I visited the Mid Norfolk Railway with a group of working volunteers from the Somerset and Dorset. This was my first visit to this line which operates between Dereham and Wymondham Abbey station. British Railways closed the line in 1969.
I bought my Edmonson ticket at the booking office window of the wonderfully restored Dereham station. Next, I decided I would purchase breakfast as well. Breakfast was beans on toast which I enjoyed while sitting at a conveniently placed table on the station platform under the canopy. Entertainment was provided by Class 47 locomotive 47596 which was backing down onto some coaching stock in the station.
Metro Cammell DMU
This line was an early recipient of DMUs in the 1950s when there was a complete replacement of steam hauled traction. Thus, it was appropriate that we boarded a two car Metro Cammell DMU (or Class 101 as it was later referred to by BR) at Dereham station for our approximately eleven mile journey to Wymondham. This particular two car set is restored to early BR green complete with cat whiskers on the front. Unfortunately, in my view, the retention of the high intensity headlights fitted by BR on the front of the cab detracts from the vehicle’s historic condition.
This is not a criticism of the Mid Norfolk Railway. It is a factor which affects many vehicles on Heritage railways in similar early livery. I hope that eventually the light will be removed and replaced with two character head code panel as built. That said some of the early Metro-Cammell units in the 79XXX series did have a round centre light albeit there was also a fourth one above the destination box!
Stations on the Mid Norfolk Railway
Along the route of the Mid Norfolk Railway are a number of stations. One of them, Hardingham, is in private ownership and trains only stop by arrangement during certain special events.
Our service called at Thuxton where we were able to see the impressive newly built signal box along with evidence of restoration work on the station buildings.
One of the joys of traveling on a heritage DMU is the opportunity to view the line ahead from behind the driver’s cab. We observed the signal box and crossing as the gates were opened and spied a classic Landrover waiting alongside the crossing gates. This added to the period atmosphere of the station area.
As the DMU made its way through the beautiful Norfolk countryside we noticed workers on the track. At this point the friendly guard informed us there is a project to re-lay new track alongside the existing formation. Once commissioned, services will transfer over to the new track as the existing track is becoming life expired.
We arrived at the delightful location of Wymondham Abbey station where we were able to get out for a while and purchase some cold drinks from the booking office.
Wymondham Abbey signal box under construction.
A new signal box is being built which will, in time, control both signals and the level crossing. I don’t know whether there was a box in this position previously because I am not familiar with the line.
The Return Journey
The privately owned Hardingham Station in splendid condition
On the return trip I photographed the platform station buildings and signal box at the privately owned Hardingham Station. The owner is to be congratulated for all the effort that has clearly gone into restoring the station.
At Thuxton we passed a Class 47 locomotive 47596 Aldeburgh Festival (numbered D1933 when built at the Brush Falcon works in 1964) which was in charge of a wedding special train. This locomotive was named in 1984 during a five-year period allocated to SF (30A) depot hence adornment of that depot’s emblem – a cockney sparrow. The sight of such detail must bring back great memories for those involved at Stratford Depot which is now the site of the Olympic Park.
Arrival back at Dereham gave us the opportunity to explore the station more fully. The restoration of the station buildings captures the atmosphere of BR in the 1950s and 60s. You will note though that in the picture above there is a gentleman in an orange jacket. I waited patiently for him to move but unfortunately we were short on time so I had to take the photo with him in the shot.
For me (and I’m sure others) there is an issue about wearing high-vis clothing when there is no need to. It is akin to wearing of hard hats when there is no possibility of any overhead hazards. Unfortunately it does spoil the period effects that volunteers have worked so hard to create. There clearly is a place to wear hi-viz clothing for safety reasons but not all the time. This is something that should be bourne in mind.
Attention to Detail
As some of you will have picked up previously in my blogs I do like to spot features on heritage railways that someone has bothered to include in the overall ambience.
At Dereham I spotted this pre-decimalisation BR paytrain guide from 1970. I remember these posters at stations during my youth particularly when I travelled on my East Anglian Ranger ticket. I will feature this in the future blog. What’s even more impressive is that this particular poster is relevant to the Mid Norfolk railway from the Dereham to Norwich.
It was a delight to travel on the Mid Norfolk Railway and I will definitely return again. It really brought back memories of traveling on Heritage DMU’s around Norfolk when I was young in the 1960’s & 70’s. It’s strange but I did not think I would enjoy traveling on a DMU! They were so commonplace after the eradication of steam loco hauled trains. Of course now these vehicles are heritage in their own right.
I really enjoyed reading about the Mid Norfolk Railway in the book Norfolk: A Pictorial Record of the County’s Railways Past and Present (Rediscovering Railways) currently it’s only 3p or 4p plus postage on Amazon for a used copy!! Amazing value!
On the same weekend, I also visited the Epping Ongar Railway