Could Great Yarmouth be a holiday destination for rail lovers?
PUBLISHED: 07:00 24 March 2019
If you are a railways buff, Great Yarmouth and Gorleston must be a disappointingly barren area.
Yarmouth still has one railway station from where you can journey to Norwich to connect with places where trains are more plentiful and varied.
Older residents can remember when we had three main-line termini - the long-gone Beach and Southtown Stations, plus the surviving Vauxhall which is unlikely to figure in any railway enthusiast’s “must see” list.
Sweeping nationwide rail closures under the 1948 Beeching Plan aimed to revolutionise the entire system was a disaster for the Yarmouth area.
In 1959, when his axe fell on the whole Midland and Great Northern Railway, victims hereabouts were its eastern terminus - Yarmouth Beach - plus stations at Caister, Hemsby, Martham, Potter Heigham, Catfield and Stalham.
Residents and the holiday industry suffered.
Other parts of the county were also hit, in particular Melton Constable further along that line in North Norfolk.
It merits inclusion in Britain’s railway history because, although only a small town, it was once very important and described as “the Crewe of North Norfolk” - a very busy junction and possessing extensive rail engineering works.
Then, in 1970, our Southtown Station was closed, passengers who started journeys to London’s Liverpool Street from there forced to use Yarmouth Vauxhall and journey via Norwich. Gorleston and the villages to Lowestoft lost their stations when the direct line between the two towns closed.
This is all confirmation that Yarmouth in particular, and Norfolk in general, are not railway hot-spots.
So imagine my surprise when I noticed in my morning national newspaper recently an advertisement for railway-themed short-break holidays... in Norwich and Norfolk!
They are being organised by a specialist operator with a world-wide programme (including China!) and, from next month, has scheduled no fewer than 16 dates in the county, all following the same programme.
Railway themed? Here in Norfolk? “Hunt the railway” might be a better idea to pass a few days away in our county, cynics might suggest.
Whatever is there in Norfolk to captivate those railway-loving visitors to our county?
Well, certainly not hereabouts in the Yarmouth neighbourhood - we have little or nothing to catch the imagination of a dedicated railways enthusiast.
The advertisement’s map discreetly masks our railway shortcomings by eliminating our east Norfolk coast, instead beginning inland near Wroxham!
We are off the radar, and our Vauxhall Station, even after its recent improvements, would hardly enthral a railway enthusiast.
Perhaps our only railway reminders are mundane: three road bridges beneath which steam trains once ran (Jellicoe Road and Barnard Avenue in Yarmouth, Bridge Road in Gorleston).
Other bridges, like Gorleston’s Middleton Road, have been modernised but still span the old Yarmouth-Lowestoft rail route which is now a busy main road.
When Yarmouth Beach Station was demolished, the site was redeveloped with housing at one end and a spacious car and coach park at the other, very necessary for holiday visitors, being adjacent to our sea-front area and hotels.
Thoughtfully, beside Nelson Road North, two sturdy metal fancy high poles remain to remind us of the many that supported the canopied roof over the long platform. It looks as though each has “ER” twice fashioned into the metalwork.
Could that mean that they date from our Queen’s accession in 1953 and were not originals from Beach’s establishment?
Also, in a ground-level plot, there is a short length of the former railway track.
Hardly enough to warrant a railway buff’s interest, admittedly.
But an award-winning travel operator, with more than 40 years’ experience, obviously knows what it is doing and has found something for its patrons to enjoy in a county not exactly renowned for its railways and largely bereft of them.