This DMU has just arrived in Norwich from Melton Constable

This DMU has just arrived in Norwich from Melton Constable

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 profitable line. I was only just ten in 1959 when passenger services were withdrawn from City Station and I am sad to say that I do not remember it when it was open.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. Steam engines were not to be seen heading the 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&N 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 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; nearly all the goods was loaded onto the line at the cement products works at Lenwade. There were other  passenger specials over the twenty years before  final closure; 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 others.

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. That station too had lost its passenger terminal which had closed during the First World War. The half of the station which dealt with bricks and cement which adjoined St Stephens Road had been closed by 1970 but the coal depot (where Sainsburt’s now stands) was there for ten more years. As I indicated, once this was the only coal depot it became busier if anything, and an office building was built 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 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, but the central part was plainly visible from the road.




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