Never one to drive by an old railway wagon lying impotently in a field without its wheels, this one's at the side of the A1101 south of Outwell and only just in Norfolk. Almost certainly it was brought here from the Wisbech & Upwell Tramway, one of the most extraordinary little railways in the country. I say little, in fact it's gauge and rolling stock were full size, but it was restricted to tramway status. The fascination for me is that it ran (very slowly) alongside the road, every now and then lurching in front of the traffic. It opened in 1883, and in 1898 carried 114,307 passengers, in addition to cattle, root crops, vegetables, fruit, straw and corn. It also carried coal for the steam engines engaged in pumping water off the low-lying fens. Its progress was often impeded by window cleaners' ladders propped up against cottages, and cars left outside garages. The traction for most of it's time was a steam locomotive encased in cow catchers, the model for Toby in the Rev.Awdry's Thomas the Tank Engine books. In this 1963 picture a Drewry diesel shunter is already carrying additional safety stripes. The tramway closed in 1966, but you can still see the space in front of the houses where it ran, and the odd crumbling shed. There is a dinner table game where you proffer a time in history you would like to visit. After Doctor Feelgood doing Route 66 at the Kursaal in Southend around 1972, I think the hour's journey on this railway amongst the cabbages and sugar beet comes a close second.
Alan Feltus: guided by instinct
1 day ago