Some Early Lines – West Norfolk Junction Railway

Some Early Lines

West Norfolk Junction Railway

The GE’s 18 mile Wells on Sea – Heacham line was a link between the Hunstanton and the Wells – Dereham branches ‘across the top of Norfolk’.  It was a line of wide open spaces and the 4-4-0s ran fast from village to village, bending and swaying the waves of ripening corn.  The guard’s flag is raised as D16/3 No.62557 moves the 1.35pm Wells to Heacham out of Burnham Market on 17 May 1952.  Two weeks later the passenger trains had gone. – Ian L.Wright

Dates of operation 1866–1952 (passengers)

Successor Great Eastern Railway

Track gauge:   1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)

Length:  18½ miles

Headquarters:  Wells

The West Norfolk Junction Railway was a standard gauge 18½ mile single track railway running between Wells-on-Sea railway station and Heacham in the English county of Norfolk. It opened in 1866 and closed in 1953.

GE D16/3 4-4-0 No.62577 takes the sharp curve away from Wells on Sea with an afternoon train to Heacham, Easter 1952. The seemingly curious siting of the signal post is explained by the 180 degree curve round which trains approached Wells Junction. – P.B.Whitehouse

The West Norfolk Junction Railway was opened in August 1866. The line came from Heacham on a 18½ mile single track aimed at exploiting the great arc of coastline between Hunstanton and Yarmouth. 1866 saw the start of a major financial crisis triggered by the collapse of Overend Gurney Bank; the year also saw the outbreak of a “cattle plague” in North Norfolk which impacted on the cattle receipts on the line. The West Norfolk was absorbed into the Lynn and Hunstanton Railway in 1872 which in turn was acquired by the Great Eastern Railway in 1890.

During the Second World War, the railway’s strategic coastal location meant that it provided a natural ‘rampart’ behind which a potential beach invasion could be repelled. For this reason, a line of pillboxes were constructed along the railway.

The post-war boom experienced by the King’s Lynn to Hunstanton line was not felt on the West Norfolk Junction Railway whose inconveniently-sited stations contributed to declining passenger traffic. Passenger services from Wells were eventually withdrawn from 31 May 1952, but the line remained open to freight. However, following the North Sea flood of 1953, the track between Wells and Holkham was so severely damaged that British Rail considered it not worth repairing and the line was closed completely between these two places.

Up to the end of its existence, the line was one of the last where one could travel in gas-lit clerestory coaches hauled by Victorian locomotives.

The seaside terminus at Hunstanton in Victorian times.  GE ‘Intermediate’ 2-4-0 No.479 waits to leave for Kings Lynn. – Lens of Sutton

Present day

The majority of the route remains unobstructed. The stations at Heacham, Sedgeford, Stanford, Burnham Market and Wells-nest-the-Sea remain in good order, and large sections of the route remain in transport use as roadways and drives.

Holkham station has been demolished, although the WW2 pill boxes remain. The site of Docking station has been redeveloped as a housing estate, although the station house survives as a private residence, and the route into Wells has been partially redeveloped as housing, a school playing field and an industrial estate.

The Old Railway Station at Heacham, Norfolk.

The waiting rooms of this old railway station on the disused line between Kings Lynn and Hunstanton,has now been transformed into holiday homes.  Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]  © Copyright John Wernham and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.



One response to “Some Early Lines – West Norfolk Junction Railway

  1. Reblogged this on sed30's Blog and commented:
    Wells and Hunstanton two of my fav Norfolk places, the stations are alright too!

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