Every town in eastern England that welcomed the railways grew as a result, many in a spectacular fashion. Several towns, such as Parkeston and Melton Constable, were built by the railways and have remained largely unchanged to this day. Others, such as Southend-on-Sea and Clacton have become centres of the leisure industry. Eastern Englandīs main line railways are amongst the oldest group of main line railways in the world. The Great Eastern Railway to Colchester was designed by the famous Sir Robert Stephenson and built by Sir Samuel Morton Peto. Its many historically important structures and station buildings took nine years to build and so severely overran the original budget that the line finished at Colchester, far short of its target of London to Norwich. The ECR is only a few years younger than Brunelīs Great Western Railway now proposed as a World Heritage Site. Many other historic lines exist in the Industrious East, only waiting to be discovered.
Some of the regions largest civil engineering undertakings were undertaken for the railways. Digswell Viaduct at Welwyn is one of the highest and longest in England. Tring Cutting is the largest railway excavation ever undertaken in the UK. The railway complex at Whitemoor in Cambridgeshire was very important too. Designed to handle agricultural freight traffic, at Whitemoor were the largest set of railway sidings in the UK. Arguably the most attractive of the regionīs railway monuments is the graceful and photogenic 35 arch railway viaduct designed by Peter Bruff at Chappel in Essex.
Towns and cities such as Chelmsford, Luton, Peterborough and Norwich grew fast with individual manufacturing companies taking advantage of the railways for access to a national market. Raw materials, parts and finished products were dispatched by rail. The expansion of Lutonīs hat industry was entirely geared to a railway distribution system. Even traditional maltings eventually became heavily dependent on the railway network.