St Ives was major rail freight hub
I READ Bob Burn-Murdoch s article (June 3) with great interest and pleasure. It is indeed an excellent portrayal of the history of our St Ives area railways, including a number of incidents . However, I would like to add something that will indicate that
I READ Bob Burn-Murdoch's article (June 3) with great interest and pleasure. It is indeed an excellent portrayal of the history of our St Ives area railways, including a number of "incidents".
However, I would like to add something that will indicate that St Ives, in its railway heyday, was not just a rural backwater but on an important trunk route.
What is not generally realised today is that, until the 1950s, by far the most important activity of the railways was the movement of freight - wagon loads, train loads and small parcels. The route from Whitemoor marshalling yard, at March, to London, via St Ives and Cambridge, was heavily used by freight trains.
The working timetable for July 1926 reveals 122 train movements passing daily through St Ives. And the figure was 80 per day into the 1960s.
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On August 17, 1847, the line from Cambridge actually arrived at Godmanchester, but was known as Huntingdon until 1882. The extension to the Great Northern main line was made in 1851.
The St Ives-Huntingdon line was double-tracked, and cost �130,000 per mile to build. The high cost was attributable to the necessity to build a series of heavy wooden bridges over the River Great Ouse. The cost of maintaining them in 1959 was a major factor in the decision to close the line.
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I have to correct Bob on one point - the Needingworth Road level crossing was not on the St Ives-Ely line. It was, in fact, on the St Ives-Somersham section. Needingworth Junction signal box was a little further to the north, from where the line diverged towards Bluntisham.