In August we had a short holiday in north Norfolk and I got the chance to visit the Wells and Walsingham Light Railway. The WWLR is the longest 10 1/4 inch (260mm) railway in the world. It was opened in 1982 and runs on the old standard gauge Wymondham to Wells branch line that closed in 1969.
The station at Wells has a lovely light railway atmosphere. Surrounded by countryside, with wooden buildings and the sleepers buried in a mixture of cinders and grass.
I’m told, the railway cannot construct permanent buildings on the site, hence the wooden buildings. The signal box was moved from Swainsthorpe to Wells without being dismantled, a distance of around 40 miles! It has been converted into a shop and tearoom.
Enough talk, let’s have a look at what’s in the yard.
The first loco to catch my eye was Pilgrim an 0-6-0 built in 1981. Look at the ‘oversized’ cab to enable the driver to fit in.
Here’s the cab interior.
Next, Norfolk Harvester, a Bo-Bo diesel powered by a Perkins marine engine. She sounds great!
Very simple cab…
… and an unusual, but comfortable, drivers seat.
Also in the yard was this eight seater Leek and Manifold ‘replica’ executive saloon. I love the livery.
Finally, I met Weasel an 0-6-0 diesel hydraulic, again powered by a Perkins diesel engine. Boxy, but a great loco to model.
Our train arrived…
Norfolk Hero, named in honour of Nelson, is a 10 1/4 inch gauge 2-6-0 + 0-6-2 Garratt. Yes, really! I’m searching for a word that means both incredible and wonderful at the same time (perhaps the Germans have a word for it…)
Norfolk Hero’s cab…
… and valve gear.
Before we set off I looked into the guard’s compartment. Note the essential kit: flags, shovel and garden shears.
Then we were off to Walsingham. The first part of the line runs through shallow cuttings full of wild flowers. It may be an old standard gauge line but the bushes grow quite close to the train in places. Now I know why the guard had those garden shears!
Later, the line opens out to give great views of open fields, houses and churches nestling between the trees.
There are no steep gradients, I think the steepest I saw was 1 in 66. There are several ungated crossings. The driver slows, sounds the whistle and proceeds slowly. The best of the crossings was near a house with free range chickens. Obviously, the chickens think it is quite normal to roam across the line. The driver proceeded at very slow speed with lots of whistling until the chickens made their way home and it was great fun watching them strut around.
Walsingham station is about as simple as it gets, a passing loop and a buffer. Again, I love the light railway feel.
After a snack in town, we headed back to Wells – “All Aboard!”
Back at Wells I decided to act like I owned Norfolk Hero (yeah, in my dreams..)
After the WWLR the deal was that we headed to the beach. My family didn’t realise that the best way to get there is to take the Wells Harbour Railway (Ha, Ha).
At Wells Harbour station we met The Duke, looking great in her purple livery. The WHR is a 10 1/4 inch line established in 1976 by Roy Francis, who went on to create the WWLR.
The Duke took us to the end of the line, 1200 yards further on, at Pinewoods.
The WWLR doesn’t have a turntable, but the WHR has two!
The Duke was turned by hand…
…and the running round was easily completed.
Pinewoods is the most complicated station on the line.
The turntable serves the passing loop and the two lines into the engine shed.
The engine shed was closed – I’d have loved to have had a nose around there.
Swaffham is half way between the North Norfolk coast and where we live. We always stop at Ceres Bookshop and Tea Room. The owner really knows her books and she bakes delicious cakes. We left with a pile of books for my daughter, one book on the L&B for me (which has many pictures that I haven’t seen before). Oh, and our stomachs were full of delicious Almond and Orange cake.
What a successful trip!