When smaller train stations hit the buffers

Schoolchildren on the last passenger train at Raunds station, June 19, 1959
Schoolchildren on the last passenger train at Raunds station, June 19, 1959
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When a report recommended the closure of many hundreds of railway stations in Britain in the 1960s, it had a huge impact on services in the county.

Dozens of stations in north Northamptonshire were shut following the implementation of the first Beeching report, published in 1963. It was the latest government effort to make the rail network more profitable, with British Rail losing as much as £140m a year.

Wellingborough London Road station just before it closed. March 27, 1963

Wellingborough London Road station just before it closed. March 27, 1963

It led to the closure, and in many cases demolition, of more than 2,000 of the country’s smaller and more rural stations. Nearly 70,000 jobs were also lost.

Now, 45 years after the closure of Desborough and Rothwell station, an exhibition devoted to its 111-year history has opened at the Desborough Heritage Centre.

The exhibition boasts a number of original artefacts from the station, including signs from the platforms and nearby signal boxes, along with photographs and documents charting its history.

Peter Phillips, a volunteer at the heritage centre who helped set up the exhibition, which also features exhibits from Glendon and Rushton station, said there had been lots of local interest since it opened last month.

A Midland Pullman passes through Desborough at speed en route to Manchester in 1961

A Midland Pullman passes through Desborough at speed en route to Manchester in 1961

He said: “Generally speaking, we have done quite well.”

Mr Phillips said the station played a key role in Desborough’s history of shoe-making. There were also two trains a day which transferred ironstone to Chesterfield.

But he added: “That all goes by road now. It was a shame it had to close.

“There also used to be hundreds of people on the platforms every Saturday going to Leicester for the football.

Rushden Historical Transport Museum chairman John Sugars in 2008

Rushden Historical Transport Museum chairman John Sugars in 2008

“People are still interested in the railways. It’s nostalgic, people like to look back.

“We get the trains coming through now at 100mph and that’s all we see of them.”

John Sugars, chairman of Rushden Historial Transport Society, based at the station in the town, said the railways had been built in the late 1800s to transport raw materials in to factories in the area, and to take away the finished products.

Mr Sugars said: “It was also heavily used by the large shoe manufacturers. They used to do special trains for their workers to have trips to Leicester or to the seaside.”

The only trains leaving Rushden station today are steam engines, part of the heritage railway which run throughout the year.

But Mr Sugars says he is hopeful passenger services could be revived at some point in the future.

He said: “Many children would travel to school in Wellingborough or Northampton using the train.”

The Northampton to Peterborough line, which called at stations including Oundle, Thrapston, Irthlingborough and both Wellingborough stops, was another of the lines axed by Beeching.

And Mr Sugars said: “All the villages used to have their own railway station.

“Times might change. We might get back our train to Wellingborough.”