WELFORD PARK
Photo : T Palmer

Welford Park Station was approximately the half-way point on the joumey to and from Newbury.  Named after the nearby private estate of Welford Park, the station served the villages of Welford, Wickham and Weston. Although the traffic handled here was quite sparse, the station itself was unique by way of the fact that it was home to the only crossing place on the line. Consequently, it was the only station on the line that required both an 'up' and a 'down' platform.  Despite its obvious importance to the daily running operations of the railway  it was one of the quieter stations,  although traffic did increase after the airbase spur was opened in 1954. The roots of The Lambourn Valley railway are firmly embedded here by virtue of the fact that Welford Park estate was the ancestral home of one

George Branston Eyre. Who later changed his name to Archer-Houblon, This local entrepreneur as we now know, was the instigator and subsequent Chairman of the original, Independant LVR Company. The station was reconstructed by the GWR in late 1908, and this view dates from around 1920. Corrugated iron pagoda waiting sheds were provided on each platform and a speed limit of 15 m.p.h was active through the approaches to the 'down' loop. The point rodding incorporated a 'dog-leg' to enable it to clear the 'up' platform. This feature also doubled as an expansion bracket for the metal.


 
 
The 1940's and Signalman Vince Martin poses for the camera outside the signal box. The station nameplate has been painted over as part of wartime security measures, and in accordance with blackout regulations the lamp posts have been overpainted in white. Primarily the water supply to the station was ferried in from Lambourn by train, but in 1954 mains supplied water was available for the first time by connecting into the pipeline previously laid by the military line contractors in 1952. Given the fact that the nearby airbase had been established during the course of World War II, Welford saw no major rise in goods traffic.
 
Things however, didn't stay totally static. The movement of additional livestock, plus the odd wagon load of supplies for the camp, did provide some increase.

In 1942, the decision was made to construct a concrete loading dock. This would ease the loading and unloading of goods and livestock between rail and road vehicles.
It was to be built into the end of the 'down' platform and the work would be carried out by the
GWR engineering department. The cost came out at approximately £120.
A sunny April day in 1959 and the arrival of a Newbury train. The cinder surface of the platform is clearly defined, as are the Tilley lamp posts and associated winding gear. At the Lambourn end of the platform, near the signal box, the ramps were edged with concrete. The signal box lever frame had itself been extended to 23 levers by this time. Situated immediately behind the pagoda and on a slightly higher level, were the airbase exchange sidings, constructed 7 years earlier in 1952.The crossing loop could hold a locomotive and seven carraiges and measured 312 ft in length. The booking office and 'up' platform were accessable via a boarded crossing at the end of the platform ramps.
 

Coal Merchant L.J.Bodman & Sons continued their business operations from Welford Park Station after closure of the Northern section of the line in 1960. The station approach road took the form of a junction connecting with the Newbury to Lambourn Road. The road continued on past the the loading dock on Lambourn end of the 'down' platform, and thus, provided access to the goods yard and siding.

 
Welford signal box was graded as Class 5 and the weekly pay rate for a signalman here in 1934 was 51/9d ( £2.58p) per week Duty times, varied over the years in accordance with differing train services. Consequently there would be a number of times in the year when the opportunity to earn extra money became available for the signlman on early turn. This was in the form of horse box cleaning over at Lambourn. On 6th October 1947 the coal fired stove used for heating the signal box ignited the framework of the roof, resulting in severe damage to the building. Repairs were subsequently carried out and the box was restored to it's original design.
(Pictured below) Trains crossing at Welford Park, early 1950's.
The signal box and booking office, again in the early 1950's.
The cells for providing power to operate the signalling
equipment
were stored in a battery cabinet which was fixed to the rear wall of the signal box. It is just visible in the above picture. The two re-railing ramps would have been used for minor wagon derailments and should, I am told, have been stored within the signal box, but their sheer weight made it impractical to do so.
(Pictured Left)

1951 and an ex-MSWJR 2-4-0 awaits departure clearence from the guard before continuing it's journey to Lambourn. This photo also shows the vehicle loading dock at the end of the down platform.
 

(Pictured above)
A Panoramic view from the down platform. The safety fence on the platform ramp edge protected passengers from the vehicle unloading dock.

(pictured left) The mid fifties and members of the Branch Line Society pay a visit to the station on-board a, hired for the day, early type GWR bufferless railcar.
Diesel hauled goods train bound for
Welford Military Base
The year is 1950 and A single unit railcar bound for
Newbury arrives quietly at the station.

The signal box and station from the north with the duty signalman looking downline. The lamp at the end of the platform provided, light to illuminate both the board crossing and the tablet exchanges, the station re-railing ramps still lean nonchalantly against the front planking.

Signalman Bert Whale inside Welford Park signal box.
The Signalmen shared the responsibility for the general cleaning of the station and the internal appearance of the box itself. The  Quiet nature of the line resulted in the added advantage of allowing staff to enjoy unofficial activities during their hours of duty. Such as the yearly crop of Welford tomatoes grown in front of the frame. Throughout the 1930s signalman worked a two shift system, The first being 0500 hrs to 1400 hrs. and the second covering 1300 hrs through until
2100 hrs. The overlapping hour was used to carry out any work in the yard such as the roping and sheeting of wagons where neccessary, or just normal cleaning duties.
 
Apart from Newbury market days, passenger receipts were minimal. Goods traffic however continued to provide returns for the branch. Small quantities of coal were handled, usually for Messrs. Brain who used the yard as a railhead for the surrounding area. Racehorse traffic was non-existant and in the final years Little or no milk was forwarded from the station, the main income being the conveyance of watercress grown in the nearby river Lambourn, agricultural commodities and small amounts of timber.
 



Closure

Welford Park Station closed to passengers on the 4th of January 1960. Goods traffic continued on the line for a few more years, until 1965 in fact, when Boxford lost all its freight facilities. Six months later, on the 19th of July, Welford Park had its non-military services withdrawn. military use of the line ceased on the 3rd  of November 1973 and control of the line was returned from the USAF to British Railways.