High speed first for Mid Norfolk Railway
Rail enthusiasts experienced a historic moment in Dereham as a high speed train from London pulled into the town's volunteer-run station for the first time.
East Midlands Trains operated the special High Speed Train (HST) 125 service from St Pancras International, with proceeds from the fares donated to the Railway Children charity.
It was the first time a HST has ever travelled on the restored Mid Norfolk Railway (MNR) between Wymondham and Dereham, as the train had not come into service when the line closed in 1969.
Although the experience was long overdue, the train itself arrived on time on Saturday afternoon, when about 400 passengers filed onto the platform after their five-and-a-half hour journey from the capital.
The journey was the idea of Pete Clay, from Gorleston, who drives daily Liverpool-bound trains from Norwich station and is also a volunteer on the MNR in his spare time.
After accompanying the train on its pioneering journey, he said: 'It was just an idea I had to do a different theme for a gala day to raise some money for the MNR and help promote our cause.
'We have already raised �20,000 for the Railway Children, so hopefully bringing all these people here will help the shops at the station as well.'
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Once on the restored line, the HST became part of the MNR's 'Drags and Rescues' weekend, which replicated the scenario of a Class 50 diesel locomotive dragging a broken-down train – another significant moment for many enthusiasts, as it had not happened since the 1990s.
The HST 125 was coupled to a restored engine named Ramillies, which 'dragged' it between Wymondham and Dereham before the train made its return journey to London.
James Steward, operations director for the Mid Norfolk Railway said, despite is capabilities, the HST could not use its 125mph top speed because of the restrictions on the heritage rail line.
'It can only do 25mph in rural Norfolk, which is good because it gives people the chance to enjoy our beautiful countryside,' he said. 'People don't come here for the speed, they come for the journey.
'It's a really ground-breaking event. The HST represents the type of engine that used to run between Norwich and London and quite often, when there was engineering works, they would have been dragged by a diesel engine – but this is the first time it has happened for at least 20 years.'