Drawn map showing stations on the railway line
Drawing: Alan Young

The Welwyn Line

The Hertford & Welwyn Junction Railway was a branch line opened on 1st March 1858, running from a junction with the Great Northern Railway at Welwyn to Cowbridge station at Hertford, adjacent to Hertford Brewery. There were two other stations on the line, at Hertingfordbury and Cole Green. For a short period there were also two halts at Hatfield Hyde and Attimore Hall, but these were very short-lived. Cowbridge station closed in 1924 when the new Hertford Loop was built and Hertford North Station opened. The line closed to passengers in 1951, although goods traffic continued until 1966 when the line was finally closed.

This feature looks at some of the lost and remaining parts of the line, including the popular Cole Green Way that follows the route of the railway.

Photo of front of Cowbridge station in Hertford

Cowbridge Station

The station at Cowbridge was opened on 1st March 1858. A wide avenue named Station Approach connected it with Hartham Lane.

In addition to the station there was a signal box, goods yard, sidings and turntables.

Photo of cowbridge station, possibly taken from the top of the nearby Hope Brewery

The photo above shows the station, with Port Hill in the background. Two horsedrawn carriages can be seen waiting in Station Approach.

The station was demolished in 1980 and a small industrial estate now occupies the site.

A view of Station Approach today

Hartham Lane has now been rerouted down the former Station Approach leading to a recently built access road to Sainsbury's supemarket.

The station was officially named Hertford, but known locally as Cowbridge, with the name even appearing on timetables but not on tickets.

Port Hill Bridge

Just to the west of the station is a railway bridge that was built to carry Port Hill over the line. This was constructed to the immediate east of the existing roadway, which leads up to Bengeo.

A present view of the old railway bridge carrying traffic

There were originally arches to the left and right of the main opening but these have since been bricked up.

Lower Bengeo

Having passed under the Port Hill bridge, the railway headed west, parallel with Port Vale.

The track bed along this route is still in place and passes under two bridges - one a private drive and the other carrying Balfour Street.

Photo of the track bed in Lower Bengeo

Beyond of Balfour Street the track continues westward.

Photo of the track bed in Lower Bengeo

The line then curves around to the left as it approaches a small bridge over Port Vale.

Photo of the track bed in Lower Bengeo

Photo of former railway bridge

Port Vale

The line crossed over a low bridge at the end of Port Vale, known locally in recent years as the Scooby Doo bridge. The road dips slightly at this point to pass under the bridge.

Photo taken on former railway embankment

A short embankement then runs parallel to Beane Road towards North Road. The embankment predates Beane Road, which wasn't built until the early 1920s.

The line then continued its leftward curve to turn south as it passed over another bridge across North Road.

Bridge abutment

The north abutment of the bridge is extant opposite Hertford North station. The south abutment and associated embankment have completely disappeared.

The line then ran south behind what is now Sele Road and across Hertingfordbury Road.

Photo of bridges over Hertingfordbury Road

The photo above by William Weeks shows the bridge carrying the Hertford North line over Hertingfordbury Road, looking towards Hertford. Immediately behind it is a smaller bridge carrying the Welwyn Line. The bridge was an obstrucion to taller vehicles and was demolished soon after the line closed.

The track bed south of Hertingfordbury Road is extant behind industrial units in Mimram Road but not accessible. The line then crossed the River Mimram.

Photo of railway timbers

On the south side of the Mimram you can still see railway timbers where the line crossed.

Photo of trackbed

After crossing the River Mimram the line curved around to the right to head west. In the early 1920s a viaduct was built (above) to carry the new Hertford North line that ran from Bowes Park to Stevenage.

Photo of trackbed

The line passed over a small bridge allowing livestock to cross beneath.

Photo of trackbed

Webb & Co Siding

As the line turned west there was a branch from the line serving the Horn's Mill glove factory of William Webb & co.

The main access to Cole Green Way from Hertford's West Street runs parallel to this branch through Cole Green Way Farm.

Cole Green Way

Cole Green Way is a six mile rail trail used by walkers, cyclist and horseriders, following the path of the Welwyn Line from Hertford to Welwyn Garden City

Photo of bridge over Cole Green Way

The first bridge on the way west out of Hertford carries a disused track linking Hertingfordbury Park with Terrace Wood

Hertingfordbury railway station (1953)

A further 400m west is the former Hertingfordbury station. This is now a residential property and fenced off, so there is very little to see here

Photo of trackbed passing over bridge

The trail then passes over St.Mary's Lane. There is an entry and exit point providing access to the lane from this bridge.

Photo of goods carriage used for storage

Shortly after passing over the bridge, an old goods wagon can be found in a field to the immediate north of the track.

In 1950 there were 5 down trains on weekdays with a further train on Saturdays. There were 6 up trains on weekdays and 7 on Saturdays, with no Sunday service.

Steam Railcars

LNER Sentinel-Cammell steam rail-car (CJ Allen, Steel Highway, 1928)

Sentinel Cammel steam railcars like the one above were used on the railway for a period in the 1930s, but could not accommodate peak time passenger numbers.

Cole Green Station

Photo of passenger train at Cole Green station before 1911

Cole Green station is the best preserved station layout on the line, with platforms and railings surviving, along with some foundations of outbuildings

Photo of remains of Cole Green railway station

There was a goods yard and siding at the station, which served the nearby villages of Cole Green and Letty Green.

Photo of remains of Cole Green railway station

A small car park and visitors board now occupy the site of the main station building.

The railway continues its journey west for another 1km before turning north-west towards Hatfield Hyde Halt and Attimore Hall Halt, although both of these were very short-lived.

The building and expansion of Welwyn Garden City obscures the trackbed from hereon. Housing and roads have been built where the railway was and the discernable track disappears around the junction of Cole Green Lane and Black Fan Road.

Closure

As a result of declining use, the line closed to passengers on 18th June 1951. A goods service operated until 1962.

Old photo of Cowbridge station

This view of Cowbridge Station looks west and shows the signal box next to the station and the Port Hill railway bridge in the distance.

Note the station name shown on the signal box is Hertford, not Cowbridge.

The station at closed to passengers after Sunday 1st June 1924 when the new Hertford North station opened in North Road. However, the line continued to be used for goods traffic.

The building was demolished around 1980 to make way for an industrial estate.

Extension to Great Eastern Railway

A link fom Cowbridge Station to the Great Eastern Railway was opened in the 1880s, joining the Hertford East branch line just north of Tamworth Road. The line was only ever used by goods traffic.

Old photo of rail tracks

The photo above (taken by Peter Ruffles) shows the line as it travelled east away from Cowbridge station. The Hartham Lane homes in the foreground have long gone but the northern terrace of Frampton Street can be seen beyond.

Photo of car park

The trackbed is now Hartham Lane car park. The railings on the right can be seen in the distance of Peter Ruffles' photo above.

There were also sidings serving Dicker Mill, Jewson's builders' yard in Priory Street and the gas works in Mead Lane.

Photo of rails embedded in road

The tracks that crossed Mead Lane leading to the gas works were removed in 2019.

All traffic on the extension ceased in 1966.

Timeline

1858: The Hertford & Welwyn Junction Railway opens.
c1880: Extension from Cowbridge station to Great Eastern Railway built
1924: Cowbridge station closes. Trains from Welwyn terminate at new Hertford North station.
1951: Line closes to passengers.
1962: Line closes to freight.
1966: Goods traffic on the extension ceases.
1980: Cowbridge station building demolished.

Photo of mill

You Might Also Like ...

If you enjoyed this feature, why not check out our earlier article about the history of the town's mills.


Hertford's Mills

Photo of Hertford Castle

Photo Galleries

We have a selection of galleries showing the town's landmarks, rivers, events and more.



Galleries

This article was first published on 16th December 2020.