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When Great Yarmouth's railways hit the buffers

PUBLISHED: 07:13 07 April 2019

Coaled up and ready to steam? Two locomotives at Yarmouth Beach Station perhaps a century ago.

Coaled up and ready to steam? Two locomotives at Yarmouth Beach Station perhaps a century ago.

Archant

Just like my boyhood Hornby clockwork train set post-war, I came off the rails and hit the buffers, figuratively speaking, in this column recently.

A former railway station, possibly Ormesby on the long-closed M&GN line, converted into a dwelling with gardens. The picture was taken decades ago.A former railway station, possibly Ormesby on the long-closed M&GN line, converted into a dwelling with gardens. The picture was taken decades ago.

It underlines my oft-repeated caution that “nostalgia is an inexact science” but does not excuse my failure to check facts and dates rather than trust my suspect memory.

My thanks go to the readers who politely pointed out that the railways were nationalised in 1948, the Midland and Great Northern Line (served by its Yarmouth Beach terminus) was totally axed in 1959, and the Beeching Report on the future of Britain’s railways was delivered in 1963.

And my apologies to those who shook their heads in disbelief at my gaffes but took no further action. I ought to be sweeping platforms in penance...

Locals used to dub the M&GN “Muddle and Get Nowhere”. It parallels my confusion!

A column of columns...the stanchions which supported one of the platform canopies at Yarmouth Beach Station, ready for demolition in the late 1950s or early 1960sA column of columns...the stanchions which supported one of the platform canopies at Yarmouth Beach Station, ready for demolition in the late 1950s or early 1960s

Andrew Fakes writes: “Dr Beeching had nothing to do with rail closures around Yarmouth.

“The railway running north from Yarmouth Beach Station, closed before Dr Beeching’s Report (The Reshaping British Railways) in 1963, was originally called the Great Yarmouth & Stalham Light Railway. It was completed from Yarmouth to Hemsby, opening in 1878.

“Martham station was opened in July 1878. The line reached North Walsham in 1881 and was connected to Melton Constable and hence the national rail system in 1883.

“The line became the Yarmouth and North Norfolk Railway in 1880 and was absorbed in to the Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway in 1893. It was losing money, so it was taken over by the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) in 1936 and nationalised in1948.

“It had rarely been profitable throughout its history so it was decided to close it. The line was in a very poor state after the war and would have required a great deal of money spent on it to keep it going. It was particularly weak at Caister where the sea was eroding the track.

“The last passenger train on the line was the 10.48pm Yarmouth to Stalham on February 28 1959.”

From Geoffrey Smith comes an e-mail confirming that the Beeching Report was delivered in 1963 and railways nationalisation occurred 15 years earlier, in 1948.

In that column I mentioned the twin tall stanchions and short length of railway line alongside the Nelson Road North coach and car park, possibly the only surviving mementoes of the decades when Yarmouth Beach Station stood there.

The stanchions once held up the long platform canopy, but I could not make out the lettering high up in the metalwork.

Geoffrey Smith comes to my aid, informing me: “The stanchions... are original and refer to the evolving history of the line. One stanchion has the initials “E&MR” which was the Eastern and Midlands Railway which preceded the Midland and Great Northern Railway’s ownership of the line.

“The second stanchion contains the initials of the latter company.”

And Geoffrey, presumably referring to the loss of two of our borough’s three main-line railway termini (Yarmouth Beach in 1959 and Yarmouth South Town in 1970), adds wryly, “Just our luck to end up with the worst station of the original three!”

Retired Yarmouth registrar Trevor Nicholls confirms Geoffrey’s “Eastern and Midlands Railway” recognition, “an amalgam of smaller companies formed in 1882, five years after Beach Station opened” and chides me: “You should have looked more closely!”

Trevor says the Eastern and Midlands Railway merged with others to form the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway - its initials on the other structure beside the Nelson Road North in my photograph.

He notes: “February 28 was the 60th anniversary of the closure of Beach Station and with it, virtually all of the old M&GN system. November 2 this year will be the 60th anniversary of the closure of the Beccles-Yarmouth South Town section of the former East Suffolk main line.

“1959 was not a good year for railways at Yarmouth!”

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