TF9822 : County School Railway Station
near to North Elmham, Norfolk, Great Britain
The Wells to Wymondham Branch Line
The branch line was one of the longest lines in East Anglia, running from Wymondham Abbey to Wells next the Sea, through four major Norfolk towns.
Wymondham is the first station and is still in active use on the Norwich to Peterborough line. Opening 30th July 1845, it was constructed in flint by the Norwich and Brandon railway. The first part to arrive opened on the 15th February 1847 as a branch to Dereham by the Norfolk Railway company. At first single track, demand saw it doubled between Wymondham and Dereham in 1882. In 1849 the Dereham to Fakenham section opened; the extension line was a major success with over 10,000 tons of coal being transported in the first year. However, the great capital required by the Norfolk Railway company resulted in the Eastern Counties company leasing Wymondham to Fakenham in 1848.
Finally in 1857 the Fakenham to Wells branch opened, built by the separate Wells and Fakenham railway company. This was built in the hope of a developing port and tourist destination, however Wells expansion never met the company’s hopes. Even the construction of the harbour branch (a short spur from the station) didn't solve the problem.
The new Great Eastern Railway (GER) company took over the line in 1862.
Like other railways its peak was the late 19th century; for example at Dereham station there were 90 staff.
It saw heavy use during both world wars, taking a heavy toll and a few years after WWI (in 1923) the railway, along with many other East Anglian lines, was taken over by the London and North Eastern Railway company (LNER).
After the second world war (1939-1945) the whole network apart from some private lines, was nationalised in 1948, ending over 100 years of private ownership.
From here the line started to decline as motor car usage grew. Eventually on the 17th September 1955 the last steam passenger service saw the new diesel age in (steam freight continued). New diesel multiple units (DMUs) were seen, being cheaper and easier to run. However this couldn't save the passenger service, as new roads and cars meant too much competition.
The line eventually closed to passengers between Dereham and Wells on the 15th October 1964 (track was lifted between Wells and Fakenham). After that the line between Dereham and Wymondham was singled in June 1965. Finally the passenger services between Wymondham and Dereham ended in 1969.
After passenger closure freight was still carried until 1989. The first section to close was the Great Ryburgh to Fakenham part (1974); in 1981 the last freight train to Great Ryburgh left; the year after, the Great Ryburgh to North Elmham section closed and was lifted.
After grain traffic stopped in 1989 BR saw no further uses and closed it for good.
Many parts of the line were saved, in various forms. All of the stations apart from Fakenham East survive (Great Ryburgh still retains some platform and station house).
The first preservation came with the construction of the Wells and Walshingham railway in 1979: a 4 mile long, 10 and 1/4 inch gauge line from Wells to Walsingham (just shy of the original stations).
On 6 April 1982 purpose-built steam locomotive Pilgrim, an 0-6-0T engine, launched the public service. Pilgrim hauled the train until 1987 when the new unique 2-6-0+0-6-2 Garratt locomotive Norfolk Hero came into service. Two extra coaches were added to the train increasing the seating capacity to 76. A redundant signal box was moved from Swainsthorpe to Wells, where the ground floor was converted to provide a shop and tearoom.
The railway south of Walshingham is now a footpath for some distance known at the Pilgrims' Way. Meanwhile further south preservation efforts were growing with a presence at County School in 1986.
Enthusiasts worked hard resulting in the first passenger services in 1996, then the whole line in 1999. The Mid Norfolk Railway was born, an 11-mile standard gauge line with great ambitions to extend and rebuild.
The section between Dereham and County School is owned by the MNR preservation trust. The track is being restored for services to Hoe, then County School, and will eventually make a 17 and a half mile line, the aim eventually Fakenham.
At the moment the preservation group is opening Thuxton Loop, allowing trains to pass each other near the mid point of the line, thus allowing a more flexible service.
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- Grid Square
- TF9822, 71 images (more nearby)
- Ashley Dace (find more nearby)
- Image classification?
- Date Taken
- Thursday, 3 June, 2010 (more nearby)
- Friday, 4 June, 2010
- Railway station (more nearby)
- Subject Location
OSGB36: TF 989 226 [100m precision]
WGS84: 52:45.8985N 0:56.8412E
- Photographer Location
- OSGB36: TF 989 226
- View Direction
- West-northwest (about 292 degrees)
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