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1st through train to Holt in 46 years!

Sunday, March 14 2010

Britannia class pacific Oliver Cromwell brings the first passenger train from the national railway network for 46 years onto North Norfolk Railway tracks on Thursday March 11, 2010. Frame captured from BBC Norfolk video.

(Click image to see the news item and video on on the BBC Norfolk website.)

The inauguration of the North Norfolk Railway’s new level crossing at Sheringham marks the permanent reconnection of the NNR to the mainline railway network after a break of some 38 years. In April 1964, passenger services from Sheringham to Melton Constable were suspended and British Railways services from Norwich via Cromer were truncated at Sheringham Station. Freight services to Melton Constable lingered on for a little longer. From January 1967, BR trains used a small halt to the East of the level crossing.

Although British Railways planned to sell the Sheringham Station site to property development the North Norfolk Railway Company successfully managed to purchase the railway line between Sheringham and Weybourne. Following some delays in the granting of the necessary Light Railway Orders, in 1968, the North Norfolk Railway Company was the first heritage railway in Britain to raise funds through a public share issue.

The level crossing connecting the heritage railway and BR remained in place until circa 1972. The line was used a few time for the purpose of delivering rolling stock.  Finally the level crossing was lifted and the area between the two railways was landscaped it seemed unlikely that trains from the national railway network would ever run on NNR metals again.

In 2007, the idea of reinstating the railway crossing came up in a discussion between NNR directors and senior officials from Network Rail. During follow up discussions with Network Rail, County Highways and HM Railway Inspectorate. All parties agreed that the scheme was possible, but the Railways Inspectorate representative laid down the stipulation that unless the road traffic can be managed better a full crossing would not be possible. However, there would be no HM RI objections to an ‘occasional use’ tramway type crossing.

This is one of these strange occasions where the HM RI seems to be exceeding its safety brief and making ‘political’ decisions which lie properly within the competence of the local authority. So we will have to wait a few more years for officials to retire before we can expect regular NNR trains running into Cromer Station – the most logical place for a NNR / NR interchange.

Till then BTWT applauds the new connection a small step forward in the ultimate dream – the Norfolk Orbital Railway!

Looking towards the NNR headshunt (the NR station is behind the viewer) before work began on the level crossing. Plenty of flowers, but where is the railway? Picture Google Maps, Street View.

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6 comments

  1. This stuff is bureaucratically complicated, beyond the reach of my ageing and never-attuned-to-bureaucracy brain –but if I understand rightly, “version for morons”: physical connection now restored between NNR and national rail system, but for the present, for use only in special circumstances – regular NNR workings Holt – Cromer, not yet to be seen?

    Am a lifelong M&GN fan – spent my childhood within sight and sound of the line, around Spalding and Peterborough (never got acquainted with things on the system further east, in its “great years”), so am always pleased to hear of anything positive M&GN-wise. I should join the (outfit that supports the NNR – excuse for non-precision, name not specified in the post, unless I’ve missed it) ; but only so much money available…


    • I remember visiting Potter Heigham Station in the early 1960s. There was glass in the signal box, roses climbing the waiting room, the impressions of each sleeper still firm in the ballast. Just think of it – North Walsham to Yarmouth – what a place for a preserved railway?

      Sadly the County Surveyor was persuaded by the road lobby to turn the middle of the line into a bypass!


  2. There is nothing strange about the HMRI role. They act for the Secretary of State for Transport in all matters relating to level crossings. The Secretary of State has the final say. There could be a permanently usable connection there if the Highway Authority diverted town centre traffic over the railway bridge. Network Rail would also have to modify the Cromer-Sheringham signalling in a manner that allows the ‘single line permission’ to be given up at the Sheringham end.


  3. North Walsham to Yarmouth Beach would have been a wonderful preserved line – 25 miles ! – and a fairish consolation for the loss of the overall M & GN system; but, far too ambitious for those times, and – being realistic – any time since. If only, though… O for an eccentric billionaire railway enthusiast in 1959…

    Being annoyingly nitpicky for the sheer heck of it (and I realise the post is “broad-brush”, not an attempt at a meticulous blow-by-blow history of the M & GNJR): but April 1964 was not, in fact, the end for rail traffic between Sheringham and Melton Constable. The passenger service finished then; but freight continued for the rest of the year, being finally withdrawn either very late in ’64 or very early in ’65. (Have been trying, without success, to find the exact date.) I having missed getting to the line before the passenger service ended, applied for and got permission to travel in the brake van of the daily freight, just before Christmas 1964 – would have been only a matter of days before freight service withdrawal. I did thus, just, manage to reach Melton Constable by rail…


    • The passenger service finished then; but freight continued for the rest of the year, being finally withdrawn either very late in ’64 or very early in ’65.

      Thanks Robert, I will correct the post.

      …having missed getting to the line before the passenger service ended, applied for and got permission to travel in the brake van of the daily freight, just before Christmas 1964 – would have been only a matter of days before freight service withdrawal. I did thus, just, manage to reach Melton Constable by rail…

      What a great story. I’m very, very jealous.


  4. Just wish that I’d had the gumption to do the same re the parts that survived for freight, for some years, of the Peterborough — Sutton Bridge line (ran within sight of our house, for heaven’s sake)…

    “Of all sad words of tongue or pen… etc.”



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