Video and Gallery: Mid Norfolk Railway celebrates Heritage Railway of the Year award

Mid Norfolk Railway has been crowned Heritage Railway of the Year for 2013. Picture: Matthew Usher. Mid Norfolk Railway has been crowned Heritage Railway of the Year for 2013. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014
8:32 AM

Civic dignitaries joined jubilant volunteers to celebrate a national accolade which puts the Mid Norfolk Railway on track to become one of the county’s major tourism assets.

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The line, which operates between Dereham and Wymondham, has won the Ian Allan Publishing Heritage Railway of the Year Award – which recognises the ongoing developments during an exciting year for the MNR.

Earlier today, a plaque was formally unveiled at Dereham station by David Allan of Ian Allan Publishing, who said the competition for the award had been tougher than ever.

He said: “We scour the country for a railway that is providing an overall service to the passenger which has tried to reproduce the sort of service that the railway would have offered in the past. I think this railway epitomises the ambition and the determination to achieve that, but you have also managed to achieve it in partnership with the communities that you serve.”

The achievements which caught the judges’ eyes in 2013 included the “Four Railways” themed summer steam gala, the arrival of a High Speed Train from London St Pancras to Dereham, the northward extension of the MNR’s operational track to Hoe, and the re-decking of Wymondham Abbey platform.

The dignitaries who were invited to enjoy a celebratory train ride to inspect the MNR’s ongoing development at Thuxton included Norfolk County Council leader George Nobbs, Breckland Council leader Michael Wassell and the mayors of Dereham and Wymondham.

Also on board was Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman, who said: “This is a national award which recognises real leadership, ambition, drive and success here in Dereham. We are often a town which gets over-shadowed by more eminent towns and cities, but this is an example of Dereham leading the way, and winning this award is a great credit to all the work that goes on behind the scenes.

“This is an extraordinary asset and tourist attraction. At Wymondham we are trying to promote the link between the heritage line and the main line. We need to put Mid Norfolk on the map and this rail line is a really important opportunity to bring people in and allow them to discover what we have got here. Our train stations could be magnificent hubs for prosperity.”

Breckland Council chairman Paul Claussen said his grandfather used to work on the railways in Mid Norfolk. He said: “Grandad was here on the night shift as an engineer. I lived in Hindringham as a lad and I remember cycling to Walsingham to catch the train. I even drove a steam engine once at Melton Constable. But what you have to remember is that grandad always said they could not survive with nobody going on the trains. That is the real tragedy. If we had got this amount of interest back then, these lines would still be thriving and surviving. But they ripped the line up.”

MNR chairman Barry Woodgett said he was “absolutely delighted” with the award. “The most important thing is that this railway has grown to such an extent in the last 15 years, and it is testament to the staff and the volunteers that this is now a major tourist attraction here in Dereham, and we would like to develop the line further,” he said.

Norfolk County Council leader George Nobbs said: “The important thing about this award is that people who are interested in railways know all about it – Ian Allan is a big name on the railways.

“The award recognises the work of the volunteers. No-where like this could work without volunteers, and the amount of work they do here is phenomenal.”

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