THE MID NORFOLK RAILWAY

DEREHAM STATION is well positioned, within easy waking distance of the centre of town. As the HQ of the Mid Norfolk Railway it is a lively place with a coffee shop, and many diesel locomotives in various states of repair. If it were still part of the national railway network it would be bereft of life except briefly when the train came in from Wymondham. As the main operational centre of a preserved railway it is a hub of activity, especially at weekends. In spite of this valuable work  it is not a real railway; it is merely a hobby for volunteers. As you may recall from my blog on the North Norfolk Railway, I would much prefer that Dereham was still a station with regular passenger traffic. Even a goods only line like the stub from Kings Lynn to Middleton Towers railway station for the sand traffic still is a real railway, whereas the MNR is not. But better a preserved line than grassy wilderness or a road bypass, to which so many former railways have been reduced.

Diesel Multiple Unit at Dereham Station, ABOUT 1958.

Diesel Multiple Unit at Dereham Station, ABOUT 1958.

Although I have visited the MNR station at Dereham I have not been on the line since it was part of British Railways, longer ago than I wish remember. The photo from the cab of a DMU dates from that time, so you can see that even then diesels worked the line. I must have first used Dereham Station in 1957 or 58. A little further down the line the branch to Foulsham from County School had closed to passengers in 1952 but a goods service continued to Foulsham from Reepham until 1964.

Passenger trains ran north from Dereham to Fakenham and Wells until 1964, but the line beyond that to Docking and Heacham had closed to passengers in 1952. I never went on the line north of Dereham, but I used the line from there to Kings Lynn at least a couple of times. Coming from Norwich the train reversed at Dereham before branching off to Swaffham. This was confusing to a little boy. I was convinced that we were going back to Norwich! Unfortunately I can remember nothing of the stations between Dereham and Lynn.

I returned to Dereham Station recently and was impressed by all the activity, although it was not a day when train were running. I sat in the restaurant and had a cup of tea before inspecting the work being carried out on a locomotive. Unlike the NNR and most preserved lines, the MNR concentrates is energies on diesels. During the summer season  it plays host to steam locomotives, but its own stock is exclusively internal combustion engined. I used to have no time for anything but steam engines, but now the main lines are increasingly given over  to electric units the early diesels, especially the first DMUS, have a certain charm.

Doris and Alf Turner with two of their grandchildren (Polly and Peter Mason).

Doris and Alf Turner with two of their grandchildren (Polly and Peter Mason).

North of North Elmham County School station is kept in immaculate order, and there are coaches and other items of rolling stock there, but just beyond the platform the rails have been torn up and this haven of railwayana is completely isolated from the rest of the railway. Progress continues to be made towards North Elmham, which still retains a continuous track from Dereham although in a very derelict condition.  This is gradually being brought back to working order, but it is painfully slow. When the track will be relaid between Noth Elmham and County School heaven only knows! That is the intention, and even further into the future is the intention to reopen the line as far as Fakenham. The plan to extend the line to Holt is a dream.

Although the preserved line has a connection with the National Rail Network’s Breckland Line at Wymondham station, MNR trains go no further than a Halt at Wymondham Abbey. There is nowhere to park and it is a tidy step from the town; unlike the station at Dereham the stop at Wymondham is far from ideal.

JOSEPH MASON

joemasonspage@gmail.com

THE BLOG FOR THE HISTORY OF RAILWAYS

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