Elsbridge is a small town and station on Thomas' Branch Line located in the Els Valley, with a population of 4,500. The nearby River Els flows underneath the Elsbridge Viaduct and enters the Sudrian Sea at Knapford.
The Railway Series
St Pedroc’s Church tower is visible for miles across the fen, and marks the site of a centuries old river crossing at the end of a path through the bog, known only to local people. Even natives were sometimes confused in the thick mists often covering the area. In September 1758 Peter Carnane, an Elsbridge shopkeeper, was caught in just such a mist, and only found direction and safety when he heard the church clock strike. Accordingly he bequeathed land to the Vicar and Churchwardens directing that the rent thereof be used to pay for the ringing of a bell daily during the half hour before sunset “for ever”. A tablet in the church records this bequest. The need for it has gone, but a token ringing of the ”Carnane Bell” continues to this day.
Another tablet records the building of the Town Bridge by public subscription in 1779/80, and gives a list of the principal contributors. It was needed to replace an old and dilapidated packhorse bridge. The road width was 15ft between parapets, quite generous for those days. In 1927 it was widened, but great care was taken to preserve its original design and appearance. For many years it carried two-way traffic; but with the increased width of vehicles this became dangerous, and the traffic flow is now alternate and controlled by lights. The bridge is a pleasing structure with five arches, full of character, built by local masons to meet a local need, and Elsbridgians are proud of it.
If Elsbridge is proud of its road bridge, the railway people are certainly proud of theirs. From 1910 to 1925 Elsbridge was the terminus of the branch line. The North Western Railway held powers to extend, but money was short, and the necessary bridge and tunnel would be expensive, so nothing was done. In 1924 however, quarrying began at Ffarquhar. The quarry needed a railway for transport, and an attractive structure to show potential customers the quality of its stone. The NWR agreed to extend their line on condition that the Quarry Company provided stone for the bridge free of charge and paid half the cost of the tunnel at Hackenbeck. The bridge was designed by Mr. Michael Kirk and was completed in 1925, and has since needed only minimal maintenance.
Elsbridge is a pleasant small town of some 4,500 inhabitants in 1981. It has a Flour mill and Bakery, together with several small firms specialising in different forms of agricultural engineering; but the largest employer is St Pedroc’s Dairy situated in what was once a glebe field behind the Vicarage and adjacent to the station. The Dairy has won fame for its Callan Cheese and Elsdale butter, the latter being made from the milk of cows pastured in the rich water-meadows along the upper reaches of the Els.
The Curragh or Fenland Museum is a "must" for visitors. In addition to items both domestic and industrial, collected from the neighbourhood and imaginatively displayed, life in the Fen is depicted both before and after drainage began over a hundred years ago. Most of the land on the west bank is by now drained and cropped, but some 4000 acres were left untouched, and are preserved by The Sodor Nature Conservancy Trust as a Wild Life Sanctuary.
The banks of the upper Els are beloved of Anglers, many of whom come year after year with great regularity. These tend to stay at the two Hotels - The Trout and the Char - which cater admirably for their needs, and which own most of the fishing rights. Visitors with other interests will find comfortable accommodation elsewhere. The Railway Arms in Station Road, and The Bridge in Ulfstead Street are highly recommended. Elsbridge is an attractive place, well served by public transport; and from it to northward the visitor has ready access to some of the most beautiful parts of the Island.
The Elsbridge Cricket Field is located here on the east side of the railway, about a mile south west of the station.
Thomas & Friends
Elsbridge serves as the junction between Thomas' branch line and the Loop Line that runs from Tidmouth to east of Crosby. The station has a large overhead footbridge, four platforms, with a canopy covering two, and five through tracks. There is a small yard, which has an engine shed and a carriage shed.