The Early days of the Preserved Line
When the North Norfolk Railway, or the M&GN Railway Society – the early history of the various organisations that were involved in the preservation movement is complicated– was negotiating to buy the line from Holt to Sheringham the track had already begun to be lifted. This included the track from Holt through Weybourne Station itself, although it remained from Sheringham to within a few hundred yards of the platform at Weyborne.
The important thing was to get the track relaid through the station. The section from Weybourne to Holt could wait, and for many years (or so it seemed at the time) the line ended just through the bridge beyond Weybourne Station. I was a school boy, a boarder at Holt at the time, and Weybourne was only a short bike ride away. The year must have 1965 once it had been closed by British Railways, and on several Sundays I was able to go over and help to relay the track. It wasn’t a hive of activity. I could do nothing if I was the only one present, but with one other person we could carry the rails using special pincers. British Rail required four or five men to lift a rail, but it is in fact possible with just two. It was a bit of a job, and is no longer part of professional permanent way management; Network Rail use trains with welded lengths. There were two young men there most weekends, and with me we made short work of carry the rails into position. The sleepers also required two people to move them, but they had already been put in place when I arrived on the scene. It was all old track being reused, so the chairs were already on the sleepers. Once the rails had been lowered in place it merely remained to hammer in the wedges. I felt quite an expert platelayer, though this wasn’t true.
It is all very different now. Weybourne houses the maintenance sheds and is a place of great activity, but in those days the whole area was just a wilderness of tussocky grass and the occasional rabbit. The booking hall was deserted and the tickets still stood in the rack where they been left when the station closed. It was quite deserted and the prospect of trains returning to the station seemed remote.
The photo of the Peckett tank engine was taken at Weybourne in the very early 1970s when life had returned to the station. There was no footbridge, waiting room or even signal box. (I recalled my father’s involvement in the erection of the box from Holt in my post of July 3 2011.) The saddle tank was built in 1939 for the Ashington Colliery Railway and had the works number 1979. At the colliery it was given the number 5 which was retained at North Norfolk, as you may see painted on the buffer beam. The engine was bought by the NNR in 1969 when the Coal Board went over to diesel at Ashington. The tank’s name during its North Norfolk years was the John D. Hammer. She did sterling work for twenty years while the older engines (the J15 and B12) were a long time being restored. The Peckett was a relatively young engine of 30 years old.
Weybourne Station soon took on a more energetic life once the trains were running again. It was used to shoot at least one episode of Dad’s Army, and it is now the major motive power depot on the bust preserved line. I remember it best at its low point, locked and empty, the track lifted and the only sound a lark singing overhead.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE