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Driver Pete Clay is framed by his side window as council chairmen Bob McClenning and Robin Goreham shake hands at Dereham station after the arrival of the Norwich-Dereham special through train. Picture by Alan Cooper.
By MARK TWEEDIE
Saturday, October 20, 2012
The train now standing at Platform Two at Dereham Station ... is an extra-special special.
Nostalgia was in the air this morning as the red, orange and blue livery of a two-carriage railcar loomed out of the murky grey at the terminus of the Mid Norfolk Railway heritage line.
The East Midland Trains service had pulled out of Norwich station roughly an hour earlier - the first through train of its kind from the city to Dereham since the former British Rail Wymondham-Dereham branch line closed to passengers in October 1969.
A station announcer heralded its arrival to a small gathering of onlookers on the platform just after 10.30am.
East Midlands Trains driver and Mid Norfolk Railway supporter Pete Clay, from Gorleston, brought the train to a halt. Then, as the carriages disgorged dozens of rail enthusiasts and fellow travellers, there was pomp and ceremony as Breckland Council chairman Robin Goreham formally greeted his opposite number Bob McClenning, who had been one of the passengers.
Generations of Dereham “boy” Mr Goreham’s family kept a post office and stores just a stone’s throw away from the station in Norwich Street and did a roaring trade serving train travellers with sweets in days gone by - staying open late for the stragglers.
“Indeed, we used to call the shop Station Stores,” he said. “I remember that as kids we would stand on the footbridge here and watch the trains go by.”
Mr Goreham was 10 when British Rail stopped running passenger trains to Dereham - another victim of the huge cuts in the nation’s railway network that had begun with the Beeching Axe in the mid-60s – and used the line for freight services only.
“I can remember the mood of disappointment - disbelief that Dr Beeching and his associates had decided it had to close. People were hacked off because they thought: ‘If they can run freight trains, why can’t they run passenger services too?’” he said.
Mr Goreham praised the Mid Norfolk Railway for keeping the heritage line going and for running this and other special through services between Norwich and Dereham over the weekend.
“It is fantastic what they have achieved here, and if they ran through services again in the future, bringing people to Dereham it would be a fantastic boost to the town too,” he added.
Watching the arrival of the train was Norman Leeder, who started his railwayman’s career in his teens and rose through the ranks to become head shunter in Dereham’s once-bustling marshalling yards. That was in the days when the nearby Hobbies factory supplied its wares to the world, the town’s maltings were flourishing and the wartime military airfields scattered across the area demanded endless consignments of weaponry and supplies.
His reaction to the spectacle today? “Nostalgic. It’s very good to see it here.”
Norman, now 85 and widowed, had met his sweetheart and future wife, Pamela Titmus, on the railways - she worked in the refreshment room at Dereham station.
Mid Norfolk Railway chairman Barry Woodgett, who travelled on the morning train from Norwich, said occasional chartered trains had provided through services in the past but this was the first time one of the franchised train operating companies had done so. This had proved that it was still feasible to run direct trains from Norwich, via Wymondham, to Dereham.
This afternoon, a through train leaves Dereham at 1715, arriving back in Norwich at 1837.
Tomorrow, through trains leave Norwich at 0915 and 1355, returning from Dereham at 1220 and 1710.
They coincide with the heritage line’s Multiple Matters Weekend tribute event for the Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) railcars, described by the MNR as the unsung heroes of the nation’s rail network over many years.
Full details of fares and tickets for the Norwich-Dereham services and the rest of the event are available by calling 01362 690633 or by visiting www.mnr.org.uk