Reviving memories of the lost train line that linked the Broads and the seaside

Busy Stalham Railway Station in its heyday.

Busy Stalham Railway Station in its heyday. - Credit: Archant

A Norfolk author is reviving memories of the lost line between Stalham and Great Yarmouth.

Workers building Potter Heigham Railway Bridge in 1897. During the Second World War dynamite was pla

Workers building Potter Heigham Railway Bridge in 1897. During the Second World War dynamite was placed under it so it could be blown up if the invasion came. Incredibly, it was still there in the 1960s when the bridge was being dismantled with acetylene cutters! The workers made a run for it and had a lucky escape. - Credit: Archant

It is a book which looks back to the glory days of the railways in Norfolk when, wherever you lived in the county, the chances were you were never far from a station.

Not only did they provide decent transport for the people for the first time they also offered jobs and work for many in the local community as businesses sprung up around the branch lines.

Many of you might think it was short-sighted to get rid of these stations and rip up the lines and when we look at how the trains operate today.... well, there is room for improvement.

There is no fancy title to the latest offering from local author Ray Woolston. It is called: A Look Back at the Old Railway Stations between Stalham and Great Yarmouth.

Two railways workers pose for the camera with a boy and his dog.

Two railways workers pose for the camera with a boy and his dog. - Credit: Archant

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It is just that – telling the story, illustrated with lovely photographs, of the life and times of the branch line, which disappeared in the late 1950s.

This is the ideal companion to Ray's first book called Stalham's Forgotten Railway, published in 2016, and both raise money for the Poppy Centre Charity Trust.

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'I wasn't sure how popular my first book would be but was amazed at the interest it produced. People said it was good to see a railway book with photos of other railway-related things rather than just trains,' he said.

The latest book features pictures of each of the stations between Stalham and Great Yarmouth. They have all vanished, apart from Stalham which was taken down and rebuilt at Holt on the Poppy Line while the station at Great Ormesby is now a private home.

Ray Woolston with his previous book Stalham, Glimpses of the Past. He has now written one about the

Ray Woolston with his previous book Stalham, Glimpses of the Past. He has now written one about the town's railway links with Great Yarmouth. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

'I have tried to include events, some amusing other sad, which happened at the stations and on the line over the years. People say to me the most tragic thing that happened was that the line closed,' he said.

'Having been born in 1953 I was six years old when Stalham Railway Station closed in February 1959, four years before the Beeching cuts. I do remember travelling on the train with my mother to both Great Yarmouth and North Walsham which was in the days of steam trains.'

In recent years he must have written more about his Stalham and the area than anyone else. First there was Stalham Then and Now in 2014 followed by Stalham – Glimpses of the Past, and then the two railway books.

The railway station was opened in July 1880 and was the last one which made up the Yarmouth and Stalham Light Railway. It was called 'Stalham for Happisburgh & Palling on Sea'.

It was later extended to become part of the Midland & Great Northern Line opening up Norwich to thousands of holidaymakers from across the country.

There were five coal merchants who worked from the 'coal allotments' at the station plus other businesses. Farmers also used trains to transport sugar beet to Cantley factory.

'My father, Fred, worked for Hubert Sands and he and one other worker, either George Shepherd or 'Abo' Miles used to take the beet by tractor to the station and load the wagons by fork. This was hard manual labour,' said Ray.

And local nurserymen such as Alan Meale, William Bellfield and Alan Bussey sent their tomatoes, cucumbers, chrysanthemums and other flowers to wholesale markets from London to Newcastle from Stalham.

The busy-ness of Stalham was, of course, dwarfed by the station at the other end of the line. In 1912 it was estimated that in just one weekend more than 25,000 visitors arrived from the Midlands to Great Yarmouth Beach Station.

At the height of the holiday season there were up to 100 trains in one day - on a single track.

The second busiest time for 'Beach' was in the herring season. Thousands of 'Silver Darlings' were landed by a huge fleet of drifters. The fisher-girls gutted them and they were placed in special wagons to hold the fish and the ice which they were packed in and sent off all over the country.

All aboard, then for Ray's new book. Travel on the Stalham express, hopping off at Catfield, Potter Heigham, Martham (for Rollesby), Hemsby, Great Ormesby, Caister-on-Sea before arriving at dear old 'Beach'.

And look out for his collection of books in the shops which cost £7.97 and raise money for the Poppy Centre at Stalham.

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