History of Bure Valley Railway 1880-1982

The Standard Gauge Years 1880 - 1982

Parliamentary Approval and Construction

The East Norfolk Railway Act of 1864 included plans for an extension to Aylsham.
The formal Act of Parliament to extend to Aylsham was not granted until 16th April 1876.
The contract to build the line from Wroxham to Aylsham was won by William Waddell with a bid of £43,971 18s 3d.
By November 1878 Waddell had 100 men 14 horses and 43 wagons at work on construction.
This increased to 187 men, 22 horses and 46 wagons a month later.
Bad weather and a shortage of manpower delayed the opening of the line.
The line to Aylsham formally opened on 1st January 1880.

The Great Eastern Railway

The Great Eastern Railway operated the line from opening, but formally took it over in 1882.
The line served Aylsham being the second largest town in North East Norfolk but revenues were still very low at £8 a week in the 1880’s.
Only 6000 passengers a year travelled from Aylsham to Norwich or beyond, even with local traffic and special trains, typical trains only carried between 5 and 25 passengers. The maximum passenger loading was 47 on a Saturday afternoon with passengers returning from Norwich market. Compare this to today where the Bure Valley Railway carries around 120,000 passengers per year and a heavy train carrying over 200 passengers.

The First World War

The railways came under government direction in the First World War. Traffic did increase with a notable load being timber for trenching materials on the western front. Although a slight increase was seen, passenger traffic was still sparse.

Road Competition

The end of the war saw the introduction of the first “boneshaker” bus services. This offered villages the convenience of a bus stop in the villages rather than a walk to the railway station to catch the train.

LNER takeover

In 1923 the line was absorbed into the newly formed LNER as a result of the Railway Grouping Act.
Traffic on the line began to increase with the construction of Royal Air Force bases in the area notably RAF Coltishall with adjoined the line.
With the onset of World War 2, military traffic increased as did passenger traffic owing to petrol rationing greatly reducing the bus services and the use of private cars.

Decline and Withdrawal of Passenger Services

With the end of Petrol rationing in 1950 and new refineries improving supplies further in 1952, road bus services were able to improve to better than pre ware levels. Demand for the rail services declined to become uneconomic.
British Railways decided to withdraw the passenger service.
The last passenger train ran on 15th September 1952. This was some 11 years before the infamous Beeching Report was published and demonstrates quite how uneconomic the Aylsham line was.

Freight Services Continue

Whilst the passenger services were withdrawn in 1952, freight services continued.
Freight traffic from Aylsham included grain for the Scottish Whisky industry and general merchandise until 1974 when general goods handling facilities were withdrawn.
Freight traffic did continue after this date in the form of concrete beams from Lenwade via a new cord built at Themelthorpe.

Final Closure

The concrete beam traffic over the line ceased in late 1981 and British Rail formally closed the line on 6th January 1982.
A weed killing train ran over the line on 16th May 1983.
The last standard gauge trains over the line were track lifting specials during early 1984.
Many thought this was the end of the line for the route as a Railway but!!!!!!

The Narrow Gauge Line