Down the Line to Southend.

I have just obtained a copy of the book ‘Down the line to Southend’ by Muriel V Searle published in 1988. I had read the book several years ago when I was researching the history of Laindon station. If you are interested in the railways, it’s well worth a read.
If you refer to my article back in 2011 ‘Laindon Station’ I mention that the station came into operation in June 1888 but a couple of things I did not mention is that the station was built in the parish of Little Burstead. The parish of Little Burstead ran round the west boundary of Laindon linking up with Lee Chapel on Laindon’s southern boundary. In those days the parish of Laindon and Langdon Hills did not link. Also, West Horndon station was named East Horndon they got their Geography wrong. Between the station of Laindon and Horndon there was a high ridge of land which had to be cut through forming high embankments on either side of the railway track. Not really noticeable today because of the extensive hedge and tree line but they are still there.
Anyway back to the book, what it highlights and I was unaware of,  are the problems that these high embankments caused within a very short time of the line being open. The following is an extract from the book: –
˝An unforgettable example happened during the summer of 1888, when the expression ‘Bank Holiday was-out’ proved all too true. It began raining early in August, pouring in an almost ceaseless deluge for days on end. Far from making the usual handsome Bank Holiday profit from trippers, the railway company would be lucky even to possess an intact track when at last the sun came through. Waters spread over the flat fields, saturating embankments that were too new to be thoroughly hardened. Soon the new direct line began weakening, though this was not at first taken seriously. But halfway through this month much of the low embankment between Laindon and East Horndon collapsed, slithering down as a morass of ballast, timber and earth. Through traffic was entirely withdrawn until autumn, trains having to revert to the former indirect Tilbury route as if the new route had never been there. Only a few local stopping trains could get through over parts of the line, either from Barking eastwards to East Horndon, or westwards from Pitsea as far as Laindon. The two sections could not meet until the intervening gap was built up again and re-laid. Work was hard and fast and the main line was not back in use until the winter˝.
Twenty-two years later in 1910, history repeated itself in almost the same spot when the embankment again subsided and once again, prolonged and heavy rainfall was the cause. Traffic on this occasion was only held up for a few days.
I can remember in the early 1960s the old steam trains puffing away as they went through the cutting. It was time to wake up and get ready to alight at Laindon
The last steam passenger trains ran on the line in June 1962. The final train being the 6.10pm from Fenchurch Street to Thorpe Bay. This I believe would have been Saturday the 16th as a few more steam engines worked for one more day, Sunday, on the Tilbury section, until formal introduction of the new timetable on the Monday Morning, the 18th.

Photograph By Ken Porter - May 2020
Photograph by Ken Porter - May 2020

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