CITY STATION AND VICTORIA STATION
The service to City Station was convenient for people in Whitwell, Lenwade, Attlebridge and Drayton to get into the City, although these were all small villages that did not really merit a railway connection. It was the long-distance travellers from Kings Lynn and Leicester who were the principal travellers, but even in its heyday the M&GN had never been a particularly heavily used nor was it a profitable line. I was only just ten in February 1959 when passenger services were withdrawn from City Station, and I am sad to say that I do not remember the station when it was open. I can remember walking along the platform while it was still used as a freight terminal, but as the traffic was intermittent and the goods-yard was further down the line, I never saw a train there. If I had been a more diligent train spotter this could easily have been remedied because the station did not finally close until 1969, when I was 20. To be perfectly honest though, I was not really interested in diesels. Steam engines were not to be seen heading the goods trains into City Station from about 1962, and at the time I regarded any train headed by a diesel as not worth seeing.
Nor was City Station an attractive sight; when it was rebuilt after the wartime bombing raid it had only a very temporary looking booking hall fronting the road. This was a flat-roofed structure of pale beige painted concrete, in the same style as a plate-layer’s hut, only a bit larger. As you can see in the photo, apart from that booking hall, there was nothing but a couple of platform at City Station; they only rebuilt a very short canopy after Hitler destroyed the old one.
In spite of never seeing a train at City Station I was aware that they existed. After February 1959, but before the opening of the Themelthorpe Curve, the track was still down from City Station as far as Melton Constable. This line was used for freight traffic but an M&GN PRESERVATION SOCIETY special was run into Norwich City on May 21st 1960, just over a year after the M&GN closure. On its return journey behind B12 61572 (now preserved at the North Norfolk Railway) this steam hauled train of mainline coaches was the last passenger train to run past Hindolvestone station. Once the new loop from Reepham to Whitwell was operational the metals from Themelthorpe to Melton were torn up and freight traffic came from Wroxham through Aylsham to City Station. In 1969 City Station was closed completely and Drayton became the terminus of the line (although the track was not lifted until early 1973). This meant that Drayton station had something of a revival (for a short period). Any freight traffic which would have finished up at City Station was unloaded at Drayton, but there wasn’t much; the coal depot at City station was transferred to Victoria station. Nearly all the goods thar still used the line was loaded at the cement products works at Lenwade.
There were other passenger specials over the twenty years before final closure but these ad to travel via Reepham; a train of London suburban coaches went from Moorgate to Lenwade on 2nd Oct 1976, and a five coach DMU ran to Drayton on 17th August 1978. There were probably other specials of which I am unaware.
The ending of the coal depot off Heigham Street, which had been supplied from City Station, meant an increase in activity at Victoria Station, which became the railhead for the City’s coal traffic. Compared with City Station, Victoria Station in Queen’s Road was much more interesting to look at although that station had lost its passenger terminal during the First World War. That part of the station beyond Grove Road and adjoining St Stephens Road, which formerly had dealt with bricks and cement, had been closed by 1970, but the coal depot (where Sainsbury’s now stands) was operational for a dozen more years. As I indicated, once this was the only coal depot in Norwich it became a busier place, and an office building was put up there. I remember going into this with their telephone directory (which I was earning a little extra by delivering in the city centre). This would have been in about 1980. There the sight of a diesel shunter dealing with the coal trucks was a common sight. Victoria Station was split into three by two roads; Grove Road and Southwell Road. The further part went first, and the yard beyond Southwell Road you only glimpsed briefly from the bridge.
There were other stations that served the conurbation; Hellesdon, Trowse and Whitlingham stations. These I have dealt with in other blogs.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF RAILWAYS