What to call the Romford to Upminster line?

Transport for London is about to give the London Overground lines names.

Transport for London is about to give the London Overground lines names. As the Romford to Upminster line is one of my earliest memories, I thought I’d give the potential name some considering.

The Romford to Upminster line was opened in 1893 as a branch of the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway main line that ran between Fenchurch Street and Shoeburyness.

There was initially only the stations at Romford and Upminster, and it was called the Romford branch.

So call it the Romford line, right?

Some services from Romford went beyond Upminster, crossing the main line and joining the Ockendon branch, going as far as Grays and Tilbury.

The route passed through the parishes of Romford, Hornchurch and Upminster, but in Hornchurch there was no station.

Romford and Hornchurch were in the liberty of Havering-atte-Bower and the ancient parish of Hornchurch, but Upminster was not. All three parishes had been part of the Romford Poor Law Union and other local government districts called Romford during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

So call it the Romford line, right?

When the three towns were forced together as a new London borough in 1965, both Romford and Hornchurch were considered unacceptable to all parties, so Havering-atte-Bower was settled upon (minus the -atte-Bower) as the name, despite Upminster having never been a part of it.

For this reason I’m not keen on Havering as the name.

The route crosses the river Ingrebourne (local people insist on pronouncing it Inga-bourn) between Upminster and Hornchurch, near to Upminster Bridge where the portmanteau Hornminster Glen can be found.

Not super keen on Hornminster really.

There is also a Hornford Way on the old Romford/Hornchurch boundary, but nowhere near the railway. Also not a great name to my mind.

The Ingrebourne name was used for a telephone exchange in Harold Wood, back when we tried to make exchange names match letters on the dial.

Kind of like Ingrebourne as the name. It isn’t a well known river, but you can point to it on a map.

Without doubt, the most historic thing on the line is the Hornchurch Cutting, now a site of special scientific interest that was discovered when the line was built. It provided evidence of how far south the ice sheet came during the Ice Age.

The geologist who made the discovery was T. V. Holmes and I like the idea of a Holmes line, mostly to confuse tourists. In 1983 the site was re-examined to find Jurassic rocks and fossils had been brought by the ice from the Midlands.

Let’s stop here and call it the Jurassic line.

A halt midway on the line was opened in 1909 to serve two exclusive housing estates built on the old manor of Nelmes. They gave the halt its name, Emerson Park and Great Nelmes.

Great Nelmes got lost along the way and now the whole of this section of northern Hornchurch is called Emerson Park.

Nelmes is a local name which can be traced back to the 14th century. Emerson comes from Emerson Carter, the name of the son of the developer of the Emerson Park housing estate. The family were from Parkstone in Dorset.

Not at all keen on calling it Emerson or Emerson Park and Nelmes or Great Nelmes feel too lost to time.

The railway was absorbed into the Midland Railway in 1912 and London, Midland and Scottish Railway in 1923.

The companies wanted commuters from Emerson Park to travel via Upminster and not via rival companies at Romford, so provided a number of short run services that only called at Emerson Park and Upminster.

The creation of British Railways ended the short runs and brought the line under the same region as other services at Romford.

Segregation of the District line at Upminster from main line tracks and electrification of Fenchurch Street services saw the line become the simple three station service we know today. The introduction of diesel trains in 1956 created a more regular timetable than had been possible under steam traction.

It was always called the Push and Pull from my earliest memories. I now realise this name had been inaccurate for twenty years by the time I was born, referring to a steam engine that does not need to run round to the other end of the train at the terminus.

In any case, the Push and Pull name is not unique to the line.

The line was electrified in 1986. This appears to be for the convenience of the railway, so that diesel traction could be eliminated from depots in the region. It must have made the case for inclusion of the line in the London Overground in 2015 much stronger.

I started writing this not sure what to call the line. I’m still not entirely sure, but I really don’t know why you wouldn’t want to call a railway the Jurassic line.

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