HDL West Norfolk Wanderer railtour

Saturday 21 April 2018

This article was opened on 23 April 2018

[PHOTO: Train and station-nameboard: 52kB]

Above: For the first time this century, but the second time in its preservation career, our Hastings DEMU visited the Norfolk coastal town of King’s Lynn. Ian McDonald was there to record the event.

Hastings Diesels Limited’s 73rd public railtour was from Hastings to Cambridge, Ely, King’s Lynn and the Middleton Towers branch.

Our outward journey from Kensington (Olympia) took us round the North London Line to Gospel Oak and then on a short stretch of the line to Barking, until joining the East Coast Main Line by way of the Harringay Curve—a new route for our train in preservation so far as we are aware.

We then ran via the Hertford Loop to Stevenage, and—again, another first for our train—made good use of the Down Cambridge Flyover (see video below) built at Hitchin in 2013, which took us onto the Cambridge line without delaying Up East Coast services.

After calling at Cambridge and at Ely we arrived at King’s Lynn where our passengers had nearly 3½ hours to visit the town.

Our departure involved a double-shunt move to take us onto the 3-mile Middleton Towers branch, which is all that remains of the former line to Swaffham and Dereham, the rest of which closed in 1968. The stub of line remains open to serve a sand terminal.

In the course of the return leg of our journey we were routed along the East Coast Main Line all the way from Hitchin to beyond Copenhagen Tunnel. Initially we were running 17 minutes early and were given a clear run through the double-track section at Welwyn North, only to lose all of that advantage as we sat at Hatfield awaiting our path behind stopping trains. After Copenhagen Tunnel we turned right, climbing the North London Incline to join the North London Line to reach Kensington (Olympia). Easy timings and expedient pathing saw us running early thereafter, such that we were re-routed via Penge instead of Catford to maintain our advantage.

Our train covered the 354 miles in passenger service without incident, and the minor instances of lateness (shown as no more than 3 minutes) resulted from awaiting clear signals. The weather was tailing off from a mini heatwave, and our passengers enjoyed a warm and sunny day out. A little light rain fell in Cambridge as we returned, and the proximity of a chain of thunderstorms afforded a striking sunset-backdrop at Kensington (Olympia).

Historical data

The train was formed thus: 60118-60501-69337-70262-60529-60116, with motor coach 60118 Tunbridge Wells leading upon departure from Hastings, and trailing upon arrival back there.

The publicity leaflet and timings remain available. The actual running times have also been published.

Annotated extracts from Network Rail’s Sectional Appendix have been produced for the outward and return legs of this outing.

Cab video footage

We mounted an unattended unmonitored forward-facing camera in the leading cab and recorded all of the route from Kensington (Olympia) to King’s Lynn and back, plus the view towards Middleton Towers.

For part of the journey there was more than one member of staff in the cab (a route-conductor) making the leading-cab soundtrack unusable for our purposes, so we have also recorded audio from the rear cab which will be precisely synchronised and combined with the video footage where necessary.

We haven’t prepared the footage yet (see our YouTube channel for other such footage), but here is a little taster showing our passage over the Down Cambridge Flyover at Hitchin:

[PHOTO: video capture: 47kB]


Photos on this page were taken by Richard Griffin unless otherwise stated.

[PHOTO: Train in station: 60kB]

Above: Motor coach Mountfield brings up the rear of our train as it calls at Cambridge, the first of our itinerary’s destinations. Photo by Andy Moore.

[PHOTO: Train in station: 36kB]

Above: Our train called at Cambridge station’s platform 4 on its outward journey. Photo by Andy Moore.

[PHOTO: Train passing over level crossing: 52kB]

Above & below: 1001 passes over the Magdalen Road level crossing and through Watlington station in the final stages of its outward journey—just six miles left to King’s Lynn. Photos by Ian McDonald.

[PHOTO: Train passing through station: 44kB]

[PHOTO: Train in terminus platform: 104kB]

Above: Our train arrived spot-on time at King’s Lynn and initially berthed in platform 2, where it was captured by the lens of Phil Barnes.

[PHOTO: Train departing station: 52kB]

Above & below: Once our passengers had detrained, our train was shunted across to the No.1 carriage siding on the south side of the station layout; this was to facilitate the refilling of toilet-water tanks. Ian McDonald was on hand to capture both halves of this shunt-move as seen from platform 2.

[PHOTO: Train passing station platform: 48kB]

[PHOTO: Train approaching in station yard: 124kB]

Above: Phil Barnes was also at the ready with his camera and captured the same shunt-move from a different angle.

[PHOTO: Trains in station: 44kB]

Above & below: This study of rolling stock by Ian McDonald shows our 1957-vintage Class 201 DEMU alongside a Class 317 electric multiple unit built in 1982 (317 509), and in the platform its younger cousin a 2015-built Class 387 (387 126).

[PHOTO: Trains at bufferstops: 36kB]

[PHOTO: carriage-window label: 32kB]

Above: A window label proclaiming our itinerary. Photo by Phil Barnes.

[PHOTO: Train in station: 48kB]

Above: Motor coach 60116 Mountfield sports a “Not To Be Moved” sign while laying over in the No.1 carriage siding at King’s Lynn: its toilet-water tanks were being replenished at the time.

[PHOTO: Train in station: 48kB]

Above: Club Class motor coach 60118 Tunbridge Wells was at the north end of our train today, and is seen here in the No.1 carriage siding which gives every indication of having previously been a normal platform for passenger use.

[PHOTO: Train in station: 56kB]

Above & below: Once the tank-refilling was completed we were shunted back to platform 2 for the rest of our layover time. Overhead Line Electrification reached King’s Lynn in 1992, and in 2014 a historically sensitive scheme to refurbish the station was completed.

[PHOTO: Train and station: 52kB]

[PHOTO: Train in platform: 64kB]

Above: Our train is stabled in platform 2, with the handbrake applied as denoted by the standard Southern Region means: a shoe-paddle placed across the offside cab windscreen.

[PHOTO: Buildings in town centre: 44kB]

Above: By the former port in the town is the Custom House which dates from 1683. Its appearance may rekindle a memory for those who travelled by train on routes towards King’s Lynn in the Network SouthEast era, as one of Edward Pond’s illustrations which decorated the interior of Class 317 units was a depiction of this Custom House.

[PHOTO: Public gardens: 72kB]

Above & below: Gardens in King’s Lynn, and the station building itself which dates from 1871.

[PHOTO: Station building: 56kB]

[PHOTO: Dog on train-seat: 56kB]

Above: Our journey back to Hastings ran via the Middleton Towers branch, but for some—like depot dog Eddie—the day had already been quite long enough!

[PHOTO: Train on track: 52kB]

Above & below: Our train duly carried out a double-shunt at King’s Lynn to access the Middleton Towers branch, and then proceeded along the 3-mile line as far as the level crossing at Station Road, Middleton, to where Ian McDonald had travelled in order to capture our visit. Because of a lack of suitable staff at the railfreight (sand) depot, it was not possible for our train to proceed the short distance into the depot and site of the disused Middleton station, so the position illustrated is as far as we could go this time.

[PHOTO: Train approaching closed level crossing: 44kB]

[PHOTO: Train passing station: 56kB]

Above & below: Thanks to Ian McDonald who then promptly made his way by road from Middleton, to Watlington once more where he caught up with us as we headed back towards our next stop, Ely.

[PHOTO: Train receding past station: 52kB]

[PHOTO: Train in station: 40kB]

Above & below: We called at Cambridge’s platform 8 on our return journey, just as a light rain-shower began. Much has changed at Cambridge—the new island platform, the guided bus-way, and many modern buildings which occupy all of the area behind platforms 1/2/3 that was once the station yard and the Dalgety Spillers factory.

[PHOTO: Train in station: 44kB]

[PHOTO: Train in station at sunset: 48kB]

Above: Beneath a striking sunset sky, our train departs Kensington (Olympia) for the remainder of its journey back to Hastings. It was running sufficiently early that it was re-routed to run via Penge instead of Catford.