Britannia during the EUR 150 Celebrations in 1996
Before The Railways Came
Railways speeded up the movement of goods as well as
people. They also drastically reduced the cost of
moving goods such as coal.
Before the advent of the railway Ipswich received most
goods by water at its port. However, to move those
goods elsewhere in Suffolk was difficult and costly,
with one exception - Stowmarket. The river Gipping
had been canalised and barges could travel through
Needham Market to Stowmarket.
In all other cases the pack horse or cart moving over
rough tracks was the only means of moving goods. The
railways changed that and it is easy to see why every
market town in Suffolk wanted a connection to the
Railways had the transport market more or less to
themselves until the first World War. The introduction
of cheap mass produced road trucks for military use,
coupled with the training of thousands of men to drive
them, produced another transport revolution as
significant as the coming of the railways in the first
Eastern Union Railway
The Eastern Counties Railway had opened a line from
London to Colchester on 29th March 1843 but were
making little progress in extending it northwards.
A group of Ipswich people led by John Chevalier
Cobbold (of the local brewing family) obtained an Act
of Parliament on 19th July 1844 authorising the Eastern
Union Railway to be built from Colchester to Ipswich.
The line was opened to goods traffic on 1st June 1846,
with a full official opening 10 days later.
An extension to Bury was built by the nominally
independent Ipswich and Bury Railway but this was
absorbed by the E.U.R. as from 9th July 1847.
An extension to Norwich was opened on 12th
December 1849, initially to a separate Victoria station,
but linked to Thorpe as from 8th September 1851.
An agreement for joint working with the Eastern
Counties Railway came into effect as from 7th August
1854 and the company finally lost its independence
when the Great Eastern Railway was formed in 1862.
Great Eastern Railway
The Great Eastern Railway was formed on the 1st July
1862 by the amalgamation of the Eastern Counties, the
East Anglian, the Newmarket, Eastern Union and
Norfolk Railway Companies.
It created a virtual private monopoly of railway
operation throughout East Anglia which was only
breached by the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway
in the south and the Midland & Great Northern Joint
Railway in the north.
Always financially insecure, it nevertheless continued
to serve its mixture of London suburbs and rural East
Anglia rather well, despite the lack of heavy freight
traffic. Train services and facilities were gradually
improved and the company benefited from a loyal
workforce. The locomotives produced by the Great
Eastern Railway were generally sound and long lived,
many surviving until the 1960s.
The Great Eastern Railway was absorbed into the
London and North Eastern Railway on 1st January
1923, ending 61 years of relative stability in local
London & North Eastern Railway
The London and North Eastern Railway was formed by
the amalgamation of the Great Northern, Great Central,
Great Eastern, North Eastern, North British and Great
North of Scotland railways.
The new company inherited a railway network run
down from the demands of the First World War and,
apart from the North Eastern Railway, a network that
was financially weak. This was to hinder progress for
all 25 years of the company's existence.
However, the new company did attempt to raise speeds
and was successful in introducing streamlined express
trains. In East Anglia, one such train was run, named
the "East Anglian" and operated by one of two
The Second World War brought more heavy wear and
tear, with reduced maintenance. East Anglia became
one huge airfield, mainly supplied by rail. After the
war all of Britain's railways were nationalised, to
become British Railways. The L.N.E.R. lasted exactly
25 years, one of the shorter lived operators of local
British Railways came into being on 1st January 1948.
Locally the railways became part of Eastern Region,
which roughly incorporated the former Great Eastern,
Great Northern and Great Central railways.
The new organisation soon developed a new express
steam locomotive, which was exhibited at the Festival
of Britain in 1951. A fleet of these fine engines, known
as "Britannias", was allocated to Stratford and Norwich
to handle the express train services.
Later, in 1959, Ipswich became the first main line
locomotive depot to be converted to diesel operation.
Around the same time management of the local
railways was delegated to a "Great Eastern Line" team,
with the slogan "Progress....with Great Eastern".
The 1980s saw electrification of the main line through Ipswich to
Norwich. Anticipating privatisation, BR operations were separated out
into sectors, each concentrating on a particular area of work. On the
passenger side this resulted in three different parts of BR operating into
Ipswich: Inter-City working the Norwich expresses, Regional Railways
working local services north and west of Ipswich, and Network South East
running commuter services south of the town.
Britain's railways were privatized in the 1990s and passenger services to
Ipswich split between two operators, First Great Eastern (running the
former NSE commuter services out of Liverpool Street) and Anglia Railways,
which took over the Inter-City services to Norwich and the local services
around Ipswich previously run by Regional Railways.
A second round of franchising saw all Ipswich passenger services
controlled by a single operator from April 2004. The large transport
operator National Express gained this new franchise and initially ran
services under the "ONE" brand. From 2007, however, National Express has
introduced a standardised identity for all its operations in the U.K. and
the "ONE" branding was phased out.
In February 2012, Abellio (a Dutch company) assumed the local passenger franchise.
Although traditional freight flows on our local railways have declined
dramatically, the growth of Felixstowe as a container port has seen an
equally dramatic boom in more modern freight operations. These were also
privatized in the 1990s. Not surprisingly, the company Freightliner
dominates in our area but other operators such as GBrF, EWS (now DB
Schenke) and DRS add variety to a vibrant local scene.