Cardington Station formed part of the Midland Railway line running between Leicester and Hitchin [Hertfordshire]. The Midland Railway Company had been founded in 1844 and was based in Derby. It was a merger of three existing companies: Midland Counties Railway; North Midland Railway and Derby Junction Railway.
The act authorising the railway was passed in 1855; the engineer was Charles Liddell and the contractor Thomas Brassey. William Henry Whitbread greatly encouraged the building of the railway, passing as it did through two of his estate villages, Cardington and Southill, and an obelisk raised to him by public subscription near Southill station.
The line opened on 8th May 1857. It entered Bedfordshire at Wymington and left it at Henlow. For most of its life the line had a stop at Bedford, Midland Road, however, the station was not completed on time for the opening and until January 1859 Saint John’s station was used instead.
The line was reduced from main to a branch line on 13th July 1868 when today’s line from Leicester to London, Saint Pancras opened. In 1912 the double track from Bedford to Hitchin was partially removed, creating a single track line.
The Railway Executive Committee took all railways in the country under its control in 1914 due to the outbreak of the First World War and the vital necessity of railways for troop movements. The Railways Act 1921 grouped previously opposing railway companies together. The Midland was grouped with the London, North Western Railway, Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, Caledonian Railway and Glasgow and South Western Railway. The new grouping, known as the London Midland Scottish Railway, was officially created on 1st January 1923. It was abolished on 31st December 1947 with the nationalisation of the rail network as British Railways. The line from Bedford to Hitchin, and Cardington station with it, closed on 1st January 1962 as part of the nationwide cuts in rail lines by Doctor Richard Beeching.
The heyday of Cardington station must have been during World War Two with RAF Cardington being used for much basic training for new recruits. The station lay quite close to the RAF base, along a lane which joined Southill Road at the first bend in the road after leaving the village.
Cardington Station was listed by the former Department of Environment in May 1984 as Grade II, of special interest. It is built of yellow gault brick with polychrome brick dressings with tiled roofs. The listing describes the style as: “Simplified Venetian Gothic”.
From the mid 19th to the mid 20th century various directories for the county were published every few years. These offer a snapshot of important residents and trades people in each parish. The following list of stationmasters is taken from directories held by Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service:
- 1869: William Wood;
- 1885: Samuel Watkins;
- 1890-1910: John Gammons.