The following is taken from ‘Durrant’s Handbook For Essex’ written by Miller Christy (Durrant & Co., Chelmsford, 1887).
The principal line running through the county is that of the Great Eastern Railway Company, which was formed in 1862 by the amalgamation of the Eastern Counties, the Eastern Union, the East Anglian, and other subsidiary lines. This company now has in Essex 179 miles of line and 82 stations. Its termini in London are Liverpool Street and Fenchurch Street stations. From these, one main line runs through Stratford, Romford, Brentwood, Ingatestone, Chelmsford, Witham, Kelvedon, Marks Tey, and Colchester, to Manningtree (59½ miles), where it enters Suffolk. Another main line runs (partly in Hertfordshire) through Harlow, Bishop’s Stortford (Herts), Stanstead, Elsenham, Newport, and Audley End, to Great Chesterford (45¾ miles) where it enters Cambridgeshire. Between these lines a branch, largely patronised by London business men, also runs from Liverpool Street, through Stratford, Leyton, Woodford, Buckhurst Hill, Loughton, and Epping, to Ongar (22¾ miles). Third-class Excursion return tickets for Epping Forest (available to any station as far as Loughton and back) are issued daily over this line for the very low price of 1/-, and are largely patronised during summer. There are also cross branch lines between Bishop’s Stortford and Witham (24¼ miles), through Dunmow and Braintree; between Witham and Maldon (5¾ miles); between Audley End and Bartlow (7¼ miles), through Saffron Walden; between Bartlow and Marks Tey (34¼ miles), through Haverhill, Stoke, Long Melford, Sudbury (all in Suffolk), and Chappel; between Manningtree and Harwich (11¼ miles), through Mistley; between Colchester and Walton (19¾ miles), through Wivenhoe and Thorpe; between Wivenhoe and Brightlingsea (5 miles); and between Thorpe and Clacton-on-Sea (4½ miles). Another line, which will be completed about 1888, is now under construction, to run from Hutton (2 m. N. from Brentwood), through Billericay, Wickford, Rayleigh, and Rochford, to Southend; through Woodham Ferris to Maldon; and through Althon and Burnham to Southminster (46 miles). The Great Eastern Company was once justly famed fro uncomfortable carriages, slow speed, frequent accidents, and high fares. This character, however, no longer belongs to it. Its Board of Directors are notably enterprising and liberal; its trains, in point of speed, comfort, safety, and cheapness, will compete with those of almost any other railway; while few lines offer greater facilities to the excursionist. In addition to the excursion rickets to Epping Forest (already mentioned), other return tickets for the Forest are issued daily from Fenchurch St. to Chingford for 1/- (3rd class), and correspondingly low fares for all other classes. First-class return tickets, available for 3 days (including day of issue and return), are issued daily from any station on the G.E.R. to Harwich and back, including apartments and board at the Harwich Hotel and conveyance of luggage between the station and the Hotel, at an inclusive charge of 30/- each person. Twenty-four hours’ notice of an application for these tickets must be given at all stations except Liverpool St. Cheap Friday or Saturday or Tuesday, or fortnightly tickets, available by all trains from or to London, are issued to the following seaside watering-places on the G.E.R. [Walton-on-the-Naze, Clacton-on-Sea, Harwich or Dovercourt]. During the summer there are also frequent special excursions to Harwich, Dovercourt, Walton, Clacton, &c.
The London, Tilbury and Southend Railway Company has in Essex 21 stations and 54 miles of line. Its main line runs from Fenchurch Street, through Plaistow, Barking, Rainham, Purfleet, Grays Thurrock, Tilbury, Pitsea, Leigh, and Southend, to Shoeburyness. A branch, which will be completed about the end of the present year (1887), runs from Barking, through Dagenham and Hornchurch, to Upminster, whence it will continue to Pitsea, forming a shorter route to Southend and Shoeburyness. There are frequent special excursions to Southend during summer.
The Colne Valley and Halstead Railway has 9 stations and about 20 miles of line in this county. It runs from Haverhill to Chappel through the Yeldhams, the Hedinghams, Halstead, and the Colnes. The line traverses the valley of the Colne which is unusually pleasant and picturesque.