Landmark year in closure of railway

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This year marks 50 years since the closure of the Stour Valley Line between Marks Tey and Cambridge.

After passing through Haverhill and Sturmer, the line ran through Stoke by Clare, Clare, Cavendish, Glemsford, Long Melford, Sudbury and other villages that still have stations on the retained Marks-Tey to Sudbury branch line.

In January, 1957, British Railways carried out a study of the 50-mile track between Sudbury and Cambridge and found the line would lose £52,000 a year.

This was double an original estimate given to those bodies set up to save the line.

A number of local authorities met to discuss in detail the financial implications of subsidising the line, but, by the following month, this plan was abandoned because of the increased cost of retaining it.

A decision was taken that the Sudbury-Marks Tey section should be retained following a public inquiry in 1965.

The final train for the line as a whole ran on Saturday, March 4, ending 100 years of service.

On the day, a group of passengers carried a coffin bearing the legend “RIP Stour Valley Railway Line, 1867-1967”, while a drummer solemnly beat a bass drum.

Both platforms at Sudbury Station were thronged with local people waiting for the last train to Cambridge to blow its final whistle of departure.

Before the funeral party boarded the train, a wreath was presented to the engine driver, Sidney Wacey,

Once on their way, the ‘body’ in the coffin showed animated signs of life, with the casket opened to reveal beer, sherry and sandwiches.

As passengers disembarked in Sudbury for the last time following the return home, the Last Post was played and the coffin was once more drummed off the train and solemnly marched down the station approach, with fireworks exploding all around.

A wake was then held in the Prince of Wales pub.

The final fling to the funeral of the line came when an anonymous mourner hung one of the floral wreaths around the neck of the statue of Thomas Gainsborough on Sudbury’s Market Hill.

For more on the history of the closure of the Stour Valley line, go to www.stourline.co.uk/page48.htm.