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Free rides all day long! Train buff self isolating at Norfolk station

PUBLISHED: 10:04 21 May 2020 | UPDATED: 13:11 21 May 2020

Train buff Matthew Armstrong who is self isolating on the Wells and Walsingham Railway in Norfolk  Picture: Chris Bishop

Train buff Matthew Armstrong who is self isolating on the Wells and Walsingham Railway in Norfolk Picture: Chris Bishop

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Meet the luckiest man in lockdown - the train buff who’s self isolating on a railway.

While the line is closed, Mr Armstrong gets to drive the trains while carrying out maintenance on the line  Picture: Chris BishopWhile the line is closed, Mr Armstrong gets to drive the trains while carrying out maintenance on the line Picture: Chris Bishop

Matthew Armstrong, 29, works as an assistant practitioner at Hellesdon Hospital, in Norwich. His partner Kat Zbrog, 37, works as a clinical support worker at the city’s Julian Hospital.

Miss Zbrog has worked with people with coronavirus and the couple need to isolate from each other.

So Mr Armstrong has moved out of their one bedroom house in Taverham to live in a caravan at the Wells and Walsingham Railway.

“It was a case of she or me going to live in a hotel,” said Mr Armstrong, who is one of the volunteers who run the narrow gauge line. “Then the railway said I could come over here and stay.

Mr Armstrong is one of the volunteers who help to run the railway when it is open Picture: Chris BishopMr Armstrong is one of the volunteers who help to run the railway when it is open Picture: Chris Bishop

“It’s pretty awesome to be honest. It’s got to be one of the best lockdowns in the country.

“It’s amazing at night. The stars and sunsets are amazing.”

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Mr Armstrong’s pied-a-terre has another perk. He even gets to drive the trains. While the railway is closed, he uses engines to get to remote sections of the line to carry out maintenance.

Mr Armstrong has his cat Dave for company in his caravan   Picture: Chris BishopMr Armstrong has his cat Dave for company in his caravan Picture: Chris Bishop

Mr Armstrong has his 13-year-old cat Dave for company during his stay, which he expects to last until mid-June.

“Kat pops down occasionally to throw me my post,” he said. “I miss her and my other pets, I’ve got a chinchilla, four rabbits and another cat.”

While the mainstream rail industry ramps up services as Britons return to work, the Wells and Walsingham - the world’s smallest public railway - is grappling with how it might begin running again as lockdown eases.

The 10-ins gauge line which runs through four miles of the north Norfolk countryside, will be operating a reduced service.

The railway is closed because of coronavirus  Picture: Chris BishopThe railway is closed because of coronavirus Picture: Chris Bishop

“We have worked hard at planning for an opening with social distancing,” said director Nick Champion.

“We have plans in place and will only run to Wighton and back initially and on the hour every hour, we will mark 2m distances on the platform, separate groups and wipe the seats between each journey.

“We have planned payment systems without cash or contact as much as possible and will operate a one-way system. We also have the added benefit of most of our train being outdoors and open carriages.”

While Transport for London has been given a £1.6bn government bailout, the Wells and Walsingham line has had to turn to a crowdfunding appeal to help it survive. So far, some £5,000 has been pledged.


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