Compiled in 1994 and displayed in a poster on platform 1 for at least five years.



The line through Attleborough station was incorporated in 1844 by the Norwich & Brandon Company with a capital of £380,000. The Norwich & Brandon amalgamated with the Yarmouth and Norwich on 30 June 1845 to form the Norfolk Railway.

The Norfolk & Brandon was built by Grissell & Peto and opened with double track on 30 July 1845, the same day as the Eastern Counties Railways extension from Newport (Essex) to Brandon. Through services between London and Norwich began at once, but terminated in Norwich on the West bank of the Wensum until 15 December 1845, when the swingbridge at Trowse was completed and allowed entry into Norwich Thorpe station.

The Norwich & Brandon also had plans for a line from Attleborough to Diss, to connect with another proposed by the Diss and Colchester Railway, proceeding directly to Colchester, via Hadleigh, and avoiding Ipswich. Bills for these schemes were deposited in Parliament by the end of November 1844. These were then referred to a special department of the Board of Trade. Towards the end of January 1845 these schemes were rejected by the Board of Trade in favour of the route still in use between Norwich and Colchester today.

Early services comprised of five a day each way, two of which were expresses; Four and a half hours was the best time from Norwich to London. The NORFOLK CHRONICLE claimed at the time that travel could not be “rendered more comfortable than it is on the Norfolk Railway”, and indeed the line quickly established itself. An important subsidiary aspect of the railway was the availability of the railway telegraph to private persons so that from November 1846 London market prices could be “expressed” to Norwich to the great benefit of the city’s business.   

A number of excursions used the line. A nonconformist excursion to the sea from Attleborough and Norwich at 1s for adults and 3d for children attracted a total of 6000 passengers. More bizarre was the excursion from London for those who wished to watch the hanging of the murderer Rush at Norwich castle; the train was halted at Wymondham where police turned off a number of undesirable characters whose presence had been notified by telegraph.

Sharp deterioration of service set in from 8 May 1848 when the Eastern Counties Railway replacing existing staff with its own, introducing new regulations, closing its Brandon locomotive depot and revising fares, took the Norfolk railway on lease, so saving it from financial “perdition”. Already on 12 December 1845 the “excessive” speed of 55mph had caused a derailment near Thetford in which the engine crew died, and under the ECR mishaps became more frequent. Two were killed on 30 December 1854 when a fast cattle train struck the rear of a Mail train that had already been standing 23 minutes while repairs were effected on the locomotive, and on 9 November 1856 the engine of a Norwich bound local suffered a wheel defect between Thetford and Harling, derailing and overturning the train and killing the driver; a few minutes later a goods train in the opposite direction hit the wreckage but fortunately the collision was light.

 Meanwhile public disquiet was mounting, culminating in November 1855 in the appointment of a committee of inquiry by Norwich City Council. On 7 December this reported most unfavourably on the ECR, leading the Board of Trade to conduct its own investigations and the conclusion that the line was insecure and dangerous. Remedial works, involving bridge and viaduct restoration as well as track renovation, were taken in hand at great expense during 1856/57.

Services were still five daily each way in 1874, but by 1892 had risen to seven to Norwich and eight towards London, including the Mail and five other London trains in each direction, along with seven goods trains to Norwich and ten in the other direction, three continuing to London.

Under the LNER passenger services rose to thirteen or fourteen on ordinary weekdays by 1939, seven being London trains of which the majority combined with Lynn and Hunstanton portions South of Ely.

With the gradual diversion of such expresses from London to Kings Lynn from the late 1950s, the Ely to Norwich line was left with a stopping service of diesel multiple units in connection at Ely, this being revised, speeded, and for the most part, extended to Cambridge on 2 January 1967. On 6 March 1967 Conductor Guards were installed except for Ely, Thetford and Norwich and the line converted to “basic” railway operation (see timetable). Traffic from the Midlands and the North has longed gain access to the Norfolk Coast by this route, and increased from 1959 with the closure of the Midland and Great Northern Railway through central Norfolk.

Attleborough served the country during World War II. The first task for the railway was to collect the rubble from the bombed areas of London and carry it down to East Anglia, where it was used as the foundations of the runways of the almost continuous network of airfields before the air offensive had reached its climax. The original Air Ministry request, made on 11 November 1942, was for 393 wagons a day. A little later it was found possible to carry part of the load by water but from 25 November 1942 until April 1943, six trains a day were run, comprising between them 267 wagons. From April to July 1943 the programme was increased to nine trains a day. By then the airfields had practically all the rubble which they needed.

After rubble came bricks, tarmac and cement. In July 1943 came a request to carry some 14,000,000 bricks from Bedford to East Anglia. Forty trainloads of bricks passed at the rate of two a day to such places as Fakenham, Attleborough, Sudbury and Colchester.

The movement of tarmac also began in July 1943. By October, six direct trainloads daily had been arranged. These continued until the new Air Ministry sidings were available at such places as Attleborough, Dereham, Haughley and Tivetshall. Then, greatly to the relief of the LNER, it was found practicable to convey dry slag, stone and slag dust separately, and to mix the tarmac on the spot.    

The demand for cement became very heavy early in 1943. To ensure steady supplies to numerous wayside stations, a scheme of “railheads” was instituted. As each train arrived at a railhead, it was split up, and the wagons were made up into subsidiary or local trains, which travelled down the neighbouring lines, dropping off waggons here and there, as required. Many of the trains ran direct to Attleborough.

In 1942 Attleborough became the centre for three American airfields, including Old Buckenham for Liberators and Deopham Green for Fortresses. For these two airfields alone, Attleborough handled:


tons of stone


tons of cement


tons of tar


tons of ashes


tons of paint


tons of brick


tons of girders


tons of roofing


tons of drainage and water pipes


tons of hanger sections


tons of air raid shelters


tons of petrol tanks


tons of electric cables


tons of stores, etc


Attleborough’s yard had several times to be enlarged to cope with this traffic. The first extension, put in by the Ministry of War Transport, provided sidings for 36 wagons, together with an all-important shunting neck. Later on the Air Ministry built sidings for 65 wagons. Mr Avery, the stationmaster, said this gave accommodation for 101 wagons, plus room for 29 in the shunting neck. Later, he added, the siding along the main line to Thetford was lengthened so that it could hold 90 instead of 50 wagons, whilst another alongside was extended to hold 50 instead of 20 wagons. All this gave Mr Avery and his staff room in which to move, together with a chance to keep the Main Line clear.

Attleborough also played its part during the terrible weather in September 1968. Torrential rain had caused many problems in East Anglia, and on Monday 16 September, travelling conditions were deteriorating fast. A cutting between Harling Road and Eccles Road was subsiding, but passable with caution. The 2036 (Sun) from Liverpool Street to Norwich called at Attleborough at 0500, some three and a half hours late. The 0642 from Norwich took one hour to reach Attleborough.

At 0828, Spooner Row advised Attleborough that the line was now impassable, and no trains should be allowed to proceed. All trains from London and the Midlands now had to terminate at Attleborough, and passengers transferred to road vehicles to complete their journeys. Likewise passengers from Norwich were bussed to Attleborough in order to commence their rail journey. Engineers toiled hard throughout the day and night, and the line was reopened the next day at 0730.

Likewise from Thursday 19 September to Thursday 3 October 1968, all Norwich to London trains were diverted to pass through Attleborough, as the main line was blocked by a bridge collapse at Burston, near Diss, and by extensive bridge damage at Mellis, also near Diss. A typical day would see about 80 trains a day passing or calling at the station.

The station, once destaffed, soon became untended, and remained so until 1989. Various station buildings were demolished on the London platform, whilst others on the Norwich platform were let to tenants.

During 1989, a reshuffle of local management structure took place within British Rail, and all the local stations came under the jurisdiction of one Manager at Norwich entitled Retail Manager (Stations). This person was to see every unstaffed station on the Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Sheringham and Peterborough lines fall under his direct control. It was during one of his visits to the station that the resident signalman suggested that the area should be made more welcoming to the customer, and indicated he would be prepared to undertake a project to restore the gardens if the Management would also assist. It was to be a big project. The platform gardens had been covered in spent ballast from under the track deposited on the platforms during past engineering works. Through this grew tall weeds, and the area was strewn with rubbish. The efforts of local volunteers, both rail customers and local residents were much appreciated.

Two skips were provided to remove this unwanted stone and waste, and passing lorries with top soil were persuaded to drop a little for the gardens benefit. Once prepared, the garden was provided with more than 1000 plants and shrubs. Local community support was also sought, and the next year, thanks totally to the very generous offer from Mr Beales’ Rose Nurseries of London Road, 275 roses were planted on the London platform.

Since that time, various improvements and expansion ideas have taken place, and I am sure will continue. Letters of appreciation from the Community and passengers have been received. The station consistently gets a mention in both the Local and National Best Kept Station competitions.

What will the future hold for both the station and train service using the line through Attleborough. Only time will tell.

KR 03.94