An Act dated 24th July 1882 authorised the London, Tilbury, and Southend Railway (LT&SR) to construct three new lines:
- Barking to Pitsea (19¼-miles)
- The Shoeburyness Extension (3⅝-miles)
- The Whitechapel Goods Branch (¼-mile)
The conditions of the Act required the works on all three to be completed within five years of Royal Assent, and the total capital authorised was £600,000, in addition to £200,000 in loans (ref: Bradshaw’s, 1890). At the time, it was remarked that the Barking to Pitsea line would reduce the distance between London and Southend by six miles, open up the district of Laindon, and provide a relief to the existing route via Tilbury, the latter of where docks — approved in 1881 — were to be established.
The first section of the double-track Barking to Pitsea line opened to public traffic between the former and Upminster — a distance of eight miles — on 1st May 1885. This was followed exactly one year later by the opening of the Upminster to East Horndon section, a distance of about four miles. The line was deemed fully operational on the commissioning of the final stretch between East Horndon and Pitsea on 1st June 1888; it was upon this section that an intermediate station at Laindon came into use. Newspapers of the era remarked that there was no formal opening ceremony, and the Chairman and Directors of the LT&SR inspected the new route on a special departure from Fenchurch Street to Southend on Monday, 4th June 1888.
The engineer of the Barking to Pitsea line was Mr A. L. Stride, who at the time was the General Manager and Engineer of the LT&SR company. The contract for the line’s construction was awarded to and carried out by Messrs. Kirk and Parry of Sleaford, under the supervision of Resident Engineer J. R. Robertson (ref: The Essex Herald, 5th June 1888). All through express trains between London and Southend were diverted over the then new route and could cover the thirty-six miles between the two in fifty minutes.
In The Essex Herald on Tuesday, 5th June 1888, it was remarked that there was "a well-appointed intermediate station at Laindon", where two platforms — either side of a double-track — were in evidence from the outset. A fine two-storey-high main building of red brick construction graced the "down" (Southend-bound) platform. The design of this structure is very similar — if not identical — to those stations that had opened little under two years previously with the Maidstone to Ashford line in Kent; therefore, it is surely reasonable to assume that these were the product of the same architect. Within Laindon’s main building was the commodious house of the Station Master, and ornate canopies sporting attractive timber valances (similar to the design still in use today at Charing in Kent) were evident on both platforms. The "up" side canopy sloped upwards in the direction of the tracks and was attached to a large waiting shelter of red brick construction. The platforms were connected at their western ends by a metal footbridge, this of which was directly linked to the adjacent main road.
The early layout at Laindon is depicted in the diagram below. It is evident that a spacious goods yard existed on the "down" side of the line, within which sidings served cattle pens and a goods shed. The latter was a substantial brick-built structure, with a canopy extending from its southern elevation, and a single track passed through. The layout was controlled from a neat two-storey-high signal box, built of brick and with a hipped slated roof, positioned at the eastern end of the "up" platform.
Effective from 7th August 1912, the LT&SR was absorbed into the Midland Railway (MR). The latter subsequently became part of the London, Midland, and Scottish Railway (LMS) in 1923, and it was under this company that significant changes were made at Laindon. Over the 1933 to 1934 period, the station’s "up" side was rebuilt: the London-bound platform was converted to an island with the laying of a loop, and a then new canopy and offices were erected upon it. Connections at the station’s eastern end were revised so that the "up" refuge siding made a trailing connection with the platform loop, rather than the "up" main; additionally, this siding was shortened slightly and realigned at its western end to accommodate the loop. A snippet in the March 1984 edition of The Railway Magazine suggests that the additional platform face commissioned as part of the 1933/1934 works was little used.
As part of the aforementioned 1933/1934 scheme, platforms on both "up" and "down" sides were considerably lengthened at their eastern ends using prefabricated concrete. The original signal box at the eastern end of the "up" platform was also abolished and replaced by a cabin situated upon the island, a short distance east of the canopy. This signal box was built to an in-house LMS design: it was an attractive timber gabled structure, situated upon a shallow brick base, and comprised MR-style large panel glazing. The goods yard was enlarged at this time, an additional siding being laid, and revised connections made between it and the running lines east of the platforms.
Your author concedes that, as we enter the British Railways (BR) era, his understanding of the recordings of the first significant changes that occurred are less clear. In the book titled The Midland Railway: A Chronology (1989), it is noted that, effective from 3rd November 1957, the positions of the "down" loop and the "down" main were reversed. The March 1984 edition of The Railway Magazine also remarks on "a new down loop line" being installed at Laindon in the 1930s. Your author can only assume that the "down loop" referred to in both cases, based on historic track plans, is the short section of track immediately west of the road bridge (see 1956 plan), where the "down" line splits for platforms 2 and 3 and, shortly after the divergence, is linked again by a trailing crossover. The May 1984 edition of The Railway Magazine notes that, at the time of publication, the platform loop was the "up" main serving platform 1; the "down" main was the northern-most track serving platform 3 (where the main building is situated); and platform 2, in the middle, was served by a reversible track.
Electrification of the LT&SR system had initially been considered in 1912, when that company was in the process of acquiring the line (ref: The Electrical Review, 3rd May 1912). It was not until the Modernisation Plan of 1955, which was approved in the following year, that electrification from London to Shoeburyness via Upminster and Tilbury was authorised. As part of these works, electric lighting was installed for the first time at Laindon station — in addition to others at West Horndon, Dagenham Dock, Low Street, Rainham, Shoeburyness, Barking, Stanford-le-Hope, Thorpe Bay, and Purfleet — and the platforms lengthened to accommodate twelve-vehicle electric trains (ref: The Railway Magazine, October 1960). Trial electric running between Shoeburyness and Fenchurch Street commenced on 1st June 1961, and the full accelerated electric timetable came into force on 18th June 1962. Colour light signalling replaced semaphores as part of the electrification scheme, but the signal box at Laindon was retained. Based on your author's observations, a concrete footbridge replaced the existing metal structure at the time of electrification. Effective 5th June 1967, public goods traffic was withdrawn from Laindon, in addition to nearby stations at Pitsea and Benfleet.
On 25th November 1974, a station in-between Laindon and Pitsea opened at Basildon, to serve the post-war town of that name that had come into being in 1949. The suffix "for Basildon" appeared on Laindon station’s nameboards to reflect that it was the nearest station to the then new town until dedicated platforms there were opened.
By 1984, Laindon signal box was normally in use only during the early morning and evening peak times, Monday to Friday, to handle trains from the London direction that terminated there and set off back in the "up" direction (ref: The Railway Magazine, May 1984). The cabin was also opened at those times when engineering work required it to be. The signal box was finally abolished as part of Railtrack Anglia’s £150 million re-signalling of the LT&SR line between Fenchurch Street and Shoeburyness via Upminster, the last part of which was completed over the weekend of 8th and 9th July 1995 (ref: The Railway Magazine, October 1995). It resulted in the abolition of eight signal boxes and the entire route being signalled from a state-of-the-art control centre at Upminster. Work to re-signal the Tilbury Loop was due to start later that year.
In 1998 a refurbishment of Laindon was begun as part of a £75 million scheme by Railtrack to renovate stations, renew the permanent way, and complete major bridge works on lines that served Fenchurch Street (ref: The Railway Magazine, March 1998). The island platform canopy was severely shortened from its eastern end to about two fifths of its original length and the remaining section refurbished and clad with corrugated metal. Additionally, the original brick-built offices on the island were modified: these were heightened and a new slated pitched roof installed. Bus stop-style waiting shelters appeared on the platforms, and a single-storey red-brick extension to the ticket office was built across the front of the 1888 main building.
On 9th May 2005, a blue plaque was unveiled on the wall of the main station building at Laindon (ref: The Railway Magazine, July 2005). The plaque commemorates the fact that the late actress Joan Sims — famous for starring in twenty-four "Carry On" films — lived in the Station’s main building for twenty-two years. Her father, John Sims (known locally as "Harry"), was at that time the Station Master.
In 2008, Laindon was one of forty stations approved by the Department of Transport for the "Access for All" programme (ref: The Railway Magazine, April 2008). The latter aimed to provide step-free access at multiple stations, which typically involved installing a lift-equipped footbridge. In March 2012, large structural components of a new footbridge, positioned immediately east of the main building, were craned into position. The footbridge’s lifts were formally opened with ceremony on 3rd August 2012.
28th December 1979
The main building — which survives today — is a substantial red brick structure located on the "down" platform (No. 3). Variations of the same design came into use at the likes of Upminster, Ockenden and West Hordon. These buildings are so similar in design to those at intermediate stops between Maidstone East and Ashford in Kent — right down to the canopy stanchions and brackets — that they must all surely be the products of the same architect. In this London-bound view from the island can be seen a still extant track foot crossing for staff and, beyond the foot and road bridges, the connection between the tracks serving platforms 1 and 2.
© David Glasspool Collection
28th December 1979
Another London-bound view from the island platform includes the signal box dating from the 1933/34 works. The cabin was a standard LMS design, with windows based on the pattern of the company’s predecessor, the Midland Railway, and an identical structure was also once in use at Dagenham East. Note the standard BR concrete lampposts, dating from electrification, topped by a light box bearing the station’s name. This view also affords detail of the island canopy and a traditional bench.
© David Glasspool Collection
27th August 2000
Little over twenty years later, many changes are evident. The island platform canopy has been cut back and a corrugated metal valance attached; additionally, the original brick offices have been modified and a higher roof line created. A glazed waiting shelter is also in evidence on the island. The signal box had gone, but its former site is out of view, to the left. Working one of two round-trip journeys between Fenchurch Street and Shoeburyness, Stanier "Black Five" Class 5 No. 45407 (masquerading as No. 45157) is seen passing eastwards past platform 3.
© David Glasspool Collection