Highway England plans to demolish or infill rail bridges.

Highways England, on behalf of the Department for Transport (DfT) manages the Historical Railways Estate. The structures that form part of the estate includes, 3, 800 bridges, tunnels and viaducts, including 77 listed structures. Many of these structures are decommissioned and are on disused railway lines and plans have been put forward by Highways England to demolish or infill 134 of theHighways England, on behalf of the Department for Transport (DfT) manages the Historical Railways Estate. The structures that form part of the estate includes, 3, 800 bridges, tunnels and viaducts, including 77 listed structures. Many of these structures are decommissioned and are on disused railway lines and plans have been put forward by Highways England to demolish or infill 134 of these.

Highways England, on behalf of the Department for Transport (DfT) manages the Historical Railways Estate. The structures that form part of the estate includes, 3, 800 bridges, tunnels and viaducts, including 77 listed structures. Many of these structures are decommissioned and are on disused railway lines and plans have been put forward by Highways England to demolish or infill 134 of these.

This is only the first phase and it is understood that as many as 480 could be demolished. A significant number of the structures proposed for demolition are currently used by walkers and many of the routes have been identified as possibly being reopened again for rail use along with being used for cycling and walking.

Bridge 1711 crosses the protected railway route running from County School on the Mid Norfolk Railway through to Fakenham and is one of those listed in the first phase for demolition. The track bed through Great Ryburgh and into Fakenham is safeguarded under North Norfolk’s Policy CT7 for Sustainable Transport Uses. We have shared our concerns with Norfolk County Council, local MP’s, District and Parish Councils in order that we can deal with this threat.

Contact will also be made with the Railway Heritage Trust whose objectives are: to assist operational railway companies in the preservation and upkeep of listed buildings and structures. They also offer help to facilitate the transfer of non-operational premises and structures to outside bodies willing to undertake their preservation.

We are members of the Norfolk Rail Policy Group and a representative of the Highways England Historic Railways Estates will be contacted and invited to attend the next meeting in February 2021.

The section of track bed between County School and Fakenham is a vital part of the route which we need to secure for future rail use. If you would like to help us in any way then please go to our support page or get in touch with us through our contact page.

The New Civil Engineer covers the demolition threat in this article.

Audio: Wally Webb

The popular BBC Radio Norfolk Presenter Wally Webb retired on the 2nd January 2021 after 40 years on air. He was one of the first presenters on Radio Norfolk when it launched and his first show was on the 14th September 1980. The first track he played was an AC/DC hit! Since then he has presented a number of shows including a Sunday Rock show and the early morning Breakfast show.

Wally is well known by many listeners as the roving reporter who travelled all over Norfolk interviewing local people and covering events in the region. On the 8th September 2017 he visited our section of railway land at Fakenham and interviewed Project Officer Paul Young after a recent spate of vandalism, here is that article. https://norfolk-orbital-railway.co.uk/newly-restored-fakenham-railway-bridge-1715-vandalised/

Once the interview was finished, our Project Officer Paul, who at the time worked for a local community radio station interviewed Wally as they were back along the track bed to their cars.

Listen here to the interview:

The Fakenham Area Conservation Team

The Melton Constable Trust own a section of the former Great Eastern Railway trackbed at Fakenham. Trains would travel from Wells-next-the-Sea through to the Fakenham East station and then onto Dereham and Wymondham which was the main line connection to Norwich and beyond.

The trackbed at Fakenham is now a Permissive path and we are continually grateful to the Fakenham Area Conservation Team that help maintain the vegetation and keep the path clear ensuring that members of the public can enjoy this heritage walk.

Members of the Fakenham area Conservation Team at Bridge 1715

Chris Yardley who manages the Fakenham Area Conservation Team, with the help of Tracey is always looking for new volunteers:

The Fakenham Area Conservation Team works in the Fakenham area to do practical conservation tasks with a team of volunteers. Our work mostly concentrates on managing different habitats for wildlife and public amenity, together with maintaining access along some of the many rural rights of way and permissive paths in and around the Town.

We always welcome people to the group and actively seek new members who want to come to join us. There is no joining fee or expectation to donate anything apart from your time to enjoy working with us. There are no commitments over coming to tasks and we are happy if people just drop in and out as the time they have allows. 

The Permissive Path at Fakenham between Bridge 1714 and the Three Brick Arches over the River Wensum Bridge 1714.

We have a full inclusiveness policy and will try to accommodate people from all backgrounds, ages (children need to be accompanied by an adult) and abilities, although the tasks tend to require some walking and some physical activity depending on what they are (we do things such as path cutting / levelling, tree planting, grassland and scrub cutting / management)

We have a Health and Safety policy, inclusiveness policy and child safety policy. We are fully insured for public liability through The Conservation Trust – which covers all volunteers for any conservation management task that they are doing whilst with us.

Clearing Rubbish from the area around Morrisons and Enterprise Way Fakenham – together with cutting brambles and habitat management March 2019

FACT was formed in 1989 by the then Wensum Valley Project (County Council sponsored) and has been going continuously since then. We work with a variety of partner organisations such as The Melton Constable Trust, Fakenham Town Council, Sculthorpe Church to provide management of their sites. The Melton Constable Trust and Town Council have been extremely supportive of FACT over the years and provided us with funding and equipment together with shared help on projects and publicity.

Helping Stibbard Primary School to restore its pond and wildlife area March 2018

If you would like to join us please contact Tracey Yardley or Chris Yardley on 07748 135422 / 07931 434162 –  or tracey.white15@hotmail.co.uk; we would love to hear from you.

Update – July 2020

Dear All

We very much hope that you are keeping safe and well in these difficult times. It was our intention to contact all our supporters last year but difficulties intervened including a number of family bereavements.

Our aims and ambitions for the Orbital project remain the same as ever and we hope that you will find the attached leaflet of interest. Our immediate challenge is to pay off the outstanding debt on the second section of route we are buying at Holt although of course ultimate success will rely not only on securing the land but also obtaining the necessary approvals from the County Council and the ORR. We have, of course, already bought the first section of track bed opposite the North Norfolk Railway station at High Kelling and have paid about half of the purchase price of the second section. £50,000 is outstanding. We have £25,000 towards this and, therefore, need to raise another £33,000 taking into account interest and legal costs.

The leaflet below gives details of how you can donate, either by a one off donation or by taking out a standing order. The standing order allows you to spread your donation over a period. (Please go to our support page for more details)

This letter is, therefore, an appeal for your support in raising the last funds necessary to secure this further vital section of track bed. We shall be very grateful for any help you can give.

The lockdown has served to emphasize the need for people to help with all the challenges which lie ahead so please let us know if you are able to assist in any way. We particularly need help with the fundamental issue of proving that the railway and a central Holt station can be built on the land alongside the by-pass to the satisfaction of the County Council. Relevant surveying, planning and engineering skills will be of great value. This work is essential if we are to confirm that we will definitely be permitted to build the railway into Holt.

It might be worthwhile reminding ourselves what we have achieved to date:

  •   Successful professional feasibility studies for the whole route from Holt to Dereham
  •   Successful professional traffic forecast study for the whole orbital route.
  •   Purchase of track bed and associated land at Holt and at Fakenham
  •   Agreement to purchase a second section of track bed at Holt over a period, with a large part of the purchase price paid.
  •   Restoration of the two bridges at Fakenham
  •   Interpretation panels on the Fakenham track bed providing public informationabout the railway and our plans
  •   Substantial work with Fakenham Academy to provide teaching material about the railway and to engage younger people with our project
  •   Collaboration with Fakenham Area Conservation Team who are undertaking maintenance on the Fakenham land.
  •   A tour of interested parties from local authorities and other groups to view progress at Fakenham, in collaboration with the Mid Norfolk Railway
  •   Protection of the route through Holt
  •   Planning consent to lay demonstration track at Holt
  •   4,570 Followers on the Facebook page

As many of you will know, the M&GN Institute at Melton Constable is one of the last remaining buildings of its kind in the country. We have always been grateful to the Institute for allowing us to house our HQ there. In these challenging times it is more important than ever that those of us who care about the railways to support the club and come forward with active help. Let us know if you would like more details.

This photograph is the M&GN Bridge 1715 which carried the GER line from Wymondham to Wells-next-the-Sea over the Melton Constable line. The main cover photograph is the Fakenham East Railway Station, both taken in May 1982.
Photographs copyright of Gary Mutten.

Some encouraging news – The County Council’s Norfolk Rail Prospectus makes positive reference to a number of potential re-opening schemes. We were particularly encouraged by a reference to Fakenham which states in connection to the Mid-Norfolk’s Wymondham to Dereham line “In the longer-term there is potential for housing and jobs growth at Dereham. Dereham is the fifth largest settlement in the county and the largest settlement not connected by the national rail network (although, the Mid-Norfolk Railway operates privately and owns the infrastructure from Wymondham to Dereham). The next largest settlement not connected by rail is Fakenham, – Feasibility into opening this link to mainstream passenger services in the longer term could be considered. The County Council is currently considering whether it can carry out work in this with that which it is progressing on Kings Lynn to Hunstanton.”

Further on there is a reference to our scheme in particular and it states that the council will endeavour to provide help where it can.

Orbital rail (Wymondham-Dereham-Fakenham-Holt-Sheringham)

Existing private railways operate at either end of this line to Dereham and Holt).The Holt, Melton Constable & Fakenham Railway Co Ltd is pursuing plans to complete the link. This is seen as an independent initiative – as will any other similar initiatives and as such will need to be pursued by independent groups utilising their own funds, although the county council will endeavour to provide help where it can.

We are also keeping a close eye on proposals to utilise former routes for cycling and walking with various routes under consideration. We have pointed out, of course, that if these routes are to be used for this purpose then provision should also be made for the return to the purpose for which they were built – railways.

The Government says that it intends to promote major infrastructure projects in order to help the economy recover. What this means in reality remains to be seen but we shall of course be watching out for any significant opportunities.

Finally

We have to state that there is no guarantee that any of our efforts will be successful but some of us are old enough to have been in at the start of what became the railway preservation movement in East Anglia. We did not achieve our lofty aim of reversing the closures at the start of the 60’s but once this pandemic is over there will be trains running again over lines which would otherwise have been ripped up long ago. We are still pioneers planning for the day when railways will again be seen as a vital contribution to the local economy and the environment.

Please reply to

David Bill: Trustee – The Melton Constable Trust

email: mailto: d.bill@ntlworld.com

Tel 07779 345437

Audio: Railway memories County School

Trevor Bailey at County School

Trevor Bailey, a Trustee of the Melton Constable Trust talks about some of his memories of the railway between Wymondham and Wells-next-the-Sea in 1961. The interview was one of a number carried out as part of the National Lottery Railway Project

County School Railway Station in 1961
Listen here to Trevor Bailey talking to Paul Young
A J17 at Fakenham East

The Melton Constable Trust would like to thank the Veronica Awdry Charitable Trust, Fakenham Town Council, The Ernest Cook Trust and the National Lottery Heritage Fund for their support on this project.

Fakenham East 1960’s Music and memories

Photographs courtesy of Fakenham & District Community Archive.

As part of the lottery funded project, April 2017, the Melton Constable Trust interviewed a number of local people who had memories of Fakenham East Railway Station.

You can listen here to that recording along with a selection of music from the 1960’s.

Fakenham East 1960’s Music and memories

The Melton Constable Trust would like to thank the Veronica Awdry Charitable Trust, Fakenham Town Council, The Ernest Cook Trust and the National Lottery Heritage Fund for their support on this project.

Audio: John Bishop, M&GN Fireman

Melton Constable Railway Station and the Locomotive works on the Midland and Great Northern Railway (M&GN) played a significant role in Norfolk. The busy Melton Constable workshops were nicknamed the Crewe Works of North Norfolk where locomotives were built and repaired. The railway provided work and to attract and accommodate the families, a gasworks, Railway Institute, shops and houses were built.

John Bishop

In May of 2017, our reporter Paul Young interviewed John Bishop who worked on the M&GN as a fireman on steam locomotives. He also talks of the railway accident from 5th November 1946 just outside Norwich City Station.

To listen to the interview please click here:

After the interview, John showed me the picture he had of the accident and an in-house account covering the accident which reads as follows, author unknown:

Engine Number 5534 called by the crews “A Knock John”

Driver Henry Scott, Fireman David Jackson (Tuby) Guard Bob Collins.

On overtime and hoping to travel home in the guards van, driver and fireman of an earlier working into City Station, Driver Jimmy Greaves and Fireman John Bishop.  John had been up to the engine intending to ride back to Melton on the footplate with Tuby being school pals the natural thing to do, however Henry was having none of that, saying “one of you are enough trouble let alone two!” John returned to the brake van to ride home with Bob Collins the guard.

As it was this was a very lucky event for John, as in the vent that follows he would of without a doubt have been killed that night.  There are various views leading up to the accident, though what I have pieced together is very credible.

It had been a recognised procedure over the years and strictly adhered to, that the points out of the good siding being that they were operated by the Shunters and not the Signalman be at all times switched to the stops on the banks of the River Wensum this way no wagon may get out on to the main line accidental.  It was not one of the best nights to be out, a foggy night and not improved by the mist rising off the River Wensum.  The train now made up and ready to leave Norwich City goods yard for Melton Constable with what was known as the last goods.

The head shunter in anticipation thrown the points over for that train when it was ready to leave considering the conditions at the time, a seemly thing to do. However another member of the yard staff passing and seeing the points in the position they were in and remembering the usual procedure threw them back to direct traffic to the stops.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Greaves and John Bishop enjoying the home comforts of the warm stove in the guards van, not the slightest idea of what was to follow. The guard having exchanged documnents with the head shunter climbs into the guards van to join his welcome company for the return journey. The head shunter to let the signalman know all was ready to leave as and when he was ready to take them.

The crew of the engine all prepared for the return journey awaits the signal to go into the off position that they may move off. It was not long before the clattering of the signal as it was switched into the right way position.

Henry now standing on the raised step by the drivers seat, right hand on the regulator, shoulder leaning on the boiler casing enabling a gradual pressure of steam to the pistons, the damp atmosphere and heavy train behind gave every possibilty of the wheels slipping. Henry increasing pressure as the train was taking momentum, Tuby on the other hand leaning out into the darkness looking for the guards signal. A lamp swinging from side to side from the brake indicating that all was well and the whole train following in the manner intended.

He could not yet see any light from the brake, leaning even further out clinging to the uprights of the steps up onto the engine attempting to draw the guards attention by swinging his own lamp the front lamp from his cycle he had brought with him and still nothing. Above the noise of the engine beat he called out to Henry to give him another blow on the whistle.

Henry reaching up for the whistle cord suddenly found himself being thrown again the boiler and towards the drivers window as the engine struck the buffer stops and started to downward career towards the river and lurching on to its side. His body thrust against the the seat his legs coming up off the step he had been standing on suddenly forced towards the fire hole door by Tuby’s body as he was flung from his previous position gripping the hand rails. Leaning out as he was saved him from the fire irons consisting of a bent dart, straight dart and slack shovel.  One of these alone would certainly have caused some serious injury these tools with other loose equipment bedded themselves into the space beside the boiler, exactly where John Bishop would have been sitting had Henry allowed him on the engine.

Accident scene – Stuart Mcpherson

The engine had now come to a halt the water from the river getting into the ash pan and up into the firebox causing the cab to become an inferno of steam and belching flame. The train wagons loaded heavily still pushing from behind forcing the tender up into the air while two wagons ended up under the tender. In the meantime the tender plate rupturing the floor boards of the cab momentarily making it impossible for Tuby to get up the steam and belching flame making it a very uncomely position. The whistle had now drooped open issuing its ear splitting howl, accompanied by escaping steam from the safety valve all adding to the confusion surrounding the engine crew.

Henry having gone out of the cab leaving Tuby alone watching as the water from the tender filler hole cover now flung back pours over the coal bringing with it small pieces of coal and other items off the tender expecting at any moment to have one of the large lumps of coal to land upon him adding to the already discomfort. Seeing the ring of light below the side of the cab now above him with a final effort makes it out into the night air.

Tuby finds Henry who is fine though shaken, the barb wire put by the river as part of the war defences makes getting up on the goods yard difficult. He walks back down the train and is accosted by the shunter “Who are you!?” He tells the man, who when advised no serious injury had taken place was overcome with emotion with the thoughts of what he may have been responsible for and disappeared into the night.

In the brake van John Bishop was thrown against the the brake sheet causing damage to his right arm. Jimmy Greaves had injury to his body and had to go to hospital the next day. The guard I believe was not injured they had a recessed seat and if he was using it that may have helped to save him.

The staff at the station were in a quandary as how they may get the crews back to Melton, some clown suggest should someone not put the injectors on? With much discussion a taxi was called for and tw very wet dirty engine men and the crew from the brake loaded into this oversized taxi and taken back to Melton. Tuby now had to cycle home with no light this he had lost in the accident his concern was the local Policeman may see him.

The next thing he know is Mother calling him up the stairs she having no knowledge of the whole incident. A man wants you from the works she said thinking someone was enquiring how he was after the accident he came down. The messenger says can you come on duty the other crew that would be John Bishop and Jimmy Greaves are off sick and can’t take their turn today.

This is from the horse’s mouth and I am prepared to believe it fact and true.

Today this would have resulted in serious counselling and compensation. I add railway men played a part in the war effort as many of their counterparts they received no medals for their efforts.

Audio: Worthing Weekend 19th and 20th May 2018

History was made on the Mid Norfolk Railway over the weekend of the 19th and 20th May 2018 when public timetabled services returned to Worthing for the first time since 1964. A train consisting of the steam locomotive GWR Hawksworth Pannier Tank number 9466 and diesel Class 04 D2334 with five carriages ran the passengers along the line from Wymondham to Worthing.

Next stop Worthing Crossing.

The next stage of the ongoing development will be to reach the village of North Elmham where rail freight was still in operation up until 1989. From there a mile and a half of track will need to be relaid to get to the Mid Norfolk Railway’s Northern Station, County School.

Mid Norfolk Railway Chairman, Charlie Robinson at Dereham Station with the first timetabled train returning from Worthing.

On the Saturday, Project Officer for the Norfolk Orbital Railway, Paul Young travelled the route and spoke to people involved with the weekends activities and captured some of the sounds of the train running over the Worthing section.

You can listen here:

MNR volunteer Steve Tweed at Hoe Crossing

The Mid Norfolk Railway relies on volunteers and if you would like to be involved you can find out more information here:  Mid Norfolk Railway Volunteer

Cover photograph: Worthing Crossing taken by Andy Marrison.

9466 passing over a rail bridge close to Worthing

Saturday May 19th 2018.  History in the making on the Mid Norfolk Railway as we see the return of public timetabled rail passenger services from Dereham to Worthing crossing after a 54 year break.

Dennis B Howells MBE the owner of GWR Hawksworth Pannier Tank number 9466.

Listen here to  9466 crossing a bridge near to Worthing crossing with the first train on Saturday with the return trip to Dereham.

Here is a weblink to the 9466 Locomotive Group website