Mundesley’s Railway Heritage
The theme for 2011 is the
effect that the opening of the branch line from North Walsham in 1898 by the
Midland & Great Northern Railway had on the growth of Mundesley. Three
hotels were built in anticipation of the increase in visitors, and camping
coaches were based at the station during the summer months, to provide
accommodation to holiday makers many coming from the industrial midlands.
Unfortunately traffic never justified the large 3 platforms, and the line
became a victim of the Beeching report, and services were close in 1964, and
goods traffic a year later.
The Dream & the Beginning
world’s first steam-hauled and twin tracked railway ran between Liverpool and Manchester and opened in
1830. The first railway line in Norfolk ran
between Yarmouth and Norwich which opened in 1844
The first main line arrived in Norfolk in
1845 with the opening of a line from London via Wymondham and
Its original terminus was at Trowse on the outskirts of Norwich.
In 1849 the Great Eastern Main Line linked Norwich to London, creating a
new terminus at Norwich Victoria. Journey times to the capital
were shorter on this route, and it soon became very profitable.
1851 there were 6,100 route miles across Britain and this had increased to
19,500 miles in 1907 which was the heyday of the railway boom.
The Norfolk and Suffolk Joint
Railway was a joint railway company, and was owned by the Great Eastern Railway and the Midland and Great Northern
Joint Railway operating the line between North
Walsham and Cromer
a distance of 5 miles and 3 chains.
completion of the line North Walsham to
Mundesley in 1898 was hoped to give an
added impetus to the growth and prosperity of the village. Neighbouring towns such
as Sheringham and Cromer had seen significant growth particularly with the
construction of hotels to provide for the large influx of tourists
followed suite with the construction of the Clarence Hotel
in 1891. The Manor Hotel opened in 1897, and the Grand Hotel which subsequently
changed its name to become The Continental. Housing development was carried out
in the Cliftonville area, but this was piecemeal with no significant impact on
the first year of operation 16 trains ran to and from Mundesley, but this
proved greatly over optimistic, and the time table was substantially reduced
the following year. Mundesley station was described as “one of the prettiest
and best ….. for miles around”.
Goods Yard was never utilised to its full potential, and failed to live up to
its expectations. In the early 1900’s a horse was used to move goods wagons in the sidings.
Cromer to Mundesley Act 1896 authorised the extension of the railway from
Mundesley to Cromer and was opened in 1906, and operated by the Norfolk &
Suffolk Joint Railway. Plans were also drawn up to provide a branch line along
the coast to Happisburgh, with the possibility to extending this along to Yarmouth.
Station was the principal intermediate
station on the Cromer to North Walsham route. The
station had 3 six hundred foot through platforms together with a passing loop, with substantial buildings
and a yard, two engine sheds which were able to accommodate two
small tank engines. As a further stimulus to increase tourist numbers
camping railway carriages were provided in the summer months. In the declining
years the station sidings were used as a convenient place for spare rolling stock.
Mixed freight was carried, especially sugar beet
in the winter. Passenger numbers did not
live up to expectation, and the line from Mundesley to Cromer closed in 1953.
End of the Dream & Closure
1963 came the “Reshaping of the Railways” report by British Railways Board’s
Chairman, Dr. Richard Beeching. Originally this proposed to close 5000 miles of
track and 2,363 stations, all in the name of economy. Fortunately this was
watered down, but a large part of the M&GN network was to close.
Mundesley to North Walsham line survived until
1964 when it was finally closed. Existing steam trains were withdrawn in
1953, and the service replaced by a steam “push & pull” service, and
subsequently Diesel Multiple Units
track was all lifted in 1966/7 and the three railway bridges in the village
The station was also demolished, and the adjacent
goods yard has been redeveloped as a housing estate. Apart from a terrace of railway cottages in Church Lane, which
are now all in private ownership, nothing remains in Mundesley of its past
Clarence Hotel finally closed in 1938, and over
time became a nursing home. The Manor Hotel is still a hotel, and was totally
refurbished in 2010. The Grand Hotel subsequently changed its name to The Continental, and on its closure was
converted into Trafalgar House flats, and is in a poor state of repair.
line from Knapton to North Walsham forms part
of Weavers Way.
A number of the original bridges still exist. This forms a very pleasant walk.
cannot travel far across Norfolk
without coming across the tell tale signs of former railway lines, and many former
level crossing cottages which have been converted into private residences.
Looking on the Ordnance Survey maps many of
these redundant lines are still still depicted.
a single line track, the safety of passengers was of paramount importance, to
prevent head on collisions. To provide for this, the electric
train token system was developed. The
signal boxes at each end of the single line section were equipped with a token
instrument, which would contain several tokens. A supply of identical tokens is
stored in the instruments. These instruments are connected together
electrically, and one token can be removed from either instrument provided that
both signalmen co-operate in agreeing to the release. When a token is
"out" a second token cannot be removed, but when the token is put
into either instrument, a token can then be removed from either instrument. The two token instruments were electrically
interlocked which would prevent signals or points being pulled. Tokens belonging to
adjacent sections have different configurations
to prevent them being inserted into the wrong instrument
In a basic railway situation, the token can be collected personally by the
driver at the start of his work on a branch line, and surrendered by him at the
end of his work there.
Where the single line section is part of a through route, then it is likely
that each passing train would be required to surrender and collect a token at
each token station. Where the trains stop at every station this is a convenient
arrangement, but where some trains run through without requiring to make a stop,
it was necessary for the signalman to exchange tokens with the fireman as the
train passed at slow speed. In the case of driver-only operated trains, the
train must stop for the token exchange.
The tokens were usually placed in a leather pouch attached to a hoop, and
the fireman could put his arm through the hoop held up by the signalman, and
vice versa as the locomotive ran past. Fixed token exchange apparatus was used
on some railways. Trackside equipment was fitted near each signal box to hold
the pouch containing the token and to receive the token pouch that was being
given up (token catcher).
As early as 1920 rationalisation had to occur, and the signal boxes were
removed from both Overstrand and Trimingham,
and the line was worked with just two block sections between Roughton Road
Junction and Mundesley, and from Mundesley to North
Walsham. Mundesley had
two signal boxes, Mundesley North and Mundesley South. In 1930 the North Box was removed, and the
points at the northern end were adapted for motor operation. In order to reduce
expenditure further staff were withdrawn from all the intermediate stations,
and intending passengers had to purchase tickets from the conductor guards. By 1930 Mundesley
was the only fully staffed and signalled station on the branch.
Engines & Rolling stock
The J15 0-6-0 was the work horse of the Great Eastern
Railway, and this Class of engine was a Worsdell design, originally introduced
in 1883, and were mainly built at Stratford.
The carriages were
designed Sir Nigel Gresley, Chief
Mechanical Engineer, London & North Eastern Railway 1923 - 1941
From the 1950’s British Railways designed and built coaches to a
standard design. These 'Mark 1s' eventually formed the mainstay of BR's
coaching stock and there are many examples of the various types of coaches in
When the steam engines
were withdrawn, the service was replaced by Diesel Multiple Units (DMU). The
guard acted as the conductor and issued tickets.