The Melton Constable Trust, the registered charity that is seeking to bring the railway back to Fakenham, has been awarded a National Lottery grant of £59,800 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The grant will enable the Trust to use the section of line and the bridges it already owns for the benefit of the community, by providing safe access and interpreting the history of the railway for school students and visitors. A key aim of the project is the repair of the two bridges to prevent their continued deterioration.
Two years ago, with the aid of donations from the local community and supporters across the country, the Trust was able to buy an important section of the old rail route at Pudding Norton, Fakenham including two iconic bridges. The three arch bridge over the River Wensum is a much loved local landmark which appears on town maps. The ultimate aim is to acquire more of the old track bed and to link up with the Mid Norfolk Railway so that the railway can be rebuilt to Fakenham.
Trevor Bailey, a Trustee of the Melton Constable Trust, said: “This success is really the result of the tremendous interest that local people have shown in the old railway, its history and the prospect of trains eventually returning to the town. We bought the track bed and the two bridges at auction for £24,000, with very little time for fund raising, simply because our supporters were willing to put their hands in their pockets and donate significant sums. That effort has now paid off in a big way. The Heritage Lottery Fund has decided that the community’s support and our plans for the site are worthy of major funding. We are more than grateful to HLF and to the members of the public who buy Lottery tickets and make these grants possible. We are a small group of volunteers working very hard and it provides enormous encouragement to have this kind of backing.”
“Our aim is ultimately to acquire all of the track bed necessary to link to the Mid Norfolk Railway in order to bring trains back to the Fakenham. The Mid Norfolk Railway is actively rebuilding its line northwards to County School, the next station north of Dereham, which is already in its ownership.”
“The extension of services to Fakenham is, however, well into the future. It will take a considerable time to acquire the rest of the land required and to achieve the rebuilding of the railway, with the very substantial expenditure involved. We have to work carefully and considerately with existing landowners.”
“For the coming years, we want to make sure that the Pudding Norton site is open to the community, for walking, heritage education purposes, environmental experiences and related events. We shall be working with Fakenham Town Council, schools and a number of community and voluntary groups. The Town Council has committed its support and Fakenham Academy has agreed to work with us on the production of an education pack for students and on training for teachers in local railway history. Volunteers from the Fakenham Area Conservation Team will undertake basic maintenance work on the site on an ongoing basis. The Fakenham and District Community Archive, along with the Mid Norfolk Railway, has offered to contribute historical information and photographs.”
The main priority is to get the site into an accessible and safe state, so that it is maintained for future railway use, interim community access is realistic and the historical story can be told. One of the main concerns is the restoration of the bridges and related safety issues. Both bridges are fundamentally sound but there has been deterioration in the years since the railway was closed and they do not offer enough safety for people on foot, including children. The iron bridge where two railways, the Great Eastern Railway and the Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway, crossed, in particular, needs maintenance.
A full inspection of the bridges has been carried out by a very experienced professional railway civil engineer. Repairs to the bridges are vital to the eventual restoration of rail services. The other principal aim is to interpret the site, its surrounding environment and their histories for the benefit of the public and to provide educational outcomes in partnership with local schools.
The National Lottery grant from HLF will, therefore, cover these things:
Preparing the site for easy access and use by the community.
Bridge repairs and safety measures.
Information signs and interpretation boards dealing with the history and environment of the railway and surrounding areas.
A training course for teachers and classroom assistants from local schools on the history of the site, the railways and the surrounding flood plain environment to enable them to bring their students to the site and use it as a learning resource.
Production of associated educational materials, including an education pack
The making of oral history recordings of people who used and worked on the railway, which will be included in the educational material and be available for broadcast and on the Trust’s website.
Paul Young, the Trust’s Project Officer, will be the local point of contact whilst the work is being carried out. He advised: “In the coming months the most obvious activity will be the repair work on the bridges, which will be carried out by professional engineers. It will be necessary to close off access whilst that work is under way for safety reasons but the end result will be a great improvement. Meanwhile, other work will be going on. We shall be researching information, documents and photographs about the history of the railway and recording the memories of people who used to work or travel on the line. If you have personal memories of the railways through Fakenham or any pictures and memorabilia, we shall be very glad to hear from you.”
The Mid Norfolk Railway has taken delivery of its latest loco to join the fleet, owned by DO5 Preservation Ltd ex-DRS Class 37 No 37688 roared into Wymondham mainline at lunch time on Monday 27th March 2017.
This was followed by a display of power as it ran over the cross over and back into the station. It then proceeded onto the MNR metals and into Wymondham Abbey run round loop to await collection by senior MNR driver Melvyn Cole for the final part of its journey with the run into Dereham.
More information on Class 37 No: 37688 here: 37688
With thanks to Andy Marrison for the report and photographs,
The delightful County School is the Northern most station on the Mid Norfolk Railway. It does have a small stretch of rail but is not yet linked to the rest of the railway. Work is in progress and tremendous progress has been made with only about two miles of track left to repair and lay.
The station received Leader II funding in 1999 and was transformed from a derelict site to a period railway station dating back to the 1930’s. It is now a popular spot for walkers and nature lovers. The station has an Orchard and is situated in a beautiful setting in Mid Norfolk. The walks and grounds are maintained by volunteers on the Mid Norfolk Railway and there is also a popular tea room.
On Saturday the 18th March 2017, The Young Volunteer Group from the North Norfolk Railway based at Sheringham, arrived to give the station picnic area its annual tidy up. This is an excellent scheme that has been running now for several years and demonstrates a good working connection between both railways.
Our editor Paul Young called in to meet them and brings us this report:
There are many interesting characters around the Norfolk Orbital route who have a wealth of knowledge about the local railways.
Our Project Officer Paul Young met up recently with Ray Meeks, who is now the archivist for the M&GN Circle and has lived in the Melton Constable area for most of his life. Many members of his family were involved with the railway and he has memories of life in those times.
On Friday the 10th March 2017, Paul met up with Ray and they talked through his experiences of when railways played a key role in many people’s lives. You can listen to their interview here:
Wrenford has been painting railway scenes for as long as he can remember, both his grandfathers were engine drivers and he developed a passion for steam trains. His paintings are very atmospheric and Wrenford has gained a reputation as one of the area’s top railway artists.
Wrenford lives in the Norfolk Orbital Route at Sheringham and is a frequent visitor to the nearby North Norfolk Railway . He is a very busy artist and attracts a lot of work through commissions.
On 25th February 2017, he joined Andy Sullivan of the Norski Noo Gallery at Dereham Memorial Hall, for the 18th Model Dereham Railway exhibition. It was as always a popular day with trains running on the Mid Norfolk Railway.
Paul Young, project officer for the Norfolk Orbital Railway went along and interviewed Wrenford, who gives us a fascinating insight into his work and you can hear it here:
Working with Norski Noo Gallery, we are delighted to be able to offer a limited selection of signed prints of Norfolk Railway stations in and around the Orbital route. A percentage of the proceeds will go towards funding this project. To view the prints and for more details please click on this link: Norski Noo Gallery
On Monday 13th February 2017, David Bill (Director), Joe Penfold (Holt Liaison) and Paul Young (Project Officer) members of the Norfolk Orbital project met with Steve Turner from the Office of Rail and Road, who deals with all the Heritage Railways in the UK.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the development of the rail route into Holt and identify the issues. The crossing at the Old Cromer Road was considered to be the first priority. A traffic survey is to be conducted and then a business case for a crossing is to be put to ORR for consideration. The business case is to outline the safety aspects, traffic use and benefits to the town of installing it. Crossings are not popular due to the number of fatalities so it has to be a strong case. We would obviously need to consult with Holt Town Council and the NNR to gauge their views. So it would be a well rounded proposal and would not be a stand alone. If a crossing is not approved then options would be a tunnel or a bridge.
Clearances were then noted and in places they do appear to be ‘tight’ in one area with the numerous new developments currently under construction. However with the measurements that have been taken this pinch point should be workable. We are waiting confirmation from ORR as to their requirements and then we can go to Norfolk Highways and Holt Town Council to discuss. The footprint of the new roundabout currently being constructed on the Holt bypass will not encroach onto the rail corridor. It would of been helpful if this roundabout could of been offset to the East by a few metres but this request was not factored in so we will have to work with it.
A public consultation was also suggested as being set up to gauge the current feeling of support within the local community. This would need to be done working closely with Holt Town Council and Norfolk Highways. The current Orbital project has been running now for almost twenty years and public opinion has been tested in this time with mixed results. It has to be remembered that the Orbital project is being run solely by a small and dedicated voluntary team, many who have other commitments and full time jobs. If there is a high level of support then funding options for staffing the project could be considered as an option.
Having bought the railway track bed and the two bridges at Pudding Norton, Fakenham, we have begun to plan for restoration of the bridges and for the involvement of the local community.
The condition of the bridges has already been assessed by Bob Wright, a railway civil engineer of great experience, to whom we owe a lot. This has shown that they are in a surprisingly good state after many years of disuse. Nevertheless, they need restoration work to prevent deterioration and to keep them sound for the time when the railway can be rebuilt.
Although it is clearly marked as private property, the trackbed as far as the river bridge is walked extensively by local people, who greatly enjoy the wonderful view of the Wensum Valley from our high embankment. We are happy for this to continue until the route is required for the railway but it must be under “permissive path” status, which will prevent the establishment of a full public right of way and ensure that railway use will not be impeded. In fact, there is adequate width to allow both railway and a footpath, should that be necessary in the future.
Registering a permissive path is, therefore, important as is attention to public safety. We have already tried a number of times to get guidance from the authorities on the process involved in establishing a permissive path without much result. There appear to be some policy changes planned. We shall stay with it.
Otherwise, we are now concentrating on two strategies:
First, we are forging partnerships with groups in the local community. We are working with Fakenham Academy towards the provision of teaching material about the history and the future of the railway, together with a possible short training course for teachers about the railway and its place in the community. We think it no bad thing that young people should be made aware of the railway, its past and its potential. They are of a generation that has grown up without a local railway. We need to help them to understand what a rail service to Fakenham could do for the community, the economy and the environment.
We also have a partnership with Fakenham Area Conservation Team, which is to help control vegetation along the track bed on a voluntary basis. We are very grateful for this highly practical assistance.
The more that local people understand the importance of the work that we are doing and the more they become involved, the better the long-term prospects for a strongly supported project to bring the railway back to Fakenham.
In that connection, quotations have been obtained for the creation of interpretation boards to be placed on the site illustrating the history of the railway and the Wensum Valley environment and explaining our plans to acquire more trackbed and, in partnership with the Mid Norfolk Railway, return a public transport rail service to Fakenham.
Second, we have to consider the work necessary on the bridges, both to arrest deterioration and to improve safety provisions. The bridges are not going to fall to pieces but it will be a very good thing if we can deal with such things as ingress of water, vegetation establishing itself where it should not be, loose masonry and lack of protective paintwork.
Bob Wright has advised on the work that needs to be done and quotations have been obtained from specialist contractors.
Both of these strategies require money. £3,800 has been raised in grants initially. This is made up of £300 from Fakenham Town Council, which is strongly in support of our efforts as a matter of policy, £2,500 from the Ernest Cook Trust and £1,000 from the Veronica Awdry Charitable Trust. We are now seeking to build on this support with further grant applications for substantial funding sufficient to allow us to fulfil both strategies: community partnerships and bridge restoration. There is a lot of competition for funding but, for the first time, we have a project at Fakenham of the right kind to attract grant support.
Whilst this goes on, we have also been looking at the potential acquisition of another section of trackbed. Such negotiations, however, do have to be approached with sensitivity and care. Inevitably there are many pitfalls and they take time.
There are some interesting projects taking place along the Orbital route. One excellent example is the Hunslet 3193, a steam locomotive undergoing restoration in the goods yard at Yaxham railway station by members of the Norfolk Heritage Steam Railway Ltd.
One of our website editors, Paul Young, met up recently with two members of the Norfolk Heritage Steam Railway Ltd. Chairman Charlie Cooley and Secretary/Treasurer David Bramhall.
Listen to their conversation here:
For more information, please click on the weblinks below:
Thanks to the generosity of our supporters we recently met the challenge of having to pay the next installment towards the purchase of the land at High Kelling.
The land we have purchased is contained within the belt and we are now looking at Pt1300 which leads up to the Holt Bypass.
Together with the initial stretch of land we purchased from the County Council some time ago this means that we have reached the halfway mark towards purchasing this first part of the railway route and the prospect of getting into Holt. We face many challenges ahead and we will keep everyone informed but this is good news which we wanted to share with you now.