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As Britain does not need yet another heritage branch-line railway the Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway's rolling stock is more Rowland Emett (1906–1990) than Sir Nigel Gresley (1876–1941).

The Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway is in the top left-hand corner of Norfolk, running from Eaton St Torpid via Lavender Halt to Whittlecreek, with a branch off to St Torpid's Bay. A spur of track, now functioning as carriage sidings, is on the route towards Brindlecliffe.

Before closure in the 1960s the track was standard gauge. However, in keeping with Emett's eccentricities, for the heritage railway the track was re-laid at three-foot gauge.

In the future the Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway may extend south from Eaton St Torpid to Dodd's Hill Staithes, Canidringham (pronounced locally 'Canidrum' or 'Conundrum') and Friars Ambling Halt (where a sand mining museum is planned, complete with a short two-foot gauge mineral line). Sadly modern developments mean the line could not be reinstated as far south as Bishop's Snoring, nor Brindlecliffe to the north. An eastward extension from Whittlecreek to Effing, Hawston, Chipstead Market, Pentewiddle Cove and Etwell-juxta-Maris is not considered cost-effective. And anyway the trackbed nearest Etwell-justa-Maris is already home to a magical light railway.

If these neo-toponyms (see footnote) sound more Emett-esque than real then this map might help.


w&esthr location map

More details of locations


If it were real…

Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway exists only at 1/20 scale. If it really existed it would occupy the trackway of part of the Hunstanton and West Norfolk Junction Railway, with some minor additions.


The Hunstanton and West Norfolk Junction Railway – a very short history

The rising popularity of north-west Norfolk as a destination for Victorian holidaymakers was key to the construction of a railway from King's Lynn to Hunstanton. Until then Hunstanton had been a small fishing settlement to the north of the subsequent town. Since 1846 the principal landowner, Henry Styleman Le Strange (1815–1862), had been developing 'New Hunstanton' as a bathing resort (akin to Hove, Brighton, Tenby, Ventnor and many others) with upmarket villas and other facilities for visitor and residents. However, Henry Le Stange died suddenly, at the age of 47, less than three months before the railway opened.

The same year as the railway opened, 1862, Sandringham House and nearly 8,000 acres of land were purchased for the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) as a country home for him and his fiancée, Princess Alexandra of Denmark. The combination of sensibly-timed trains to London (complete with a first-class dining car serving prestigious menus) and 'royal patronage' nearby made Hunstanton into a 'des res' location in the 1860s onwards. For many years the Lynn and Hunstanton Railway provided massive returns for investors.

In 1866 the The West Norfolk Junction Railway opened, running from Heacham (an intermediate station between King's Lynn and Hunstanton) to Wells next the Sea. This failed to generate similar amounts of traffic and struggled to make much profit. Passenger services ceased in 1952. The massive storm of 1953 badly damaged the line from Holkham to Wells and it was never reopened. Freight services on the remaining line continued until the end of 1964.

In 1962, the centenary of the opening of the Lynn to Hunstanton railway, John Betjeman was filmed by the BBC travelling along the line and commenting on the stations and settlements along the route.


Snettisham goods shed
 
Not the Methodist chapel! Snettisham goods shed in 1962 (since demolished).
 
1960s caravans
 
Early 1960s caravans near Hunstanton seen through the train window.
 
John Betjeman
 
At the end of the line. John Betjeman and Hunstanton pier in 1962.
The railway line from King's Lynn to Hunstanton was closed in 1969.
The pier was almost entirely destroyed by a severe storm in 1978.
Betjeman made it through till 1984.


The shenanigans by Dr Richard Beeching to 'fiddle the books' to make it appear that branch lines were carrying insufficient passengers meant that the line from King's Lynn to Hunstanton closed in 1969.

While Beeching is synonymous with the 1960s railway closures the real villains get overlooked. The Minister of Transport who appointed Richard Beeching to head British Railways was Earnest Marples. Previously Marples was Managing Director of Marples Ridgway, a road construction contractor. Repeated concerns at the time about possible conflict of interest were ignored by the Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, who seems to have been in the thrall of the road lobby.


Acknowledgements

The management would like to thank the assistance and encouragement of Phill, Judi, Colin, Nigel, Michelle and others.

Stanley C. Jenkins' book The Lynn and Hunstanton Railway and the West Norfolk Branch (published by Oakwood Press in 1987) has been invaluable. Other books and websites featuring this part of the railway system have also been helpful.

Last, but certainly not least, every credit to Rowland Emett for showing that railways need not be taken Very Seriously. And to Colin Binnie for droodling in a similar vein.


footnote

1: More pedantic types prefer the term 'fictonym'. Which, even more pedantically, makes these 'fictotoponyms', in distinction to 'fictopatronyms' and the nascent neonym with the semantic content of 'ficto-whatever-the-pompous-name-for-given-names-might-be'. De facto sub specie fictiotatis, these, of necessity, require careful distinction from 'fictonicknyms' (a newly-gestated neonym, in subsets of both metafictonyms and fictological fictonyms, although frequently confounding with 'fictobyenames'). The author of this footnote is a Reader in Comparative Ontology and Paleontologies at the University of Wessex.



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