Norfolk Orbital Railway

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The Holt, Melton Constable and Fakenham Railway Company (Norfolk Orbital Railway)
Type Regional rail
Status Proposed
Locale East of England
Track length 0 miles (0.00 km)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)

The Norfolk Orbital Railway — as the Holt, Melton Constable and Fakenham Railway Company — is a community railway project in Norfolk, England, to investigate and with others put in place a cohesive public transport structure for all who live and work in Norfolk as well as visitors.

The proposed line would link stations at Sheringham and Wymondham on the national rail network by using tracks of the two standard gauge heritage railways in the county, and restoring the former Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway line between Holt and Fakenham, creating a circular route which could be used by passenger services.

The heritage lines affected are Mid-Norfolk Railway and the North Norfolk Railway. The route would include stations on both of these lines.


Planned Norfolk Orbital Railway
Cromer Beach
To Norwich via
Bittern Line
West Runton
Occasional use level crossing
over Station Road
Sheringham (NNR)
Weybourne (NNR)
Kelling Heath Halt (NNR)
Holt (NNR)
Melton Constable
County School (MNR)
North Elmham (MNR)
Dereham (MNR)
Yaxham (MNR)
Thuxton (MNR)
Hardingham (MNR)
Kimberley Park (MNR)
Wymondham Abbey (MNR)
Breckland Line

The line from Fakenham to Melton Constable was part of the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway's main line from Peterborough to Great Yarmouth. The line from Melton Constable to Holt was part of the M&GN branch line to Cromer.

The main line closed to passengers in February 1959. The branch line remained open, operated as part of the line from Norwich Thorpe, when it was cut back to Sheringham in 1964.

Line status[edit]

Salhouse on the double track Network Rail section.

The line from Norwich to Sheringham is part of the National Rail network, marketed as the "Bittern Line". The line from Sheringham to Holt is operated as the North Norfolk Railway. Since March 2010 the two lines have been connected by a "periodic use" level crossing.

The trackbed through Holt, and the original station site, have been used to construct the town's bypass. The trackbed is then mostly clear as far as Melton Constable, although a couple of small homes have been built on the line and some of the formation has been lost to agriculture.

The station site at Melton Constable has been lost to an industrial estate, the platform site now the town's telephone exchange. The station throat, formerly a deep cutting, has been filled and restored to agriculture.

After reversing at Melton, the trackbed is mostly intact as far as Thursford, where it has been lost under a road for a short distance. Close to Fakenham, the formation was affected by quarrying and is now a track through Pensthorpe wildfowl preserve. A diversionary route would avoid this section.

The former Great Eastern branch from Fakenham to County School forms part of the future route of the Mid-Norfolk Railway. It is mostly intact, although the line is blocked at Great Ryburgh by an extension to the town's maltings. The trackbed from County School to Fakenham is in the last stages of protection; this also includes a short M&GNJR spur to the Fakenham gas works. The line from County School to Dereham retains most of its track and is owned by the MNR. The line from Dereham to Wymondham has been restored to passenger standards and carries the heritage services of the MNR.

The final section of line is part of the National Rail line between Ely and Norwich. The following photographs follow the order of the course of the planned line.

Rolling stock[edit]

The company does not plan to own rolling stock. The track would be operated by existing companies.


The Sheringham link to Network Rail.

The Midland & Great Northern section[edit]

The Sheringham link[edit]

After 36 years the Bittern line was reconnected to the North Norfolk Railway via an "occasional use" link between the Network Rail station and the North Norfolk Railway's tracks.

Although the length of the link is only a few yards the agreement represents a step towards a permanent link and new interchange station. This link is initially available for occasional use (such as charter trains from Norwich and/or London) and for delivery of rolling stock.

The Holt trackbed.

The crossing was opened on 11 March 2010, after two months of work.[1][2]

The Holt link[edit]

The first section of the formation to be purchased by the Norfolk Orbital Railway is located between the North Norfolk Railway's Holt station site and the town bypass, which was built on the railway formation.

The company paid £25,000 for the 50-yard stretch of former track bed,[3] and erected a small sign on a tree to indicate that it is now back in railway ownership.

The Great Eastern section[edit]

Fakenham Land[edit]

In 2009 the Norfolk Orbital Railway attempted to secure a section of the railway formation in Fakenham,[4] but was outbid by a London developer who claimed not to know of the project. The land was once again auctioned on 10 December 2014, and was secured for the railway project for £24,000.[5][6]


External links and references[edit]