Mid-Norfolk Railway

Mid-Norfolk Railway
Mid-Norfolk Railway
Steam-hauled train on Danemoor Bank, 2011
Locale England
Terminus Dereham
Connections Breckland Line: near Wymondham
Commercial operations
Name London and North Eastern Railway
Built by Samuel Morton Peto
Original gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Preserved operations
Operated by Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust
Stations 5
Length 17.5 mi (28.2 km)
11.5 mi (18.5 km) operational
Preserved gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Commercial history
Opened 1845
Closed 1969 passengers, 1989 goods
Preservation history
1974 Wymondham, Dereham and Fakenham Rail Action Committee formed
1995 Yaxham to Rashes Green reopened (passengers)
1998 Dereham to Wymondham reopened (goods)
1999 Dereham to Wymondham reopened (passengers)

The Mid-Norfolk Railway or MNR is a heritage railway in the English county of Norfolk. Opening as a tourist line in 1997, it is often referred to as a "New Generation" heritage railway.

The 11.5-mile (18.5 km) line runs through the centre of Norfolk between the market towns of Wymondham and Dereham via Yaxham, Thuxton and Kimberley Park, operating steam and diesel services. The line is periodically used for commercial freight operations and staff instruction for mainline railway companies.

It is the southern section of the former Wymondham, Dereham, Fakenham and Wells-next-the-Sea line, opened by the Norfolk Railway in 1847 and closed to passengers in stages from 1964 to 1969 as part of the Beeching cuts. The final section of the line closed to goods traffic in 1989. The northern section of this line has been operated by the Wells and Walsingham Light Railway since 1982.

The MNR is owned and operated by the Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust (a charitable trust), and is mostly operated and staffed by volunteers. The company owns a further 6 miles (9.7 km) of line, as far as County School railway station, which will make it the third largest heritage railway in England once restoration is complete. The Mid-Norfolk Railway has long-term aims to restore the railway as far as Fakenham.



Route history

Main article:Wymondham to Wells branch

A GER Class T26, a type often used on passenger trains to Wells before the Grouping, after which most such trains were operated by Claud Hamilton 4-4-0s.[1]

The Wymondham to Wells branch was opened in stages between 15 February 1847 and 1857,[2] after Parliamentary consent was given in 1845.[3] The entire line became part of the Great Eastern Railway in 1862.[4] The line between Wymondham and Dereham was provided with double track in 1882,[5] the line north of there remaining single track.

As part of the Great Eastern Railway, the branch became part of the Southern Area of the London and North Eastern Railway at The Grouping in 1923.[6] The line was heavily used during World War I and World War II, with extra Air Ministry sidings provided at Dereham in 1943.[7] In the early days of the war, Dereham was used as a reception centre for the construction materials used to build the local airfields.

The 1947 Transport Act nationalised the "Big Four" railway companies,[8] and the branch line became part of the Eastern Region of British Railways on 1 January 1948. The branch line between County School and Wroxham closed to passengers on 15 September 1952, with the section between Foulsham and Reepham closing to goods as well. A stub of the western section, between County School and Foulsham remained open for goods until 31 October 1964,[9] being busiest in the sugar beet season.[10]

Bridge 1692, partially rebuilt for double track, showing 1965 to present day singled line.

The passenger service between Dereham and Wells ended on 5 October 1964.[11] Dereham became an intermediate station for Norwich to King's Lynn services. In June 1965, the Wymondham to Dereham section was reduced to single track with a passing loop at Hardingham. The passenger service from King's Lynn ended on 9 September 1968,[12] with the Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway Society operating operating the 'East Anglian Branch Line Farewell' DMU special on the final Saturday.[13] The withdrawal of the remaining passenger services, between Wymondham and Dereham, followed in October 1969.[14]

Goods traffic continued after the passenger closure. The 1973 oil crisis led to a meeting being held at Dereham in 1974 by the Railway Development Society in order to petition for the restoration of passenger services between Wymondham and Fakenham. British Rail gave a price of £247,000 for such a restoration, but this proposal was rejected by Norfolk County Council. This meeting resulted in the formation of the Wymondham, Dereham and Fakenham Railway Action Committee.[15]

In 1977 the Wymondham, Dereham and Fakenham Railway Action Committee presented the Norfolk County Chief Planning Officer with a report putting the case for restoring rail passenger services between Norwich, Dereham and Fakenham East.[16][Full citation needed] Complete closure of the line took place in June 1989.[17]


Fakenham and Dereham Railway Society

Heritage operations at County School, 1993

1978 saw the formation of the Fakenham and Dereham Railway Society, a forerunner of the MNR, hoping to preserve the line between these two towns. In 1983, after the failure of a 1980 attempt to preserve the Ryburgh to Fakenham section of line, the Fakenham & Dereham Railway Society leased Hardingham station and opened a small heritage centre. Track was laid in the former goods yard and a Ruston 0-4-0 diesel locomotive was delivered to the site. Income failed to cover the rent and rates, and the Society was forced to move out when the site was auctioned in 1986 - moving to a temporary location at Yaxham station.[15]

In 1987 the station at County School was purchased by Breckland District Council, and the F&DRS were granted a 999 year lease, invited to lay track and relocate to the site.[18] The intention was to relay track to meet up with the British Rail railhead at North Elmham to connect with charter trains operating over the branch. This plan was abandoned when complete closure of the line from June 1989 was announced.[15]

Mid Norfolk Railway Society and Great Eastern Railway (1989) Ltd.

Derelict remains of Dereham station in 1990.
The first MNR train to Yaxham, December 1994
County School in 1996, before restoration by the MNRPT.

With the announcement of the closure of the entire branch between Wymondham, Dereham and North Elmham, a new company called the Great Eastern Railway (1989) Limited was formed to save the line. The F&DRS elected to back this scheme, and the lease of County School station was signed over to the GER (1989) Ltd. The F&DRS, changing its name to become the Mid Norfolk Railway Society in 1990,[19] continued to provide financial backing and manpower for the development of the County School site. The running line was extended over half a mile towards North Elmham, and a collection of rolling stock was built up. The first passenger train, a Mk2 brake coach converted to work as a DBSO with an industrial diesel locomotive, operated at the County School site on 2 November 1991.[20]

In 1991 the managing director of the GER (1989) Ltd., Trevor Cleaver, stated that he had raised much of the required finance and that the company intended to provide a regular passenger train service over the line by 1993. About 400 commuters a day were expected to use the service. Plans were also announced for special excursions such as shopping trips to London and summer seaside services. The plans included providing a hotel and conference centre at Dereham, along with a public house and shopping arcade.[21]

During the early 1990s the GER(1989), contrary to the earlier announcements relating to the future of the line, announced plans to lift the railway between Dereham and Wymondham. The MNRS withdrew their support for the GER(1989) and made their own bid for the line.[22][23]

In 1994 the British Railways Property Board granted the MNRS access to the railway line between Wymondham and North Elmham on a temporary 'care and maintenance' basis. This was in response to increasing levels of vandalism occurring at the site, a problem which had worsened after the Great Eastern company had lifted the track between Norwich Road level crossing and a point just north of the Automatic Open Level Crossings. The first working party was held at Dereham station on Saturday 23 July 1994.[24]

In December 1994 Class 20 diesels 20069 and 20206 were moved by road from County School to the truncated railhead at Dereham. On Christmas Eve, with permission from British Rail, both locomotives made their way along the line to Yaxham station. They were driven by Chris Pearson, a main line driver who had been relief driver on the final train into Dereham in April 1989.[25]

1995 saw Yorkshire Bank call in the receivers to solve concerns with the Great Eastern Railway (1989) Ltd. In June 1995 Breckland Council informed the receivers that they wished for the GER (1889) Ltd. to give up the lease for County School station so that they could review their operations in respect of the site. The GER (1989) Ltd., who stated that they were attracting 12,000 visitors a year to the site, announced that they would contest this decision.[26]

In July 1995, police were called in to investigate the sudden and unauthorised road transfer of two Mid Norfolk Railway Society Mk 2 coaches to a breaker's yard at nearby Lenwade. In July 1996 Breckland District Council issued a threat to stop trains running at County School station, as it was found that someone other than the leaseholder was operating trains at the site; the lease being non-transferable.[27] In November 1996 Breckland District Council brought in 24 hour security guards at the County School site in order to prevent the stripping of the property after having served an eviction order on the GER(1989) in mid-October.[28]

County School station was boarded up and GER (1989) Ltd rolling stock was concentrated in the isolated yard prior to disposal or scrapping. All track north of the station platforms was then lifted, and, as shown in the photograph, the site was left to become derelict.[29]

Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust

Stock being delivered through a derelict and trackless Dereham station, 1995.
Class 47 No.47596 at Dereham, 2007
Windhoff Multi-Purpose Vehicle DR98910/60 at Dereham (2008)

The Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust was established in 1995 to buy and restore the disused line between North Elmham and Wymondham.[30] It was formed through the merger of the campaign groups and organisations that had been trying to restore passenger services over the route since 1974. The aims of the charity are "to preserve and to renovate reconstruct and operate for the benefit of the people of the County of Norfolk and of the nation at large, whatever of the historical, architectural and constructional heritage that may exist of the permanent way, track, buildings (including any building as defined in Section 336(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990), bridges, operating equipment and rolling stock once forming part of or connected with or adjacent to the Great Eastern Railway line running between County School at North Elmham in the County of Norfolk and Wymondham in the County of Norfolk."[31]

In July 1995 two Mk2 coaches coaches were transferred by road from County School railway station to the truncated railhead at Dereham, where they were placed between the already present Class 20 locomotives. These coaches were then hauled to the MNR's temporary base at Yaxham. A further three coaches were delivered on August 17.[32]

On 29 November 1995 the section of railway between Yaxham station and a temporary halt built beside a footpath crossing on the Rash's Green industrial estate in Dereham was inspected by Chris Hall, H.M. Principal Inspecting Officer of Railways. Permission to operate passenger trains over this section was granted from Saturday 23 December 1995. 63 trains, each composed of the five Mk2 coaches topped and tailed by the Class 20s, were operated between this date and 14 January 1996.[33] In October 1995 Breckland District Council established a rail working party to consider purchasing the line from British Rail, then leasing it out to a rail group - of which the Mid-Norfolk Railway was the preferred lessee.[34]

On 11 April 1998 the sale of the route between Wymondham and Dereham to the Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust was completed, with the £100,000 purchase price including Dereham station buildings and the 6.5 acres (26,000 m2) of goods yard area. In a related deal the British Rail Property Board also accepted an offer of £25,000 for the 4.5 miles (7.2 km) between Dereham and North Elmham.[35] On 17 March 1998 the MNRPT had signed a Tenancy at Will agreement with Breckland District Council to take over the station and trackbed at County School. This agreement was to allow the railway to take control of the station until it could afford to buy it outright, and followed on from the removal of the remaining rolling stock associated with the defunct Great Eastern Railway (1989) Ltd from the site.[36]

The original Dereham station re-opened to passengers on Saturday 26 July 1997, with the first services being operated by 1890-built Manning Wardle 0-6-0T 'Sir Berkeley', hired from the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.[37] The ownership of the line between Wymondham and Dereham was passed from British Railways Board (Residuary) Limited to the Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust by Statutory Instrument 1997 No. 2262 on 23 September 1997.[38] The first preservation-era train to operate between Dereham and Wymondham ran on 8 February 1998, when a works train hauled by 20069 and Ruston & Hornsby 0-4-0 'County School ran as part of preparations for a March freight test train.[39] The first commercial freight train operated on 8 July 1998.[40]

Passenger services between Dereham and Wymondham commenced in 1999,[41] with the opening of Wymondham Abbey railway station. The first passenger train to use the new station, on 2 May 1999,[42] was operated by a Class 108 DMU. Thuxton station opened as a daylight hours only request halt at the same time, although Kimberley Park and Hardingham remained closed.[43]

Following the completion of infrastructure work, such as the replacement of the water tower at Dereham and the provision of an inspection pit, steam passenger services returned to the Dereham to Wymondham Abbey section on Sunday 30 April 2006. These were operated by Great Western Railway pannier tank number 9466 from the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre.[44] The ownership of the section of railway line between Dereham and North Elmham, part of that originally authorised by the Norfolk Railway Extensions, Dereham, Wells and Blakeney Branch Act 1846, was passed to the Mid-Norfolk Railway in October 2001.[45]

Part of the line from County School to Wroxham is now the narrow gauge Bure Valley Railway.[46] The formation between Wells and the religious centre of Walsingham now hosts the miniature Wells and Walsingham Light Railway.[47] Both schemes are independent of the MNR. Another independent scheme, the "Norfolk Orbital Railway" plans to link the MNR to the North Norfolk Railway and the coast at Sheringham.[48] In 2009 the Whitwell & Reepham Preservation Society announced an eventual intention to link up with either the North Norfolk Railway or Mid-Norfolk Railway.[49]

Present day

Visual effect of original double track restored near Wymondham Abbey. Current Running line on the right, the line on the left will also become a running line under plans for a new station close to the junction with Network Rail.
LNER N7 No. 69621 at Dereham, 2009
GWR 9400 Class No. 9466 at Hoe, 2009

The 11.5 miles (18.5 km) line extends between Dereham and Wymondham; and the Trust owns the further 6 miles (10 km) of disused railway to County School station near North Elmham,[50] although there is a break of around a mile between North Elmham and County School where the track is no longer in situ. This makes the Mid-Norfolk Railway one of the longest heritage railways in the United Kingdom. The track bed is mostly intact from County School to Fakenham, and is reserved by the council for railway use.[51] Although it is not yet in the Trust's ownership, the railway plans restoration of the line to this third market town.

The line features several preserved stations; Yaxham retaining period features such as the original signal box and shelters.[52] Trains run on most weekends from the end of February to December, and on Wednesdays and Thursdays in summer. There are special events throughout the year. Trains are mostly diesel-operated,[53] however in some cases steam is used.

Guest steam locomotives

Although predominantly diesel-operated, the MNR is not a diesel-only railway. The first train from Dereham after preservation, running between Dereham and Yaxham, was hauled by Manning Wardle 0-6-0 tank locomotive "Sir Berkeley", and the railway has always intended to operate both steam and diesel trains.

In 2000 the railway arranged the loan of Barclay 0-4-0 saddle tank 'Little Barford'.[54] Although the locomotive was too small to operate a scheduled service over the line it was used for a number of crew training runs, and, on Monday 12 June 2000, it became the first steam locomotive in preservation to operate over the entire route between Dereham and Wymondham.[55] Steam also visited the line, although not to operate services, in 2001 when LNER Thompson Class B1 61264 was routed via Dereham for repairs after failing on railtour at Norwich, 20 November.

The 2006 return of steam-hauled passenger services marked the completion of Dereham Station restoration and the installation of steam infrastructure[56] (such as the water tower).

The first locomotive to haul timetabled steam services over the Dereham to Wymondham section since 1955 was GWR 9400 Class 9466.[57][58] The same locomotive returned to operate the line's steam services in June and July 2007, although Battle of Britain class 34067 Tangmere also visited this year, operating some scheduled trains and hauling the first steam charter from Dereham (to London Liverpool Street), on 5 May.[59]

9466 returned in 2008, operating the line's steam services in July and August. In 2009 LNER Class N7 69621, based on the nearby North Norfolk Railway, operated weekend services between 25 April and 4 May. BR Standard Class 7 70013 Oliver Cromwell was stabled at Dereham for a week in early May, although the advertised service trains were cancelled.[60] GWR 9466 then returned to operate the July and August steam services, and, just before departing, became the first steam locomotive to work over the section of line between Dereham and Hoe in preservation.

9466 was booked to operate the 2010 MNR steam services in July and August. 9466, 6023 King Edward II and LMS Fowler Class 3F 47406 operated the line's first steam gala on 16th-17th July 2011 along with Beavertail observation saloon E1719 from the Great Central.

Commercial freight

Trainload of light tanks near Kimberley
DRS Class 37 and Rail Head Treatment Train at Dereham (2008)

Mid-Norfolk Railway facilitates commercial freight trains, using its connection with the National Rail network at Wymondham. Dereham yard was used as a servicing depot by Direct Rail Services in late 2007 and 2008 and for Network Rail track plant since 2008.[61][62]

The line has also been used to carry equipment for army units based at or undergoing training at Robertson Barracks and the Stanford Battle Area, most recently in January 2009.[63][64] Operation of these trains involves both resident and mainline locomotives.[65]

Date Operator Motive Power Notes
17 June 1998 EWS 47241 'Halewood Silver Jubilee' First trial MOD train, including inspection saloon.
8 July 1998 EWS 37263 First MOD train, composed VGA wagons.
9 July 1998 EWS 47298 MOD train, composed Warwell and Warflat wagons.
17 July 1998 EWS 37707 MOD train, composed VGA, Warwell and Warflat wagons.
5 October 1998 EWS 47200 'Herbert Austin' MOD train, composed VGA wagons.
8 October 1998 EWS 47312 'Parsec of Europe' MOD train, composed Warwell and Warflat wagons.
15 October 1998 EWS 47316 MOD train, composed Warwell and Warflat wagons.
23 April 1999 EWS 37248 'Midland Railway Centre' + 37178 MOD train, composed VGA, Warwell and Warflat wagons.
20 January 2002 EWS 47786 'Roy Castle OBE' Transfer of fire damaged 86252 from Norwich.
26 September 2008 EWS 66105 Trial MOD train.
8 January 2009 DB Schenker 66157 MOD train, composed VGA, Warwell and Warflat wagons.
8 January 2009 DRS 37087 Collecting Network Rail stoneblower.
28 November 2009 DB Schenker 66201 MOD train, composed VGA, Warwell and Warflat wagons.[66]
Training and testing

The Mid-Norfolk Railway is also frequently used by mainline companies for crew training and the storage and testing of recommissioned and new on-track plant, including ballast tampers, ballast regulators, stoneblowers and Multi-Purpose Vehicles from companies including Network Rail and Balfour Beatty Rail Ltd. Since 2001 the line has been used annually for low adhesion training, or skidpan training, for crews from Anglia Railways, latterly for One Railway, where a specially fitted Class 153 treats the track with a slimy solution before the crew practices stopping in a virtual station.[67] The line has also been used for training exercises by Norfolk Police and the Fire Brigade, including major incident training.[68]

Charter trains

1979 charter DMU at Fakenham
2003 charter train at Dereham

Before the preservation of the line a number of special trains and demonstration services were operated over the line by the Wymondham & Dereham Rail Action Committee (WyDRAC) and the Railway Development Society (RDS) to help maintain pressure for the restoration of passenger services over the line. By the line's closure, twenty special trains had operated, carrying over 5,000 passengers.[69][70]

The junction with the main line at Wymondham has allowed the Mid-Norfolk Railway to continue to be used by a number of charter and excursion trains, which operate over the line as part of the wider rail network.[71][72]

Date Operator Motive Power Notes
8 May 1999 Hertfordshire Rail Tours - King's Cross to Dereham excursion.
20 April 2002 NENTA 47749 'Atlantic College' & 67008 Dereham to Portsmouth excursion.
17 May 2003 NENTA 67006 & 67016 Dereham to York, Durham or Newcastle excursion.
2 August 2003 NENTA 47778 'Duke of Edinburgh's Award' Dereham to Severn Valley Railway excursion.
21 August 2004 NENTA 47703 & 47832 Dereham to Chester excursion.
9 September 2006 NENTA 47703 & 47709 Dereham to Scarborough excursion.
5 May 2007 The Railway Touring Company 34067 'Tangmere' & 47812 Norwich to Dereham excursion.
11 August 2007 NENTA 47805 & 47853 Dereham to Weymouth excursion.
14 May 2011 UK Railtours / East Midland Trains 43075/43082 'The Railway Children' London St. Pancras to Dereham via the Leicester Peterborough, Ely and Wymondham.

Television and film appearances

'Allo 'Allo at County School

After passenger closure, County School station was used as the set for Weavers Green station in the Anglia Television soap opera of the same name. The same station, heavily disguised, featured as "Gare de Nouvion" (Nouvion railway station) in the penultimate episode [73][74] of 'Allo 'Allo!, the comedy series set in occupied France (see picture).

In February 2004 County School stood in for Thetford station in a documentary about the arrival of American troops in World War II, and in September 2005 the same location was used by Capriol Films for the film "Peter Warlock, Some Little Joy" about composer Philip Heseltine. [75] Dereham station, with the railway's Mark 2 coaches, featured in a minor film and the line has also appeared in documentaries for local and national television.[76]

In 2010 former Conservative cabinet minister turned broadcaster and writer Michael Portillo visited the railway to film material for an episode in the second series of the BBC series Great British Railway Journeys. The filming used the Mid-Norfolk's green liveried 1957-built two carriage Class 101 Diesel Multiple Unit.[77]

Community railway

The yard at Dereham

The Mid-Norfolk Railway was established as a multi-functional line, with an intention to operate a community service in addition to tourist and freight services.[78] The railway has also stated their belief that a commuter service between Dereham and Norwich remains a viable proposition, with the MNR either running the service themselves or working with an existing train operator.[79] In June 2009 the Association of Train Operating Companies published a document calling for the restoration of services on a variety of former branch lines, including the Dereham branch. This £30m proposal would see regular services restored between Dereham and Norwich, operated subject to agreement with the Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust.[80]

In another role within the community, the railway has become a focus point for vintage rallies and other special events. On 19 April 2007 a special reenactment of life in the World War II era was organised by the Mid-Norfolk Railway and hosted at County School station.[81] On 22 June 2009 over a hundred road vehicles from origins of the 70s and earlier were hosted by the railway for a special event.[82]


On 20th March 2011 a car collided with the level crossing gates at Kimberley Park station, demolishing the south gate.[83]

On Wednesday 7th September 2011 a loaded passenger train collided with a lorry on the Greens Lane un-gated level crossing in Dereham. Nobody was injured in the collision and the train was able to complete its journey after a 45 minute delay.[84]

Route details

Wymondham Abbey

The section of line under the ownership of the Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust starts in the Wensum valley, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Candidate Special Area of Conservation,[85] taking a roughly southerly direction. The line soon climbs out of the valley and enters the town of Dereham, passing two of the towns former maltings, including the Grade II* listed Crisps Malting buildings.[86]

Leaving Dereham the route runs roughly southeast, passing over the River Tud, then dropping down to pass through the head of the Yare valley near the village of Thuxton. After passing Kimberley Park, the restored windmill[87] at Wicklewood can be seen to the west of the line, before the line drops into the Tiffey valley and most services terminate at a halt close to the Grade I listed Wymondham Abbey, a former Benedictine priory founded in 1107 and now serving as the Parish Church.[88] Although not open to regular services, the line continues a further mile before joining with the main line at Wymondham railway station.

The route of the MNR includes the following stations, listed from north to south:

Under restoration
Location Status Opened Closed Notes Photograph
County School Visitor Centre 1886 5 October 1964 Restored to LNER World War Two condition with help from European funding, the station was presented as a museum memorial to the contribution of railways to modern warfare until it was repainted in a different colour scheme in 2010. The station has a car park, picnic area, toilets, and tea room. It serves as the focus for several footpaths in the Wensum Valley. The station's unspoilt isolation has seen it used as a film location on several occasions.

The station was presented with a Highly Commended certificate in the 1990 Ian Allan National Heritage Railway Awards.

County School station from the southern end of the platform June 2010
North Elmham Closed / Private 20 March 1849 5 October 1964 Building and platform unrestored and in private ownership.
North Elmham in 2007
Location Status Opened Closed Notes Photograph
Dereham Open 15 February 1847 6 October 1969 The headquarters of the railway, and has been restored to 1950s condition with help from European and Government funding.[89] The station[90] has a large car park, and is situated close to the town centre.

The line continues northwards to North Elmham, but is not yet in passenger use.

Dereham station - main building and canopy
Yaxham Open 15 February 1847 6 October 1969 The station retains many of its buildings, including the signal box, in private ownership.[91] It is also the home of the Yaxham Light Railway[92] and a local boiler engineering company.
Yaxham station, 2009
Thuxton Open 15 February 1847 6 October 1969 Thuxton's waiting rooms are, as with all the intermediate stations, private. The waiting room has been restored as holiday accommodation.[93]

Work to complete a passing loop at this site, provide operational signalling and lengthen the up platform to accommodate longer and more frequent train services was completed in 2010.

Thuxton station, 2010
Hardingham Closed / Private 15 February 1847 6 October 1969 Hardingham station is restored and is passed between Thuxton and Kimberley Park. However this station, apart from the platforms, is private and no scheduled trains stop there. In 2001 the station was awarded the Ian Allan Heritage Award.

The station yard, also in private ownership and not connected to the main line, is equipped with two maintenance sheds. A variety of mainline and industrial rolling stock is maintained on site.[94]

Hardingham station, 2009
Kimberley Park Open 15 February 1847 6 October 1969 The station building is a private home, but the down platform has been restored for local use.
Kimberley Park station, 2008
Wymondham Abbey Open 2 May 1999 - The station is a basic platform close to the original Wymondham Abbey. MNR trains do not serve the main Wymondham railway station, which is served by trains on the Breckland Line of the National Rail network. Wymondham and Wymondham Abbey stations are one mile (1.6 km) apart.
Wymondham Abbey station, 2007

There have been plans to create additional stations at Hoe, Garvestone and Wymondham Junction railway station on the boundary between MNR and NR, allowing a short walk from branch to main line.

Engineering projects

Re-laying track at Dereham
The under-restoration section of the Mid-Norfolk Railway, near the proposed Hoe station

Large projects have been completed with help from European and Government funding, including restoration of Dereham station building, construction of a locomotive pit and provisions for steam working.[95]

Present projects include improving facilities and siding space in Dereham Yard, reconstruction of Dereham North signal box (ex-Laundry Lane, Lowestoft)[96] restoring the ex-Halesworth signal box at County School. Almost all the work, including maintaining the track and locomotives, running the trains and working the crossings, is by unpaid volunteers.

Route extension

This project entails reopening the line north of Dereham to County School in stages, initially to Hoe (a hamlet near Gressenhall), and to build a platform at Hoe using components from the former St Ives branch. The level crossing there has been replaced to accommodate widening of the road. Gradual sleeper replacement, drainage repair and vegetation clearance is currently ongoing.[97]

The Mid-Norfolk Railway has long-term aims to restore the railway as far as Fakenham, and has held talks with North Norfolk District Council and Fakenham Town Council about restoring the route to a proposed new station close to the town centre. This would result in a 23-mile (37 km)-long route through the centre of Norfolk.[98] The former railway route has been protected from development that would be prejudicial to the creation of railway transport links by North Norfolk District Council and Norfolk County Council.[99]

Norfolk Orbital Railway

The Norfolk Orbital Line is a long term proposed railway of which the Mid-Norfolk Railway would form a significant part. It is an ambitious plan to form a line between Sheringham and Wymondham for regular passenger services, joining up with the Network Rail system at either end. These ambitions were aided on 2 January 2008 when Network Rail announced it was giving consideration to allowing limited use of a crossing between the North Norfolk Railway and the Bittern branch line.[100]

Thuxton loop and signalling works

Class 37s passing at Thuxton, Autumn Gala 2010

The Mid-Norfolk Railway's 2001 Bearer Bond issue proposals included £60,000 for the provision of a passing loop at Hardingham. With this station being in private hands this proposal was abandoned in favour of a loop at Thuxton.[101]

During 2008, the Trust began construction of the passing loop at Thuxton station to allow hourly departures from Dereham and Wymondham. Preparatory works were carried out late in 2008 and the first phase of work; installing the southern turn out commenced during January 2009, this was completed on schedule during February of the same year.[102] Panels of track for the loop were laid, levelled and ballasted and the both turn outs installed by the end of 2009.[103] The final major task on the track work will see the level crossing widened to accommodate the double track.

The loop was declared operational in September 2010, although with limited signalling working from a covered ground frame and part of the restored up platform remaining out of use. The first scheduled passenger trains to pass at Thuxton did so during the 2010 Autumn Diesel Gala, which saw the most intensive service levels ever operated by the Mid-Norfolk Railway.

Full signalling will be included as part of the final project including five semaphore and two colour light signals along with two point motors to operate the turnouts. These will be controlled from a new signal box on site sourced from East Winch on the former King's Lynn line. This project has also made the commissioning of the currently dormant Dereham Central signal box a priority for the Trust. As of 29 January 2009, over £25,000 has been raised towards the new works taking the appeal over half way.[104]

Rolling stock

The Mid-Norfolk Railway owns a large collection of heritage rolling stock.

Funding and associated bodies

The Class 50 Locomotive Association's 50019 on a ballast working at Danemoor, June 2009.

The Mid-Norfolk Railway is owned and operated by Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust, a registered charity, with finance for the development of the line coming through the commercial operation of the railway and specific funding appeals. The opening of the line was partly funded by a loan from Breckland District Council of £50,000, repayable over 20 years commencing April 2003 and a loan of £25,000, repayable over 18 years commencing June 2001, from South Norfolk District Council. A grant of £50,000 was made by Norfolk County Council, £25,000 from Breckland D.C. and £12,500 from South Norfolk D.C.

In 2001 the railway launched a Bearer Bond issue of up to £300,010, offering annual interest at 4% per annum as well as capital repayment after ten years. The nominal value of the Bonds will be payable on 31 October 2011. The capital projects proposed for this scheme were:

1. Part restoration of the Victorian station buildings, goods shed and stables at Dereham, along with the provision of sidings and maintenance facilities. Dereham was also to be provided with watering, coaling and disposal facilities for steam services. (£150,000)

2. A runround facility was to be provided at Wymondham Abbey. (£20,000)

3. A passing loop was to be provided at Hardingham. (£60,000)

4. Essential preparatory work on track restoration on the Northern Section, towards North Elmham. (£25,000)

5. Additional passenger rolling stock was to be purchased. (£25,000)[105]

The MNR also has several supporting bodies based on the line. The majority are locomotive or rolling stock groups. Private owners have based their stock or locomotives at the line.

The Class 37 Locomotive Group formed in 1984. The group maintains and operates 37003, which arrived at Dereham in February 2009, and are custodians of 37175, which is owned by one of their long-standing members and kept at the Bo'ness & Kinneil Railway.[106]

The Class 50 Locomotive Association bought 50019 Ramillies in September 1991. Originally on the Spa Valley Railway, it moved to the Mid-Norfolk Railway in May 1999.[107]

The Class 56 Group was formed in 1992. They purchased 56040 Oystermouth in December 2005, the locomotive arriving at Dereham in June 2006. The C56G are also custodians of 56101 which is currently at the railway.[108]

The Stratford 47 Group formed in 2001 to save a Class 47 diesel formerly at Stratford depot in East London. It now owns three locomotives, with 47596 Aldeburgh Festival operational on the Mid-Norfolk Railway.[109]

The Class 73 Locomotive Preservation Company, formed in 2004, manages electro-diesel locomotive 73210 at the Mid-Norfolk and 73136, based at Stewarts Lane Depot.

Norfolk Heritage Steam Railway Ltd, formed 2009, own Hunslet 0-6-0 saddle tank, works number 3193, now being restored at a private site at Yaxham for use on the Mid-Norfolk Railway.[110]

The Southern Preservation Group purchased 1497 'Freshwater' from South West Trains in August 2010, bringing it to the Mid-Norfolk Railway in September 2010 for use with 73210.[111]

See also

Other Railway Preservation Society in Norfolk:


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External links

Coordinates: 52°37′02″N 1°00′48″E / 52.6173°N 1.0134°E / 52.6173; 1.0134

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