CALLING AT ALL
Today fast trains take us from Norwich to Ely, Peterborough and beyond. The
village stations with their gated crossings and Victorian signal boxes provide
plenty of clues that this is a route with a history. The pine and bracken of
Thetford forest and the rich fenland soil have witnessed many changes since
This is a brief guide to the stations past and present along the route - a
mixture of history and the obscure.
If you have any stories about your station that you would like added to this
guide please email us using the address on the home page.
- The present station is not
the original terminus. The first station was opened by the Yarmouth &
Norwich Railway on 30th April 1844 and enlarged when trains from the Ely
direction began on 15th December 1845.
- Formerly called Norwich
Thorpe, the current station was opened in 1886. Built by John Youngs &
Son at a cost of £60,000 it was constructed with red brick and Bath stone
facings with a zinc dome. It has six platforms including a bay added in
- The station is the last
survivor of the city's three terminus stations. Victoria station, the
original departure point of trains to London closed to passengers in 1916
and to freight in 1966 although the coal depot was still served for
another 20 years. Many years ago passengers bound for Peterborough and the
Midlands would have used City station which closed to passengers in 1959
with most of the Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway. Freight
traffic was to linger for another 10 years.
- Electrification of the
Norwich-London Liverpool Street service saw a simplification of the track
layout and all signalling at the station is now controlled from
- In 1987 a revamp included
resurfacing the concourse with Italian terrazzo tiles. Since the 1990s
this impressive station has had its roof and canopies repaired and shop
units installed. A 1945 City of Norwich Plan was not impressed describing
the station as 'a rather pompous over decorated building reminiscent of
mediocre French railway stations of the period'.
- Just outside the station
area is the National Express Crown Point maintenance depot opened by BR in
1982 at a cost of £10m and occupying a 12 acre site.
- The present swingbridge over
the River Wensum dates from 1986. Trowse station south of the swingbridge
was noted for its cattle traffic and the extensive private sidings of
- The 89 foot station building
at Trowse was of white bricks and flints worked by men from Brandon. A Mr
Farrow of Diss took charge of the stonework.
- In 1892 the Great Eastern
Railway reported that in a recent year 95,000 beasts, 137,000 sheep and
14,000 pigs were received at the station.
- The station closed in 1939
but came back to life in 1986 as a temporary terminus during major
engineering work at Norwich Thorpe. Most of the platforms were later
- The former Hethersett
station was 6¼ miles from Norwich. Remote from the village it served and
the wrong side of the All, Hethersett was still served by 10 to 12 trains
each way in the early 1960s, mostly Norwich-King's Lynn/Wells-next-the-Sea
- Closure came in 1966 and
although the platforms were removed the derelict 1845 single storey
station building and awning survive. Private sidings to a Ministry of
Defence oil depot were opened during the Second World War but had fallen
into disuse by 1980 and are now disconnected.
- Just over 10 miles from
Norwich, Wymondham is now the first station on our route with its original
Norfolk Railway buildings now lovingly restored by a local businessman and
formally reopened after years of dereliction by Dad's Army actor
Bill Pertwee in 1989.
- The Brief Encounter
restaurant and a piano showroom operate from the award winning station. A
ticket office has been reintroduced for the morning peak period. For more
information about the station and the businesses based there visit www.wymondham-station.com
- When the railway opened in
1845 Wymondham had a second station, at Spinks Lane, but this lasted only
a few months.
- The town became a junction
in 1847 with the opening of a branch to Dereham, later extended to King's
Lynn and Wells-next-the-Sea. These services were the first in the region
to benefit from the first generation of diesel units in 1955 but passenger
trains were withdrawn by 1969 with freight continuing until 1989. Since
then the Mid-Norfolk Railway has restored and reopened the line to
Dereham, and there is a second station in the town once more with the
opening of a halt at Wymondham Abbey. For more information visit www.mnr.org.uk
- From our line it is possible
to make out the course of the branch to Forncett on the Norwich-London
line, opened in 1881 and closed upon the outbreak of war in 1939. The
Wymondham end was used for breaking up condemned rolling stock until the
1970s and the mail van at the centre of the Great Train Robbery of 1963
was reported to have been discreetly destroyed at this site.
- Two and a half miles from
Wymondham, Spooner Row is the smallest remaining station on our line, the
village deriving its name from the manufacture of wooden spoons. The
station closed twice in the 19th century but reopened on each occasion.
- The station building was
damaged by fire in the 1970s and demolished. Today a signal box, gated
crossing and three former railway cottages remain. There are two commuter
trains into Norwich and one late afternoon return journey.
- Attleborough is five and a
half miles from Wymondham with platforms either side of a level crossing,
a signal box on the Norwich-bound platform and restored gardens.
- The ivy clad brick goods
shed is a clue to the once extensive freight traffic handled here
including Gaymer's cider which was served in the refreshment rooms of the
Great Eastern railway. The cider works moved alongside the railway in
1896, had extensive sidings and stood on the site of the present Banham
- Part of the former goods
yard became a bowling green in the 1980s. At Ranelagh Gardens in Norwich
140 years earlier the reverse happened: a bowling green became a goods
yard for the new Norwich Victoria station.
- Early in 2008 a ticket
office was opened, staffed in the mornings and on Saturdays where there is
a football match at Norwich. The station had been unstaffed since 1967.
- Look out for the local
resident's garden which has extended down the railway embankment under the
notice 'Attleborough North Request Stop'.
- Nearly four miles on is
Eccles Road which was advertised in timetables as the station for
Kenninghall, three miles away. Modern housing has developed near to the
station since the 1970s.
- In 1985 a long siding was
laid to a grain store at Snetterton supported by a government grant of
£348,000 but by the early 1990s grain had disappeared from the rail
network and the facility fell into disuse. In more recent times there has
been occasional aggregates traffic to Snetterton and the exchange sidings
were extended in 2007.
- Eight miles east of Thetford
and a mile and a half from East Harling, the station still has its 1845
building (minus platform) on the east side of the crossing while its
successor is located on the Ely bound platform.
- In the 1940s the War
Department constructed a long siding south of the station to a military
stores depot. It remained in use for more than 20 years and its course is
still evident. Freight here ceased in 1964 but some sidings were
reinstated until 1983.
- The Norwich to London mail
train called at Harling Road on Saturday nights until 1981. Cuts in
weekday stops were greeted with fury in 1994 and now there are two trains
each way for Norwich commuters. A gated crossing and signal box survive
but the Railway pub has pulled its last pint.
- The station here opened in
1869 at the same time as the branch to Watton, later extended to Swaffham.
Remote and with no road access, it became an exchange point only in 1902
and after that there were 60 years of gradual decline.
- The post of station master
had been downgraded to porter in charge by 1916, main line trains ceased
to call in 1920 and official closure came in 1932. Thetford-Swaffham
trains continued to call unadvertised until 1964, the Beeching Report
making special mention of the loss making route with an average of nine
passengers a train. Today the railway cottages and a few platform railings
can be glimpsed from the passing train.
- On the south side of the
line are the ruins of Roudham church. Disaster struck in the 18th century
when ash from a workman's pipe set fire to the thatched roof.
- An 1847 guide described
Thetford station as 'a handsome building of flints edged with grey stone
and bricks' similar in design to Trowse. It was extended in 1889, the year
shown in the stone work above the entrance.
- Having a station at Thetford
on the Norwich-Ely line was an afterthought, the original intention being
for the line to pass to the north with the town served by a short branch.
An Act of Parliament dated 31st July 1845 authorised a deviation
southwards causing some abandonment of construction work.
- Mundford Road obliterates
all trace of the branch to Bury St Edmunds, the first stop being Thetford
Bridge. Passenger trains ceased in 1953 with freight ending seven years
- The goods yard was cleared
of sidings in 1983 and the site is now occupied by housing although there
was some MOD traffic on the one remaining engineer's siding into the
- West of Thetford there were
sidings to Fison's manure works at Two Mile Bottom.
- Grimes Graves (3½ miles from
Brandon station) is a Neolithic flint mine underneath the grassy Breckland
landscape and the only one open to the public. Flints from Brandon were
used in the construction of all stations on the Norwich and Brandon
Railway right through to Trowse.
- There were still wagons in
the sidings when Dad's Army filmed in the station yard in 1970 but
after a long period of disuse the yard came back to life in the mid-1980s
with short term flows of timber and roof tiles with bricks and also
limestone for the Wissington sugar beet factory being handled in the late
- Lakenheath station
originally appeared in timetables as The Hiss, after the name of a nearby
- Unstaffed since 1967, the
station house is in private occupation and the Norwich bound platform
still has a postbox.
- In 1917-19 the Ministry of
War used a 2ft gauge line alongside the road to deliver construction
materials to Feltwell Aerodrome.
- A chicory factory was based
at the station but freight traffic ceased to be handled here in 1966.
- Since June 2007 the basic train
service has focused on weekend stops for those visiting the RSPB reserve
at Lakenheath which is adjacent to the railway. For more information see
- The station was called Burnt
Fen until 1885 and then Mildenhall Road until 1905.
- A network of horse drawn
tramways ran across farmland to the south of the station serving in
particular the Frederick Hiam estate. Another long siding served Chivers
factory, a mile east of the station. To the north there was a branch to
Shrubhill Farm from the 1860s to 1880s.
- Following the closure of the
Mildenhall branch in 1962 Shippea Hill became the railhead for servicemen
at the airbase there. Up to the 1980s around 11 trains a day called in each
direction with taxis often waiting in the yard. Extra trains and
connecting buses were laid on for the Mildenhall air fete well into the
1980s but usage later declined and the station now clings to the timetable
with one train each way on a Saturday. The isolated Railway tavern has
closed but the renovated and enlarged signal box is a stubborn survivor.
- Ely is a significant
interchange station served by Norwich-Liverpool, Norwich-Cambridge,
Stansted Airport-Birmingham, King's Cross-King's Lynn and Peterborough-Ipswich
services, all combining to provide nine departures an hour.
- The only route not to
survive was the branch to St Ives which lost its passenger services as
long ago as 1931 although two trains a week to a coal depot at the village
of Sutton continued until 1964.
- The 1845 building, extended
in 1898 connects to the island platform by way of a subway although a
footbridge once existed here. As part of the £12m electrification scheme
in the early 1990s platform 1 was widened and increased in height and all
three platforms were lengthened to accommodate 12 coach trains.
- The sidings to the goods
depot to the west of the station were lifted in 1990 and the site is now
occupied by a Tesco store. Today's freight traffic is focused on a
railfreight terminal north of the station which occupies the site of the
sugar beet factory which closed in 1981.
- Formerly the first stop west
of Ely, this village station closed to passengers in 1960 although a
nearby grain terminal, visible for miles around, remained rail served
until the 1980s.
- Remarkably Chettisham sprang
back into life again in 1991/92 when Ely station was closed due to
engineering work connected with the electrification of the
Cambridge-King's Lynn line. Thousands of passengers were ferried by bus to
and from temporary platforms at Chettisham although it appeared in
timetables as 'Ely Temporary Station'. For many the name on the signal box
was the only clue where they were!
- the station house is a
private home but everything else has now disappeared.
- This was the second station
on the section from Ely to Peterborough.
- Subsidence and only five
regular passengers sealed the station's fate with closure in 1963.
- The signal box has gone but
the name board can be seen on a modern house facing the railway.
- Manea is 9¾ miles west of
Ely and the only survivor of the four stations that once served
fenland communities between Ely and March,. It is served by two Cross
Country Stansted-Birmingham trains in each direction. Historically the
main significance of the station was its agricultural traffic.
- Situated 11¾ mies west of
Ely Stonea was another fenland village station noted for its agriculture
produce. By 1961 three daily trains for Ely called and four for
Peterborough but closure came on bonfire night in 1966.
- These days the name
might be associated with a prison but Whitemoor, to the north of March
station, was the location of the largest marshalling yards in the country
and the second largest in Europe. They were constructed in the late
1920s/early 1930s but after years of gradual decline only a wasteland
remained by the start of the 21st century.
- In 2004 Network Rail
reinstated part of the site to railway use with the opening of a new depot
and at the end of 2007 GB Rail Freight opened a diesel depot to the east
of the station.
- March station shows every
sign of a more illustrious past. Only two platforms are in use but three
abandoned bay platforms and two trackless through platforms remain. The
latter formed the start of the line to Spalding which closed in 1982. BR
hoped to save £4m over the next 10 years. The line's significance was as a
diversionary route, village stations with distinctive names such as
Guyhirne, French Drove & Gedney Hill and Cowbit having long since been
- March was served by a second
branch from Cambridge via St Ives and Chatteris which succumbed in 1967.
- It may be spelt Whittlesey
on maps but to the railway it has always been Whittlesea! Two hourly
Peterborough-Ely-Ipswich trains call, operated by National Express. Cross
Country Stansted-Birmingham trains provide additional stops at peak times.
- The station building on the
Ely bound platform has long gone leaving bare platforms. The extensive
sidings once served a brick works but only two remain and they have been
disused since the early 1990s.
- Three and a half miles east
of Whittlesea is a signal box and disused goods shed at Three Horse Shoes,
the only clue to the existence of a freight only branch from here to the
village of Benwick which carried agricultural produce until 1964.
- Peterborough is a major
interchange station with five platforms, Norwich-Liverpool trains using
either platform 4 or platform 5. The station was called Peterborough North
until the East station was closed in 1966. Modernisation of track layout
and buildings took place in the 1980s.
- In April 2007 Network Rail
announced that £1.3m was to be invested in improvements at the station to
include new and extended platforms.
- Look out for the Nene Valley
Railway's 7½ mile line westwards towards Wansford and Yardwell Junction
closed by British Rail in 1972. For more information visit www.nvr.org.uk