Earlier in the year we published an article on the new Swanage to Wareham service The 2017 trial diesel service between Swanage and Wareham finished on Sunday 3rd September 2017 and here is a statement from Mark Wooley, Director at the Swanage Railway Company.
“The full reinstatement of this fine branch line has been a 45 year struggle. The culmination of this effort – by many dedicated people – has only been possible through capital grant aid in recent years totalling £5.56m received through the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership (PCRP) from local authorities, the Department for Communities & Local Government’s Coastal Communities Fund and from oil giant BP.
A sizeable proportion of this (£3.2m) was invested by Dorset County Council and Purbeck District Council in Network Rail’s recent Poole to Wool re-signalling scheme which ensured passenger train access to and from the Swanage branch at Worgret Junction, and avoided prohibitive standalone project costs at a later date.
This level of investment represents a great act of faith in the long-standing project to reinstate a Swanage to Wareham train service and is very welcome. However, whilst the sum involved is large by heritage railway standards, it is something of an exceptional case and also far below the levels of investment required to implement a full service in the short term; a situation that, by coincidence, Christian Wolmar laments in his article in the same edition of RAIL.
It is also important to bear in mind that, vital though this grant aid has been to the Swanage Railway and the PCRP, the new service is being operated without any revenue support. Under the terms of a recently signed 99-year lease with Dorset County Council (owners of the freehold of most of the Swanage branch), the Swanage Railway has been obliged to operate a two-year trial service on 60 selected days in year one and 90 selected days in year two.
In year one, the service comprised four return trips a day at two-hourly intervals and was delivered as cost-effectively as possible by utilising a single staff shift and an integrated fare structure. Mindful of the need to avoid fare abstraction, the latter has been well received by many passengers because it allowed the ability to break a journey at Corfe Castle before travelling on to Swanage by heritage steam service. The fare, which for many was discountable, never attracted serious concerns.
The new Swanage to Wareham service is by definition a limited trial and will therefore not be optimal from the outset. We are very pleased with the first year of the trial service and our official footfall figures indicate a total passenger figure of over 13,000 for the 60 days of operation. This compares well with the PCRP’s target of 12,000 passengers. Surveys indicate that a high proportion of our passengers arrived and/or departed from Wareham by rail. Feedback received from South Western Railway tells us that Wareham station ‘entries and exits’ data for the 12-week period of the trial shows a significant increase over the same period in 2016. This was a key objective of the new service and is something to be proud of.
We look forward to delivering a 90 selected day trial service in 2018 and it is likely that there will be changes to the timetable and additional discount schemes made available for this.”
The Railway Institute in Melton Constable was built by the railway for the benefit of its workers as reading rooms, wash rooms and general recreation until the closure of the railway works in the early 1960’s. At that point a group of local people (and by then) ex-employees banded together and bought the freehold of the Railway Institute from the British Railways board, and formed a trust under the name of the Country Club that endures to this day. The Country Club offers many forms of social recreation to local people, including bar facilities, snooker, pool, a large function hall etc. Importantly we believe that the Railway Institute is one of the very last remaining in the whole country that largely operates as it was intended when it was built in the late Victorian era.
The historical importance of the building was recognised by both the Holt, Melton Constable & Fakenham Railway Company, and the Melton Constable Trust when it chose the landmark Railway Institute to be their registered offices.
Unfortunately as it is a large Victorian building with high associated running & repair costs, coupled with the nationwide downturn in the licenced trade, the building is in very real danger of having to close its doors. If this were to happen then the building would have to be sold, and would likely end up being converted into residential use – robbing the village of its only social centre and arguably the most significant building left from the era of the railway works in Melton Constable.
A concerted effort is now underway to try and save the Institute, and the renowned nine piece Mynx Soul Band have kindly agreed to do a fund raising concert at the Country Club free of charge on Saturday 28th October. Tickets in advance are £8 and are available from the Country Club, by phone on 01263 860555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations are also invited to help save this unique piece of railway history, cheques should be made payable to The Country Club, and sent to the Railway Institute, 6 Briston Road, Melton Constable, Norfolk. NR24 2DA.
One of the club trustees, Adrian Loynes recently spoke with Norfolk Orbital Railways Project officer Paul Young and you can listen here:
Mr Frank Morgan was a Railwayman at Melton Constable and worked there for many years. In June 1999 when he was in his nineties, he wrote down his memories of the Railway Institute in 1927.
Built in 1896 as the Railway Institute and extended in 1912, this building was constructed for the recreation of railwaymen and for the furtherance of education for the apprentices that were employed on the works. After the extension it consisted of six rooms upstairs and 2 rooms and a dance hall and kitchen downstairs, the boiler house, 2 bathrooms and ladies and gents toilets were situated in the yard. A large cellar was situated underneath the 1912 extension.
In those days there was no demand for a lot of storage room and as Boy Scouts we were allowed to store all our camping equipment in there free of charge, until about 1930 when the Institute obtained a licence for selling alcohol. Then we had to find room in the Scout Hall for all the gear as the cellar was then needed for beer and stores. The members money was one penny per week for apprentices and two pence per week for adults. This was stopped out of your wage packet weekly. The staff employed was a caretaker and assistant…..I don’t recall anyone else. They did all the chores, serving at the counter and controlling all that went on including the letting of the baths which cost just four pence per bath. The hot water for the baths was supplied from the boiler which was situated next to the bathrooms. This boiler was also tended by the caretakers and the supply of coal was delivered by horse dray by Messers Attoe and Twiddy coal merchants, this was delivered a ton at a time and had to be carried in Cwt. sacks up the alley alongside the Institute and tipped through a hatch into the boiler house.
The reading room (now the billiard room) was very well equipped . Every daily newspaper was supplied and each was placed on the reading desks in a manner so that you could peruse the whole paper without any problem of slipping pages or any obstruction. The only snag being you had to stand up all the time. the large table in the middle of the room and the bench on the east side had all the books and periodicals of the day and all the seating in the room was of wooden but comfortable arm chairs. A notice hung on the wall stating that audible conversation was not permitted.
The next room was the Committee room, the only time the room was used was for Committee Meetings and as a gents cloak room when there was a dance on in the hall. Next came the Music Room probably so called because it housed a piano and was let to music teachers, was also used for evening classes for apprentices, at one end was a huge glass showcase which housed a large machine all made in wood and operated by a wooden handle, this was also for instructional use.
Next came the Library containing 3000 volumes, this was in the able hands of Mr. Loue Porter, it was only open on Monday evenings from 7 pm till 9 pm and members of the public were allowed to have books but I can’t remember what they had to pay for the privilege. Next came the juniors billiard room containing a 3/4 size table, this was for members 14 t0 16 years of age to learn to play on at 2d per half hour and Monday evenings the table cover was promptly put on by the librarian at 7 o-clock and cards approximately 10” x 8” laid all around the table and book numbers were printed on them from 1 to 3000 as an index and the name of the book. you made your selection from these cards and then studied the chart in the corner of the room and if the book you fancied was in the indicator showed green, if it was out it showed red.
The end room contained a full size billiard table and on reaching the age of 16 you were allowed to use this room and of course play on a full size table. The ground floor consisted of the dance hall which on Sundays was used by the “Railway Mission” and a Service was held at 11 am, Sunday School at 2.30 and another service at 6.30. During the week various organisations used it such as the Choral Society, Evening Classes etc.,
The kitchen was rather crude, containing some rather large ovens which I believe were gas fired. Next the Bar, a small counter which only covered an area of about 6’ x 6’ which only left about 4’ x 4’ for the caretaker to move around in. anyway this sufficed until about 1930 when the licence was granted and then things became a bit cramped but they soldiered on for several more years until it was eventually bought and taken over by the Country Club Committee and made into the nice club of today.
The north wall was a well upholstered seat and faced by 3 marble topped and iron framed tables, This was the only place that chess, dominoes, draughts etc. were played. Through now into the main billiard room which housed the reckoned second best billiard table in Norfolk. When we ‘became of age’ we seldom got the chance to play on it as it was mostly taken up by the ‘Nobility’.
At 10 pm everybody out, doors locked and bolted, gas lamp at the bottom of the yard extinguished, the 2 iron gates chained and locked and that’s it,
The Melton Constable Trust, the organisation behind the Norfolk Orbital Railway project, own sections of land on the former railway route between High Kelling, Holt and Fakenham. The first stage plan for the land at High Kelling, which is the section of land across the Old Cromer Road from the North Norfolk Railway station at Holt, is to put down a number of track panels, ballast and some rolling stock.
This will highlight to local people and visitors that this is railway land and rail is heading towards Holt town. Last year the track bed was raised and has now settled and is ready to receive track, however before work can start some of the trees and overhanging branches required the attention of an arboriculturist (tree surgeon). 350 (Sherwood Foresters) Field Squadron, Royal Engineers part of 33 Engineer Regiment were contacted and they agreed to assist as part of a training exercise.
On Monday 25th September 2017, the five man team arrived on site and did some undergrowth clearance work in preparation for the tree felling. The following day they arrived early in the morning with two members of the Melton Constable Trust, Derek Haynes and Joe Penfold. Some of the overhanging branches were adjacent to the Old Cromer Road and so once school traffic had passed, Derek and Joe managed the traffic with Stop/Go boards whilst felling took place. Once completed the team moved onto the trusts land to complete the operation.
Project officer Paul Young visited the site on Tuesday 26th September 2017 and spoke to Derek Haynes and Sergeant Philip Brazier, you can listen here:
Class 45 locomotives also known as the Sulzer Type 4 diesel locomotives nicknamed ‘Peaks’, were built by British Rail between 1960 and 1962. They were used mainly on the Midland Main Line replacing the steam locomotives with the advantages of having considerably more acceleration and power. They were in service for over twenty years, with the last one being withdrawn from service in 1988.
In 1986 the Class 45/1 Preservation Society was formed to preserve an example of these locomotives and in 1990, Number 45133 was purchased. It currently runs regularly at Midland Railway – Butterley however because of the locomotives popularity it has been on a number of the preserved railways in the country.
Recently 45133 has enjoyed a period of time on the Mid Norfolk Railway and the North Norfolk Railway. On Saturday 23rd September 2017, our project officer Paul Young met up with Steve Dexter, the news letter editor of the Class 45/1 Preservation Society and you listen here:
Local photographer, Andy Marrison has been following the 45133 in Norfolk and here are a selection of some taken recently on the North Norfolk Railway. A calendar for 2018 has been released and will be on sale soon.
“The police are involved and let there be no doubt, once we find who is responsible, we shall seek prosecutions.”
Those were the words of Trevor Bailey, Chairman of Norfolk charity The Melton Constable Trust in response to two vandal attacks on the Trust’s property. Two and a half years ago the Trust bought, for £24,000, a section of the old Dereham to Fakenham railway at Pudding Norton, Fakenham together with two iconic bridges; one a three arch structure over the River Wensum and the second made of steel and spanning the town’s other old rail route. This was achieved solely with donations from the community. Ultimately, the aim is to restore rail services to Fakenham by linking up with the existing Mid Norfolk Railway(MNR) and introducing principally a public transport service of modern trains together with an extension of MNR’s heritage services. Until then, the Trust wants to make the site safe for walkers and community activities.
Earlier this year, the Trust was able to announce that it had been successful in gaining grants totalling £63,600 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other charities and authorities. This was to be used to repair the bridges, which had received no maintenance since before 1980. It would also fund information panels explaining the history of the railway and the importance of the Wensum Valley environment, together with railway based educational materials for Fakenham Academy and a teachers’ course. This would include oral history recordings of local people who worked on or used the line before closure. Fakenham Area Conservation Group would help with maintenance of the area.
The largest task was to arrest the decay of the bridges and to make them safe for visitors to the site. The railway provides a very pleasant walk from the Norwich Road to the banks of the Wensum. The bridge restoration work was accomplished a matter of weeks ago by professional engineers who repaired masonry, repainted metalwork and crucially rebuilt the safety rails on the steel bridge.
“The state of the steel bridge over the old M & G N line was hazardous”, said Trevor Bailey. “Most of the safety rails were gone or seriously bent and corroded. Our engineers completely restored them and added in additional rails to keep visitors, and particularly children, safe. They put in a lot of strong new material. They finished this work only recently”
“Some days ago, we were told by local people who were on the spot that the steel bridge had already been the subject of an attack. One of the safety rails had been completely broken away from its supports and thrown onto the old track bed below the bridge. Another had been bent and it was clear that attempts had been made to destroy others.”
“Since then, there has been a second attack. Another safety rail has been destroyed and, from extensive damage to paintwork, it is clear that every effort was made to wreck the rest. This must have taken considerable force and determination.”
“It is heart breaking. An enormous amount of effort went into raising the money for the purchase of the land and bridges and for the work that is being done to make them useful to local people pending the restoration of the railway. All of it was done by unpaid volunteers and the site was only bought in the first place because people in the community cared about it enough to donate their own cash. The risk is that the information panels that are due to go on site will also be targets.”
The Trust is asking the public, including walkers who use the site, to keep a watch and report any sign of vandalism to both the police and to the Melton Constable Trust. If anyone thinks he knows who is responsible, the authorities will be very glad to hear.
Paul Young, the Trust’s Project Officer and local representative, said “If we are not going to see this project wrecked, we need the support of local people. We shall be very grateful for any information. It will also help enormously if members of the community can assist by patrolling the site. You can get in touch with me or one of our trustees who lives in North Norfolk, Derek Haynes to offer assistance or information.”
The police can be reached by dialling 101 or visiting their Public Enquiry Office at 30 Norwich Rd, Fakenham NR21 8BB.
“Our colleagues at the Mid Norfolk Railway have recently experienced similar vandalism”, added Paul Young. “Some of their carriages were attacked resulting in about £20,000 worth of damage. It is just possible that there is a connection. The two cases taken together certainly amount to a serious issue.”
“We are now faced with heavy additional costs to put right the damage, with the hope that it will not happen again. For a small volunteer run charity it is a quite a blow. Until repairs can be made, we ask walkers to take care and especially keep young children away from the bridge parapet”
The Trust is determined to press on with its work and to make sure that the police receive any information that is discovered about the culprits.
On the 8th September 2017, Project Officer Paul Young was interviewed by Wally Webb fromBBC Radio Norfolk, which was played out on the Nick Conran Breakfast Show and you can listen to the interview here:
Anyone who would like to donate towards the costs of repairing the damage or to the Trust’s ongoing work to acquire the remaining land needed to restore the railway to Fakenham can do so by sending contributions to the Trust’s Secretary, Adrian Loynes at The Melton Constable Trust, The Railway Institute, 6, Briston Road, Melton Constable, Norfolk, NR24 2DA. Cheques should be made out to The Melton Constable Trust or bank transfers can be made to the Trust’s account: sort code 30-94-34 account no. 00493540.
The 14th June 2017 was an historic day in railway history as after a gap of 45 years, services ran again from the mainline station at Wareham, Dorset to Swanage and Corfe Castle. The ten miles of railway line linking the towns was removed in the summer of 1972 and since then campaigners have been working to reinstate the line.
The Purbeck Community Rail Partnership has been working since 1997 to re-establish a regular passenger rail service from Swanage to Wareham. To enable this to happen funding needed to be sourced. In 2010, Purbeck District Council and Dorset County Council committed £3.2million for re-signalling improvements and other work needed between Wareham Station, Worgret Junction and the Swanage Railway existing signalling system at Corfe Castle. BP also contributed £500,000 towards works at Norden Level Crossing. This was a legacy donation to the community when the oilfield was sold to Perenco UK Limited. Swanage Railway was awarded a £1.47 million government grant from the Coastal Communities Fund. This successful bid helped provide the finance to enable the refurbishment of rolling stock and improvements to the infrastructure. Swanage Railway’s grant, together with the funding from Purbeck District Council and Dorset County Council and BP, enabled the railway infrastructure to be put back in place.
Dorset County Council has underwritten Purbeck District Council’s financial commitment to the signalling work. The funding has been raised through the Purbeck Transport Strategy which aims to improve movement around the district, taking traffic away from the congested A351 by using alternative forms of transport. The Strategy is funded by contributions from development. Enabling a rail link between Swanage and the mainline meets Purbeck District Council’s priority to “help all people access services locally”.
Visitors from Weymouth, Dorchester, Bournemouth, London, and stations across the country, will now be able to visit Swanage and Corfe Castle by train with the service enabling tourists in campsites around Wareham to visit Corfe and Swanage by rail.
This rail reconnection is seen by many as a positive move and will be followed with a great deal of interest by many rail campaigning groups and organisations, the Norfolk Orbital Railway project run by the Melton Constable Trust being one of them.
Three weeks after the rail services were operational, Trevor Bailey a director of the Melton Constable Trust met up with Mark Woolley a director of the Swanage Railway and you can listen to their discussion here:
Colonel Stephens, a British light railway civil engineer holds a unique place in railway history for designing, building and managing sixteen light railways in the early years of the last century. They were built to provide links in areas where the main railway engineering companies had not constructed them due to the viability of the services. The light railways were constructed on tight budgets and used second hand materials and locomotives.
The pioneering attitude and approach to how these railways were built and operated has attracted a lot of interest over the years and a Colonel Stephens Society was formed. On the weekend of the 20th and 21st May, a Colonel Stephen’s 2017 AGM was held and members of the group took trips out on the Mid Norfolk Railway and on Sunday they travelled from Dereham to the North Norfolk Railway on a vintage 40 seater Bedford Duple coach.
On the return trip from Holt to Dereham, they were accompanied by Derek Haynes and Paul Young from the Norfolk Orbital railway project who highlighted some of the key railway points along the way. At County School Station, Dana Wiffen the Publicity Officer for the Colonel Stephens Society had a chat with Paul Young, you can listen here:
In April we reported on the the successful National lottery application to support the Fakenham Railway project. As part of the first phase of the project, work has started on renovating the railway bridges and is expected to be completed in May.
Trevor Bailey who has a Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA), is a trustee of the Melton Constable Trust who manage the Norfolk Orbital Project. Trevor was instrumental in putting together the detailed lottery funding application and setting out the project plan. Trevor grew up in Sheringham and played a key part in securing the railway line for what is now the North Norfolk Railway. He has worked in several branches of rural economic and community development, mainly in the charity sector and has been actively involved with rural media organisations which he has set up and developed, as well as chairing several major organisations including an EU funding body.
Trevor is an advocate of public transport and in particular rail use, supporting the multi purpose roles it has in todays society: transport, heritage and freight. On Saturday 6th May 2017, he met up with Paul Young, the project officer for the Norfolk Orbital Railway who is currently managing the Fakenham Project. There are also plans later in the week for a site visit to get a progress update and to set up meetings for phase two of the project which includes the history of the line and interpretation.
Paul spoke with Trevor about the concept of the Norfolk Orbital Railway and you can listen to what they had to say here: