IT has been described as “the jewel in the crown of Maldon’s railway heritage”.

There is no doubt that the town’s original East Station is an architecturally impressive and most unusual building.

Located at the end of the unsurprisingly named Station Road and built between 1846 and 1848 as part of a political bribe, the imposing façade is in a unique Victorian Jacobean style of red/brown Flemish-bond brickwork with dressings.

It is of two storeys (with attics) and has two identical pavilions with matching gables, linked by an attractive projecting arcade and balcony.

Nowadays it serves as office accommodation, is Grade II listed and draws the regular attention of many enthusiasts (albeit they can only view the strictly private building from the gate). In 2012, I even took Michael Portillo to see it as part of his Great British Railway Journeys television series.

In its heyday it was, of course, a busy, active place, bustling with travellers from the early days of the branch line right through to its official closure to passengers in September 1964.

Apart from freight work which continued until April 1966, it briefly came alive again when a “special” was engaged on June 13, 1965, to take a Sunday school party to the seaside at Walton-on-the-Naze.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

The distinctive façade (All images taken in 1968 by Janet Gyford)

The children who walked through the station lobby and on to the waiting train that day had the distinction of being the very last out of Maldon East – and I was one of them.

I must admit I can’t remember a lot about it as I was only young, but I do recall that the party was led by the Rev Irons, vicar of All Saints' Church (and railway fanatic) and his friend, our Sunday school teacher, Miss Metcalfe, of Fambridge Road.

Looking back it was an important, historic moment as the station then closed in April 1966, fell silent, was empty and deserted and its future hung in the balance.

The track was taken up in 1969 and, gradually over time, many of the associated buildings were removed – including the nearby crossing keeper’s cottage with its decorative chimney-breast wing.

Somehow the station building itself survived and was renovated from its derelict state to open in 1974 as the Great Eastern public house and night club.

It closed again in 1976, was re-opened in 1979, only to have a further new lease of life as a club in January 1988 and now it is offices.

Thankfully it continues as a visual legacy and a really tangible link with our branch line days. Interest in it has never waned and over the years people have shared with me old cine film footage, countless photos and even their fond memories.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

The station in the distance as seen from the crossing. (All images taken in 1968 by Janet Gyford)

I recently interviewed a Maldon resident whose father was the station master there for two years and who, himself, lived in the building.

He recalled his time there with much fondness, but also said it had a somewhat strange, eerie feel about it. As if to reinforce that impression, in 1975 the Sunday People newspaper ran a report with the headline 'The Ghost Now Standing On Platform Two' and the sub-heading 'Scared barman packs up his job'. The reporter, Len Adams, stated that “since the station closed 11 years ago there have been scores of sightings” ... including “the White Lady”. He interviewed the barmaid and the pub owner, as well as the station master and his (previously mentioned) son.

You either believe in that sort of thing or you don’t, but old stations do lend themselves to such tales.

You only have to go back to Arnold Ridley’s (1923) comedy suspense thriller ‘The Ghost Train’ to realise the relevance of the setting. A group of railway passengers are stranded at a rural station overnight and are threatened by a latent, external force.

That play, in turn, gave rise to something of a genre, including the films ‘The Lady Vanishes’ (1938) and ‘Night Train To Munich’ (1940).

Both the play and those two films have, in my imagination at least, a touch of East Station about them, but my favourite period in Maldon’s railway history has got to be the 1960s – the era of my last trip, closure and disuse.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

The canopy over the platform (All images taken in 1968 by Janet Gyford)

You can imagine, therefore, how thrilled I was to be sent some snaps taken by Witham historian Janet Gyford.

In 1968 she was walking with some friends from Maldon to Witham and had the foresight to photograph East Station in its then silent, closed state.

There are only four images, but they really do capture a special moment in time.

As Janet generously and modestly put it: “I expect there are loads of similar photos in Maldon, but I thought I'd send these to you anyway. If there's anyone who might be particularly interested, do share them.”

And so I am doing just that with you, the reader.

I hope that, like me, you find them nostalgically fascinating.