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15th February 2020
And now memories are being sought of the much missed rail link between Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, ahead of the 50th anniversary of its closure.
With the line closing in 1970, it meant the end of an era for the railway which directly linked the two towns.
Lowestoft Central Station staff were issued with new uniforms in 1957. Photo: Archant Library
And on May 4, 2020 – 50 years since its much-lamented closure – this end of an era will be marked as the Wherry Lines Community Rail Partnership, in conjunction with the Lowestoft Central Project, launches an appeal for people to share their memories and any images of the railway.
It comes ahead of a special online exhibition and permanent displays to be installed at stations in the two towns later this year.
Lowestoft North Station in 1963. Photo: Archant Library
Built in 1903, the Lowestoft to Yarmouth Railway ran from Great Yarmouth Beach Station across the Bure Railway Bridge and five-span Breydon Viaduct, serving stations at Yarmouth Southtown, Gorleston North, Gorleston On Sea, Hopton, Corton, Lowestoft North and Lowestoft Central.
In 1914 a Halt was added at Gorleston Links to serve the adjacent golf course.
Driver William George who took the last train on the run from Great Yarmouth Southtown Station to Lowestoft Central when the coastal line was closed on May 2 1970. Photo: Archant Libary
Before 1903, direct services linking the two towns ran via a curve east of Reedham to Yarmouth Vauxhall and following construction of the Beccles to Yarmouth route, via a junction at Haddiscoe.
When it opened, the direct Lowestoft to Yarmouth line was operated by a joint committee comprising of the Great Eastern Railway (GER) and the Midland and Great Northern Junction Railway (MGNJR).
A view taken from Great Yarmouth Town Hall, showing Hall Quay with the Haven Bridge (left) then onto North Quay. In the distance the Breydon Railway Viaduct can be seen. Dated 1940's or early 1950's Photo: Archant Libary
The railways hoped that the line would lead to the development of holiday resorts and it is believed that Gorleston and Hopton had ‘On Sea’ added to their names as part of a railway publicity campaign.
The route saw services running via the former MGNJR network to and from the Midlands and North and summer specials bringing thousands of holidaymakers to a host of holiday camps along the coast.
Breydon Swing Railway Bridge. Opened in 1902 the bridge was 625 feet long and weighs more than 1000 tons. With the demise of the railways the bridge was demolished in 1962. Photo: Archant Libary
As well as a variety of freight traffic – including fish, coal and sugar beet – during the First World War Lowestoft North station also saw the arrival of thousands of troops as the Army had constructed training camps on the nearby North Denes and Corton Road playing field.
After the 1953 East Coast Floods, services across the Breydon Viaduct ended as maintenance to the substantial structure was deemed too costly and all Lowestoft – Yarmouth services were terminated at Southtown Station.
The sign which greeted travellers outside Gorleston station. Photo: From the Yarmouth to Lowestoft Railway Line DVD
Yarmouth Beach Station closed along with much of the former MGNJR network in 1959.
After closure of the Beccles to Southtown route, which was also axed in 1959, all London services ran via Lowestoft and the line was upgraded. However, shortly afterwards, many services to the coast were re-routed via Norwich.
A steam train goes under the bridge at Yarmouth's Southtown Station in 1953. Photo: Archant Library
In 1968, an enquiry into the proposed closure of the line claimed that it served between 5,000 and 10,000 people per week and was running at a loss of some £34,000 per year.
Although closure was not proposed as part of the Beeching Report, British Rail ran services down and re-routed holiday and other long-distance traffic leaving the line with just a two-car diesel shuttle calling at unstaffed and vandalised stations.
This article first appeared on www.edp24.co.uk
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