Wells and Walsingham Light Railway

Wells and Walsingham Light Railway

Heritage Railway
name = Wells and Walsingham Light Railway

caption = The train from Wells arrives at Walsingham station
locale = Wells-next-the-Sea
terminus = Wells-next-the-Sea
linename = Wells and Walsingham Light Railway
builtby =
originalgauge = RailGauge|Standard
preservedgauge = RailGauge|10.25
era =
owned =
operator = Wells and Walsingham Light Railway
stations = 5
length = 4 miles
originalopen = 1845
closed = 1964
reopened = 1982
converted to RailGauge|10.25 = 1979
stageyears = 1987
stage = Arrival of Garatt locomotive "Norfolk Hero"

The Wells and Walsingham Light Railway is a 10¼ inch (260 mm) gauge heritage railway in Norfolk, England running between the coastal town of Wells and Walsingham which is further inland. The railway occupies a part of the trackbed also used by the Mid-Norfolk Railway.


The line, which is convert|4|mi|km|2 long, once formed part of the Great Eastern Railway and is now the longest 10¼ inch gauge railway in the world. It runs from the coastal town of Wells-next-the-Sea to the pilgrimage centre at Walsingham. It is the northern section of the former Wymondham, Dereham, Fakenham and Wells-next-the-Sea line which was closed to passengers in stages from 1964 to 1969 as part of the Beeching cuts.

Trains run daily between March and November [http://www.wellswalsinghamrailway.co.uk/timetable.php Timetable] . Trains are mostly steam-operated; however in some cases diesel is used.


Construction and Development

The Lynn and Dereham Railway and the Norfolk Railway both obtained Parliament's permission to build lines to Dereham in 1845 [http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6jmFq73U91gC&pg=PA341&lpg=PA341&dq=norfolk+railway+act+of+parliament&source=web&ots=XMFG3o9fEW&sig=RokIOwN7YtLPtslxzOElcp7tEXQ&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=5&ct=result#PPA344,M1] , at the height of the so-called "Railway Mania", when railways were being frantically built across the whole country. The Norfolk Railway, building its line from Wymondham, reached Dereham first, and opened its railway to passengers on the 15th February 1847; with the line being extended to Fakenham and Wells-next-the-Sea by 1st December 1857Oppitz, 1989, page 13] .

Whilst the line between Wymondham and East Dereham was later provided with double track, the line north of there remained single line. A branch to Heacham, and a short spur to the harbour, also ran from WellsOppitz, 1989, page 13] .

Grouping and Nationalisation

World War One badly affected the small railway companies so in 1923 the branch line, along with the rest of the Great Eastern Railway became part of the London and North Eastern Railway. The Second World War also exacted a heavy toll on the railway network, so in 1947 the Labour government of the day, under Clement Atlee, elected to Nationalise the network and the Wymondham to Wells branch became part of the new nationalised British Railways, ending 100 years of private ownership.

The 1954 Modernisation Plan saw the line's last steam passenger services. The final regular steam journey ran on the 17th September 1955. Diesel units took over the next day, with the line enjoying quicker trains and a more frequent service though, for the first few weeks, some Saturday extras continued to be steam operatedTuddenham, 1965, page 83] . Steam-hauled freight continued into the early 1960s. [http://www.mnr.org.uk/about/history/grouping/]

By 1960 there was an hourly passenger service to Norwich taking between 32 and 40 minutes. Despite this, the increased use of road transport lead to a decline in passenger numbers, which caused it to became one of the many railways to be threatened by the "Beeching Report" in 1963.Tuddenham, 1965, page 87]

Passenger Closure

The passenger service between Dereham and Wells ended on 5th October 1964.Tuddenham, 1965, page 87] , with the branch to Heacham having closed on 5th October 1954 Oppitz, 1989, page 13] .


Work on rebuilding the line started in 1979, and on 6 April 1982, purpose built steam locomotive "Pilgrim", an 0-6-0T engine, launched the public service. "Pilgrim" hauled the train until 1987 when the new unique 2-6-0+0-6-2 Garratt locomotive "Norfolk Hero" came into service. Two extra coaches were added to the train increasing the seating capacity to 76. A redundant signal box was moved from Swainsthorpe to Wells, where the ground floor was converted to provide a shop and tearoom.

On 2nd September 2008 vandals blocked the flangeways of Barnard's crossing, near Walsingham and used a level crossing gate to derail "Norfolk Hero". The passengers and train crew were not injured in this attack, and a diesel locomotive was sent from Wells to recover the stranded passenger train - although some passengers chose to ignore advice from train crew and walked to Walsingham. "Norfolk Hero" was restored to service by the end of the month. [http://new.edp24.co.uk/content/news/story.aspx?brand=EDPOnline&category=News&tBrand=edponline&tCategory=news&itemid=NOED01%20Sep%202008%2020%3A43%3A43%3A840 Press report on derailment] ]

A second diesel locomotive, "Norfolk Harvester", entered service on the line in 2008.


*Steam Locomotives2-6-0+0-6-2 Garratt No.3 "Norfolk Hero"
*Diesel Locomotives0-6-0 diesel hydraulic locomotive "WEASEL" rebuilt to resemble a tram locomotive
0-6-0 diesel locomotive "Norfolk Harvester", rebuilt Wells in 2005

Gallery of trains operating on the line




*cite journal
title=East Anglia Railways Remembered
date=Autumn 1989
publisher=Countryside Books

*cite journal
title=Railway World
date=March, 1965
publisher=Ian Allan

External links

* [http://www.wellswalsinghamrailway.co.uk Railway Website.]

Other Places in Norfolk

*Bressingham Steam & Gardens
*Bure Valley Railway
*Mid-Norfolk Railway
*North Norfolk Railway
*Yaxham Light Railway

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