THE PORTS of EAST ANGLIA

…and their rail connections.

Loading scrap metal at Norwich, c 1975

Loading scrap metal at Norwich, c 1975

The ports of East Anglia all had rail access with scarcely an exception. Even Southwold with its narrowgauge railway had a siding down to the quayside at Blackshore; this was built just before the First World War to serve the fishing industry, but that never thrived there. Today this is one of the few places where you can still see a piece of the track.

Wells-Next-the Sea had a line from the station down  to the dockside; steam engines were not allowed along the quay so the trucks had to be drawn by horses. I do not know when this ceased to operate but I never knew it. It would be interesting to know if you can still trace any of its old route.

On the border of Norfolk and Lincolnshire the river Nene runs through Wisbech and Sutton Bridge. Both these places still retain a port, although neither have rail connections any longer. As Sutton Bridge is considerably nearer to the sea it is used rather more than Wisbech. The M&GN had a junction station at Sutton Bridge and a short branch to the docks. All the towns mentioned so far have lost their railways connections but Kings Lynn still has busy station. There was a railway line serving the south side of the Alexandra Dock in the past but there is now no link to the rail system. The metals have been lifted although the trackbed still exists and a link to Kings Lynn station would in theory be possible although very expensive to restore. When I first had a ciné camera in the early 1960s there was still a railway line to the old docks outside the Customs House in central Lynn and I have record on film of the swing bridge which took the line over one of the quays. It was painted a reddish orange.

Trawler leaving Great Yarmouth Harbour behind the paddle tug United Service

Trawler leaving Great Yarmouth Harbour behind the paddle tug United Service

Great Yarmouth had a line from Yarmouth Vauxhall to South Quay. I have a vague memory of seeing a tram engine hauling trucks through the streets past the old Town Hall. This must be genuine because a tram engine from the Wisbech and Upwell line was transferred to  Yarmouth in the early 1950s. Because the railway station was on the other side of the river Bure all the freight, the trucks and the steam driven tram engine or shunter had to pass over Vauxhall Bridge. A railway line from the terminus enabled goods wagons to cross the road from Lowestoft Central to the fish dock. To the south of the town, off the line to Ipswich another short branch served the docks on Lake Lothing.

Various other places could have had rail access to the sea, but although they had stations they did not have ports. Cromer used to be a precarious port for off loading coal but without anywhere the ships could moor they had  to use the beach. The coming of the railway meant coal could arrive at the town by a safer route and after that only fishing boats used the beach. Inland the Port of Norwich had rail access from a siding that crossed Riverside Road from the goods yard. The siding was just opposite the main entrance to Boulton and Paul, although it served any rail customer. It was never very much used in my lifetime, although I was aware of trucks being parked by the riverside. Although officially Norwich is still a port it only sees leisure craft these days and in the opinion of the city council it is now defunct for commercial shipping.  There are now two footbridges where once (not that long ago, during my adult lifetime) cargo vessels used to tie up; a hotel now stands where Baltic Wharf used to unload timber, soft wood from Scandinavia.

WELLS QUAY about 40 years ago.

WELLS QUAY about 40 years ago.

On the estuaries of the Orwell and Stour lies Felixstowe which has a major rail terminal. Originally this line was a spur from Felixstowe Town station to Felixstowe Pier, but with the growth of container traffic this depot now serves one of the largest terminals in the country. At Ipswich the line has recently been upgraded to avoid trains for the west and north having to change direction.  Just beyond the borders of East Anglia Harwich in Essex has a railway station in the port, named Harwich International. In this case it is mainly passengers who use the railway station, although freight sidings are also available and the harbour can handled containers and other unitised cargoes. As well as the regular ferry service to the Hook of Holland the port is used as the departure point for cruise liners.

In a number of ways the most interesting port adjoining East Anglia is Boston on the Wash. On the river Witham this still has a branch from Boston station to the docks. This is used for cargoes of stone and steel. Although the river cannot accommodate the largest sea going vessels the port is well placed to access central England for trade with western Europe. This rail access was nearly denied by Dr Beeching whose plan was to closed the line through Boston. Fortunately for both passengers and freight the line survived, although Boston is much reduced in importance  as a railway hub. It still houses a couple of diesel shunters for use on the dock railway however.

JOSEPH MASON

joemasonspage@gmail.com

Memories of East Anglia

 

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One response

  1. Nice one Joe

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