I recently visited the North Norfolk Railway with some railway friends. I hadn’t been to this heritage railway since the early 1970s although I always follow its progress in the media.
History of the NNR
As many will already know the North Norfolk Railway, also known as the Poppy Line, operates between Sheringham and the Georgian town of Holt. It runs along the old Midland and Great Northern Main Line which network used to operate between Peterborough and Yarmouth via Melton Constable. It had a charm of its own with its Express services meandering across countryside towards the North Norfolk coast. The beauty of this railway was completely lost on those striving for profit and sadly the system was closed in 1959. Fortunately, the foresight and determination of railway enthusiasts from the mid 1960’s means we are able to enjoy travelling over a section of this Midland and Great Northern Line. I like to do some research on railways before I visit them and in this case I found reading The North Norfolk Railway: A Nostalgic Trip Along the Whole Route from South Lynn to Cromer was very valuable.
The East Anglian train
We arrived at the western-most railway station, Holt where we saw the arrival of visiting Stanier 8F 48624. Within the steam train consist was a Gresley buffet coach in blood and custard livery sporting “The East Anglian” coach boards. I like to spot this kind of detail and so I’d like to dwell, for a moment, on this feature:
This named train “The East Anglian” was introduced in 1937. It was suspended during World War II although reinstated again in 1946. Up until 1951, the down service from Liverpool Street departed at 6:40pm. With the introduction of Britannia Pacifics in 1951, a complete recast of the Eastern Regions’ timetable saw the departure brought forward by 10 minutes. In the up direction, departure from Norwich Thorpe was originally 11:55. It was moved forward by 10 minutes during the timetable recasting. At its introduction there were six purpose built LNER carriages which included 1st and 3rd class accommodation as well as kitchen cars. Post-war the formation was increased by two further coaches from normal stock. Originally the train was hauled by one of two B17 Sandringham class locomotives that were streamlined in the same way as the famous A4 Class Pacifics. One of these, 2859, was called “East Anglian” like the train it hauled.
You might notice in the photo that on the other side of the Gresley buffet coach there are “The Broadsman” carriage boards. This named train was introduced in the Summer of 1950 and operated between Liverpool Street and Cromer. There were through carriages to and from Sheringham which were marshalled into the main train at Cromer. From 1951, haulage was by BR Standard Class Britannia Pacifics.
Locomotives and carriages
Returning now to our trip at Holt, we witnessed the splendid sight of LNER B12 locomotive 8572. Again just to mention a point of detail was the inclusion of a CCT in the train consist. I think such additions add prototypical realism to the train formation and such action is to be applauded.
An arrival of a train on the second platform at Holt brought the spectacular appearance of the recently refurbished British Railways Mark 1 suburban vehicles. The sight of so many doors left open on the platform was a sight once taken for granted. In the 1960’s and 70’s. I travelled numerous times on these vehicles and so did not want to miss the opportunity to relive this experience.
We travelled in our compartment as far as Weybourne where we alighted and took in the lovely atmosphere of this country station. I remember this station featured in one of the Dad’s Army episodes called The Royal Train. I’d arranged to meet fellow locomotive engineer Phil Ward who gave us a tour of the workshops and yard. He has undertaken a marvelous restoration of one of his Class 08 locomotive shunters, D3935. Weybourne is also the site of a signal box which you can visit as part of a Signalling Experience Day.
In the shed was Class 9F 92203 undergoing what looked like a full piston and valve overhaul. David Shepherd, the wildlife artist, bought this loco directly from BR. He recently sold it to the North Norfolk Railway. It was one of the first batch of Class 9F’s allocated to 82F Bath Green Park in the Summer of 1960. They worked heavily loaded Summer dated trains over the Somerset and Dorset single-handed.
In an adjacent road was another once familiar sight to me during my youth trainspotting on the Kings Cross suburban network . This was Class 31 D5631 (tops number 31207). When new, it was allocated to 32A Norwich Thorpe depot. In the yard was Class 46 D182 in an early version of the BR corporate blue livery with half a yellow front.
The sound of steam locomotives drew our attention to the Main Line as the fine sight of Class 8F 48624 piloted by BR Standard Class 76084 passed by, not stopping at Weybourne station. Also in the yard was the cab from long scrapped Class 25 D7597 which I believe was once used as a garden shed. We departed Weybourne for Sheringham behind Hunslet saddle tank Ring Haw. We travelled in BCK number GE21103. BCK’s (Brake Corridor Composite) always strikes me as being a whole train in one coach. By this I mean it has 1st and 3rd Class accommodation plus a guard’s compartment.
The station Sheringham looked superb! The buffet where we took refreshments was good too, selling a variety of good fare. I love the features at this station with vintage enamel advert and BR Eastern Region dark blue signs. After a full examination of the station it was back on board for our final train ride back to Holt behind BR Standard Class 4 2-6-0 76084.
Following our arrival at Holt station, LNER B12 8572 appeared and we watched as it took on water. At this point inter-heritage railway friendly liaison was conducted as we chatted with Ben, the driver of 8572.
This was a marvelous end to our visit to the North Norfolk railway. What a wonderful railway and one to which I shall return. I encourage you too to visit as you will I’m sure not only be impressed with the railway and its traction of rolling stock but also receive a friendly welcome from the staff and volunteers. Did you know that the North Norfolk Railway is restoring a Class 08 Shunter?
You can find out all about the numerous special events at the NNR event pages here including several steam gala events which are well worth a special trip. You can enjoy the evening dinner train and santa specials as well as daily steam trains and vintage diesel trains. The railway operates both steam and diesel locomotives and runs for 11 miles through coastal scenery and countryside including Sheringham Park (National Trust). Please note that Kelling Heath Halt is a request stop.
Read about my trip on the Mid Norfolk Railway which took place on the same weekend as this trip.