The Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway
is in the top left-hand corner of Norfolk.
Once Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway starts to manifest there will be two stations – Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid – plus Lavender Halt in between, where passengers can alight for the Eaton Lavender Experience.
Alongside the platform of Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway's Eaton St Torpid station are Sal T. Marsh's Wonky Pots Emporium and the Railway's own gift shop. The Jackdaw Works is also near the station. Eaton St Torpid station is situated near the River Creake and the Pocohantas Canoe Hire facilities and also provides convenient access to the Queen Alexandra Arts Centre.
The former trackbed heading north from Eaton St Torpid towards Brindlecliffe is used as carriage sidings; sadly the route of the railway closer to Brindlecliffe has been extensively built over.
Although not part of the original standard gauge railway, newly-constructed track will allow trains to run from Eaton St Torpid to St Torpid's Bay, although through-running to and from Whittlecreek is unlikely to be possible because of weight restrictions on the reversing loop at the bay (see illustration below).
Whittlecreek station is the venue used for the Tommy is a Punk Engine Festival and where future events are envisaged. An eastward extension from Whittlecreek along the course of the West Norfolk Junction Railway to Effing, Hawston, Chipstead Market, Pentewiddle Cove and Etwell-juxta-Maris (see map above) is not considered cost-effective. And anyway the trackbed nearest Etwell-justa-Maris is already home to a magical light railway.
The name 'Eaton' (or 'Eton') means simply the settlement (tun) by the water, in the same way the many Streetons mean the tun by the straete, the Old English word denoting Roman roads.
Relevant experts think the people living in these tuns were responsible in some way for the maintenance of the watercourse or roadway.
A major extension heading south from Eaton St Torpid is part of future plans. This will mostly follow the trackbed of the Lynn and Hunstanton Railway. Modern developments mean the line could not be reinstated as far south as Bishop's Snoring so will terminate near Friar's Ambling at the Sandy Cove Sand Co museum, where a short two-foot gauge railway is already taking shape. There will be intermediate stations at Dodd's Hill Staithes and Canidringham (pronounced locally 'Canidrum' or 'Conundrum'); see map at top of page.
The inspiration for the reversing loop at St Torpid's Bay
– a Rowland Emett illustration from the 1940s.
The Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway will modernise this for twenty-first century tourism by installing a signal box (on stilts) by the turnout and converting it to a fast food takeaway specialising in oysters and other shellfish.
Construction of the lighthouse has commenced. This will be the world's first
The Lenny the Vinch's helical sail looks something like this when configured for lighthouse-powering purposes.
In a moment of impulse buying the management bought a cheap teaspoon while in Hunstanton, specifically to use as the reflector for this lighthouse. This was before being aware that the former lighthouse a kilometre to the north had the world's first parabolic lighthouse reflector back in 1776. Good scriptwriting by whoever was in charge of coincidences that day…
More inspiration for a coastal rail service
in this video and this different video. (Thanks Nigel!)
Which really needs some of the Muldentalbahn's comparatively deluxe railway versions of 'putt-putts' (probably best to skip to around six minutes in) which are known as Schienentrabi and made from Trabant car parts but based on a 1950s vehicle known as the GKR, shown in the background of the 1959 photograph below.
Although the management of the Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway took a liking to the even more minimalist scooter-based 'speeder'
in the foreground:
Wot! No sidecar? There's room for one each side…
This photograph has inspired Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway's very own Valkyrie speeder.
Those who know the twelve inches to the foot management of Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway (though some might say he's more fourteen inches to the foot… ) will know that there is an indefinite hiatus before tracklaying work can commence.
The management are keen for the railway, as and when things shape up, to bear as little resemblance as possible to the sort of scenery devised by Rev Peter Denny for his justly-famous Grandborough Junction layouts, and the countless imitators since the 1940s (and the management was most certainly one of those imitators in the 1960s, with his father's complete run of Railway Modeller magazine to hand to check on the finer details of every version of Denny's layouts).
Instead of Rev Denny's 'photo realism' aesthetic, how about railway backgrounds inspired by John Piper?
Not a railway building. But this stunning woodcut by Eric Ravilious, one of a set of illustrations for an edition of Gilbert White's Natural History of Selbourne published in 1938, suggested the idea of an eventide ambience – although Ravilious seems to have intended to depict a stormy day, with rainbow.
Eric Ravilious (1903–1942) was a close contemporary of Rowland Emett (1906–1990) but sadly went missing in action over the North Atlantic while serving with an RAF search-and-rescue squadron during the Second World War.
While awaiting the commencement of track-laying, sketches of the Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway's station buildings have been commissioned (see below). These are inspired by some of Eric Ravilious's woodcuts, adapted to suggest a crepescular ('dim' or 'indistinct') time of day. More prosaically, it is dusk, coming after twilight when the light comes from the sky after the sun has gone below the horizon. T.S. Eliot, in The Waste Land, deemed it 'the violet hour' while a Gothick novelist might deem it 'darkrise'. But, stricto sensu, it is before 'owl light'.
This is not an arbitrary whim, as most times the Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway rolling stock is actually rolling is quite late in the evening and a great many of the vehicles have some sort of lights.
Sketches inspired by Eric Ravilious for (top to bottom):
The sketch of Eaton St Torpid is a bit of a cheat – it is based on the station at Burnham Market, not at Heacham (which is the inspiration for Eaton St Torpid) simply because an elevation drawing of Burnham Market was to hand while no suitable photograph of Heacham could be found. While Burham Market was the principal intermediate station on the West Norfolk Junction Railway, and Heacham was the western terminus, the building at Heacham was constructed prior to the West Norfolk Junction Railway as part of the Lynn and Hunstanton Railway. So this substitution is certain to irk the purists.
To provide temporary backdrops to the current track arrangement these sketches, when finalised, will be printed out to suggest 1:20 scale buildings, and augmented with working lamps on the lamp posts and behind the windows of the booking offices and waiting rooms. The management have yet to determine whether smoke-and-mirrors can be used to create the illusion of a ghostly station master haunting the platform.
How the real Whittlecreek station looked in October 2018. The signal box on the left is not the original and not quite in the original location as it is now on the north of the trackbed not the south side.
How the real Whittlecreek station looked in 1937. Note the smaller signal box on the right, adjacent to the level crossing.
The inspiration for the fictional Lavender Halt. An early 1960s postcard of the hexagonal kiosk by a layby on the main road past Heacham to Hunstanton. This was the start of the retail activities for Norfolk Lavender, the inspiration for the Eaton Lavender Experience.
And could almost be Whittlecreek – although the river in this illustration runs much closer than the Heacham River does to Sedgefield station. Emett riffing off the blacking out of place-names on all signs during the Second World War when there was a risk of the Germans invading.
More inspiration for Whittlecreek station – Wells and Walsingham Light Railway's terminus.
As these are real maps of real places the places are given their real names. Which is more than a little confusing as Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway has renamed Heacham as Eaton St Torpid and Sedgeford as Whittlecreek. Similarly, Hunstanton and King's Lynn have been rebranded as Brindlecliffe and Bishop's Snoring, while Wells next the Sea has the fictonym of Etwell juxta Maris. See the map at the top of this page for further clarification (or puzzlement, depending on your viewpoint).
Heacham in 1887.
Heacham in 1939.
Sedgeford in 1887.
Sedgeford in the 1950s.
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Images and text copyright Bob Trubshaw 2018–2021