Do you remember Gorleston's long-lost rail station and track?
PUBLISHED: 15:57 25 March 2018
On a gloriously sunny but crisp morning recently, before the freezing Beast from the East smothered us in snow, Mrs Peggotty and I enjoyed one of our regular walks along Gorleston's Lower Promenade, marvelling at the remarkable width of the magnificent golden beach and stopping to enjoy a coffee outside JJ's cafe diner.
We struck up a conversion about dogs with the people at the next table who had their pet with them.
Their dialect was not Norfolk but we presumed they had lived hereabouts for some time because they knew of a local pet shop of which we were unaware.
During our chat we told them that when we had a dog decades ago, his regular walk was on the former site of Gorleston railway station and the track through to Bridge Road.
Dog walkers were familiar sights there.
“Gorleston Station? We didn’t know Gorleston once had a station,” one said, surprised. “Where was it?”
We explained that if they walked up to the cliff-top, the roads opposite off Marine Parade all more or less led to the former station land.
When I was a trainee journalist, our tutors always emphasised the importance of never assuming anything.
Forgetting – or ignoring – that advice, I assumed that every Gorleston resident, whether new or old, knew about the existence and location of the long-gone railway.
On reflection, I could appreciate that possibly there was little or no evidence or hint remaining of its former presence, unless a blue plaque has been put there as a reminder.
Gorleston is one of those few places which never had a Station Road providing a clear clue that a railway once existed.
Yarmouth has a Station Road - off Southtown Road - as does Hopton, but in neither place have the railway stations survived.
A Gorleston give-away could have been the former Station Hotel on the opposite side of the main A12 Lowestoft Road, but alterations to the highways system has left it in a sort of backwater, with no passing traffic.
The Yarmouth to Lowestoft railway line was opened in 1903 but closed in 1970.
The Gorleston Station buildings were duly razed and the spacious site eventually became a park, and a dog-walker’s paradise.
For a town of its size, Yarmouth and Gorleston were perhaps over-endowed in railway provision: there were three major main line termini - Beach, South Town and Vauxhall - plus two other stations (Gorleston and Gorleston North) and two unmanned halts on Salisbury Road in Yarmouth, and Gorleston Links.
That on Salisbury Road was a bit of a puzzler to me.
On my pre-war street map the halt - which is only a short steam from Yarmouth Beach Station - is labelled “Summer.”
So probably that was to benefit the holidaymakers who would be arriving on the M&GN Railway and who wanted to alight as close as possible to their accommodation before their luggage became too burdensome, or day trippers from Caister and other villages preferring that end of our sea front.
In my years at Yarmouth Grammar School, a few paces from that Salisbury Road halt, it was sometimes suggested that it had been provided for the convenience of pupils living in villages to the north in order to get and from their lessons, but I cannot recall ever seeing a steam loco pulling up there so satchel-wearing lads in their blazers and caps could hop off or on.
As the halt was adjacent to the crossing gates, traffic would have been at a standstill because the carriages extended across Salisbury Road.
It must have been the equivalent of the schoolboy version of an urban myth.
The closure of that coastal line route between Yarmouth Southtown and Lowestoft Central in 1970 did bring one major benefit a few years later: much of it became incorporated in the long-awaited and badly needed bypass, providing a road link between the town centre and Gorleston and beyond without long traffic jams, queues and hold-ups that had long bedevilled frustrated drivers.
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