The Crab and Winkle story
It has been more than 50 years since Tiptree saw "Puffing Billy" steaming through its village, victoriously sounding its whistle to gain attention along the Crab and Winkle Line.
Now most traces of the line have decayed through time. For many, the memories are all which remain of the railway that used to run between Kelvedon and Tollesbury.
"It was a day for many of us. It was part of the village itself and was irreplaceable," said John Wilkin, the grandson of Arthur Wilkin who was a main figure behind the creation of the Crab and Winkle Line, and founder of Tiptree Britannia Preserves, now Wilkin and Sons Jam Factory.
On May 5, 1951, the last passenger train left Kelvedon on its journey through Tiptree to Tollesbury Pier. A ceremonious journey taking with it 46 years of history.
"It was so sad, especially after all that effort had been made to build the railway in the first place," added Mr Wilkin.
After much negotiation and argument, permission for the Crab and Winkle Line had been given in 1897, and 1904 saw the first train leave for Tollesbury.
Mr Wilkin said: "It took quite a long time from the appproval date to actual building and laying of the line because of the number of objections, but eventually the light shone at the end of the tunnel and things started to happen."My grandfather was intent on having the railway built because Tiptree was only a farmstead in a large heathland. Fruit had to be taken to Kelvedon, the nearest village, by horse and cart, which took time. There were no made roads, just rugged tracks.
"It was imperative that we had a railway."
In fact, Arthur Wilkin once threatened to move his jam company to Dagenham if the railway was not built.The name, Crab and Winkle Line, was known and loved by many, although its origin is still blurred.
Mr Wilkin, pictured left beside one of the few remaining bridges over the former line, said: "I assume it was named after the seafood which was transported to Kelvedon from Tollesbury, which was a notable port for fish in the early part of the century."
One part of the line that still exists is a bridge in Tolleshunt Knights.
"It is a strong bridge made in about 1900 from blue bricks: much stronger than the red bricks use today.
"It's like a trip down memory lane: I can almost imagine the train passing under the bridge, rolling through to Tollesbury."
The goods line, which only ran from Kelvedon to Tiptree after the passenger line terminated, was finally closed in 1962 because of the efficiency and cost effectiveness of the new lorries. The company was just as relieved to see it go as it was to see it built.
Mr Wilkin explains: "We relied on the railway completely. It helped us a lot but we were having so much jam stolen during the journey to Kelvedon that we weren't making any money. In fact, we were really glad to see the back of it."
However, the railway was part of Tiptree and went a long way towards making the village what it is now.
* The total construction cost of the line from Kelvedon to Mill Creek on the River Blackwater was estimated at �,000 or �667 a mile.
* Travel on the Crab and Winkle Line - the Kelvedon and Tollesbury Light Railway - was not fast. The maximum speed allowed was 25mph and 10mph through villages and ungated level crossings.
* Fares on the first journeys were only offered as third class. For the full excursion from Kelvedon to Tollesbury, you would have been charged 9d (about 4p), and the journey would have taken 40 minutes if there were no accidents or animals on the line.
* In the First World War, the line transported several hundred soldiers to the River Blackwater at Tollesbury for military training and exercises. During the Second World War, the pier at Tollesbury was taken over by the War Department and defences were set up to stop the enemy landing.
* Following the last passenger train from Kelvedon, a black coffin from Kelvedon with wreaths, one of which was shaped in the letters of BR, was laid along Tiptree platform. On the side of the train, someone had chalked: "Crab and Winkle, sorry to say, you died because you did not pay."Written by David Turner. Words and colour picture (c) Colchester Evening Gazette. Reproduced with permission.