Railway Station

The railway came to Brandon in 1845 and finished the link between Cambridge and Norwich.  Bernard Lingwood, in his ‘Brandon Notes’, refers to newspapers of that time bemoaning the fact that many trains were either late, or simply never arrived, “… the … writer surmised that the line between Ely and Brandon must be full of trains which never arrived.”  Bernard then links an outbreak of smallpox in the town to a tramp arriving via the railway who died of the disease but whose clothes were not destroyed afterwards.  “The victims who died were buried at night and as the bearers used to fortify their courage in the Brandon alehouses before starting their night work, their sense of direction was not usually at its best.  As can still be seen by several tilted stones with which the death cart collided ...”

During both World Wars the station was key to moving men, munitions and supplies.  Newly enlisted men left the town in 1914 to a great fanfare, during that conflict the town also exported pit props for the trenches, while the Second World War saw a huge influx of tanks and bombs, the latter being unloaded by the USAAF and then trucked through the town toward the Elveden bomb dump, roughly where Centre Parc stands today.

The railway went into decline after the war but today it is seeing a revival with people commuting to Cambridge/London and day-trippers to Norwich/Ely.  It is even possible to catch a direct service to Liverpool.  The station buildings are still intact, although in danger of becoming derelict.  A community group, ‘Friends of Brandon Station’, had hoped to become custodians of these and restore them, sadly the building owners did not share their vision and the bid was not successful.  There is still time though.

Charlie Wharf Brandon teenager during WW2
Charlie Wharf
Their (USAAF) trains used to come in on Monday mornings and they would start unloading immediately and they’d still be going until the following Monday morning.  Day in, day out.  Up and down the road.  Now these Yanks had to try to camouflage themselves and they would only go up to the sidings three or four at a time, load up and then they were away.  They would sit under the trees waiting to be called and they would be playing poker.  My sister worked there with three other girls creosoting pit props for the mines and she said there would be hundreds of dollars on the blanket.