THE BRIDGE AT HONING
Homing was on the M & GN line from Melton Constable to Great Yarmouth via North Walsham. After 1901 the line through the station at Honing was made dual track and trains could pass there. Most of the line was single track, but this improvement to Honing station meant there were two platforms, and there was also a goods siding and a signal box as well. The line through Honing was on the level but from there it began to rise at a 1:100 gradient towards North Walsham. In the other direction the next station was Stalham, where the former route of the line has been used as a road by-pass for the town.
The railway closed in 1959 and only ruins remain of Honing station, but the signal box which used to stand there was removed to Barton House Railway in 1967. This is a narrow gauge railway in a garden in Wroxham that is open to the public on some summer weekends.
This picture is of a girder bridge that today takes the Honing Road over Weaver’s Way, the long distance footpath that has replaced the M&GN railway. This photographs dates from Saturday 26th June 1971, well before the creation on Weaver’s Way which was not opened until 1981. When the bridge was built there was as yet no M&GN; the company that paid for the construction of this stretch of line from Great Yarmouth to North Walsham was the Great Yarmouth and Stalham Railway, which had been set up as a Light Railway by Act of Parliament in 1876.
This means of construction in wrought iron was chosen because there was a shortage of bricks in North Norfolk at the time the line was being built. This section of track was still being constructed when the young William Marriott joined the staff, and he eventually acquired bricks by scouring North Norfolk brick yards. By then Honing bridge had already been built. Marriott was initially on a six weeks trial period; as we know his six weeks turned into over 40 years, and he became by far the most important figure on the railway. As well as a civil engineer he was also a mechanical engineer and he built several steam locomotives at Melton Constable. The footpath which now runs along much of the trackbed out of Norwich is called Marriott’s Way after him. One of his first jobs on joining the railway was to make the gradient called Bengate Bank out of Honing. The contractors were Messrs. Wilkinson and Jarvis of Westminster and they had made their local headquarters for the time being at Briggate Gate House in Honing.
When the contractors reached North Walsham they could put in a temporary line to join the Great Eastern and take delivery of the tank locomotive which was waiting for them at the GER station. This was quite an improvement on the method of delivery of the previous locomotives which had been used to construct the line thus far. These had to be dragged through the streets of Yarmouth on a couple of lengths of track which had to lifted as the engine passed and relaid ahead of her. Engines were not allowed to travel under their own steam in this way and so the railway had to use six horses to pull the 4-4-0 loco Great Yarmouth onto the permanent way at Yarmouth Beach Station. The Great Yarmouth and Stalham Railway Company had been allowed to continue the construction of the railway through Honing to North Walsham by an Act of Parliament of 1878. In 1879 they changed their name to the more expansive one of the Yarmouth & North Norfolk Railway. The distance involved in the Yarmouth Beach to Stalham section was just over 16 miles, and North Walsham was a further 7 miles away.
The locomotive Great Yarmouth was used in the construction of the railway between Stalham and North Walsham. The line out of Yarmouth had been opened first to Ormesby on 7th August 1877, and later in July 1880 as far as Stalham. Once a week the 4-4-0 tank was taken to the engine shed at Yarmouth Beach Station to have the mud removed from its boiler, and one of the other locomotives was used on the new line.
The reason for the line being designated a Light Railway had to do with the politics of the railways companies of the time. The Great Eastern ran main line trains and could not therefore apply for running rights over the competitors’ lines, which were designated a Light Railways! Despite being so-called they were built to mainline specifications, and the intention was obviously to upgrade the line once the company felt strong enough to resist pressure from its established neighbour the GER. By then it was the M&GN, a joint railway of the powerful Midland Railway and Great Northern Railway and it could indeed exist without the possibility of being taken over by the Great Eastern. The various short lines amalgamated to form the M&GNJR in 1893.
The track of the railway comes very close to the North Walsham and Dilham Canal at Honing and that too is crossed by a bridge. The canal was still operational when the railway was built and both wherries and trains passed under the road.
Note how at some stage the vertical girder of the Honing bridge received an almighty blow from something travelling along the line in the Yarmouth direction. It has left the stanchion with a substantial dent.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE