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By train - The nearest main line station is Braintree which is served by National
Express East Anglia services from London Liverpool Street via Witham. The Colne Valley
Railway is a 9 mile bus ride from Braintree.
By Car - The Colne Valley Railway is on the A1017 near the village of Castle Hedingham
(don’t turn off this road into the village), it’s signposted and easy to find. see
location on the map above.
The map below shows the location of Castle Hedingham station, Colne Valley Railway,
click on the marker for more information. Use the zoom and pan tools to explore the
The Colne Valley Railway operates on most weekends and bank holidays from April to
October along with some mid week running at certain times, Santa Specials and other
events (refer to the CVR website for details, see link below).
In addition to the one mile standard gauge line there is a 600 metre 7¼" gauge miniature
railway which was opened in 2008.
The railway is home to 11 steam locomotives, 11 diesel locomotives together with
diesel railbuses and multiple units. Visiting locomotives provide additional interest,
including the National Railway Museum’s replica of Stevenson’s Rocket which has visited
Passengers are carried in a collection of restored historic carriages and several
BR Mk 1 coaches dating from the 1950s. The railway provides stationary and mobile
dining train facilities which can be hired for special occasions.
Before moving to the south west, I lived in north Essex and south Suffolk for many
years. The nearest railway heritage site to most of the places I lived was the Stour
Valley Railway which has now been more accurately renamed ‘East Anglian Railway Museum’.
So for many years, the Colne Valley Railway was my nearest preserved railway, I saw
it transformed from a motley collection of relics to the quality heritage railway
that occupies the site today.
Having worked for British Railways, I have been inside two of the signal boxes and
walked over the footbridge in their original locations. I vaguely remember the derelict
Sible and Castle Hedingham station before it was moved brick by brick down the road
to the Colne valley Railway. So, despite the distance I now live from this little
railway, I feel an attachment to it.
A visit to the CVR is a special day out for all the family, as well as the relocated,
restored and rebuilt structures which provide a period atmosphere, the mile long
line follows the course of the River Colne though beautiful countryside. You can
explore the varied collection of vintage steam and diesel locomotives and rolling
stock, visit the SM32 and G gauge garden railway, and ride on the 600 metre 7¼" Miniature
There are also two 00 gauge model railway layouts open on certain days operated by
the Halstead Model Railway Club. Other attractions include the exhibition centre,
Farm Park, working Signalbox, buffet carriage and station shop.
The preservationists at the Colne Valley Railway have done a remarkable job in bringing
together endangered railway heritage from Essex and Suffolk which would otherwise
have been lost. It is the only place for miles around that you can still experience
the historic atmosphere of a rural branch line. This together with the other attractions
on the site make it well worth planning a day out there.
If you have a dog please take note that they are not allowed anywhere on the site.
A Microcosm of a Typical Essex Country Branch Line.
Occupying a 1 mile stretch of the former Colne Valley and Halstead Railway near Castle
Hedingham, the Colne Valley Railway has been built from scratch on what was effectively
a green field site.
1846 - An Act of Parliament was passed to build a line from Marks Tey on the Eastern
Counties Railway to Sudbury with a branch to Halstead and a further extension to
Bury St Edmunds.
1849 - The Marks Tey to Sudbury line was completed. However, the plans for the Halstead
branch and extension to Bury St Edmunds were never realised.
1854 - The Stour Valley line was incorporated into the Eastern Counties Railway,
this gave the residents and businesses of Halstead and the Colne Valley hope that
they would finally have a railway but nothing happened.
1856 - The inhabitants took matters into their own hands and after alternatives were
considered, proposed a six mile line from the Eastern Counties Railway at Chappel
to Halstead. Authorisation was granted and the Colne Valley and Halstead Railway
1858 - After two years of raising capital, construction commenced.
1860 - The Halstead branch was opened and an extension through Sible and Castle Hedingham
to Haverhill was started.
1863 After slow progress the line was eventually completed.
1923 - The Colne Valley and Halstead Railway was absorbed into the London and North
Eastern Railway (LNER), despite early financial difficulties the railway had remained
independent until grouping. Under the LNER the line lost some if it’s facilities
due to increased competition from road transport, the head office at Halsted, the
works and the lines own Haverhill South station were closed.
1948 - The Colne Valley line became part of British Railways Eastern Region.
1959 - As part of the BR modernisation programme, diesel multiple units replaced
steam traction but this economy was not sufficient to combat mounting losses.
1961 - The line finally closed to passenger services but remained open for freight.
1965 - The line closed completely.
1973 - Two enthusiasts walked a one mile stretch of the former Colne Valley and Halstead
Railway between mileposts 60 and 61 near Castle Hedingham. Although there was never
a station on that site and the track had been lifted, they had a vision to recreate
a part of the railway including platforms, buildings signal boxes and even bridges!
1974 - Initially, the preservationist’s ideas met with disapproval but after a year
of negotiations, planning approval was finally granted, during this time the first
steam locomotive, Ex War Department 0-6-0 Austerity saddle tank locomotive number
WD190 arrived on the site.
A company was founded to run the Colne valley Railway and the volunteer helpers which
had soon gathered formed the Colne Valley Preservation Society to assist the company
in building and running the railway.
1974 to Present - A tremendous amount has been achieved, two platforms have been
built and the station buildings moved brick by brick from the original Sible and
Castle Hedingham station having been donated to the CVR. Signal boxes were moved
from Cressing and Wrabness, the last remaining CV&HR girder bridge from Earls Colne,
and the station footbridge from Stowmarket.
The Colne Valley Railway is a unique preservation project and the site is still being
developed. It’s also a popular tourist attraction and is the only true steam operated
railway in Essex, the other examples being museums rather than railways.
Garden Railway - SM32 and G gauge trains run around 100 metres of track through a
tunnel, stations and over bridges, weather permitting.
7¼" Miniature Railway - The ride is 600 metres long and should operate, weather permitting,
on all main railway open days.
Model Railway - Two 00 gauge model layouts. Operated by Halstead Model Railway Club.
Open only on special days.
Exhibition Centre - Open most operational Sundays and at special events.
Farm Park - Rare breeds, woodland picnic area, walk beside the River Colne.
Working Signalbox - Open for visitors on all operational days.
'Sidings' Buffet Car - Open every day the trains are running.
Station Shop - Open for Thomas Toys and Railway Souvenirs on all operational days
and at special events.
Land has been acquired adjacent to the Railway to provide further visitor facilities
which will include a station complex with a restaurant and bar, engine sheds, a museum
and craft shops within a Victorian street scene.