Whitwell and Reepham Railway track laying plans.

Whitwell & Reepham Station was opened on the 1st July 1882 and was part of the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway’s (M&GN) branch from the main line at Melton Constable to Norwich City. The line was used for passengers and freight goods bringing coal from the Midlands to Norfolk and peat, for burning, dug out of the Broads together with grain for use outside the county.

In the 1950’s with car ownership becoming more popular and affordable together with more freight being moved to the roads, rail usage started to decline. British Rail were losing money and radical decisions and cut backs were made. On the 2nd March 1959, the line was closed for passenger use however the station remained open for goods traffic until 1st May 1964. However the track through the station remained in place up until 1985 for movements of concrete products from Lenwade station, two miles away.

The Station Building

After the station closed faced an uncertain future, it was used for a variety of different purposes from a coach park to tree surgery. There was even talk at the time to relocate the station building and reassemble it at Holt for use by the newly formed North Norfolk Railway however Stalham Station building was used instead. Meanwhile once the track had been lifted, the track bed was used as part of the Marriott’s Way, named in memory of William Marriott who was Chief Engineer and Manager of the Midland and Great Northern Railway (M&GN) for 41 years.

Owner Mike Urry (left) with members of the Whitwell and Reepham Preservation Society

In September 2007, railway enthusiast and local businessman Mike Urry bought the station site. In 2008 the Whitwell and Reepham Preservation Society was formed and phased plans were drawn up for the development of the heritage railway. Phase one is returning the station to its original layout by relaying track, running trains and restoring the station buildings. The impressive signal box has been the most recent building project and there are plans later in the year to get it operational. Phase two is to extend the line along Marriott’s Way to Lenwade and then re-create the Themelthorpe curve to Reepham station. Phase three would be linking up with either the Mid Norfolk Railway or North Norfolk Railway.

Looking towards Lenwade

Before the relaying of the track on the trackbed can start, clarity of ownership and permissions need to be granted so a petition has been raised to provide backing and support. The Whitwell and Reepham Preservation Society are keen to progress but not at the detriment of the users of the Marriott’s Way.

Track laying is currently within the confines of the station site.

The petition seeks to:

Clarify the term “Railway Land” of the Lynn and Fakenham Railway Acts 1876/81.

The Whitwell & Reepham Railway Preservation Society are a Heritage Railway and have been running for over 10 years. We  would like to relay track on an old track bed running from Whitwell & Reepham Station to Lenwade Station, making sure the existing users can still use the land as well. As part of the petition process they state that:

We would like the Government to:

1) Clarify the position of the Lynn and Fakenham Railway Act of 1876 to 1881, the Eastern & Midlands Act 1883 to 1885, and the other railway almaganations up to Network Rail times, and to confirm the land under the Lynn and Fakenham Act still does in fact have an act of parliament still in force for the land to be used as a railway.

2) Clarify who actually has preference over this land if the point above is true.

3) Provide us with a written statement of the above.

Here is a link to the petition: The Petition

Richard Bailey

Our Project Officer Paul Young visited Whitwell & Reepham station and spoke with Richard Bailey, the society’s Safety Manager.  Richard has been with the group from the beginning in 2008 and has put in the petition.

Listen to the interview here:

 

Black and White photograph of Whitwell & Reepham Station copyright of the M&GN Circle.

Audio: The Railway Institute, Melton Constable

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 Melton Constable Country Club (Railway Institute) October 2017

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 a.loynes@homecall.co.uk.

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.

The Railway Institute circa 1912 and the sign offers Tea, Coffee, Cocoa and Eatables. Photograph from M&GN Circle Archive

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,

This as I remember in 1927 (F Morgan)

Useful Weblinks:

The Melton Constable Country Club

The Mynx Soul Band

The M&GN Circle