Theme For 2011 | Mundesley Maritime Museum | - Norfolk Coastal Maritime Museum

Mundesley's Railway Heritage


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


The 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 Cambridge. 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.

In 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 via Mundesley, a distance of 5 miles and 3 chains.

The 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


Mundesley 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 village.


In 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”.


The 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.


The 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.


Mundesley 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


In 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.  


The 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


The track was all lifted in 1966/7 and the three railway bridges in the village were demolished.

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 railway heritage.


The 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.


The 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.


You 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.           





Being 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 preservation


When the steam engines were withdrawn, the service was replaced by Diesel Multiple Units (DMU). The guard acted as the conductor and issued tickets.