Remembering steamy days on Great Yarmouth's railways
PUBLISHED: 12:07 01 July 2018
Colin Tooke Collection
Today's youngsters don't know what they're missing!
Progress has deprived them of the pleasure of wallowing in smoke belching from a steam locomotive going over a level crossing or under a bridge, aware that a sooty shirt guaranteed a parental clip over the ear.
Hereabouts opportunities were afforded by steam trains using no fewer than three main-line termini – Yarmouth Beach, Southtown and Vauxhall. Now only Vauxhall remains: Beach was axed in 1959, Southtown in 1970.
All we can see now of our railway link with the rest of the country are unexciting trains parallel to the Acle New Road.
I cannot confirm it, but I doubt if there are any direct rail services to or from Yarmouth not necessitating a change at Norwich.
As Mrs Peggotty and I seldom travel by rail, we looked forward to our train trip earlier this month to Sheffield for the diamond wedding of my wife’s sister and brother-in-law.
The journey promised relaxation, gazing out of the window while the train took the strain, as the slogan used to say.
But remarkably, and probably against all odds, we encountered two significant problems within about 24 hours, one as we headed for Sheffield, the other on the return journey.
At Yarmouth Vauxhall we were surprised that our train comprised only one unit – engine and carriage combined.
Other passengers to Norwich included families laden with luggage and push-chairs so there was little room to spare.
Some were awkwardly having to supervise and safeguard small children, cases, bags and trolleys, but we were soon at Norwich Thorpe and looked forward to our main journey being more comfortable.
We boarded our Sheffield-bound train with seconds to spare.
It was only a few paces away on the facing platform but - unaware of that - we scurried to the main concourse to examine the destination boards, dashing back again just as the doors were closing.
Our train was scheduled to proceed to Manchester and Liverpool after our Sheffield destination.
But, approaching Chesterfield, we half-heard an announcement about “a fatality”, speculating about what it was and if it would affect us.
It certainly did: everybody had to disembark at Chesterfield where we waited for an empty replacement, obviously hurriedly pressed into service because it had not been cleaned from its previous journey. A plastic drink bottle rolled around on the floor, and old newspapers were cleared away by the conductor.
We reached Sheffield without further incident and went to our hotel where the celebratory dinner 60th wedding anniversary dinner was being served.
Back at Sheffield Station the next morning for that return trip to Yarmouth, we encountered another serious problem, a remarkable coincidence for two occasional rail travellers.
We were wondering why there was such a long queue at the information desk and the range of shops and cafes were nearly empty despite the considerable number of people mingling there.
The answer? There was a total electricity failure, paralysing the station and its numerous facilities!
Tills and credit and debit cards were unusable.
Only customers paying cash could be served, and only with already-prepared food because catering was almost at a standstill.
We wondered how people could buy rail tickets, especially if paying by card and with time running out before departure times.
Railway staff were on platforms ready to answer passengers’ questions as best they could because the electronic destination boards were blank and the public address system was silent.
Shortly before our train arrived, albeit late, the power was restored.
Ironically, our final leg from Norwich to Yarmouth was in a streamlined comfortable train, sharply contrasting with that of the previous day.