Nene Valley Railway

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Nene Valley Railway
Nene Valley Railway Polish Tank Slask Tkp No 5485 Wansford.jpg
The Polish 0-8-0T Class Slask No Tkp 5485 departs Wansford with a train for Yarwell
Commercial operations
NameLondon and North Western Railway
Built byLondon and Birmingham Railway
Original gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Preserved operations
Operated byNene Valley Railway
Length7+12 miles (12.1 km)
Preserved gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Commercial history
Closed to passengers1966
Preservation history
1974Line purchased by Peterborough Development Corporation
1977NVR reopened
1983Orton Mere (station building) opened
1986NVR Extended
Peterborough (Nene Valley) opened
1995Wansford (current station building) opened
2007Yarwell Junction (current terminus) reopened
2008Yarwell Junction Station Building opens officially

The Nene Valley Railway (NVR) is a preserved railway in Cambridgeshire, England, running between Peterborough Nene Valley and Yarwell Junction. The line is 7+12 miles (12.1 km) in length. There are stations at each terminus, and three stops en route: Orton Mere, Ferry Meadows and Wansford.



In 1845, the London and Birmingham Railway (L&BR) company was given parliamentary assent to construct a line from Blisworth in Northamptonshire to Peterborough. Completed in 1847, it was Peterborough's first railway line. It terminated at Peterborough, later 'Peterborough East' station. The sheds and one platform face of this disused station are still clearly visible next to the former Matalan store on East Station Road, off London Road.

The line was of little significance until the late 19th century, when the London & North Western Railway (L&NWR), which had absorbed the L&BR, constructed a line via Nassington and King's Cliffe to Seaton, below Welland Viaduct. This turned Wansford, previously an unimportant village station, into a major junction. Its importance increased a few years later when the Great Northern Railway constructed another line via Sutton, Southorpe and Barnack to Stamford, on the Midland Railway line. In 1884 the line received a royal visit when the royal family travelled from Peterborough to Barnwell, some 13 miles (21 km) beyond Wansford, to visit Barnwell Manor, home of the then Duke of Gloucester. The station building is now preserved at Wansford station on the NVR, and is known as the Barnwell building.

Between 1900 and the 1960s, the line formed an important connection from Norwich, Cambridge and eastern England to Northampton and the Midlands. The line was generally acknowledged to be a secondary main line and frequently saw large engines such as Black 5s and B1s. However, the NVR was one of the last passenger line closures of the Dr Beeching era, services to Northampton and Rugby having ceased in 1964 and 1966 respectively. It remained open until 1972 for freight traffic only.

Society formed[edit]

Wansford station viewed from the road

In 1968, the Rev. Richard Paten had bought BR Standard Class 5 4-6-0 locomotive, number 73050, for its scrap value of £3,000. His intention had been to exhibit it outside Peterborough Technology College as a monument to Peterborough's railway history.[citation needed] However, the locomotive was found to be in good working order, and there was much opposition to the idea of the engine being "stuffed", and it was decided to restore it to full working order.

On 28 March 1969, the Peterborough Branch of the East Anglian Locomotive Society was formed, with the intention of purchasing and restoring the BR Pacific locomotive, number BR Standard Class 7 70000 Britannia. By 1970, the branch was strong enough to operate independently as the Peterborough Locomotive Society (PLS). In 1971, 73050 was moved to the British Sugar Corporation's sidings at Fletton, where it was joined by Hunslet 0-6-0 locomotive 'Jack's Green'. Later that year, the PLS held a meeting at which the group's name was changed to 'Peterborough Railway Society' and the idea of the Nene Valley Railway was formally launched.

Purchase of line and locomotives[edit]

The flagship locomotive British Railways Class Standard Five No. 73050 takes on water at Peterborough Nene Valley

In 1974, the Peterborough Development Corporation (PDC) bought the Nene Valley line between Longville and Yarwell Junctions and it began leasing it to the PRS to operate the railway – a major milestone in the society's history.

When the PRS acquired the line, the intention was to work the line with British locomotives and stock. However, enthusiasts from other railways and preservation societies had already acquired almost all of the serviceable ex-BR locomotives – all that was left was a collection of rusting hulks. Apart from 73050, the society's locomotives were mostly small, industrial shunting engines and therefore not suitable for the 11-mile (17.7 km) round trip. Ex-BR rolling stock was also in very short supply following the disposal of most pre-nationalisation (pre-1948) stock. The PDC, having paid out a considerable sum of money for the line, was anxious that trains should start running as soon as possible – certainly before the opening of the new Nene Park in 1978. However, with the PRC's lack of stock and locomotives this looked highly improbable.

In 1973, PRS member Richard Hurlock had approached the society for a home for his ex-Swedish railways class S1 2-6-4T oil-fired locomotive, number 1928. Because the engine was higher and wider than British stock, it was to be a static exhibition only. During 1974, it was realised that the use of foreign stock and engines could answer the NVR's aspirations. After a feasibility study was carried out, it was discovered that only one bridge would have to be demolished to allow the running to continental loading gauge. Some reductions would also have to be made to the width of the platforms. In 1973, BR gave PRS permission to use Wansford signal box and, in September of that year, the first items of stock arrived at the PRS depot.


Before the stock could be moved from the BSC depot to Wansford, the missing 400 yards (366 m) of the Fletton Loop had to be rebuilt, allowing access to the Nene Valley line. The track was completed in March 1974 and the stock moved to Wansford in time for the Easter weekend, when the new 'Wansford Steam Centre' opened for the first time. Between 1974 and 1977, the line was upgraded to passenger-carrying standard and the first passenger train ran on 1 June 1977, hauled by the 'Nord 3.628' – a French 4-6-0 locomotive and 'SJ 1178' – another Swedish tank engine, pulling a set of ex-BR electrical multiple unit coaches owned by the Southern Electric Group.

Extension to Peterborough[edit]

In the early 1980s, the NVR decided to extend its running line, which then terminated at Orton Mere station, along the route of the original Nene Valley Line to a new station west of the East Coast Main Line, adjacent to the new Railworld Museum. Peterborough Nene Valley opened, for the first time, on the Late Spring Bank Holiday weekend of 26 May 1986. This extended the NVR to its current length, 7+12 miles (12.1 km).

Proposed developments[edit]

Crescent Link/Peterborough Parkway[edit]

Since 1999, there has been talk of the 'crescent link' project promoted by 'Railworld' – a scheme to allow the NVR to run trains through the westernmost end of the Nene Park, across the river Nene into Peterborough mainline station to connect directly with LNER, Greater Anglia, East Midlands Railway, Thameslink, Arriva Cross Country and Great Northern services.

This might be done in connection with the proposed redevelopment and modernisation of Peterborough station. However, no fixed date has been set for this development.

The Crescent Link could include a reconstruction of the old Peterborough East station site as "Peterborough Parkway". This would be at least 1 mile (1.6 km) east of Peterborough Nene Valley station.


The society aspires to extend the line westward via Elton towards Oundle crossing the Cambs/Northants border in the future.

An attempt was made to extend the Nene Valley Railway to both Elton railway station and Oundle back in the 1990s, but was abandoned for financial reasons. The station site is still intact but the buildings have been demolished since closure (with whole/entire land still free from redevelopment to a new site at Oundle[clarification needed] (as the original station site at Oundle itself is now in private residence, meaning a new site might be required).


The brand new station building at Yarwell
The original Wansford station building, which is not in use, on Platform 3
The new station building at Ferry Meadows, which used to be a goods office
Orton Mere station building, which opened in 1983

Yarwell Junction[edit]

Yarwell Junction is the former junction between the lines to Northampton and Market Harborough. It is the current terminus of the NVR's operating line. In April 2006 the track was realigned, allowing a platform to be built at Yarwell Junction, which opened at Easter 2007 (there was never previously a station on the site). The new station is linked by footpaths to Nassington and the mill village of Yarwell, but there is no vehicular access. Yarwell Junction is about 1 mile (1.6 km) west of Wansford station, at the other end of Yarwell Tunnel.


Wansford is the headquarters of the railway and most of the facilities are based here. The current station building was opened in 1995 and contains a ticket office, shop, cafe and toilets. The locomotive sheds are located at this station. Also at the station there is a picnic area and children's playground. The station was formerly the junction for a branch to Stamford, which diverged to the north just east of the river bridge at Wansford. The original Wansford station is located on platform three and was built in 1844–1845 in Jacobean style for the opening of the railway. This building was purchased by the railway in 2015.


Castor is a disused station between Wansford and Ferry Meadows. It closed in the 1960s and despite the NVR (which runs through it) reopening, the station remains closed as of 2018.

Ferry Meadows[edit]

Ferry Meadows is located near the site of Orton Waterville station and provides access to the nearby country park. The current building was moved brick by brick from the old goods yard at Fletton Junction on the East Coast Main Line; it replaced a portable building desperately in need of repair. NVR has now added a canopy. The station building was offered to the NVR for £1 plus transportation costs. The Park is open throughout the year, but most facilities such as the miniature railway and pedaloes only run from Easter to the end of October. The station is also the site of the new Night Mail Museum, with construction well under way with some exhibits open to view.[1] Ferry Meadows station was renamed Overton 'for Ferry Meadows' in 2017 in conjunction with the Nene Valley Railway's 40th anniversary celebrations.[2]

Orton Mere[edit]

Orton Mere is a two platform station with a station building built in 1983 and a signal box. Until 1986 this was the terminus of the line. Most trains depart from platform 1. Just outside the station towards Peterborough is the Fletton Loop which links the NVR to the mainline. The signal box controls the passing loop and had to be adapted from one lever to three.

This station provides access to the eastern end of the Nene Park.

Longville Junction[edit]

Longville (or Longueville) Junction is about 1 mile (1.6 km) from Peterborough (Nene Valley) and links to the nearby East Coast Main Line. As of March 2013, there is no platform here, as Orton Mere station is only a few hundred yards close by.

Peterborough (Nene Valley)[edit]

Peterborough Nene Valley (aka Peterborough West), is the current end of the line. Here there is a platform, a bay platform and a station building housing a ticket office, a small souvenir shop and toilets. It is a 10-minute walk from here to Peterborough City Centre. Railworld is next door to the station with a wide variety of rolling stock on display.


The Nene Valley Railway has a full-scale "replica" of Thomas the Tank Engine working a passenger and freight service on 'Thomas' events; it was the first railway in the world to possess one.[citation needed] The Nene Valley Railway considers its Thomas to be the "official" Thomas the Tank Engine, because it was named by Thomas' creator, the Rev. W. Awdry, in 1971. The replica engine runs at certain special events, weekends and bank holidays; however, the Nene Valley Railway does not host official 'Day out with Thomas' events as many railways do. Unsuccessfully, HiT Entertainment tried to sue the Nene Valley Railway on the grounds that their Thomas locomotive was breaching their trademark, but they lost the case as the court ruled that it was not breaching HiT's trademark because the Hudswell Clarke locomotive was given the name "Thomas" by the creator, Rev. W. Awdry.

Operational steam locomotives[edit]

Thomas No. 1 and his branch line train are seen at Yarwell.
5485 at Wansford.
92 Squadron crossing the bridge at Wansford.
D9520 hauling a goods train.


  • Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0T No. 1800 'Thomas'. Built in 1947. Restricted to around Wansford Yard and hauling Wansford – Yarwell Junction shuttles only, apart from an annual trip to Peterborough. Returned to steam in June 2016 following a two and a half year overhaul.
  • BR (Southern) Bulleid 4-6-2, unrebuilt Battle of Britain class No. 34081 '92 Squadron'. Built in 1948. Arrived on 20 May 2010 at Wansford from the North Norfolk Railway, having left that line in 2003. The loco returned to steam in January 2017 following a seven year overhaul.
  • Polish 0-8-0T Class Śląsk/TKp No. 5485. Built in 1959. Withdrawn Summer 2012 for overhaul. The engine moved to the Flour Mill works for an overhaul and returned to the railway on 26 July 2019. Painted green with a black front end, wheels painted red lined with white.


Steam locomotives undergoing overhaul or restoration[edit]

  • Danish 0-6-0T Class F No. 656 'Tinkerbell' (unofficial name). Built in 1949. Undergoing a major overhaul.
  • Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0ST No. 1539 'Derek Crouch'. Built in 1924. Undergoing overhaul.
  • BR Standard Class 5 4-6-0 No. 73050 'City of Peterborough'. Built in 1954. Withdrawn September 2014 for overhaul which commenced in 2017.

Stored steam locomotives[edit]

  • Hunslet Austerity 0-6-0ST 0-6-0ST 75006. Built in 1943. Awaiting overhaul after being withdrawn in 2004.
  • German 2-6-2T Class 64 No. 64 305. Built in 1936. Stored awaiting overhaul.
  • Swedish B Class 4-6-0 No. 101. Built in 1944. On static display after being withdrawn from service in 2005. Disguised as a German D class locomotive, No. 101 was used in the James Bond film Octopussy.[3]
  • Hunslet 0-6-0ST No. 1953 'Jacks Green'. Built in 1939. Cosmetically restored into its original industrial livery and is on display with its footplate accessible to visitors.
  • Swedish 2-6-2T Class S No. 1178. Built in 1914. Awaiting major overhaul. Purchased by the railway in 2020.
  • Cockerill 0-4-0WT Tram Engine No. 1626 'Toby'. Built in 1890. Project ceased after death of Rev. W. Awdry.[citation needed]

Operational diesel locomotives[edit]

Diesel locomotives undergoing overhaul or restoration[edit]

Stored diesel locomotives[edit]

Locos that have left the line[edit]

LNER Class B1 1306 "Mayflower," now at Battlefield Line, Shackerstone

Steam Locomotives[edit]

Diesel Locomotives[edit]

British Railways Class 40 D306 'Atlantic Conveyor' in service

As a film location[edit]

The line has been a location for filming over 150 TV shows, films, adverts and music videos.[5][6]

Between 1977 and 1979, many sequences for the BBC's wartime drama Secret Army were filmed here, principally at Wansford station.[5]

In 1982, Wansford station was used for six weeks to shoot scenes featuring Roger Moore and Maud Adams for the James Bond film Octopussy.[3]

Scenes for the biplane/helicopter dogfight from the 1986 film Biggles: Adventures in Time were filmed here, involving one memorable shot where the helicopter piloted by Biggles "lands" on a flat-bed railway carriage.[5] In 1986 the BBC children's drama The Children Of Green Knowe was filmed here. In 1989, the music video for the top ten hit Breakthru by Queen was filmed here.

Another Bond film GoldenEye was also filmed on the line. For the film, a Class 20 was disguised as a Russian armoured train. In the film, a tunnel that the train seemingly goes into is in fact a small bridge over the tracks.[7]

In 2008, Penélope Cruz and Daniel Day-Lewis were among the actors who worked on the filming of the live-action film Nine on the Railway.[6]

TV shows filmed here include EastEnders,[8] Casualty, Silent Witness, Dalziel and Pascoe and Poirot.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Night Mail Museum". Nene Valley Railway Museum and Educational Charity. Archived from the original on 30 April 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  2. ^ "Royal Scot stars at the Nene Valley Railway's 40th Anniversary", Steam Railway, 16 June 2017, NVR General Manager Sarah Piggott unveils the Overton for Ferry Meadows running-in board at the renaming ceremony on June 1.
  3. ^ a b "James Bond director John Glen visits Nene Valley Railway where he filmed Octopussy". Rutland and Stamford Mercury. Johnston Press. 21 September 2012. Archived from the original on 9 April 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  4. ^ "Hive of Activity". A personal View of the Nene Valley Railway. 22 February 2011. Retrieved 13 March 2011.
  5. ^ a b c "Tracking the history of a rail attraction". The Peterborough Telegraph. Johnston Press. 11 April 2007. Archived from the original on 8 April 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  6. ^ a b c Reinis, Nick (8 September 2010). "Ender the line for Janine?". The Peterborough Telegraph. Johnston Press. Archived from the original on 8 April 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  7. ^ "Sinister Class 20 is new James Bond movie star". Rail. No. 250. 12 April 1995. p. 6.
  8. ^ Leishman, Fiona (31 July 2019). "Fans of Eastenders may spot a familiar location in an upcoming episode". CambridgeshireLive.
  • Rhodes, John (1976). The Nene Valley Railway. Sheffield: Turntable Publications.
  • Waszak, P.J.; Ginns, J.W. (1995). Peterborough's First Railway: Yarwell to Peterborough. Peterborough: Nene Valley Railway.
  • Nene Steam. Nene Valley Railway. 1979. Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°33′50″N 00°20′23.25″W / 52.56389°N 0.3397917°W / 52.56389; -0.3397917