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East of England North Norfolk Railway, the Poppy LIne

Some background

The North Norfolk Railway is also affectionately known as the Poppy Line. ‘Poppy Land’ used to describe the section of the North Norfolk coast between Sheringham and Mundesley, was the result of a quote by the C19th poet and theatre critic, Clement Scott, “Neath the blue of the sky in the green of the corn, it is here that the regal red poppies are born”. The North Norfolk railway passes through Poppy Land on its journey, hence its alternative name.


The line runs for just over five miles through lovely rural countryside and along the coast between Holt and Sheringham. It is a nostalgic step back to the days of steam with beautifully maintained stations, some lovely old steam locomotives and even a heritage diesel and DMU for those too young to remember the days of steam.

The history of railway lines in North Norfolk is complicated with a series of different companies building short stretches of line.

The Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway (or the ‘Muddle and Get Nowhere’ as it was affectionately known) was a railway network connecting southern Lincolnshire, the Isle of Ely and north Norfolk. It developed from several local independent concerns and was incorporated in 1893. It was jointly owned by the Midland Railway and the Great Northern Railway, and those companies had long sponsored and operated the predecessor companies.

The Sheringham Weybourne and Holt Railway, with a later extension to Cromer was opened in 1887 to exploit the growing tourist boom to seaside towns. It was of strategic importance during the Second World War, serving the military training camp and artillery range at Weybourne,

After the war, tourist traffic declined rapidly and, serving a sparsely populated agricultural area, profitability also declined. The line was a casualty of the Beeching cuts of 1964, although the line from Sheringham to Cromer is still open and run by Greater Anglia trains.

The Midland & Great Northern Joint Railways Preservation Society was formed in April 1959, initially hoping to save the whole line as far as Melton Constable, but this was impracticable and they eventually concentrated on the section between Sheringham and Weybourne, the North Norfolk Railway. Work started on rebuilding the line in 1965 with passengers running from 1975. They gained permission for an extension to Holt and that section was reopened in 1989.



The route from Holt to Sheringham

Holt Station is about a mile from the centre of Holt and is not on the site of the original station, which was a lot closer to the town. When the line closed, this was demolished and part of the trackbed was used for the A149 Holt bypass. When the line was extended to Holt, a completely new station was needed. Station buildings came from the redundant station of Stalham, on the line between Melton Constable and Great Yarmouth which closed in 1959. They have been reassembled at Holt to represent a typical Midland and Great Northern country station in the early C20th.


The ticket office and station master's office are in the main station building, along with the buffet and gift shop.



Approaching the station is the Railway Carriage Cottage, surrounded by a small garden.

These were once common in East Anglia especially after the end of the First World War when redundant carriage bodies were sold to provide a cheap housing solution. The inside has been restored to what it might have been like in the 1930s.

The William Marriott Museum is in the goods shed building. William Marriott ran the railway for 40 years and the museum tells the story of the Midland and Joint Northern Joint Railway and has a display of tickets, timetables, signs posters clocks, watches.

Restored wagons can be seen outside the goods shed.

At the end of the station is the signal box with water tower beyond.



The heritage diesel service was just arriving into the station before we left.


Leaving Holt Station, the train runs through attractive rolling farmland with woodland.



A few minutes after leaving Holt, is Kelling Heath Park Halt, with a a very short platform which was built when the railway reopened. It is mainly used by walkers.


Although the heritage diesel service stops here on both journeys, it is only used by steam trains running down the steep gradient to Weybourne. Passengers get their first glimpse of the sea from here with a wonderful view across to Weybourne with its two church towers and windmill.


The line now runs parallel to the coast through fertile farmland with with distant views of the sea.



Weybourne station is next and is a busy station where trains pass.


The station buildings complete with footbridge have been restored to their original condition as a Midland and Great Northern Railway station, with their tan and cream colour scheme. It has a buffet, shop, second hand book shop and a model railway.



It is a popular film location and the porter’s room has a collection of photos showing its role in popular TV dramsa like Hi di Hi and Dad’s Army and many others.

The large locomotive and carriage works are at the Sheringham end of the station with steam locomotives, diesels and wagons.




The line now follows the coast and along the golf course with views of the cliffs, before dropping down to Sheringham.



Approaching the station, tokens are exchanged at Sheringham West signal box


Sheringham Station still has the original station buildings.


The Midland & Great Northern Joint Railways Preservation Society originally leased Sheringham Station from British Railways, but in 2001 there were plans to evict the railway and redevelop the station site as a supermarket. Funds were raised to buy the station buildings, which have since been completely restored to their 1950s appearance with green and cream paintwork.

The company then went on to raise money to reinstate the level crossing at Sheringham, reconnecting the North Norfolk Railway to Network Rail. This now allows through running of trains from Network Rail for special events.

Sheringham was once a large and busy station with three platforms.




There is a picnic area at the far end.


Sherringham East signal box is at the far end of the station, overlooking both stations.


It is a 25 minute very relaxing journey, through some lovely scenery, particularly between Weybourne and Sheringham, and definitely a trip back into a more leisurely way of travel.
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