County School railway station

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County School
County School Railway Station - geograph.org.uk - 1894292.jpg
County School station, June 2010
Location
Place North Elmham
Area Breckland, Norfolk
Grid reference TF990227
Operations
Owned by Great Eastern Railway
London & North Eastern Railway
Eastern Region of British Railways
Breckland District Council
Mid-Norfolk Railway
Platforms 3
History
1886 Opened
13 July 1964 Closed to freight
5 October 1964 Closed to passengers
1981 Track lifted
1987 Station buildings opened as heritage centre
1998 MNR took occupation of station buildings
Stations on heritage railways in the United Kingdom
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Portal icon UK Railways portal

County School is a railway station approximately one mile north of the village of North Elmham in the English county of Norfolk. The station is part of a line being gradually restored by the Mid-Norfolk Railway from East Dereham to Fakenham.

History[edit]

A railway line was opened as part of the Norfolk Railway's extension from East Dereham to Fakenham in 1849,[1] but County School railway station was not built until 1886 to serve the private school from which it took its name, and following the opening of the Wroxham branch line in 1882. In 1903 the Norfolk County School became the Watts Naval School, the station name, however, remained unchanged.

County School became a Great Eastern Railway rural junction station even though the Wroxham branch left the Wells line a mile north, at Broom Green. The station consisted of up and down platforms and an extra bay for Wroxham services.

The stationmaster's house is unusual, in that the railway did not build it. Instead it was originally the lodge house for the school - and its style reflects the school rather than the station.

County School station was equipped with three platforms, two platform buildings, a signal box and a small coal yard. This yard was essentially to serve the needs of the large number of fires in the school buildings. The station was also provided with a large orchard on land provided for sidings that were never required.

1915 crash[edit]

Preserved GER Class Y14 '564' on a goods train.

On 20 January 1915, the junction with the line to Aylsham and Wroxham was the site of an accident between a passenger train from Wells and a goods train from Foulsham.

At 11.46 am, Y14 '629', hauling 12 empty and 4 loaded wagons, ran into the 6 coach passenger train, hauled by T26 locomotive '446' and consisting of 6-wheel stock on the scissor crossing close to the signal box. Nobody was injured in the crash, which took place at low speed, although both locomotives were damaged, along with other vehicles in both trains.

The responsibility for the crash was placed on the driver of the goods train, for failing to observe that his signals were at danger.[2]

World War II[edit]

During World War II the station surroundings were used as a fuel dump for the airfield at Foulsham. The site was also briefly used as a tarmac factory for bomber command.

Nationalisation[edit]

The first significant change occurred in 1952 when the County School to Wroxham line was closed to passenger traffic, although the western section of this line, between County School and Foulsham remained open for goods until 31 October 1964,[3] being busiest in the sugar beet season.[4] Diesel trains made their first appearance in 1956, but it was not until 1964 that the Dereham to Wells line lost its passenger service.[5]

In 1954 the complex track layout and quiet nature of the station since the closure of the branch led to its being used as a main location for the filming of the driver training films for the new diesel multiple units.

After passenger closure[edit]

Just after closure the station was used by Anglia Television as a location for Weaver's Green. This was a twice-weekly serial, based on a fictional vets' practice in an East Anglian village with a post office and shop, church, pub, railway station and racing stable. Two vets, played by Grant Taylor and Eric Flynn, were the central characters, and Wendy Richard, of EastEnders, and Kate O'Mara, who was to join the cast of Dynasty, played minor roles. Soon after this filming took place the island platform buildings and signal box were demolished.

Final closure[edit]

The line remained open for freight, but the track was finally removed by British Rail following the withdrawal of goods traffic from Ryburgh in 1981.[6] The main building survived as a small factory unit making plaster ceiling roses.

Preservation schemes[edit]

Fakenham and Dereham Railway Society[edit]

By the late 1980s the station was heavily overgrown and derelict. Breckland District Council bought the station in 1987, intending to use it as a visitor centre, but felt that a station without track and trains looked wrong. The Fakenham and Dereham Railway Society were offered a 999 year lease to move to the site from their headquarters at Yaxham and restore the railway side of the site.[7]

Great Eastern Railway (1989) Limited[edit]

Heritage operations at County School, 1993.
County School in 1996, before restoration by the MNRPT.

With the announcement of the closure of the entire branch between Wymondham, Dereham and North Elmham, a new company called the Great Eastern Railway (1989) Limited was formed to save the line.

The F&DRS elected to back this scheme, and the lease of the station was signed over to the GER (1989) Ltd. Although far from certain, the future of the line, and County School station, seemed more secure than it had for many years. During these years, the F&DRS continued to provide financial backing and manpower for the development of the site. The running line was extended over half a mile towards North Elmham, and a collection of rolling stock was built up.

During the early 1990s, the GER(1989) announced plans to lift the railway between Dereham and Wymondham. The Fakenham and Dereham Railway Society withdrew their support for the GER and made their own bid for the line.[8][9] 1995 saw Yorkshire Bank call in the receivers to solve concerns with the Great Eastern Railway (1989) Ltd. In June 1995 Breckland Council informed the receivers that they wished for the GER (1889) Ltd. to give up the lease for County School station so that they could review their operations in respect of the site. The GER (1989) Ltd., who stated that they were attracting 12,000 visitors a year to the site, announced that they would contest this decision.[10]

In July 1995, police were called in to investigate the sudden and unauthorised road transfer of two Mid Norfolk Railway Society Mk 2 coaches to a breaker's yard at nearby Lenwade. In July 1996 Breckland District Council issued a threat to stop trains running at County School station, as it was found that someone other than the leaseholder was operating trains at the site; the lease being non-transferable.[11] In November 1996 Breckland District Council brought in 24 hour security guards at the County School site in order to prevent the stripping of the property after having served an eviction order on the GER(1989) in mid-October.[12]

County School station was boarded up and GER (1989) Ltd rolling stock was concentrated in the isolated yard prior to disposal or scrapping. All track north of the station platforms was then lifted, and, as shown in the photograph, the site was left to become derelict.[13]

Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust[edit]

Class 100 DMU at County School Station on 17 December 2001.

In 1998 the MNRPT signed a Tenancy at Will with Breckland District Council to take over the station and trackbed at County School.[14] The track north of the platforms had, again, been lifted. The remainder was overgrown. The station was boarded up, with smashed glass, a stripped interior and broken windows.

The MNR quickly returned the station to use, as a visitor centre, rather than an operational railway museum. Over the next year, the MNR spent £28,000 restoring the station buildings to wartime LNER condition, tidying the grounds and removing scrap material left by the former lessee. Additional investment saw the station drive, damaged after decades of neglect, professionally resurfaced, scrub growth removed from the railway formation opening up the views of the Wensum Valley for walkers and preparing the formation for restoration of track.

Recognising the financial and manpower investment that the MNRPT had put into the site over the years, Breckland District Council offered to sell the station and trackbed to the Railway for the nominal sum of £1. This offer was accepted, and County School is now a part of the 17 mile long branch line. In 2010 the station was repainted into the colours employed elsewhere on the line.

Present day and plans[edit]

Platform 1, facing Fakenham, June 2010.

The station forms an important key in the future plans of the Mid-Norfolk Railway, and will serve as the northern terminus of the line while the task of restoring the line to Fakenham is considered.

The signal box, demolished after passenger closure, is currently being rebuilt using components from Halesworth and the trackbed between County School and North Elmham is being restored ready for the restoration of the line.

A longer-term aim is the rebuilding of the demolished island platform building. At present no trains operate at the station. All the staff are volunteers.

Signal box[edit]

Location Original location Built by Notes Photograph
County School Halesworth, Suffolk Great Eastern Railway The station was originally provided with a main signal box to the north of the station, and a ground frame cabin to the south of the level crossing. The original signal box was demolished after the line closed to passengers and has been replaced by the 'box from Halesworth. While Halesworth had a timber locking room, the cabin has been placed on a brick structure reflecting the original County School box. It has been rebuilt on the original footings and will serve as a visitor attraction until required for operations.

The signal box was originally removed from Halesworth station to a local school, and later donated to the Trust for restoration.

County School signal box 2009 B.jpg

Train services[edit]

Preceding station Disused railways Following station
Terminus   British Rail
Eastern Region

County School to Wroxham
  Foulsham
Line and station closed
Ryburgh
Line and station closed
  British Rail
Eastern Region

Wymondham to Wells via East Dereham
  North Elmham
Line and station closed
Heritage Railways  Proposed Heritage railways
Ryburgh
Line and station closed
  Mid-Norfolk Railway   North Elmham
Line and station closed
Future services
Ryburgh
Line and station closed
  Norfolk Orbital Railway
Mid-Norfolk Railway
  North Elmham
Line and station closed

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Scrivenor, Harry (1849). The Railways of the United Kingdom Statistically Considered. Smith, Elder and Co. p. 334. 
  2. ^ Von Donop, P.G. (1915). Report on Accident at County School staton, 1915. H.M.R.I. 
  3. ^ British Railways Atlas.1947. p.18
  4. ^ Joby, 1975, page 43
  5. ^ Oppitz, 1989, page 44
  6. ^ "Photo Album : Historical Interest". Mid Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust website. 
  7. ^ Chris, Leigh (March 1994). "Back to School with the GER". Steam Railway (167): 38. 
  8. ^ "Row hots up over control of rail line". Eastern Daily Press. June 17, 1994. 
  9. ^ "Battle for control of disused rail line comes to head". Eastern Daily Press. February 1, 1995. 
  10. ^ Cummings, Catriona (23 June 1995). "Clash on railway". Dereham and Fakenham Times: 4. 
  11. ^ "Council bids to stop steam line". Railway Magazine: 18. July 1996. 
  12. ^ "Norfolk council takes action to protect threatened rail museum". Rail Magazine: 66. 6 November 1996. 
  13. ^ "The ups and downs of preservation". Railway Magazine: 14. August 1997. 
  14. ^ "County School future secured for Mid-Norfolk through new council agreement". Steam Railway (217): 6. Spring 1998. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Joby, R.S. (1975). The East Norfolk Railway. Klofron, Norwich. 
  • Oppitz, Leslie (Autumn 1989). East Anglia Railways Remembered. Countryside Books. ISBN 1-85306-040-2. 

Coordinates: 52°45′56″N 00°56′53″E / 52.76556°N 0.94806°E / 52.76556; 0.94806