70007 Couer de Lion leaves Norwich Thorpe; view from the bridge.

70007 Couer de Lion leaves Norwich Thorpe; view from the bridge.  

You got a good view of the locomotives in the yard at Thorpe Station from Carrow Road, just before the bridge over the line. There was the ash pit, a turntable and of course the coaling tower, all plainly visible. My father, when he was feeling a bit low would put me in the car and take me to watch the trains. I didn’t mind at all being used as his companion in this way. We would park opposite the Clarence Harbour, the pub opposite the coaling tower, demolished in 2004. To be able to park on the busy Ring Road seems incredible now, but it shows much quieter the road traffic was back in the 1950s. On the railway of course the traffic was much busier than it is today. Sometimes there would be no activity in the yard, but you could usually rely on at least one locomotive requiring turning, and often there would be several needing coaling as well.
The name “Clarence Harbour” dates from 1837 when the pub was built and recalls a plan to build a harbour off the river Wensum. This corresponded with efforts to improve river access to Norwich. The New Cut which connected the river Yare with the sea at Lowestoft, via the river Waveney and Lake Lothing was constructed and opened in 1833.  This avoided the stranglehold on river traffic to Norwich exploited by Great Yarmouth. Of the Harbour and its surroundings only the pub was built. The name probably comes from the Duke of Clarence, the title of William IV before he became king (1830-37).
The most memorable occasion concerning the yard at Thorpe was a visit arranged by my Anderson cousins in 1959 or 60; the Andersons were good at arranging such things. They had organised a trackside visit by the two of them to the London mainline near Dunston, all quite officially, which nonetheless resulted in their being detained by the police! A year or two later David organised a visit to the steam sheds at March which I recorded on film.
On this occasion we were taken round the diesel sheds to Norwich, then very recently introduced but entirely dull as far as I was concerned. Luckily there were other more attractive features of the afternoon. A climb up the water tower by a metal gangway round the outside gave us a good overview of the yard but resulted in several days of aching thighs. I think the exposed nature of the steps made our climb rather tentative and our muscles rather taut.Close up views of the ash being raked out of the firebox was exciting, and especially revealing was the workings of the coaling tower. A whole truck was hoisted up to the top and tipped into the hopper, to be released into the tender of the loco as required. I don’t know how many tons a full truck of coal weighed, but it was plucked from the track and then deposited empty with ease.
To the little boy who tagged along (me) the most fascinating thing was an old coach used for training signalmen. It contained a model railway complete with signals and points, the little electric lights winking away red, green and amber. It was not my favourite railway system, being a rather crude Trix Twin layout rather than my own preferred Tri-ang, but obviously the sophistication of operation with its 3-rail power supply which allowed 2 trains to be independently controlled on one track (hence the phrase Trix Twin) made it the best for the purpose. Trix Twin came in two versions, one rather basic and one of super-detailed models. This was the basic one. The signalling was of course perfectly authentic, with electric motors operating the semaphore signals and the red, yellow and green lights winking away in the darkened carriage.  It must have been a memorable visit to be so clear in my mind all these years later.
The coaling tower at Norwich. The locomotive is 61571, the first of the last batch of B12s built by Beyer Peacock in 1928. 61572 is preserved on the North Norfolk Railway.

The coaling tower at Norwich. The locomotive is 61571, the first of the last batch of B12s built by Beyer Peacock in 1928. 61572 is preserved on the North Norfolk Railway.


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