Margate and Ramsgate and the ports of Folkestone and Dover. It received the name “Boscastle”  some time between 1947 and 1948. After nationalisation in 1948 “Boscastle” received the number 34039 and between July and September became the regular engine on the prestigious Golden Arrow Pullman train.
In November, 1948 “Boscastle” moved to Brighton shed, and began working to such places as Salisbury, Bournemouth and Southampton. Other duties included late night trains, parcels trains from Brighton to London, returning on the early newspaper train from London Bridge. “Boscastle” became the first 'West Country' class locomotive to carry the new standard British Railways passenger green livery in August, 1949.
In 1951 Brighton’s allocation of West Country’s were dispersed elsewhere and “Boscastle” was chosen, along with two others for trials on the Eastern Region in May. Based at Stratford shed (London) they worked services from Liverpool Street to Cambridge, Norwich and Harwich. During this time “Boscastle” visited Bury St Edmunds (where it was too long for the 50' turntable) and Doncaster, presumably on a special working. This was when BR were testing various locomotives on different lines, whilst formulating the'standard' class engines which could work over the entire network. There were many advantages to this, including common spare parts and economies of scale.
The trial was not a great success due to the crews’ unfamiliarity with this type of locomotive and the problems of getting fitters and spare parts across London when they required attention. “Boscastle” returned to Brighton in March 1952. Why the name is not on the loco in the image will remain a mystery, I guess, but it cannot have appeared many times at Ipswich in the 12 or so months it was on the old GER.
It is currently being restored for a second time in its life at the Great Central Railway in Loughborough." [Notes from Great Central Railway, www.gcrailway.co.uk/the-railway/locomotives/34039-boscastle]
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6.  Ipswich station, 14/5/56 (RMC).
Facing north. The signal box on the island platform.          7.  Ipswich station, 9/6/69(HCC).  Facing south.
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8. Ipswich, 14/5/56 (HCC). With early diesel shunter 11136.

Westerfield station
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9.  Westerfield station, 14/5/56 (RMC). Facing Ipswich.
Westerfield station building is situated on the southern side of the East Suffolk Line. There were two through-platforms when the station opened and these were supplemented by two further bay platforms when the Felixstowe Branch Line opened in 1877. The Felixstowe Railway Company had offices on the southernmost platform which are still extant today as a private residence after the building had stood derelict for many years. The goods yard was situated on the northern side of the line and consisted of a couple of sidings accessed by setting back from the main line. Westerfield junction lies a short distance to the east of the station.
To the west of the station and level crossing there was the start of the Dales brickyard light railway (1.5 miles long). In World War I this line was requisitioned by the government to serve a munitions depot in the Upper Dales. In 1921 the line was worked by a Garrett steam road tractor as the track was in poor condition and it was removed in about 1927.
The original signal box was situated at the east end of the Lowestoft platform but this was replaced by a standard Great Eastern structure located at the junction for the Felixstowe branch. The box survived as the Felixstowe branch still had conventional block signalling with the next box being at Derby Road albeit with a large modern radio mast inelegantly attached to a Victorian structure. The box finally closed when the signalling was upgraded in 1999 and the area is now controlled by Colchester Power Signal Box.


See also our Cavendish Street page for a large map detail from 1867 of the eastern part of Ipswich pre-Felixstowe Branch Line railway, where a 'Proposed' St Helens Road would (somehow) have crossed Spring Road around the same place as today's railway viaduct.

Derby Road station
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10.  Ipswich Derby Road, 14/5/56 (HCC).
Facing Felixstowe.         
Above: the two remaining stations on the Felixstowe branch line. Derby Road is a small station serving the Victorian suburbs of St John's and Rosehill. In the 21st century it is in a sad state, devoid of a canopy and with the station buildings closed up and abused; it needs some investment. The line is doubled here to allow passing of freight and passenger units on this largely single-tracked line (the line is also doubled at Trimley station).

Orwell station

George Tomline (1813-1889), referred to as Colonel Tomline, was an English politician who served as Member of Parliament for various constituencies. He was founder and Chairman of the Felixstowe Railway and Pier Company which built the Felixstowe Branch Line (which was opened on 1 May 1877) and established the Port of Felixstowe. This had been promoted by Tomline who was criticised in the Suffolk Chronicle for building the stations where he "thinks people ought to be, rather than where people actually live". This was especially true of Orwell station which was situated close to Tomline's home at Orwell Park, as shown on the 1946 map below. Tomline Road in Ipswich (see Street name derivations) commemorates the man. Our Rail bridges page has more on the route of the Felixstowe line from Ipswich with a link to a 1930s map.
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11.  Orwell station, 14/5/56 (HCC). Facing Felixstowe           12.  Orwell station, 14/5/56 (RMC). Facing Felixstowe.
Sadly, Orwell Station no longer exists as such. It was, understandably, commissioned by Colonel Tomline when his company had the branch line built to link Felixstowe Pier (and the putative dock) to the main line at Westerfield Junction. The station served as the Colonel's  personal station for his mansion, Orwell Park, which is today a public school. One assumes that villagers in Nacton had the luxury of their own station on the branch line. Orwell opened on the same day as the branch line, 1 May 1877  and closed on 15 June 1959, although the line through the station remains open. On 1 September 1879 the Great Eastern Railway (GER) took over operation of the line, although the Felixstowe company retained ownership until 5 July 1887 when it sold the railway to the GER. This in turn formed part of the London & North Eastern Railway in 1923 and then the Eastern Region of British Railways in 1948.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Felixstowe railway 9a1946 map of Orwell station
The River Orwell can be seen at the bottom of the 1946 map (above) with 'Orwell Park (School), Orwell Park Ho.'  The old A45 main road to Felixstowe runs west to east just north of the station. Presumably, During World War II an armoured train with a 12 inch (300 mm) Howitzer was stationed on the line with a modified Class F4 locomotive to power it. It was initially based at Derby Road but soon moved to Orwell. It patrolled lines in the area and sidings were provided for it at Levington and Trimley.
An accelerated diesel-powered service was introduced on the line on 15 June 1959. The little-used Orwell station was closed to help reduce the time taken for a journey between Ipswich and Felixstowe Town from 35 to 24 minutes. This allowed a diesel multiple unit to work out and back within an hour. At the end of the year it was reported that the new service had increased the number of passengers carried by 70%. The former station building became a private residence.
Orwell station was located at Milepost 78 which is 9.3 miles (15.0 km) from Ipswich, just to the east of Orwell level crossing. The station was the only passing place for trains when the line opened in 1877, with a platform for each track. The station building was on the westbound platform. A goods siding was situated behind this and was accessed from the Felixstowe (eastern) end.

Trimley station

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13.  Trimley - facing Felixstowe 14/5/56 (HCC). The attractive Trimley Station (specifically Trimley St Mary, but close to Trimley St Martin) in 1956, with its platform canopies on the up and down lines, is a very different place in the 21st century with weather entering through a collapsed roof. A fund-raising group, Trimley Station Community Group (www.trimleystation.org), tells us of its history:-
'The original railway line for passengers from Westerfield to Felixstowe was opened by the Felixstowe Railway and Pier Company in 1877. Great Eastern Railway (1862-1948) purchased the line in 1887 and built stations at Felixstowe Town and Trimley St Mary. Other stations built by the G.E.R. included Beach Station (demolished), Orwell Station (demolished) and Derby Road in Ipswich. The line is now served with diesel railcars for passengers to Felixstowe and Freightliner traffic for the Port of Felixstowe branch line.
Trimley Station was opened on 1st May 1891 and pre-dates the Town Station at Felixstowe by seven years. The station was built in an attempt to generate good quality commuter travel into Felixstowe. It is likely now to be the only surviving country station built by the former Great Eastern Railway in Suffolk.
Trimley station was built in a 'speculative' version of the New Essex style – one of only two examples to be built outside Essex. The Chief Architect of the Great Eastern Railway, W N Ashbee, was the author of this design and the buildings became known as in the 'Ashbee style'. Ashbee was also the architect of the Town Station in Felixstowe (1898), now Listed Grade II.
The interior of the station would have comprised originally of a first class waiting room, porter's lodge with first class lavatory behind, booking office, combined booking hall and general waiting room and ladies' room with lavatory en-suite.
The booking office at Trimley St Mary was closed in 1967. A passenger footbridge survives along with the Gatekeeper's House adjacent the crossing at the Station. The original Break Goods store is also extant. What may have been the Stationmaster's House also survives and has been extended. An associated signal box was demolished in 1988. A smaller passenger building formerly on the opposite side of the platform (the up platform) has been demolished (date unknown).' The line is doubled here and at Derby Road station in east Ipswich.

Felixstowe Town station
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14.  Felixstowe Town station, 14/5/56 (HCC).
67739 with the 12.45 to Ipswich.          15.  Felixstowe Town station, 14/5/56 (HCC). 67702 with the 14.00  Felixstowe Beach-Ipswich.
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16.  Felixstowe Town station exterior, from Hamilton Road, 14/5/56 (HCC). Note the central lantern.          16a. The modern view of the original station building (now shops) with earlier fencing, gates and trees removed.
Felixstowe Beach station had been the original stop for the seaside resort (see below for more detail). The rather fine building shown here was designed by J. Wilson and the GER architect, W.N. Ashbee, in the domestic revival style using red brick with stone dressings and a pantile roof. It was opened by the Great Eastern Railway (GER) on 1 July 1898 by Lord Claud Hamilton, the chairman of the railway company, as the more convenient Felixstowe Town railway station on Hamilton Road. Since 1967 it has been the only station in the town. The station buildings were Listed Grade II on 23 December 1980.
A new 'Orwell Hotel' was opened in 1898 opposite the station entrance. More hotels opened in the town around this time including the luxury Felix Hotel on the sea front in 1903 which, in 1919, was purchased by the GER and operated as a railway hotel until it was sold in 1952 (today it has been converted  into 'Harvest House': apartments for the over 55s). A promenade was built along the seafront in 1903 and a pleasure pier opened in 1905. Lord Claud Hamilton was invited back to the town in 1909 to open a new Spa Pavilion, where visitors took the waters. The developing resort was by now served by direct trains from London Liverpool Street station. In 1905 the 10.00 service from London (which had been introduced the previous year as a non-stop service to Lowestoft) called at Westerfield to detach carriages for Felixstowe. It was only allowed two minutes to do this (reduced to a single minute in 1908), and the Felixstowe portion continued on its way just three minutes later. A non-stop train each way between Liverpool Street and Felixstowe Town was introduced in 1906. Another fast train was introduced in 1907 with a single stop at Colchester.

Felixstowe Beach station, the original seaside town station
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17.  Felixstowe Beach station, 14/5/56 (HCC). Facing pier – 67739 with 12-45 to Ipswich. 
Although the Felixstowe branch line and Pier opened on 1 May 1877, there were no stations between Orwell and the terminus at Felixstowe Pier as the station near the beach at Felixstowe was not ready in time, although it did open soon after.  It has been claimed that
Colonel Tomline chose this location to be away from his rival John Chevalier Cobbold's Ordnance Hotel, which was close to the railway on Garrison Lane. A few yards in front of the hotel were the remains of a redout, with several of the gun emplacements intact; it was probably from this fortification that the Ordnance took it's name. Ironically, perhaps, after 150 years the Ordnance Hotel on Garrison Lane was demolished in 2014 to make way for a Premier Inn. Originally it had been a popular drinking-place for the navvies who built Felixstowe Port. They would leave their work on pay day to row up a navigable creek – the remains of which border nearby Langer Park – to reach the hotel and spend their hard-earned cash. The Beach station originally had goods facilities and also the line's engine shed.
The Great Eastern Railway (GER) bought the line on 5 July 1887. The engine shed was soon closed but the site is believed to have been used for coaling and watering of locomotives for some time after. Eventually this was undertaken at Felixstowe Town station which was equipped with a turntable. There was a large three-road shed adjacent to the engine shed and in 1894 a carriage-painting facility was opened which dealt with the painting of around 200 carriages each year. This was a relatively short-lived activity at Felixstowe as the expansion of facilities at Stratford Works in the late 1900s would have rendered the establishment unnecessary. It was noted as redundant in 1927 when it was identified for use as the line's engine shed (the original having blown down) but it burnt down in the 1930s.
The Beach station was enlarged in 1888 but a new and more conveniently-sited Felixstowe Town station (shown above) opened on 1 July 1898. The original station was renamed 'Felixstowe Beach' and the direct line from Ipswich was closed with the result that all trains now had to reverse in the new station. Passenger trains beyond the Beach station to Felixstowe Pier were withdrawn from 2 July 1951. The low-lying area around the station was inundated by a fatal flood on 1 February 1953.
Ceremony photograph. It was not until 1970 that a direct line from the Westerfield end to Felixstowe Dock was reinstated (see a remarkable photograph of the reopening of the link to the dock on the Let's talk 24 website.)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Felixstowe railway aerialCourtesy Jim Bloomfield
Above: the modern aerial view shows the three curving lines of the triangle; the pale grey curve emphasises the track from the Felixstowe Town station southwards towards the docks (now dismantled), which is identifiable by a hedge line. The blue circle was thought to be the site of the opening ceremony in 1970 when the direct line to the docks was reinstated. However...
[UPDATE 13.10.1027: 'I refer you to the webpage mentioned above and wish to point out that you have given some incorrect information in relation to the location of the opening ceremony for the reinstatement of the direct link to Felixstowe Beach Station and the Dock. The  ceremony actually took place at the Southern end of the triangle. I have marked the location on the same map picture that you have used.
I think the photographer in the (Let's talk 24 website) ceremony photograph stood to the side of the Mill Lane bridge, most probably on the footpath that runs beside the cutting connecting Mill Lane with Grange Road. The bridge shown was demolished several years ago when the cutting was filled in. I believe the bridge originally connected Newry Ave to the District Council depot that grew plants for use in the Council gardens, roundabouts etc. in the Felixstowe area. There were also allotments, I believe, on the Triangle. There is actually now a house built on the corner of the original cutting. The reason I know so much about this area is that I was born and raised quite nearby and went on to the railway as a driver based at Ipswich for 38 years; I have always had a special interest in the Felixstowe Branch. I hope you find this information of use and correct your webpage accordingly. There are some fab photographs on there detailing the history of the Branch line. Jim Bloomfield. Many thanks to Jim for solving this problem of the ceremony location.]

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18.   Felixstowe Beach,
14/5/56 (HCC). Facing pier – 67739 with 12.45 to Ipswich.           19.  Felixstowe Beach station exterior, 14/5/56 (HCC)
Felixstowe Beach is situated at the bottom of the gradient that brings the line down from Trimley to near sea level. The single platform was on the east side of the line just north of the level crossing of a road that leads down to the beach itself. A second track was laid behind this platform in 1888 when the platform was extended to 510 feet (160 metres). The 30-lever signal box was at the north end of the platform until 1971 when a smaller structure was provided on the west side of the line to the north of to the level crossing. Goods facilities were provided on the west side of the line opposite the passenger station. The two-road engine shed was to the north of this on the level alongside the foot of the gradient up to Trimley. Since 2004 only the platform has stood beside a single track to the north of the level crossing on Beach Station Road. On the opposite side of the level crossing is Felixstowe Creek Sidings, the interchange point with the railways in the Port of Felixstowe.

See also our page on Numbering the bridges which covers all the rail bridges from Ipswich to Nacton village.

Felixstowe Pier station and the docks

The streets surrounding Martello Tower P on Felixstowe cliff were laid out in the late 19th century under the direction of Colonel Tomline. In the long term, his scheme proved a failure, so that the streets are not fully built up even today.

Colonel Tomline was convinced of Felixstowe’s potential to become a lucrative seaside resort, as well as a commercial town and port. Tomline’s ambition was to build a new town to the south of Felixstowe (then a small village), which would serve both as a resort and a port, creating a new civic core on the southern peninsula. In 1867, Tomline purchased 6,000 acres from the Duke of Hamilton, which included 1,000 acres of shore and saltings (and Martello Tower P), upon which he started to build. His first priority was to overcome poor transport links.

Soon after acquiring the land, Tomline built Walton Avenue, a straight leafy road between Walton Ferry and the South Seafront area. Shortly after this he began to campaign for permission to build a railway from Ipswich to Felixstowe, in his position as founder and chairman of the Felixstowe Railway and Pier Company. The line was to end
at a new pier at Harwich Haven, just north of the Landguard Fort.

It would therefore serve Tomline’s new development. The intention was to capitalise on the new fashion for beach-bathing, which could be enjoyed on the shingle south of the pier. Tomline also intended that ferries would take visitors to Ipswich, Harwich and the Continent. The first stage of Tomline’s development was the construction of the pier and an adjacent hotel on partially reclaimed land, which was complete by 1876. The railway was delayed by local landowning politics, so that when the pier opened, it was initially served by a tramway, until May 1877, when Felixstowe Pier Station opened. The line approached from Westerfield and, on passing through the Pier station, ran the full length of the pier in order to allow passengers direct access to their waiting ferries.

Tomline originally intended to extend the line at Westerfield to stretch right across Suffolk and link up with the Midland railway near Cambridge. However, this plan never came to fruition*. The failure of the proposing bill in 1885 and financial restraints placed considerable pressure on Tomline’s plans, and in 1887 he sold the line to the Great Eastern Railway. This was a fatal blow to Tomline’s plans, for the GER enforced punitive increases on the train fares to discourage passengers from sailing from Felixstowe, thus protecting their own enterprise at Harwich. This greatly hindered Tomline’s dock, which remained a small- scale operation until the 1950s.

At the same time as building his new dock, Tomline was also laying out his new town around the Beach Station, which was located where the railway crossed Walton Avenue. He created a rectangular street grid, with the Beach station as the main focus. Manor Terrace was the first row (and indeed only row built by Tomline) of houses to be completed within the grid. The houses were not designed as grand seaside retreats, but rather as fairly modest terraced houses for the dock labourers. They are built in brick, incorporating typical late 19th century motifs such as canted bays and gabled rooflines.

South Felixstowe was not a success, hampered by its remote location and expensive train fares, it struggled in attracting custom and the dock could not compare to Harwich or Ipswich. As a result, there was a limited amount of work and, therefore, no great demand for working-class housing. Beach erosion may have been a further factor: between 1886 and 1905 some 40 metres was lost to the sea. However, to some developers Tomline’s grid provided an easy template upon which to speculate, and by 1905 houses had been built at the northern end as Felixstowe expanded outward from the town centre. It is possible that these houses were commissioned by Tomline himself shortly before he died in 1889, or they may have been the work of the Ipswich and Suffolk Freehold Land Society (established in 1849 to provide working-class housing). In 1885, the Society had built nine ‘villas’ on the corner of Montague and Cobbold Roads and may have decided to extend into Tomline’s grid from the north.

The focus of Tomline’s residential development was the ‘Manor House’ at the southern end of the grid. This Italianate three-storey building was built as a hotel, enjoying views out to sea and across the Landguard peninsula. It opened in 1877. Owing to the wider failure of Tomline’s development, it was a commercial disaster and shut within six years of its opening. Colonel Tomline subsequently converted it into his own home. After his death it became first a golf club and then, in 1900, a preparatory school. During the First World War it was requisitioned for Naval Officers Quarters. In the 20th century, owing perhaps to War damage or dereliction, it was reduced in height, so that it is now only a fragment of the original. It is currently used as the headquarters for the Caravan Park.

[*Interestingly, in 2014 – and at considerable expense – the 'Bacon Curve' (or ‘Bacon Factory Curve’, 'Ipswich Freight Chord'), which was built on the site of the old Harris pork sausage factory near Hadleigh Road Industrial Estate, Ipswich was opened to commercial traffic. The curve tolerances just about fitted into the location (three bridges were needed, two over the River Gipping), so that the minimum turning curve of the lengthy container trains from Felixstowe could be accommodated. Freight then could go to Nuneaton (west of Birmingham) and beyond rather than, as they had before, through Ipswich station and tunnel (the track-bed was specially lowered in the 1990s to take the larger containers) to Stratford, then via the North London line to join the West Coast main line. Needless to say there are other major infrastructure projects along the route to Nuneaton. With a drive to restore the 'Oxbridge Line' linking Cambridge to Oxford, perhaps Tomline's vision will finally be realised. The doubling of most of the Felixstowe-Westerfield branch may follow, despite the single-track Spring Road viaduct. Money definitely talks.

By 2015 the freight traffic had increased to 31 journeys in each direction in each 24-hour period, plus passenger services slotted in between. This required additional works on the existing track and trackbed, with regular use of the doubled track around Derby Road station so that the long container trains running in opposite directions can pass. Considerable increase in movements on the line inevitably leads to congestion at Westerfield junction and logistical problems as the freight moves across the main line west of Ipswich.]

These notes are based on the Felixstowe Docker blog (
https://felixstowedocker.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/the-port-of-felixstowes-history-with.html). See also their timeline of Felixstowe Docks on the same web-page.

See also Richard Casserley's
photographs of the Saxmundham to Aldeburgh branch line in 1956.


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