Tuesday, May 12, 2009



Published last week in Brentwood Weekly News (Courtesy of Newsquest Essex)


Rail travel between the wars has been described as romantic, colourful and exciting. But in those soot-ridden days, another important word stands out - punctuality. Looking at the railway timetables for even a century ago, you could travel from Brentwood to Liverpool Street far quicker than today. Although they disappeared at the end of the 1960s, there’s still huge nostalgia for steam trains, many of which are now owned privately and run on preserved lines.

One person who knows much about locomotives is Dennis Rookard, Brentwood reporter, photographer and broadcaster. Dennis is proud to be the original ‘anorak’, well - he did wear one as a little boy when he lived in Railway Square. And his enthusiasm for veteran trains is still alive and strong..

"Steam locos were my passion," smiles Dennis. "Living so near to the station meant I could nip over to my favourite place on the railway bank and collect the train numbers, much the same as other kids then. I never owned one of those posh Ian Allen railway books then - couldn’t afford it - had to make do with a scruffy notebook.. There I used sit on the bank with some of the others with my jam sandwiches and bottle of Tizer – so happy! My favourite locomotive then (and still is) the Britannia 700-00. A fabulous engine!" These days I use my camera to collect information

Dennis is way too young to have watched the two years of track widening in the early 1930s, but there are still others who, as children, watched the railway being changed from the then two to four tracks. It made a huge difference to journeys and arrival times. We thank kind readers who’ve send in train photos along with their memories.

Construction of the Eastern Counties line began in March 1837 and the first section connecting Brentwood to London via Romford opened on lst July 1840, initially offering a service of five trains a day. Before the end of the first year, however, people were killed when a passenger train ran off the lines at Brook Street. Another fatal accident occurred when Henry Jay leapt out of the carriage to retrieve his hat which had blown off. Within two years, 15-year-old Elizabeth Fry, of Quaker fame, was able visit her family at Brentwood’s Warley Lodge by railway via Stratford from her home in Plaistow.

The coming of the railway brought an increase in population to Brentwood with the influx of navvies and engineers, which then decreased as they left to continue up the line to build the next station and tracks. But no matter - the glorious age of steam had arrived. By the way, for Brentwood ex-pats this new photo is of Myrtle Road in 1933.