British Railways: 1948

I have recently purchased the six copies of The Railway Magazine which were issued in 1948. The first of these coincides with the formation of British Railways, and the January/February 1948 issue of the magazine [1] highlights for the readers a little of the history of railways in Britain which led up to that momentous occasion. A copy of the article is reproduced in Appendix 1 to this article.

The Railway Magazine was not alone in seeing the 1st January 1948 as a significant landmark in railway history. The Guardian carried an article on 30th December 1947 which said: “Of all the landmarks in Britain’s railway history, January 1 1948 will probably be outstanding. It is over a hundred years since railway nationalisation was first advocated. Since then enthusiasts for State ownership have never ceased to proclaim the benefits to be obtained, though in 1867 Sir Rowland Hill in a minority report as a member of a Royal Commission on Railways gave a warning of the “undue enlargement of expectation”. The clamour became louder towards the end of last century when the trade unions took it up strongly and after the first world war nationalisation nearly became a fact. Since then the pressure has continued to grow, culminating in the Transport Act of last August which provided for the transfer of the railways to the State on January 1. Thus after more than a century of controversy the decision has been taken.” [2]

That article in the Guardian asserted that: “Originally, the main planks in the argument were private versus public ownership and the effects on production and distribution supported by allegations of railway inefficiency: now the emphasis is placed on coordination of all forms of transport.” Indeed, apart from political dogma, that does seem to have been a significant factor in the decision-making of the time. The article in The Railway Magazine states that on that day: “The four mainline railways, the various joint lines, and those minor railways … under government control since the outbreak of the recent war, pass into the ownership of the British Transport Commission, under the provisions of the Transport Act, of August 6, 1947.” [1: p1] … “The Act provides for setting up bodies called Executives, … to assist the Commission as its agents. … As at present contemplated there will be the following: Railway Executive; London Transport Executive; Docks & Inland Waterways Executive; Road Transport Executive; and (from a date to be fixed) Hotels Executive.” [1: p2]

Interestingly, The Railway Magazine article suggests that the history of public railways in Great Britain up to 1948 (a period of around 150 years) could be divided into a series of eras each about 25 years in duration. [1: p1]

First, a period of horse-operated railways; second, the transition to steam-power; third (1848-1873), an era of competition; fourth, was a time of increased desire on the part of the industry to reduce competition through amalgamation which was not supported by Parliament; fifth (the early 20th century), was largely non-competitive with an increased tendancy towards grouping. [1: p1]

The last quarter-century before 1948 followed the Great War. The government’s outlook was changed by the War. Grouping was imposed by Statute, amalgamating 123 existing companies into the Big 4 of the GWR, The Southern, the LNER and the LMS. [1: p2]T.R. Gourvish, writing in the mid-1980s [6], said: “The origins of some of the difficulties facing nationalised railways when the newly created British Transport Commission took over in January 1948 lie in the inter-war years and, indeed, in the industry’s position before the First World War.” [6: p1] Government intervention in the industry and other factors, from 1900 on, limited railway companies freedom to choose and charge for the traffic they carried:

  • A public service obligation was laid on railway companies.
  • Labour costs were the subject of government control
  • A steadily increasing capital burden.
  • Lower and lower operating margins

Interestingly, “Such realities were masked by the railways’ continuing dominance of inland transport and their ability to provide reasonable returns to investment. In 1910-12, for example, the net rate of return on capital raised (excluding nominal additions to capital) averaged 4.23 per cent, and this was much the same as 40 years earlier when interest rates were higher.” [6: p1][7]

Increasingly, after the Great War, and particularly after the years of depression which followed, “the transport environment changed radically. Road transport began to challenge rail successfully in a number of markets, but especially in short-distance passenger and short- and medium-distance freight. Although the railways retained their traditional predominance in the long-distance freight business, even here profits were reduced by the instability and shrinking output of Britain’s staple industries which came with the slump in world trade. Coal output, for example, which had averaged 270 million tons in 1909-13, was 16 per cent lower in the ‘recovery’ years, 1934-8.” [6: p1]

However, these changes were not reflected in any relaxation in government control of pricing and marketing policy. “The Railways Act of 1921 had rejected outright nationalisation in favour of regulated regional monopolies; the four ‘main-line’ railways, the Great Western, London & North Eastern, London Midland & Scottish and Southern, established in 1923, represented the amalgamation of no less than 123 companies. This search for the efficiency believed to be inherent in regulated, large-scale business units marked the end of the government’s faith in inter-railway competition as a protection for consumers.” [6: p2]

Inevitably, “the continued obligation to accept traffic, publish charges, provide a reasonable level of service, avoid ‘undue preference’ in the treatment of customers and submit to government regulation of wages and conditions, left the railways vulnerable to their more flexible and less constrained competitors.” [6: p2]

Gourvish goes on to explain that by 1938, “the main-line companies were pressing vigorously for more equitable treatment. In that year net revenue fell by nearly 25 per cent. Although the trade depression was primarily responsible, the railways put some of the blame on the government’s one-sided control of freight traffic charges. The ‘Square Deal Campaign’, initiated by the ‘Big Four’ railway companies in November, demanded an end to the legal disabilities under which the railways were operating in comparison with the road hauliers – classification, publication of rates, etc. – and the case had been accepted in government circles before the outbreak of war interrupted the legislative programme.” [6: p2]

The Second World War made matters much worse. Railways were “placed under the control of 88the Ministry of Transport (from May 1941 the Ministry of War Transport), but operational management was retained by a Railway Executive Committee of railway managers. An agreement with the government established the basis of payment for traffic carried, but charges were frozen and maintenance and renewal were largely sacrificed to the war effort. The final agreement with the government, reached in September 1941 and back-dated to 1 January, gave the railways a guaranteed net revenue of £43.5 million. The government were to take any surplus earned above this figure, but it was agreed that an accumulating trust fund would be established to meet deferred repairs and renewals. Fares and rates were stabilised at the level of April 1941.”[6: p3][8]

In 1944 the net ton-mileage of freight carried was 50% higher than in 1938, and passenger-mileage was up by 67%. However, these statistics “obscured the underlying realities of the industry’s weakening financial position as wear and tear increased sharply without adequate provision being made for replacement and renewal. When the companies’ net earnings fell from £62.5 million in 1945 to only £32.5 million in 1946, there could be no doubt at all as to the potential severity of the post-war situation.” [6: p3]

Gourvish comments that labour costs had risen during the War by 75% coal by 92% and materials by 83%, yet charges which could be levied by the railway companies were not increased form 1939 until 1946 and then only by between 7 and 14%. However, “whatever the government had decided to do about profits and prices, there would still have remained a serious problem of under-investment as a result of war-time shortages. The companies were probably in a weaker position to initiate early provision for repairs and renewals than they might have been, and there is good reason for criticising the extent to which the railways were allowed to run down during the war, not least because Ministry officials were themselves aware that post-war replacement costs would be both high and incapable of being cleared in the short run.” [6: p4]

The results of war-time use and neglect were clear. “By 1945, there was a large backlog of repairs and renewals, and this greatly impaired railway operations for the rest of the decade. Despite the considerable increase in traffic, renewal of the permanent way in the years 1940-4 was reduced to under 70 per cent of pre-war levels, and by the end of 1945 the deficiency amounted to nearly 2,500 track miles, or about two years’ work under normal (i.e. pre-war) conditions. A similar reduction was evident in the work on structures — tunnels, bridges, buildings, etc.” [6: p4]

One example of the drastic impact of the war years on the railways is in the condition of rolling stock. According to a British Transport Commission internal memo, before the War rolling stock awaiting repair or under repair was: 6% of Locomotives; 6.5% of Coaching Stock; 2.8% of Wagons. By the end of 1946, the same memo indicated that these figures were: 8% of Locomotives; 12.5% of Coaches; 10.8% of Wagons. Respective increases of: 32%, 92% and 281%!  (Sir Ian Bolton, memo., 21st November 1947, B.T.C. 517-1-1A, B.R-B. ) [6: p5]

The difficulties of maintaining the stock of freight wagons were greatly exacerbated by the requisition and pooling of about 563,000 privately owned vehicles at the beginning of the war. These were markedly inferior to the railway companies’ own wagon fleet. At the end of 1946 over 50 per cent of them were more than 35 years old, as compared with less than 10 per cent of the companies’ own wagons; so of the total pool of stock nearly 28 per cent were over 35 years old.” [6: p5]

Gourvish comments: “The postponement of essential maintenance and renewals, coupled with the more intensive use of the network and the effects of war damage, proved to be a most unfortunate legacy for post-war managements. The results were felt well into the period of nationalised railways.” [6:p5]

The years 1946 and 1947 presented difficulties which were certainly as acute, if not more acute, than those experienced in wartime. In the words of Christopher Savage, the official historian of inland transport during the war: the problems of restoration and organisation which faced British inland transport when the war ended were scarcely less formidable than the transport problems encountered in the most difficult war years. [6: p6][9]

Four months after the Labour Party took office, a clear commitment to nationalisation was made public by Herbert Morrison in a statement on 19 November 1945.[6: p6][10] The railway companies, together with the London Passenger Transport Board, remained under formal government control until they were vested in the British Transport Commission on 1 January 1948.  In 1948, the British Transport Commission delegated to the Railway Executive its functions in relation to the 4 railway companies, their steamships and other ancillary businesses but reserved to itself engagement with parliament and the government and the issue of stock. … The Executive did not have “powers to acquire undertakings, or to borrow money, nor any power to hold investments.” [1: p2]

The Railway Magazine article, with which we started this post and which appears in the Appendix below, looked forward from January 1948 to the way in which The Railway Executive would organise its responsibilities. It envisaged the creation of six regions on the mainland of Great Britain, with the railways of Northern Ireland being delegated to the London Midland Region. [1: p2, p72]

‘British Railways’ came into existence as the business name of the Railway Executive of the British Transport Commission (BTC). “The first priority of the new British Railways Board was to repair the infrastructure of the railways damaged by bombing, clear the backlog of maintenance that had built up, and make good losses in locomotives and rolling stock.” [3]

Though there were few initial changes to the service, usage increased and the network became profitable. [4]

The decades after nationalisation in 1948 brought major change in the railway network. Successive governments were committed to the elimination of steam in favour of diesel and electric traction. “Over time, with the growth of the road haulage sector, passengers replaced freight (especially coal transport) as the railways’ main source of income, and, as rationalisation took hold in the 1960s, one third of the pre-1948 network was closed.” [5]


  1. British Railways; The Railway Magazine, Vol. 94, No. 573, January and February 1948, p1, 2, 72.
  2. State Ownership of Railways – The Passing of and Era; The Guardian, 30th December 1947,, accessed on 3rd December 2019.
  3., accessed on 3rd December 2019.
  4., accessed on 3rd December 2019.
  5., accessed on 9th December 2019.
  6. T.R. Gourvish; British Railways 1948-1973; Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1986.
  7. T.R. Gourvish; Railways in the British Economy 1830-1914; Macmillan, London,1980, p52ff.
  8. Sir N. Chester; The Nationalisation of British Industry 1945-51; H.M.S.O., London, 1975, p701.
  9. C.I. Savage; Inland Transport; H.M.S.O., London, 1957, p639.
  10. Parliamentary Debate (Commons), Volume 416 (Session 1945-6), 35.

Appendix No. 1

Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore Railway – Part 2

This short series of posts was prompted by encountering a piece about the line on a facebook group. The group:

The substantial link:

In my first post I provided a few pictures of the station at Westward Ho! which had not appeared on the links above. This post now follows the line from Bideford to Westward Ho!

The Bideford, Westward Ho! & Appledore Railway was incorporated on 21 May 1896, with its Head Office address at the Electrical Federation Offices in Kingsway, London WC2. Soon after the line passed to the British Electric Traction Company (BET). It was not until 24 April 1901 that the single track line was opened as far as Northam, although the first trial train ran with a few friends of the directors in January 1901. The first train, pulled by Grenville was played off by Herr Groop’s German Band which had been hired for the season and it reached speeds of 36 mph on its inaugural run. The remaining extension to Appledore finally opened in 1908, on 1 May, costing £10,000. The railway was built in three sections, with the first being from Bideford for just over the third of a kilometre; the second from the termination of the first, to Westward Ho!, a length 6 t0 7 kilometres; and the third being from Westward Ho! to Appledore, a length of between 3 and 4 kilometres. [3]

Bideford to Westward Ho!

The OS Map extract below shows the relative locations of the two stations at Bideford.The map extract above shows the town of Bideford. It had been intended to link the two lines serving Bideford. Indeed a locomotive on rails did cross the river here – photographic evidence can be found below! [5][4]

The adjacent map extract from the same OS Sheet shows clearly how spartan the facilities on ‘The Quay’  on the West side of the river were. It is a clear indication that the Bideford, Westward Ho! & Appledore Railway  (BWH&A) was not particularly well resourced! [5]

One bit of trivia is highlighted by the second monchrome image below. It is taken on the day of the opening of the railway station on the West side of the River Torridge. A Hungarian Brass Band was hired to play for the occasion and are seen gathered around the official train of the day in 1901. [6]

1917: a steam engine crosses Bideford Bridge on rails! [4]The official train at the BWH&A Station at Bideford on the opening day in 1901. [6]Bideford Quay and Light Railway in the early 1900s. [7]

Three smaller images of BWH&A Trains in Bideford. [8]

The first full width image below shows two locomotives at Bideford Quay in around 1905. [13]

The first augmented colour print below also shows The Quay in Bideford with a BWH&A train approaching the terminus of the line. [9]

The next augmented colour image shows the Quay from Bideford Bridge in the early 1900s. There is no sign of the railway in this image. [10]

The sepia image from 1943 shows Bideford Quay again. Buses now take pride of place and the rails are long-gone. [11]The next few picture seek to replicate the three above, but taken in 2018.Looking North along The Quay (Google Streetview).The view of The Quay from Bideford Bridge in June 2018 (Google Streetview).An attempt to replicate the 1943 image looking South along the Quay. The reference point is the white building seen between the trees on this image which appears inn a similar position in the picture taken in 1943.Another view taken at Bideford Quay. [12][13]

From The Quay, the line turned West and began to climb The Bank with Victoria Park on its right and Pill Road on its left. The old railway formation has become the modern A386, Kingsley Road as can be seen on the extracts from the OS Map and Google Maps below.Looking West up Kingsley Road. The old railway formation/route became the A386.We continue to follow the route of the old railway and the A386 past the modern superstore to the right and Bideford FC to the left. The road passed the location of the modern Morrison’s store with the Carriage Shed visible in the distance to the left of the A386. [15]Just to the North of the football ground we find the old carriage shed at a slight angle to the A386. To its North was the Engine Shed. [5]The Carriage Shed. This picture was taken in July 2018.The Carriage Shed taken in July 2018 from a little further North along the A386. It is surprising that the carriage shed has survived when the engine shed has not. The tracks for both are shown on the adjacent satellite image. [11]

I have not been able to find any pictures of the BWH&A engine shed at Bideford.


The trackbed of the old railway continues beyond the carriage and engine sheds along the line of today’s A386 for a short distance. At a point South of ‘Glenburnie’ and East of ‘Causeway’ on the above OS Map the road and trackbed separate with the modern road heading away to the North and the trackbed heading West. It crossed the old road north (Northam Road) out of Bideford to the left of ‘Causeway’ on the level adjacent to a Halt and a two and a half storey signal box. The signal box was built to this height to allow approaching road traffic to be spotted. [5][23: p16]

This photo shows the road crossing over Northam Road at The. Causeway, the crossing keeper’s home and the tall signal box.

A generally westerly trajectory then took the old line beneath Raleigh Plantation (above). [5]The old line is shown on the modern satellite image above (Google Maps) its route is highlighted by a line of deciduous trees. It continued in a westerly direction travelling to the South of  Turner’s Wood and Kenwith Castle as shown on the OS Map extract’s below. [5] South of Turner’s Wood the old line crossed a lane on an over-bridge. The bridge over the stream to the North of the railway line remains but there is no evidence of the railway bridge or embankment at that location. The modern A39, which is prominent on the satellite image above, does not show in any form in the older OS Map extracts. Kenwith Castle is now a Care Home. [17] The Castle was first known as Kenwith Lodge. The mid-eighteenth century building, with an earlier wing, was later used as the dower house of the Pine­-Coffin family at nearby Portledge. In 1850 Dr Hevwood was the owner and by 1883 it was occupied by Major General Hickman Thomas Molesworth. The Castellated Regency Gothic front effectively disguises the older building.  More recently, the building has been a hotel before being converted into use as a residential home. There is a steel line engraving entitled ‘Kenwith Lodge, North Devon, the seat of W. C. Heywood M.D.’ by H. Wallis after W. H. Bartlett, 1831 and the eighteenth-century gazebo seen in the engraving survives. [18] I believe that the image below is a copy of this engraving. [19]Beyond Kenwith Castle the old line travelled westwards crossing over two lanes/roads by means of over-bridges. The first is on the last OS Map extract above and the location is shown in the first image below (Google Streetview) which is taken from the South of the old line. Again, there is no evidence of the bridge or embankment which carried the old line, nor of the Halt which existed somewhere nearby.The second, on the OS Map below, is shown as Abbotsham Road. The photograph below is taken from Abbotsham Road looking Northeast from the South of the line of the railway. The road is now a very minor lane. It was crossed on the level. The railway approached the crossing on a slight embankment as can be seen in the photograph (Google Streetview). There is no obvious sign now-a-days of the halt which existed at this location. The halt was a mile or so from Abbotsham village. A passing loop can be picked out on the OS Map.Beyond Abbotsham Road, the old line travelled only a short distance further in a generally westerly direction before turning northwards as highlighed in the two OS Map extracts below. [5]

The railway formation in cutting close to the old Cornborough Halt. [22]

There was a halt at this approximate location. Cornborough Halt provided for holiday makers visiting the cliff walks and nearby beach ans served walkers aiming to walk on the Torrs, etc. It was in a very exposed area and trains were often reduced to a snail’s pace due to high winds in winter.[22][23]

Cornborough Cliffs Halt had a platform, but no shelter and was sited on the up side of the line next to the footpath at the waters edge. The line ran through rock cut cuttings up to this point. [23] No sidings or freight facilities were provided. [24]

From this point, following the route of the old line is easy. Every walker on the South West Costal Path enjoys the relatively easy grades of the old railway!

The old line turned North to follow the coast at Cornborough Cliff. The recent satellite image (Google Maps, 2019) shows the South West Coastal Path which joins the formation of the old railway just as it meets the cliffs. From this point it is about 1.5 miles into Westward Ho! The path has been designated for easy access. [20] A few pictures of the footpath/old line follow here and below.

All who chose to walk the South West Coastal path are able to enjoy the gentle grades associated with the old railway from this point into Westward Ho!

The first colour image below looks Northeast along the old railway formation in 2009, (c) Jordan Walks. [25]

The second colour image looks Southwest along the South West Coastal Path at Cornborough Cliff (c) Grant Wilkey [21]

The three OS Map extracts below take us into what was Westward Ho! Railway Station. By the time trains reached the railway station they were travelling in an Easterly direction. There is plenty of room for development shown on the OS Maps and Westward Ho! developed strongly as a resort once the railway had been complete in the early years of the 20th century.

The satellite image below the map extracts shows almost exactly the same area as the last of the OS Maps and shows the develo[pment of the village/town and the significant numbers of static caravans which cover the area to the West of the centre of Westward Ho! The Station and its facilities are long gone, as is the Bath Hotel which was close by.

“Westward Ho! History” states: [16]

Westward Ho! was the busiest station on the line and it had its own Station Master, Mr. MacLaughlan; it had two platforms, platform lighting, a passing loop, ticket office, an 8-lever signal box and a 2-lever ground frame operated by Mr. Spry; a waiting room, refreshment room, bookstall, level crossing gates and a Concert Hall called the Station Hall. A siding ran to the Westward Ho! Gas Works. An early photograph shows Westward Ho! with only the signal box and a long unbroken fence running along the back of the platforms with no other buildings or lighting. The similarity in appearance and construction between the Westward Ho! and Appledore platform buildings suggests that they were both built at the same time, circa 1908.

In an effort to entice the public onto their trains and provide shelter during inclement weather, the company built a Concert or Reception Hall on the ‘up’ platform at Westward Ho! in 1901 / 02, it was called the Station Hall. Performers such as the ‘Jolly Dutch’ and Clog Dancers performed in Station Hall. It was an expensive undertaking, costing £17 9s 7d in 1906, under the heading of ‘Services of Minstrels’ in the traffic expenses log. The building was well built and still stood in 1980 as a ‘Beer Garden’.

The Westward Ho! History website also provides some photographs of the old railway station. including the bridge below, which was on the approach to the station – significant development has occurred in this area although it appears that the abutments remain. [26] The bridge deck is long-gone. [16]The railway station was close to the beach. Its location is shown in the picture below, marked by the red oval. [14]The Westward Ho! Railway Station location in 2019. [14]


  1., accessed on 5th June 2019.
  2.!_railway_station, accessed on 5th June 2019.
  3., accessed on 5th June 2019.
  4., accessed on 5th June 2019.
  5., accessed on 5th June 2019.
  6., accessed on 5th June 2019.
  7., accessed on 5th June 2019.
  8., accessed on 5th June 2019.
  9., accessed on 5th June 2019.
  10., accessed on 5th June 2019.
  11., accessed on 6th June 2019.
  12., accessed on 6th June 2019.
  13.,_Westward_Ho!_and_Appledore_Railway, accessed on 6th June 2019.
  14.!-horizon-view-30-%7C-2-bedrooms-westward-ho!-26931.htm, accessed on 30th November 2019.
  15.,_carriage_shed_and_engine_shed.jpg, accessed on 6th June 2019.
  16., accessed on 7th June 2019.
  17., accessed on 30th November 2019.
  18., accessed on 30th November 2019.
  19., accessed on 30th November 2019.
  20., accessed on 30th November 2019.
  21., accessed on 30th November 2019.
  22., accessed on 30th November 2019.
  23.  Julia & Jonathan Baxter; The Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore railway 1901-1917;  Chard (1980), p19.
  24.  Stanley C. Jenkins; The Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore Railway; Oakwood Press, Oxford, 1993, p141.
  25., accessed on 30th November 2019.
  26., accessed on 30th November 2019.

Resources for further investigation, [2]:

  1. Baxter, Julia & Jonathan (1980). The Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore railway 1901-1917. Pub. Chard. ISBN 0-9507330-1-6.
  2. Christie, Peter (1995). North Devon History. The Lazarus Press. ISBN 1-898546-08-8
  3. Garner, Rod (2008). The Bideford, Westward Ho! & Appledore Railway. Pub. Kestrel Railway Books. ISBN 978-1-905505-09-8.
  4. Griffith, Roger (1969). The Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore Railway. School project and personal communications. Bideford Museum.
  5. Jenkins, Stanley C. (1993). The Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore Railway. Pub. Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-85361-452-0.
  6. Kingsley, Charles (1923). Westward Ho! Pub. London.
  7. Stuckey, Douglas (1962). The Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore Railway 1901-1917. Pub. West Country Publications.
  8. Thomas, David St John (1973). A Regional History of the Railways of Britain, Vol.1: The Westcountry. Pub. David & Charles.
  9., accessed on 5th June 2019.



The Glasson Dock Branch

Glasson Dock sits at the mouth of the Lune Estuary to the Southwest of the City of Lancaster.

Navigation up the River Lune to the Port of Lancaster was not easy. In 1779, the Port Commission decided to build a dock/port at the coast. Land was purchased and, by 1782, a pier had been constructed. Delays occurred and it was not until March 1787 that work was completed. When the dock was opened it could hold up to 25 merchant ships. [2: p182]

Following the demise of Lancaster as a port, Glasson Dock was, at its height, the largest port in the north west, importing cotton, sugar, spices and slaves from Africa and the Indies. [3]

Lancaster Canal was important in affording swift distribution of cargo landed at the port into the heart of industrial Lancashire. [3] The construction of the Lancaster Canal started in 1792. A connection from the canal to the sea at Glasson was considered, ”and John Rennie’s plans for a Glasson branch formed the basis for an Act of Parliament which was obtained in May 1793. No work took place, [2: p186] and it was not until 1819 that the plans were revived, when another Act of Parliament was needed to raise additional finance. The estimated cost of the branch was £34,608, and work began in 1823.” [1]

The branch was only 2.5-mile (4.0 km) long. Over this length it dropped through 52 feet (16 m) from Galgate. The canal itself was completed in December 1825, but financial difficulties meant that warehousing and wharves were not constructed immediately and the growth of trade was slow. ”However, by 1830 over 10,000 tons of goods passed through the dock, most of it passing on to the canal. Because the locks were 14 feet (4.3 m) wide, smaller ships did not have to transship their cargoes to canal boats, as they could sail through the dock and along the canal. The first such boat to do so was a schooner called Sprightly, which carried slate to Preston in May 1826. Incoming trade included slate, timber, potatoes and grain, while coal was exported through the port to Ulverston, North Wales and Ireland.” [1][2: p195-197]

The settlement of Glasson remained relatively small and only saw some limited growth in the 19th century. A shipyard and Customs House were built in 1834, a Watch House in 1836, a Church in 1840, and a Dry Dock in 1841. The shipyards were largely concerned with ship repair rather than shipbuilding. [1]

The quay was not connected to the railway network until 1883, [1] when a branch line from the LNWR mainline through Lancaster was completed. The branch also connected St. George’s Quay in Lancaster to the mainline. Lancaster Archives have a copy of the 1884 plan showing the branch and St. George’s Quay bat a scale of 2 chains to 1 inch. [4] More detailed maps can be sourced from the National Library of Scotland website. [5]

Passenger trains for Glasson Dock left the Station at Lancaster travelling North from the down bay platform which was on the West side of Castle Station. Their route is shown dotted on the map below, turning from the North to the Southwest and running alongside the mills on the south side of the River Lune, before heading South towards Glasson Dock. The second map below shows the branch leaving the North end of Castle Station and then heading away to the West on the South side of the Lune. The connection to St. George’s Quay is also evident. Both of these maps are available on the Lancashire Archive website. [7]Both Long Marsh Lane and the Glasson Dock Branch were on a downgrade towards the River Lune. The following OS Map shows the branch crossing the highway once again. This time it is Lune Road, very close to its junction with Long Marsh Lane. Also visible on the map is most of the length of the short Lancaster Quay Branch along St. George’s Quay. [5]The location of the bridge which carried the Glasson Dock Branch over Lune Road (Google Streetview, November 2019).The route of the Glasson Dock Branch can clearly be seen leaving the mainline North of Castle Station in Lancaster and curing away to the West. The bridge over Lune Road is on the left of the image. [9]St. George’s Quay and Gas Works shown from the air in the 1950s. The photograph is taken from the Northwest. The Glasson Dock Branch can be seen to the top right of the picture. The Lancaster Quay Branch is in the foreground. [10]

To the West of Lune Road the branch continued on a downgrade to meet the Lancaster Quay Branch and then on towards the Southwest alongside the Lune Mills. [5]The line the continued out towards the foreshore of the Lune Estuary. [5]The lane shown approaching the railway from the East on the OS Map extract immediately above [5] linked the line to Aldclffe and Aldcliffe Hall. A signal post is marked on the Mao at this location but no formal halt was provided for the residents of Aldcliffe Hall.

Aldcliffe Hall was a 19th-century country house, now demolished, which replaced a previous mediaeval building, on the bank of the Lune estuary. It was built in a porous local stone, it was covered in stucco for protection. The building was demolished in the 1960s. The estate was first identified in 1557 as belonging to the Dalton family. Their lands were forfeit to the Crown and their old hall was demolished and replaced by a new building in 1817 by Edward Dawson. [11]

The next three pictures are photographs taken by me in November 2019 at the point where the lane-way meets the old railway route. The first looks back north towards Lancaster. The second shows the signpost at Aldcliffe Hall Lane and the third looks ahead towards Glasson Dock.From Aldcliffe Hall Lane, the railway continued in a Southerly direction along the foreshore. Typical of the cycleway which now (November 2019) follows the old railway formation to the North of Ashton Hall halt (my photograph).The next significant point on the line can be seen on the OS Map extract immediately above – the private halt for Ashton Hall at Nan Bucks.Ashton Hall Private Halt, circa 1960s, © Graham Hibbert. [12]The Ashton Hall halt in private ownership in November 2019 (my photograph). This image emphasises the proximity of the line and halt to the River Lune at this point. The old line ran alongside Meldham Wood and the estate of Ashton Hall which is now Lancaster Golf Club (November 2019, my photograph).Further South, also in November 2019, approaching the location of the arched accommodation bridge over the old line (my photograph) which can be seen on the OS Map above. The property at Waterloo has, in 2019, been replaced by a newer building closer to the old railway line.This satellite image shows the replacement property at Waterloo, the accommodation bridge and another new property in the early 21st century (Google Earth).The arched accommodation bridge which provides access to the foreshore and to a private property to the West of the line. To the East of the line the lane leads to the Ashton Hall Garden Centre (November 2019 – my photograph).The bridge abutments have been decorated by primary school children from Thurnham school (November 2019, my photograph).These two pictures show the formation of the old line travelling towards the Station at Conder Green (November 2019, my photographs). The OS Map extracts below track the old line through the Station. [5]Conder Green was the last stop on the branch before Glasson Dock Station and the terminus of the line. Conder Green Station sat just to the North of the confluence between the Conder River and the River Lune.This picture was taken facing South towards the station building at Conder Green, probably sometime in the 1950s. [16]This picture shows the approach to Conder Green Station from around a 100 metres further South than the monochrome image above (November 2019, my photograph).Conder Green Station looking North towards Lancaster in 2008, (c) Mark Bartlett. There is now a cafe to the left of  and attached to the station building [15]Cafe de Lune [17]

Immediately beyond Conder Green Station was the most significant structure on the branch – the bridge over the Conder River.Conder Green Railway Bridge now carries a cyclway over the River Conder © David Rogers. [18]

Two photographs taken in the late afternoon light at the same location. The first looks East towards Conder Green the second looks West towards Glasson Dock. Both are taken looking along the route of the old line into Glasson Dock Station (November 2019, my photos).

After crossing the River Condor trains turned to the West to head for Glasson Dock.This 1890 OS Map shows the approach to Glasson Dock from Conder Green. There was little change throughout the years of the 20th century until the line was finally closed in the 1960s [5]The view back towards the Conder River Bridge and the Cafe de Lune at the site of the old Conder Green Station (November 2019, my photo).From this point the branch ran along a causeway alongside the River Lune. Glasson Station’s location can be picked out to the left of the OS Map above. [5]Two photographs taken in the late afternoon light of a November day at the same location on the branch line close to the position of Glasson Dock Station. The first looks East towards Conder Green, the second looks West towards Glasson Dock.Glasson Dock Station was on the right of the above OS Map and is shown in a few images from the late 1950s and early 1960s below. [5]Glasson Dock Station in the early 1960s. [13]A rail tour at Glasson Station after closure of the Line. [14]Two pictures of Glasson Dock from a May 1960 rail tour, © Ron Herbert. [19][20]Glasson Dock Railway Station after Closure in the 1960s. [21]There were two lines at the end of the Glasson Dock Branch. One served riverside. The other ran alongside the large canal basin(and is shown on the postcard image above). Both terminated at the Warehousing, Dock and Quay. [22]This OS Map extract shows the very end of the branch which served the River Lune  and Glasson Dock. The old dry dock is visible to the West of Glasson Dock. [5]The same location today. In 2019, the route of the railway is highlighted by the cycle-way which enters from the right of the satellite image. The remainder of the track-bed and sidings at the dock have been lost under various developments and car-parks.




  1., accessed on 11th November 2019.
  2. Charles Hadfield & Gordon Biddle; The Canals of North West England, Vol 1 (pp.1-236). David and Charles, Newton Abbot, 1970.
  3., accessed on 12th November 2019.
  4., accessed on 14th November 2019.
  5. http://www.nls, accessed on 12th November 2019.
  6., accessed on 14th November 2019.
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  11., accessed on 18th November 2019.
  12., accessed on 17th November 2019.
  13., accessed on 21st November 2019.
  14., accessed on 17th November 2019.
  15., accessed on 21st November 2019.
  16., accessed on 22nd November 2019.
  17., accessed on 22nd November 2019.
  18., accessed on 26th November 2019.
  19., accessed on 17th November 2019.
  20., accessed on 17th November 2019.
  21., accessed on 17th November 2019.
  22., accessed on 17th November 2019.



The Lynn and Fakenham Railway – Part 1

Although first mooted in the 1840s, the Lynn & Fakenham Railway was not opened, over its full length, until 1880. It only had a short independent life, being absorbed into the Eastern & Midlands Railway in 1883.

A look at the history of the line and it’s route through the Norfolk countryside is for a future post.

The Lynn & Fakenham Railway is mentioned in an article in the journal “Railway Archive.” Interestingly, that article is about the locomotives which were initially purchased for the Cornwall Minerals Railway. [1]

The Cornwall Minerals Railway developed out of a series of older Tramroad which served the Cornish Mining Industry. It owned and operated a network of 45 miles (72 km) of standard standard gauge railway lines in central Cornwall. It started by taking over an obsolescent horse-operated tramway in 1862, and it improved and extended it, connecting Newquay and Par Harbours and Fowey.

It  had a chequered history having been hurt by a collapse in mineral extraction due to a slump in prices. But after a period in bankruptcy it recovered enough to take over a defunct route between Fowey and Lostwithiel – the Lostwithiel and Fowey line.

In 1896 it finally sold its line to the Great Western Railway which had been leasing it for some time.

Its main passenger line from Par to Newquay is still in use as the Atlantic Coast Line, and also carries some mineral traffic, but the Par to Fowey line has been converted to a private road. [2]

CMR No. 1, Treffrey was built, along with all of the CMR locomotives, by Sharp, Stewart & Co. Ltd of Manchester. It was named for Joseph Austin Treffrey but the name plates were mis-spelt. These locus were intended to work in pairs, back to back and it is likely that the lack of rear bunker and the open cab were intended to facilitate this way of working. There is no evidence to suggest that the traffic on the railway was ever large enough to justify this intention. [1][2]

The Cornwall Minerals Railway was adventurous in its intentions and purchases. It anticipated far more traffic from the mines than was to materialise and bought 18 (yes, eighteen) 0-6-0T steam engines to serve the anticipated high demand. [1] When the line was leased to the GWR in 1877, the new lease-holders quickly realised that the over provision of motive power was a financial drain on the Line. The GWR returned 9 of the engines to their makers, leaving 9 to serve the needs of the Line. [1:p30]

Of the 9 remains locos, a further one was sold by 1883 to the Sharpness New Docks Company and based on the opposite side of the River Severn from the Forest of Dean. [1:p31]

We are interested, in this article, in the fate of the 9 locos returned to Sharp, Stewart. Or, at least, 8 of those 9 locomotives. 8 were purchased by the Lynn & Fakenham Railway and ended their days in various guises on the Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway (M&GNJR) which was the ultimate successor to the Lynn & Fakenham Railway. [1:p30] A first batch of three were sold to the Lynn & Fakenham in 1880, a further five were sent to the Lynn & Fakenham in 1881. [1: p36]

Incidentally, the last of the 9 locos returned to Sharp, Stewart was sold to the Colne Valley & Halstead Railway before ending up at a colliery in Northumberland. [1: p30]

Treloar comments that the Lynn & Fakenham’s successor, the M&GNJR was “despite their lack of success … inspired … to design and build a later type of 0-6-0 tank with similarities to the original locomotives, some of them even using the wheels from the ex-CMR engines.” [1: p30]

This is recognised at least in part by the LNER Encyclopedia which says:

“The Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway’s (M&GNJR) ‘Shunting’ Class (LNER J93) were designed by Marriott and built at the M&GN’s Melton Constable’s works. In common with many M&GN types, the Shunting Class followed Midland Railway practice and included a number of Derby design features, such as the cab, tanks, and boiler mountings. The boiler drawing was made at Derby in 1896, and the nine locomotives were built at Melton Constable between 1897 and 1905.

Most of the J93s were built carrying the ‘Rebuilt Melton Constable’ plates, and six of the class (Nos. 93-8) were reputed to have been rebuilt from locomotives that had started out on the Cornwall Minerals Railway (CMR). These were built by Sharp, Stewart & Co. in 1874, and acquired by the Lynn & Fakenham Railway in 1880-1. These were then inherited by the Eastern & Midlands Railway – predecessor of the M&GN. The stock register describes the J93s as new locomotives, and Mr G.B. Clarke (draughtsman to Marriott) is on record as emphatically stating that the J93s were new locomotives. Therefore, J93s Nos. 93-8 should really be considered replacements for the ex-CMR engines. After saying this, there is some evidence that some of the J93s carried ex-CMR wheels at one time or another. These had ten spokes and built-up balance weights, whilst the new wheels had twelve spokes and cast-in crescent weights. Some photographs from the 1940s show individual J93s carrying a mixture of both wheel types!” [3]

The LNER/M&GNJR J93 Class of shunting locomotive which was based to some extent on the original CMR locomotives design by Sharp, Stewart. [1][3]

Eastern & Midland No. 11, one of the original CMR locomotives with the Sharp, Stewart Tender. [4]

The Lynn & Fakenham Railway and it’s successors clearly had problems with the original CMR locomotives. They did not last long in their original guise. The lack of coal space was a major problem! By the time they were in use on the M&GNJR, they had been provided with tenders, as shown above. The tenders were all fabricated by Sharp, Stewart in the 1880s to their standard 4-wheel design. A series of pictures is provided with the article in Railway Archive. [1: p36-39]

In addition to these 0-6-0 locomotives, the Lynn and Fakenham bequeathed a number of other engines to the Eastern and Midland Railway. These included:

Seven 4-4-0T locomotives built by Hudswell Clarke for the Lbetween 1878 and 1881; [5][6]


Four Beyer Peacock 4-4-0 locomotives built 1882/1883. These were the first of a total of fifteen of the class. The remaining eleven were built for the Eastern and Midlands Railway before 1888. [5][7]


1. Peter Treloar; A Scattered Family: The Cornwall Minerals Railway’s 0-6-0Ts; Railway Archive Issue 30, Black Dwarf Lightmoor Press, 2011, p27-40.

2., accessed on 16th November 2019.

3., accessed on 16th November 2019.

4., accessed on 16th November 2019. The provenance of the photograph is unclear. It appears on ‘rmweb’ as part of a long discussion about creating a realistic pre-grouping model railway.

5., accessed on 16th November 2019.

6., accessed on 16th November 2019.

7., accessed on 16th November 2019.


The Plymouth or South Duffryn Colliery in the Taff Valley

South Duffryn or ‘Plymouth’ Colliery, situated to the south of Pentrebach and just north of Troedyrhiw, was opened by the Hills Plymouth Company in 1862. It was served by the Taff Valley Railway and the Penydarren Tramroad. I have been prompted to write this short post by reading an article written by Clive Thomas in the Archive Journal of September 2014. [1]

The featured image above shows the colliery sidings in a postcard image from the early 20th century. [2] The colliery itself is just off the picture to the right. Most of the wagons in the picture seem to be privately owned by the Plymouth Collieries. The sidings are all standard-gauge and were served by the Taff Valley Railway. A number of the buildings of the disused Duffryn Ironworks can be seen in the centre of the image. Some of these were later used as workshops for the colliery. [1]

Some basic information about the area us provided by Alan George in his website about Old Merthyr Tydfil. [4] … Clive Thomas tells the story of the Plymouth Ironworks and Collieries in Archive Journal No. 83:

“In 1786, a lease was secured from the Earl of Plymouth on a tract of land on the East bank of the River Taff and to the south of the hamlet of Merthyr Tydfil. From that date, the name of the ironworks established there became synonymous with that of the Hill family. For seventy years, first Richard and then each of his three sons, Richard (Jnr), John and Anthony played their part in its development as one of South Wales’ pre-eminent iron-making concerns.

The Plymouth Ironworks, which grew at the three sites of Plymouth, Pentrebach and Duffryn, although never seriously rivalling it’s neighbours at Cyfarthfa and Dowlais in terms of size and iron ore production, should not be regarded as an insignificant player in the history of iron manfacture. By the mid 1840s, the ironworks consisted of ten blast furnaces, twenty-four puddling furnaces, four forges and seven rolling mills, as well as the ancillary machinery and mines associated with iron production. The works had been advertised for sale in 1834, but no buyer was found. While the managerial roles of Richard (Jnr) and John changed and gradually diminished, it was Anthony, as early as 1826, who was responsible for the progress of the enterprise and on the death of Richard in 1844, assumed full control. … Unlike any other Merthyr Ironmaster he provided for his workers, constructing good quality housing, building and endowing schools and churches in the villages of Troedyrhiw and Pentrebach. As recently as 1958, children in the village school at Troedyrhiw, whose grandfathers had worked in the Plymouth Collieries benefitted from a clothing grant when entering the Iocal grammar school.

To ensure the efficient continuity of the iron production, it was necessary to develop extensive coal and ironstone mines which comprised numerous adits and shafts. Almost all of these were to be found on the mountainside, feeding the works by a series of tramways and inclines. The seams exposed on the hillside were exploited by levels and drifts, while shallow pits intersected those found below the valley floor. While the ironstone mined here, like that available to the other Merthyr iron companies, was not of the highest quality, the coal was the best, with seams of bituminous and dry steam found within the property. … The year before Anthony Hill’s death, the Hill’s Plymouth Collieries mined 250,000 tons of coal, 10,000 tons more than Cyfarthfa and only 15,000 tons short of the production of the Dowlais Collieries.

Following Anthony Hill’s death, the assets of the company were acquired by Messrs Hankey, Fothergill & Bateman for a sum of £250,000, a concern that had already bought what remained of the Penydarren Ironworks which had closed in 1859. Under the enthusiastic direction of Richard Fothergill, the Aberdare Ironmaster, efforts were then made to re-vitalise the Plymouth Ironworks.

In an article written for the Mining Journal of October 1869 the virtues of this enterprise were still being proclaimed, with the mention of developing the ironmaking plant at the three sites. The author, M. B. Gardner, however is evidently more impressed with the exploitation of the property’s remaining coal reserves and mentions that ‘the area of coal leased has been greatly increased since the present proprietors purchased the works.’ Coal production we are told averaged 1,300 tons per day. … Of this output, four hundred tons were sent to Cardiff and Swansea with the rest still being used in the production of iron in the works. Eight hundred to a thousand tons of ironstone were still being mined from the property. Mr Gardner details various technical aspects of the Plymouth mines which by this time had developed in a linear fashion along the valley side, between the Plymouth and Duffryn sites and parallel with the Penydarren Tramroad.” [1]

This is the first and only mention in Thomas’ article of the Penydarren Tramroad. Nonetheless, it is a significant reference. It makes it clear that the Penydarren Tramroad was one of the critical factors associated with the siting of the various works which comprised the Plymouth estate. He emphasises this fact by providing a sketch drawing of the Taff Valley. The Penydarren Tramroad is the rail route which runs from top to bottom of the sketch map, to the East of Plymouth Ironworks. [1]The Taff Valley Railway was opened in stages in 1840 and 1841. [3]  Although the Plymouth Colliery itself opened in 1862, many of the significant industrial sites associated with the Plymouth Ironworks and Collieries had been in operation for 20 years or more before the Taff Valley Railway was completed. The Penydarren Tramroad was of significance in determining the siting of these industries in a way that the Taff Valley Railway could not have been.

Thomas highlights a number of the sites shown on the sketch above: the Ellis, Clynmill and Original pits were oldest and were mines for both coal and iron ore; the Graig, Taibach, North Duffryn and South Duffryn pits were newer and around one mile to the Southeast. All would have been in operation for about 40 years by the 1860s. Coal quality was good but extraction methods were relatively primitive. Although coal was good, iron ore was less so, and by 1875 the Plymouth Ironworks and others were in liquidation. “In 1882 the Plymouth Ironworks was for the second time advertised for sale, but once again without success. Consequently it was then possessed under a mortgage of the executors of the late Thomas Alers Hankey. … The firm of Messrs Samuel and John Bailey, Mining & Civil Engineers of Birmingham was engaged to take over the concern with Mr T. H. Bailey as agent to supervise the whole of the colliery property.” [1: p50]

T.H. Bailey kept a typed journal of his first full year in charge of the collieries. The Archive article [1] is based around that journal. It “offers an interesting insight into the life of a mining engineer, working at a time when the South Wales coalfield was enjoying a period of rapid development and for some, great prosperity.” [1: p51]

References are made throughout the diary to train travel on the standard gauge lines which served the valley. Bailey spends time on the internal tramways which served the mines and on providing adequate numbers of coal wagons for distributing the coal countrywide. He also dealt with the planning of new sidings to accommodate wagons and the upgrading if railway links to the main railway lines. [1: p53]

There is no mention of the Penydarren Tramroad in Bailey’s 1883 diary.


  1. Clive Thomas; All Change for Plymouth: A Year in the Life of a Mining Engineer, the Diary of T.H. Bailey, 1883; in Archive No. 83, Black Dwarf Lightmoor Press, Lydney, 2014, p49-61.
  2., accessed on 18th September 2019.
  3., accessed on 19th  September 2019.
  4., accessed on 13th November 2019.




So, Someone Shot Jesus!

On Thursday 7th  November 2019, the Guardian carried a half-page article about the artist Lorna May Wadsworth, and particularly about a painting that she painted as a devotional object for a Church in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire. [1]

The painting  was commissioned by the Parochial Church Council for Nailsworth to hang behind the altar in St George’s Church in September 2008.

It was the request of the late Alan Denman, an ex-church warden who died in January 2008 aged 86. He left £5,000 to the church and the painting was part of a bequest. [2]

A new exhibition of Lorna May Wadsworth’s work was being assembled in Sheffield at the Graves Gallery. [3] The exhibition was planned as a retrospective of her work and ran/runs from 9th November 2019 to 15th February 2020.

When the painting of the Last Supper was being unpacked the painter noticed that there was a hole in Jesus’ right side which, after investigation, was found to have been caused by an air-rifle pellet.

Wadsworth expressed a concern that someone was so aggrieved by her portrayal of Christ that they wanted to attack it. …

What makes this painting unusual in a British context is the choice Wadsworth made to depict Jesus as black. The model is Tafari Hinds and Wadsworth’s intention was to challenge people’s perceptions, to ask the viewer to ‘look with fresh eyes’.

I am not too sure why anyone should have taken exception to the painting, but to have done so reflects more on the iconoclast than on the artist.

It is normal for us to create God in our own image. We have no warrant for doing so, but most of our religious paintings do just that. They reflect the culture in which they have been painted. So we tend to imagine Jesus as white with longer hair and blue eyes – the ‘Robert Powell Jesus’.

The truth is that Jesus would have been middle-eastern in appearance, probably not over tall, with swarthy skin and a prominent nose. Ultimately we domesticate our images of the divine, because to do so allows us to comprehend God better. If our whole perceptual framework is challenged, everything is uncertain. ….

What was Jesus like?  …….. Someone not to different from me! …. That is a valid and helpful response when first thinking about what it means for God to be incarnate.

However, we cannot stay there. We must not leave it at that. ……

For God incarnate, one of us, is God incarnate, one of us.

And we are all different. We cannot appropriate Jesus as our own. He belongs to us all. Every culture over the centuries has an equal stake in the person of Jesus. Jesus is one of us.






Early Railway History in King’s Lynn

The first two railways to enter King’s Lynn were the lines constructed by:

  1. The Lynn & Dereham Railway which received its Royal Assent on 21st July 1845 built a short section of its line between King’s Lynn and Narborough which opened on either 17th or 27th October 1846. [1][2] The line was extended to Swaffham on 10 August 1847. [2]
  2. The Lynn & Ely Railway Company which received its Royal Assent on 30th June 1845, [2] opened from King’s Lynn to Downham Market on 27th October 1846. On the same day, this railway opened its harbour branch which connected with the main line just to the South of King’s Lynn and ran for 1.25 miles to the wharves on the riverside. Ships using these wharves sat on the mud at low water. [3] The original line ran South, via Downham Market, towards Ely. The first station south of King’s Lynn was St. Germain’s. It took another two years to reach Ely. [2]

These two companies merged to form the East Anglian Railway on 22 July 1847. [2] Wikipedia claims, contrary to Fell, that the spur connecting to the harbour was not opened until 1849. At one point that harbour spur was a complicated network of lines, boasting two swing bridges, serving premises on and around the town’s South Quay. [2]

Expansion followed with the opening of several branches. A line running north to the seaside resort of Hunstanton was opened in 1862. [2][4][5] A journey along the line was celebrated by former Poet Laureate John Betjeman in a short BBC film. [6]

King’s Lynn to Fakenham:  The Lynn & Fakenham Railway was received Royal Assent in July 1876, it opened to traffic between Gaywood Junction and Massingham on 16 August 1879 and between Massingham and Fakenham in August 1880. It was an early constituent of what became the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway.

The Lynn & Fakenham Railway, first used King’s Lynn station, but ran into it from the north, via Gaywood Junction.  When first amalgamated the Lynn & Fakenham Railway became part of the Eastern and Midlands Railway. In November 1881, Eastern & Midlands Railway gave notice to amalgamate after agreement on such periods and terms to be fixed or agreed and the rights of the Midland & Great Northern Companies and of the Midland Railway and of the Great Northern Railway: Peterborough, Wisbeach and Sutton Railway; Midland & Eastern Railway; Lynn & Fakenham Railway; Yarmouth & North Norfolk (Light) Railway; Yarmouth Union Railway; into one Company to be called the Eastern & Midlands Railway. That amalgamation was given Royal Assent on 18 August 1882. [2][12]

By the early 1890s further amalgamations and renaming were considered and Royal Assent given to the Midland and Great Northern Railway Companies (Eastern and Midlands Railway) Act 1893 authorising the Eastern & Midlands Railway to be vested in the Joint Committee of the Midland & Eastern and Norwich & Spalding companies on and from 1 July 1893 and for the combined organisation to be incorporated under the title of the “Midland and Great Northern Railways Joint Committee”. [12]

The line from Gaywood Junction east towards Fakenham was abandoned on the opening of the station at South Lynn. The “Lynn Avoiding” line (South Lynn to Bawsey) was the last link in the chain which brought the eastern lines, which had reached Norwich in 1882, and Cromer in 1887, in direct contact with the lines west of Lynn. The Lynn Avoiding Line opened in January 1886. The South Lynn Station opened for goods traffic in November 1885 and for passenger traffic on 1st January 1886. [12] South Lynn closed to all traffic on 28th February 1959. [2]

In the same year, 1862, the Great Northern Railway reached Sutton Bridge from the West. The King’s Lynn to Sutton Bridge line was the last part of the East-West route to be built, opening in 1864. It later formed part of the larger Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway line between Spalding and King’s Lynn, after its formation in 1893. [7]

The line was single track and originally used the southern half of the second Cross Keys Bridge to cross the River Nene, following the embankment to the east of the bridge and continuing on to King’s Lynn. The construction of the third Cross Keys Bridge in 1897 required slight alterations to the course of the route immediately out of Sutton Bridge. This part of the route was closed to all traffic in 1959, and the track was soon dismantled, allowing the widening of the adjacent A17 road in its place. [7][8][9] The changes in the route can be picked out on historic OS Maps (1884-1888. 6 Inch Ordnance Survey County Series Map – First Edition. TF 42 SE and 1902-06. 25 Inch Ordnance Survey County Series Map – Second Edition. TF 42 SE).King’s Lynn Station in 1948. [14]King’s Lynn Station: 1: Passenger Facilities; 2: Good Facilities; 3: Maltings; 4: Docks Branch (c) Historic England [10]

King’s Lynn’s Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway connection was served by the station at South Lynn. A connecting shuttle service ran from King’s Lynn to South Lynn as often as twenty times a day. [2][11: slide 106]

South Lynn Station from the Air in 1946. [13] Train approaching South Lynn Station across the River Great Ouse. [13]South Lynn Station. [13]

There is excellent material on the history of the railways in King’s Lynn on the “King’s Lynn Forums” (KLF) on a thread entitled “South Lynn and King’s Lynn Railway Stations – M&GN.” [13][15]


  1., accessed on 5th October 2019.
  2., accessed on 5th October 2019.
  3. Mike G. Fell OBE; The King’s Lynn Docks & Railway Company; in BackTrack Magazine Volume 25, No. 3 Pendragon, Easingwold, York, March 2011, p144.
  4. Leslie Oppitz; Lost Railways of East Anglia; Countryside Books. 2002, p15.
  5.  Insight Magazine; January 2005., accessed on 2nd September 2007[Wolferton Station’s] origins go back to the opening of the Kings Lynn to Hunstanton branch railway line in 1862[.]
  6., accessed on 16th October 2019.
  7., accessed on 16th October 2019.
  8. N.R. Wright; Sutton Bridge and Long Sutton: An Industrial History; 1980, p8, p15.
  9. Alan Stennett; Lincolnshire Railways; 2016, p59-60.
  10., acccessed on 21st October 2019.
  11. Richard Adderson & Graham Kenworthy; Ely to Kings Lynn, including the Stoke Ferry Branch; Middleton Press, 2000.
  12., accessed on 23rd October 2019.
  13., accessed on 23rd October 2019.
  14., accessed on 23rd October 2019.
  15., accessed on 16th October 2019.