Monday, 1 December 2008

Railway Echo No 9


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.

13 comments:

Thud said...

I can't match 72 but seeing them as a very young chap in 75 was fantastic. Listening to 'back in the night' on radio luxembourgs on the hour power play is a rather pleasant memory of mine.

Jon Dudley said...

Beautiful. The combination of rusting corrugated iron and the wind blasted and weathered wood of the wagon is perfect. We had a similar line to the one you describe in the form of Col Stephens' Rother Valley railway...utilising modified Ford road buses in the 1920's it was much lampooned for its sloth. These are just the sort of rural lines that inspired the great Roland Emmett in his fantastical cartoons for Punch and in the construction of the Festival of Britain railway.

A ride on a London Trolleybus circa 1952 would be a nice retro-trip for me, by the way.

A F-A said...

I was at the former MoD Long Marston Storage Depot last month....it now is the last resting place of perhaps a hundred plus old carriages and freight wagons, and now I know what is wrong with our economy: none of them will ever be recycled into eco-friendly sheds/stables/workshops....they are all girt big metal things on giant bogies! Sic transit etc etc

Ron Combo said...

Oh Lord, I may have to go and lie down in a darkened brake van for a while.

Philip Wilkinson said...

I like the improvised corrugated iron roof vents. And the combination of creative recycling and gently collapsing decay. I'll be in the next truck along from Ron.

Peter Ashley said...

This could turn into a surreal outing. Ron in the brake van, Phil in a parcel truck. There's a row of refridgerated box vans stacked on bricks at Gallow Farm, so what we would like to be steaming out at the front?

Jon Dudley said...

Nellie!

Peter Ashley said...

What, the elephant?

Jon Dudley said...

No, Far Tottering, etc.

Forest Pines said...

The Wisbech & Upwell branch was pretty much the first part of British Railways to be turned over to completely diesel traction, in 1952.

Abandoned van bodies can get an awful long way from the railway, though - in the late 90s there were some at Scaliscro, which is a long long way from any railway lines. They can be pretty old, too - I've spotted vans in Yorkshire from the 1910s still in use.

cardinal_wolsey said...

I seem to remember the Kursaal was lit by a single lightbulb and smelled generally of wee...(Lindisfarne c.1975)

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