The Mid-Suffolk Railway was intended to run from Haughley (junction of the GER lines from Ipswich to Norwich and Bury St Edmunds) through Mendlesham, Brockford & Wetheringsett, Aspall & Thorndon, Kenton, Worlingworth, Horham, Stradbroke, Wilby, Laxfield, Cratfield, to Halesworth, with a second branch running from Kenton station to Westerfield near Ipswich. The Mid-Suffolk Light Railway, or Middy as it became affectionately known, was built towards the end of the 19th century to provide transport to the rural Suffolk communities who had no reliable transport links. It was built in accordance with the 1896 Light Railways Act, which allowed for cheaper construction methods in return for a speed restriction of 25 mph. The railway was built as cheaply as possible: the buildings were constructed using corrugated iron sheeting, and the route followed the natural contours of the land to minimise the need for embankments and bridges.

On Tuesday 29 September 1908, the line as far as Laxfield was opened to passengers with two trains in either direction on weekdays, but this failed to bring great trade as many of the stations were sited miles from the communities they were meant to serve.

To the east of Laxfield the line continued past Laxfield Mill for a about a mile to a temporary station at Cratfield, which was opened to freight traffic in 1906. A small amount of freight was originally dealt with at this station, which was staffed by a junior porter and later a porter-in -charge. Some earthworks were begun between Cratfield and Halesworth but these were soon abandoned. The year that Cratfield station was opened the railway became bankrupt and went into receivership. However, the company continued to function in this state and a grand opening of the railway to passenger traffic was planned for Tuesday 29th September 1908. This took place at 7.35 am, with the departure of the first passenger train westward from Laxfield to Haughley.

By 1908, although the line was making an income, it still was not enough to cover its original debts and for work to continue. Four years later, Cratfield was closed after traffic failed to come up to expectation. In the same year, a few months later, plans to extend the line from Laxfield to Halesworth were abandoned. This was prompted by the conclusions of the Light Railway Commissioners that a further order for the extension to Halesworth would only be granted if the promoters obtained enough money to purchase their railway that was still in the hands of the receiver, or they leased their railway to another concern. Either of these options would require the support of the investors and the many creditors of the company. It was an impossible task. Thus, after 12 years of partial existence the over ambitious scheme for 50 miles of track linking Haughley with Halesworth ended with a twenty mile stretch to Laxfield.

Cratfield was the goods-only terminus of the Mid Suffolk Light Railway between the years 1906 & 1912 and the track was lifted between Laxfield and Cratfield at the start of World War 1. For the rest of the lines existence it's terminus was at Laxfield.

The section of about two miles of the branch from Kenton to Westerfield was completed as far as Debenham and a few goods trains were run but this also was soon abandoned. Some sections of trackbed and embankments still survive.

The planned railway had troubles from the very beginning, having disputes with the neighbouring Great Eastern Railway (GER) and local landowners. The railway was bankrupt before it opened. It was pure determination that kept the Middy running.

In 1924 the Middy lost its independence and was merged with the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER), but apart from a new replacement of second-hand rolling stock the railway continued as it always had done. The passenger traffic began to decline over the next couple of decades as more people were buying motorcars and more and more goods traffic was also going by road. This all changed with the beginning of the Second World War. With petrol rationing, the Middy became an important transport link and with US airbases built near the Mendlesham and Horham stations. The line was relied upon for transporting military equipment and regularly used by American serviceman. The war brought more traffic to the line – both goods and passengers – as the railway became important in helping the war effort. This all came at a cost to the railway. No effort was made to maintain the rolling stock or the line itself and it suffered from underinvestment like the rest of Britain's railway network.

After the war the Middy entered into the ownership of British Railways in 1948. Although business was dwindling and the line was in a state of neglect and decay it became an attraction for enthusiasts. The Middy eventually closed in 1952, 44 years after it had opened for passenger traffic. Laxfield station building was was removed to the village playing field at Bedfield near Framlingham where it was used as a football pavilion until purchased by Mangapps Railway Museum, Burnham on Crouch, in 1991.

The phantom railway
The left hand diagram is taken from a map showing the planned route of the Middy through Cratfield Parish. It represents the proposed position of a level crossing, a passing place and station. The railway track is indicated by the thick black line. The red dotted line represents the position of the earthwork transposed from the following 1885 OS map. These two raised embankments were probably created to gain access to the site of the station and passing place No 10. There is no indication of this earthwork on modern OS maps or Google satellite images.

Position of earthwork and part of the parish boundary between Cratfield and Huntingfield 1885 (red line)


Work in progress on railway in Cratfield: OS supplement 1903

Part of East Anglia railway network: Middy Line shown dashed

Conclusion of ceremony of the cutting of the first sod of the Suffolk Light Railway at Westerfield, 3rd May 1902, the VIPs make their way from the enclosure through the guard of honour back to Westerfield GER station


Final view of the line east of Laxfield showing old sleepers placed across the eastern terminus of the rails with Laxfield (Goram's) Mill in the background. The old extension to Cratfield continued eastwards behind the photographer, but had long been lifted by the time this was taken.

Last day of Middy Line