The Branch Line Society


Wissington Wanderer
Friday 13th March 2015

On the inauspicious Friday 13 of March, 25 participants (due to this party size strictly 'members only') headed for the delightfully preserved Sheringham (NNR) station complete with classical BR Eastern Region illuminated lamp shades and many other features. 24 participants left just after 11.00 from the rare bay P3 in a very suitable vehicle, the ex-Wisbech and Upwell Tramway Bogie Composite No7 (60461 RRM32). This was similar to the one (No8) used in the 'Titfield Thunderbolt' film, which the railway had faithfully re-enacted at a superb gala in June 2012. This lovely coach had great visibility from the two balconies and most importantly is quite short! 'Toby the Tram Engine' was nowhere to be seen, instead the tour was steam hauled by Hudswell Clarke 1700 'Wissington', a 1938 0-6-0 IC Saddle Tank No5, which once worked on the Wissington Light Railway at the eponymous sugar factory off the former Stoke Ferry branch. This agricultural railway used to run 18 miles out into the Fens.

With the P3 departure came the rarer left hand line out of Sheringham NNR station and then participants enjoyed the undulating route, formerly double track in one place, following the North Norfolk coast in bright sun. The train took the reversible Weybourne P2 and past the platform at Kelling Heath Park to arrive in the non-preferred Holt P2. There the loco ran round and propelled the coach to the buffer stops (37m 50ch), since July 1987 the western limit of this ex-M&GNR line. Before 28 December 1964 it had continued to Melton Constable (the 'Crewe of Norfolk') and until 1959 from there to Peterborough, Norwich and Yarmouth Beach etc. The advantage of a short coach and locomotive became evident as the train easily cleared the points enabling a run through P1 to the wagons in the headshunt (the Down Siding) past the signal box. Again the points were cleared for the set back into Holt Yard to each of the two unballasted sidings behind P1 in turn reaching the wagons, beneath the museum's wooden overall roof. The Wissington Light Railway was also unballasted but the loco's axle load is only 8 tons.

View from the footplate of 'Wissington'. The signalbox was indeed switched out!
[© Malda Vek 2015]

The tour returned to P1 for a break whilst participants made for the elevated 3½"/5" North Norfolk Model Engineering Club railway which ran two trains specially. There is an interesting moveable double sector plate just outside the station (so four positions are possible; two crossing lines and two straight on routes). Leaving the station, left hand running along the line and round the loop is normal due to the configuration of the dual gauge track. The highlight was the two non-passenger lines from 'Holt Minor' station west over the turntable and their two run off lines to the buffers; miniature Class 08 and 66 haulage was enjoyed. Participants kept the staff talking until the 25th participant (the organiser, our heavily delayed Fixtures Secretary) appeared, two hours late due to problems on NR, just in time to do all the track and haulage here. On the way back to Weybourne, the first two steep and sharply curving sidings off to the right were taken down to Bridge Road Carriage sheds, where the doors had been opened for our visit.

Next a lunch stop at Weybourne with drinks, sandwiches, crisps and lovely homemade cake available. Our members had the whole line to themselves for the day, so a 'run past' was carried out before taking the yard headshunt, then Road 6 'PW Siding' (the furthest one from the running line and the only one not covered on our extensive 15 June 2013 brakevan tour here) and Road 2, almost to the shed door as it was clear. The train then ran along the normally unidirectional non-preferred P1 to the overbridge. Weybourne (and Holt) signal boxes were switched out and we were shunting with a 'long token' from Sheringham. To run through this loop would require all three boxes to be open.

Returning to Sheringham, the tour took the normal reversible line in front of the signal box into P1 where it waited whilst D3940 (08772) removed the coaches blocking P2 (which most of the party joined for the haulage and the crossover). Very cleverly, they were shunted up to the back of our tour train, which participants rejoined for the run east to the NR boundary (42m 67ch) to reverse and then through P2 completing the East End run round loop. Next it was forward to the West End headshunt and (after more coaches had been moved) another reversal to complete the West End run round loop and terminate back where the tour had started in bay P3. Thus the main station layout, normally blocked with numerous coaches, was covered efficiently.

Participants were very grateful to all at the NNR, the Engineers' Club and not least the inimitable Kev Adlam for the arrangements. All agreed it was well worth the very long journeys for such a good day and with good weather. The NNR volunteers enjoyed the day as much as our members and have invited the Society to return.