Bury and Thetford (Swaffham Branch)

The Bury and Thetford (Swaffham Branch), also known as the Crab and Winkle Line,[1] was a railway line in England. It was formed of the Watton and Swaffham Railway, founded in 1866 as an independent venture by the Thetford and Watton Railway Company. Freight services commenced in January 1869, with passenger services in October 1869. The line ran from Thetford, via Watton to a junction with the Lynn and Dereham Railway at Swaffham and was completed in 1875.[2] The extension to Swaffham cost £72,000,[3]

Thetford and Watton Railway Company
Cutting near Swaffham
Dates of operation1869–1964 (passengers)
SuccessorGreat Eastern Railway
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in)
Length18.75 miles (30.18 km)

On 21 July 1879 the line was leased to the Great Eastern Railway for 999 years, commencing 1 March 1880. It was vested into the GER in 1897, becoming part of the London and North Eastern Railway on 1 January 1923.[4]

The line was closed to passengers on 15 June 1964, with a two-car diesel multiple unit (DMU) driven by driver David Grant of Dereham operating the final service. There were only 70 passengers on the final stage of the journey. Roudham Junction to Watton was closed completely at this time, and the remainder was closed to freight on 19 April 1965, after transporting the final sugar beet and coal traffic.[5]

Rolling stock Edit

On opening, the railway was approached by Robert Fairlie, who wanted a line to test his "Fairlie Steam Carriage",[6][citation needed] but the railway company were not interested in this proposal.[note 1] Instead locomotives were obtained from Manning Wardle & Co. These were 0-6-0 tank locomotives with 3-foot driving wheels and 11-inch cylinders. The railway also secured a rebuilt 3 ft 6 in saddle tank.[9] These locomotives were maintained at a shed at Watton.[10]

Two more Manning Wardle tanks, and two Sharp, Stewart and Company 0-4-2 tender locomotives were added by September 1876. The railway was taken over by the Great Eastern Railway in 1880, with the locomotives joining the GER stock list. The Sharp locomotives being scrapped in 1891 and the tank engines in the late 1880s.[11]

List of stations Edit

Crab and Winkle line
Roudham Junction
Wretham and Hockham
Stow Bedon
Norwich Road
Church Lane
Bridge 2399 A1075
Bridge 2400 Loch Lane
Bridge 2401 Ovington Road
Bridge 2402 Hills Road
Bridge 2403 Dunnetts Close
Bridge 2404
Bridge 2405 Hale Road
Holme Hale
Station Road
Bridge 2408 River Wissey
Bridge 2409 Hillside, North Pickenham
Bridge 2414
Bridge 2415 Norwich Road (old A47)
Bridge 2416 Long Lane
Bridge 2417 Sporle Road

The route today Edit

The line was lifted after closure. The route either side of Stow Bedon station has been removed, and the station site levelled. The section of line between Stow Bedon and Wretham was intended to be used for a new road, and Stow Bedon station was demolished as part of this plan. The road was not, however, constructed.

Watton station has also been demolished and the site redeveloped, although a level crossing gate survived on Church Road as late as 1983. The line from the junction with the Dereham line at Swaffham remains unobstructed, although with some bridges removed. Holme Hale station remains as a private residence, complete with signal box and signal post - although heavily extended.[12]

Loch Neaton Edit

One of the ballast quarries created during the construction of the railway through Watton was converted into a leisure park and bathing lake known as Loch Neaton. The area was named "Loch Neaton" in honour of the Scottish navvies who built the line, with Neaton being the local hamlet. The park remains today, bordered on one side by the abandoned railway embankment.[13]

Notes Edit

  1. ^ The Fairlie Steam Carriage was instead successfully tested in July 1869 at the Hatcham Iron Works.[7][8]

References Edit

  1. ^ Holland, J. (2013). Dr Beeching's Axe: 50 Years on: Illustrated Memories of Britain's Lost Railways. DAVID & CHARLES. p. 68. ISBN 9781446302675. Retrieved 3 April 2015 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Historic England. "WATTON AND SWAFFHAM RAILWAY (357783)". Research records (formerly PastScape). Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  3. ^ "The railway in Watton". History of Watton, Norfolk. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  4. ^ "Watton and Swaffham Railway Company". The National Archives. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  5. ^ Joby (1976), p. 16.
  6. ^ "Fairlie's Steam Carriage. Light railway steam locomotive for use on branch lines. 1869 - Image ID: D96P36". World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  7. ^ "The Fairlie Steam Carriage". Western Mail. Cardiff, Wales. 17 July 1869. p. 2 – via Newspapers.com.  
  8. ^ "Important Improvement In Steam Carriages". The Nottinghamshire Guardian. Nottingham. 23 July 1869. p. 11 – via Newspapers.com.  
  9. ^ Joby (1976), p. 11.
  10. ^ Joby (1976), p. 6.
  11. ^ Joby (1976), p. 13.
  12. ^ "Route of Thetford, Watton and Swaffham Railway (later Great Eastern)". Norfolk Heritage Explorer. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  13. ^ "History of the Loch". Loch Neaton Watton. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  • Joby, R.S. (1976). Rails across Breckland. Norwich: Klofron.