|Newmarket and Chesterford Railway|
The Newmarket and Chesterford Railway Company was an early railway company that built the first rail connection to Newmarket. Although only around 15 miles (24 km) long the line ran through three counties, the termini being in Essex (Great Chesterford) and Suffolk (Newmarket) and all intermediate stations being in Cambridgeshire.
The Newmarket & Chesterford Railway was incorporated on 16 July 1846 with engineers Robert Stephenson and John Braithwaite. The act authorised capital of £350,000 on £25 shares. Backed by local owners and the Jockey Club at Newmarket the bill had a smooth passage through parliament. As well as the Newmarket to Chesterford line a branch line from Xix Mile Bottom to Cambridge was also proposed. One of the stranger provisions in the act was that the railway would not be allowed to pick up or set down passengers at Cambridge station between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Sundays.
Construction began on 30 September 1846 and at the ensuing celebrations a representative of the Jockey Club stated, "The Jockey Club feels that a railway from Newmarket will not only be a great convenience to the parties anxious to participate in the truly British sport of racing, but will enable Members of Parliament to superintend a race and run back to London in time for the same nights debate".
During 1847 the company drew up plans for (separate) extensions to Bury St Edmunds, Thetford and Ely which were approved by a parliamentary act of June 1847.
The line was opened on 3 January 1848 (for goods) and 4 April (to passengers) and was commonly known as the "Newmarket Railway". It branched off the Eastern Counties Railway's London–Cambridge line at Great Chesterford and ran about 15 miles (24 km) north east to a terminus in Newmarket, with intermediate stations at Bourne Bridge* (about 800 yards (730 m) west of Little Abington), Balsham Road (about 2 miles (3 km) south east of Fulbourn), Six Mile Bottom and Dullingham. *There were two stations at Bourne Bridge; the first (1848 - 1850) located at Pampisford Road and the second (1850 - 1851), a relocation a little way south at the site of the later Railway Inn following which the first station closed. The first station still stands today, complete with original but boarded-up ticket window. Contrary to what certain sources claim, the Newmarket Railway never had a station named 'Abington'.
With the agreement that a line from Newmarket to Thetford could conceivably be built mean that the N&CR became an item of interest to both the Eastern Counties Railway and Norfolk Railway companies. If built it would offer a shorter route from London to Norwich so both companies were interested until 1848 when the ECR took over the working of the Norfolk Railway. The N&CR was in financial trouble with its Cambridge branch started and no capital to complete it so on 2 October 1848, the board of directors made an operational agreement with George Hudson then chairman of the Eastern Counties Railway. Unfortunately for the N&CR, Hudson was forced to resign from the ECR in early 1849 and the agreement with the N&CR was torn up. The ECR raised operational charges and the directors were unable to make a profit so , having briefly reconsidered taking back operations, they closed on the railway 30 June 1850.
After a shareholder meeting on 27 July the board resigned and a new board under the leadership of Cecil Fane saw the line re-opened on 30 September the same year with stock borrowed from the ECR.
It was Fane who suggested that one track of the double track line from Six Mile Bottom to Chesterford should be lifted and used to create the intended link to Cambridge which finally opened on 9 October 1851. At the same time the section of the N&CR between Six Mile Bottom and Chesterford closed. This was one of the first railway closures in British history.
The company owned six 2-4-0 locomotives all built by Gilkes & Wilson of Middlesbrough in 1848. The locomotives were named:
These locomotives became Eastern Counties Railway numbers 31-36 and survived into Great Eastern Railway ownership being withdrawn between 1866 and 1870.
On opening the railway had 8 carriages and 40 horse boxes and carriage trucks."
The Newmarket terminus was replaced several times as new lines developed, its latest site being built in 1902. The "Old Station" was used for goods until 1967 and demolished in 1980. One platform of the "New station", the North side station buildings, and the associated forecourt, still exist but the buildings and forecourt are now commercial premises.
Photographs of Balsham Road and Bourne Bridge stations exist in the Rokeby collection at the English Heritage Archive, Swindon.