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Ambitious plans to bring the railway back to Fakenham remain on track

PUBLISHED: 13:59 09 May 2017 | UPDATED: 14:33 09 May 2017

A Wells-bound train at Fakenham East station in the 1950s. Picture: MELTON CONSTABLE TRUST.

A Wells-bound train at Fakenham East station in the 1950s. Picture: MELTON CONSTABLE TRUST.

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Old bridges, platforms and street names today serve as reminders of the railway’s integral role in the history of Fakenham.

Paul Young, project manager for the Melton Constable Trust. Picture: MELTON CONSTABLE TRUST. Paul Young, project manager for the Melton Constable Trust. Picture: MELTON CONSTABLE TRUST.

It could also be an exciting part of Fakenham’s future with ambitious plans to bring trains back to the town taking a step forward.

The Melton Constable Trust, the charity behind the project, has received a £59,800 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and has begun to restore old railway bridges in the town. The work is expected to be completed this month.

The grant is enabling the trust to use a section of line and the bridges for the benefit of the community, by providing safe access and interpreting the history of the railway for school students and visitors.

Two years ago, due to donations locally and nationally, the trust bought a section of the old rail route at Pudding Norton, including two iconic bridges.

An archive picture of Bridge 1715, Picture: FAKENHAM COMMUNITY ARCHIVE An archive picture of Bridge 1715, Picture: FAKENHAM COMMUNITY ARCHIVE

The ultimate aim is to acquire more of the old track bed and to link up with the Mid Norfolk Railway so that the railway can be rebuilt to Fakenham. A station could be built next to the Fakenham Museum of Gas and Local History.

Trevor Bailey, a trustee of the Melton Constable Trust, said: “This success is the result of the tremendous interest that local people have shown in the old railway, its history and the prospect of trains eventually returning to the town.

“The heritage and tourism aspects of the project are important, but it also about providing transport - enabling people to get from A to B.”

He added: “The Mid Norfolk Railway is rebuilding its line northwards to County School, the next station north of Dereham. The extension to Fakenham is well into the future.

Bridge 1715 circa 1880. Picture: MELTON CONSTABLE TRUST Bridge 1715 circa 1880. Picture: MELTON CONSTABLE TRUST

“It will take a considerable time to acquire the rest of the land required and to achieve the rebuilding of the railway, with the very substantial expenditure involved. We have to work carefully and considerately with existing landowners.

“For the coming years, we want to ensure the Pudding Norton site is open to the community, for walking, heritage education purposes, environmental experiences and events.”

The history of the railway in Fakenham

Bridge 1715 pictured in April, 2017. Picture: MELTON CONSTABLE TRUST Bridge 1715 pictured in April, 2017. Picture: MELTON CONSTABLE TRUST

Before closure in the late 1950s and early 1960s the residents of Fakenham had the choice of two railway stations from which to travel.

The former rail network linked Fakenham with neighbouring towns and villages as well as destinations further afield.

Both stations were lost to the town in little over five years.

First to close was the former Fakenham West station in Hempton Road, which is now the site of builders’ merchants Jewsons.

The Fakenham Railway back when it was in use. Picture: FAKENHAM COMMUNITY ARCHIVE. The Fakenham Railway back when it was in use. Picture: FAKENHAM COMMUNITY ARCHIVE.

Fakenham East, in Norwich Road, closed to passengers in 1964, although the line remained open for freight until January, 1980.

The plans to bring trains back to Fakenham are part of the Norfolk Orbital Railway project, which aims to bridge the 20 mile link between two of Norfolk’s popular heritage railways – The North Norfolk Railway station at Holt and the Mid-Norfolk Railway station at County School, north of Dereham.

A real community effort

Bob Wright, in the orange jacket, civil engineer advisor for the Melton Constable Trust, pictured with workers from contractors Greenfield, carrying out an inspection. Bob Wright, in the orange jacket, civil engineer advisor for the Melton Constable Trust, pictured with workers from contractors Greenfield, carrying out an inspection.

The Melton Constable Trust is working with Fakenham Town Council, schools and several community and voluntary groups.

Fakenham Academy is working with the trust on the production of an education pack for students and training teachers in local railway history.

Volunteers from the Fakenham Area Conservation Team undertake ongoing maintenance of the site and the Fakenham and District Community Archive and Mid Norfolk Railway are contributing historical information and photographs.

The Lottery grant will go towards preparing the site owned by the Melton Constable Trust for community use, bridge repairs and safety measures, information signs and interpretation boards and a training course for teachers and classroom assistants from local schools on the history of the site, the railways and the surrounding flood plain environment.

A sign at the Fakenham West platform. Picture: ADAM LAZZARI. A sign at the Fakenham West platform. Picture: ADAM LAZZARI.

It will also fund the production of educational materials and the making of oral history recordings of people who used and worked on the railway.

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