With British Railways’ modernisation programme gathering pace, there were large numbers of steam engines going to the breaker’s yard in the early 1960s. Norwich took its share. Archie King may have retired by then and the business already taken over by Harry Serruys, but we still called it King’s scrap yard. He had some sidings off Hall Road near where Virgin Money opened their offices many years later. The sidings have vanished as utterly as the engines which once (briefly) stood there. They were accessed from the mainline to London a few hundred yards before reaching the Markshall viaduct.
This part of Hall Road was seeing rapid changes. Only a few years before the appearance of the railway scrap yard the Cattle Market had moved there from the centre of Norwich, into a modern looking area of animal pens and a brand spanking new corn hall. As early as 1943 it was recommended that the Cattle Market should move out to the site on Hall Road. The first factory to occupy the site on Hall Road, just across the Ring Road from the Tuckswood pub, was the works put up by Mason & Gantlett Ltd (see my post of December 12 2011) to manufacture the Versator lens generating machine. This would have been about ten years earlier. Before that this land had been occupied by allotments.
Today the pub has gone, to be replaced by a filing station and a branch of Macdonald’s; Mason and Gantlett’s (later Culver’s) factory has become the car park for Homebase, and the cattle market is a sad shadow of its former self. As for the railway sidings, you cannot now tell even where they once were.
The locomotives came from all over the country. Those in the pictures accompanying this article were GWR engines, but a week or two earlier they had all been ex-LMS locomotives awaiting the attentions of the breakers torch. This batch included everything from small 0-6-0 tank engines from West Country branch lines up to Castle class locomotives of the premier expresses. These latter ones of the Castle class had their distinctive bent blastpipes which you can see illustrated. These were shared with the most powerful GWR class, the Kings.
All name and number plates which might have identified them had been removed for sale to collectors but painted on numbers remained. There were no painted numbers on the Castle locomotive that I could see although we know from other sources what they may have been. In the early months of 1963 (when these pictures were taken) these Castle class locomotives were scrapped at Archie King’s yard; Compton Castle, Newport Castle and G. J. Churchward himself. Churchward was the name of the designer of Great Western engines although he had retired by the time the Castles appeared. Why they travelled so far east to end their days I do not know, but at least their demise was quick. At Barry in South Wales their fate would have been dragged out for years, the hulks slowly rusting away before eventually being reduced to pieces ready for the smelter. On the plus side it gave enthusiasts time to raise funds, and many locomotives were eventually saved for preservation from Barry.
Our part of the Eastern Region had been among the first to lose steam traction. By 1963 there was little or none of it left. The only common sight in the way of steam engines was the arrival of a train of derelict locomotives on their last journey. Their piston rods were disconnected to reduce friction from the valve gear, prior to their final passage along the rails to their ultimate fate.