Situated 23-miles 63-chains from Waterloo, upon the 6-mile 46-chains-long branch line to Windsor & Eton Riverside, this is a station that has changed considerably since opening. Datchet (or, in the very first days, "Datchett") came into use for public traffic on 22nd August 1848, originally as a temporary terminus when the first 4¾-mile section of the branch line was opened from Richmond. The latter itself had been reached from Clapham Junction by regular scheduled passenger traffic on 25th July 1846, becoming the first of the London & South Western Railway’s (LSWR) suburban lines (ref: The Official Guide to the London & South Western Railway, Cassell & Company Limited, 1894). Extension of services over the Thames to Windsor occurred on 1st December 1848. The branch line had been built under the auspices of the "Windsor, Staines, and South Western Company", which had been incorporated in 1847 with £880,000 in capital and £266,000 in loan powers, and authorisation to build a loop line from Barnes to Hounslow (ref: Bradshaw's Railway Almanack, Directory, Shareholders' Guide, and Manual, 1848).

Two platforms came into use at Datchet, situated either side of the double-track. On the "up" side, a single-storey structure comprising the booking hall and offices was erected. This was of yellow brick construction, frescoed with red brick lining, featuring sash-style windows and a tiled pitched roof. At its southern end, this building was attached to a spacious two-storey-high house for the Station Master, which comprised a hipped tiled roof and the same architectural features as the former.

The small-scale 1881 Ordnance Survey edition (1:10,560) shows what appears to be an overall roof linking the platforms. By the time of the [large scale] 1899 edition, that had disappeared; a conventional pitched roof canopy with timber valance, supported upon a pair of cast-iron struts, came into use on the "up" platform, attached to the main building. On the "down" side, a small timber waiting shelter was provided, and both platforms were linked by a footbridge situated at the Windsor end of the layout. Perhaps passengers used the level crossing, again located at the Windsor end of the station, to walk between platforms in the earliest years.

Goods facilities were concentrated at the Waterloo end of the station and by the turn of the 20th Century comprised sidings that terminated behind both platforms. An all-timber rail-served goods shed with pitched roof was erected behind the "up" platform, adjacent to the Station Master’s house. Finally, at the Windsor end of the layout, sandwiched in-between the level crossing and footbridge on the "down" side of the line, was a signal box. This was an LSWR "Type 2" design, dating from the 1880s, with a brick base and well-glazed cabin, topped off with a hipped slated roof.

Regular electric services commenced on the Windsor branch line on 6th July 1930. In connection with this, an electricity substation was built at Dachet (ref: The Railway Magazine, August 1930).

On 3rd February 1964, public goods traffic was withdrawn from Datchet (ref: Clinker’s Register, 1980). However, ten years later, the timber goods shed was still noted as standing. When the latter was finally flattened, a small single-storey brick addition was made to the former Station Master’s house, this of which was in place by 1989.

In the early hours of Sunday, 8th September 1974, a then new "power box" was switched into operation at Feltham, which would replace forty-five manual signal boxes in the area and control 351 colour light signals and 112 points (ref: Reading Evening Post, 4th September 1974). At this time, the Windsor branch went over to colour light operation controlled from Feltham; however, Datchet’s signal box did not close until 13th December 1974 (ref: Southern Railway Register Section R17: Staines Junction to Windsor, Signalling Record Society). The November 1974 edition of The Railway Magazine remarked that the commissioning of Feltham "power box" replaced the last area of semaphore signalling on the South Western Division. Datchet level crossing became automated, controlled remotely by CCTV.

On Thursday, 18th December 1986, disaster struck. At about 01:00, fire crews were called to Datchet station, where the "up" side booking hall and offices were found to be ablaze. The fire was brought under control within an hour (ref: Reading Evening Post, 18th December 1986). In the wake of the fire, the "down" side booking hall was completely rebuilt into a two-storey-high structure with dormer windows that not only included the ticket office, but also some dwellings and office space. The "down" side timber shelter was unaffected by the fire; however, it was eventually flattened in the 1990s, when sideless shelters were erected on both platforms.

Click the above for a larger version. © David Glasspool

The “Mills Circus” poster under the platform canopy dates this view to no later than 1967, when that company ceased to tour. The single-storey "up" side booking hall seen here, with canopy attached, was badly damaged in a 1986 fire and subsequently rebuilt as the two-storey-high building in existence today. Note the ventilation grooves in the gable, for the Gentlemen’s toilet. The two-storey-high Station Master’s house, with hipped roof, is evident on the right, partially obscured by the canopy. On the extreme right can just be seen the edge of the timber goods shed. © David Glasspool Collection