It was a landing stage which brought day trippers by paddle-steamer to the new resort of Clacton on Sea, which was founded in 1871 within the parish of Great Clacton. The new resort was in fact a green-field site thus there was just the beach and cliff top walks in that first year or two until building works got underway. For the more adventurous, the early visitors could get off the train from Colchester to Walton on the Naze at Weeley, where the landlord of the Weeley Tavern had a waggonette to convey the visitors onto Clacton on Sea and making the return trip later in the day.
The railway came to Clacton on Sea via the Thorpe le Soken junction in 1882. A timber framed, and ship-lapped station building was constructed. As the new resort grew it was the railway and the paddle steamers which was the main means to bring the visitors and holidaymakers to the resort. From the 1910s a further option of travel was then emerging, the charabanc, which in time developed into the motor coach, and the paddle-steamers as a method to bring holiday makers began to decline.
To react to the growing numbers of charabancs the railway company decided to build a grand brick and stone new station and concourse. This opened in 1929, and the goods facilities also increased with especially builder’s merchants setting up for business adjacent. Bricks packed in straw and clay drainage wares among many other items were being brought by rail for the growing town and resort.
Clacton was becoming a major holiday resort; during the summer season the visitors stayed for either a week or a fortnight, and Saturday became termed as ‘change over day’ Accommodation ranged from camping, board accommodation, what we now know as B & B, bed & breakfast, to guest houses to hotels. On the Saturdays in the summer months, local schoolboys made wooden barrows, being a rectangular box with two long handles, and fixed onto a pair of old pram wheels. The boys offered to take the arriving holidaymaker’s luggage to their accommodation, always hoping that the destination would not be a long walk! There were no set fees, but the boys always were back again the following Saturday. Sometimes a deal was made for a boy to take the luggage back to the railway station after the holiday. When each train arrived at Clacton Railway Station, and the passengers disgorged through the station complex into Station Road, they were first met with a triangular garden full of flowers which made a good first impression as the hordes of families walked along the road to approach the seafront with all its attractions and to begin their holidays.
The railway company offered a range various ticket options, in either 1st or 3rd class travel. Special weekend return tickets to London Liverpool Street, and six month and twelve-month season tickets. A special attraction for visitors were the excursion trains which were off peak and offered seats at attractive fare prices. Some excursions were only occasionally offered. In 1937 the L.N.E.R. (London & North Eastern Railway) offered a special Sunday evening excursion from Ipswich to Clacton on Sea, arriving at Clacton at 5pm and returning at 10.35pm, all for 1/7d (8p).
The railway itself was developing, the initial single track became a double track, and the engines developed and culminating in the Britannia class of steam engine post Second World War which was perhaps its peak of steam efficiency, to then be replaced by diesel traction, and in 1962 when the line became electrified all the way to London.
With the increase in private car ownership into the 1960s, and the increasing opportunity for foreign holidays, the great days of the railway bringing visitors to Clacton for their holidays was beginning to decline, but many Clactonians still used the railway to commute for business in London.
The railway is still a means of conveying passengers to and from Clacton for all sorts of reasons.
Information provided by: Clacton VCG Group