Query Corner

Q14.05. East Anglian Route Connections

Most of the routes are well documented, but information of use and dates of opening and closing of these two is sought There appear to have been some early lines or curves in East Anglia which had a short existence.

In particular a curve from east to south at Reedham which would have enabled trains to go direct from Yarmouth to Lowestoft before later lines via Haddiscoe and Yarmouth South Town. Certainly in October 2004 there was clear evidence of a railway cutting to the east of Reedham junction leading towards the river and swing bridge. Also there was a south to east curve at Wells next the Sea avoiding the station.



It had at one time been suggested that some of the linking lines might have been constructed at the insistence of the War Office to facilitate troop movements around the coast in defence against invasion, but this has now been largely discounted. Even basic information remains absent in many cases, especially dates of construction, opening and closing. With regard to the east curve at Reedham which facilitated a direct route from Lowestoft to Yarmouth, Branch Line News 1015 of 2006 gives several answers, the most likely being: a) Opened May 1847, closed June 1859 when the East Suffolk line opened. b) Cobb’s Atlas gives dates 1847 – 1878. c) Per Dr. Ian C. Allen’s 55 Years of East Anglian Steam (OPC 1982), the line was in use in 1926. The south-to-west spur linking the West Norfolk branch and the Wymondham to Wells 'main line, thus avoiding Wells was completed in or after 1866 when the Heacham – Wells line opened, or even as late as the 1880s. It was rarely if ever used by through traffic, appearing on a map dated 1891 but was removed soon afterwards. A stub of the eastern end is shown on a 1906 map but this had gone by the 1920s. (AB:7641, WK:21275, and CP, JG, GP of the GER Society).

Reedham curve.
I can't answer for the position between 1847 and 1857 but by the latter date there was certainly no through passenger service between Lowestoft and Yarmouth, as attested by Bradshaw's Guides that happen to be available on-line for the following months: July 1857, January 1858 and August 1858 (you can find them through the Google Books site), while the July 1859 edition - the first there available with new line between Beccles and Yarmouth - doesn't show any Lowestoft - Yarmouth direct trains by either route (indeed, it doesn't even make any attempt to set out "connections" between the two coastal towns). The first GE attempt at a Lowestoft - Yarmouth service seems to have been in 1872, via the Haddiscoe east curve. What prospective freight (goods at that date, of course!) traffic there might have been between 1847 and 1872 must be moot, in view of Lowestoft's relatively small size (less than 5000 souls at 1841 census) and the fact that both were ports, and that water-borne traffic was well established. Perhaps the curve was built (if it ever was really built?) - with the Lowestoft branch - in 1847 merely for turning engines of the new Reedham - Lowestoft branch trains....
The Ordnance Survey survey of 1884 (the earliest available on-line, at http://maps.nls.uk/view/101583452 ) shows the curve without track (later editions do state "Abandoned railway" but is there proof it was laid?). Not surprisingly, the GER Operating Department's Diagrammatic Map of System dated 25 December 1919 (a detailed track layout plan reprinted by the GER Society in 1986) gives no hint of a curve nor any relevant pointwork, so the rumour that it had simply been left, to be fortuitously used again in 1926 when St.Olave's swing bridge was replaced, must therefore be wrong: if it were used for diversions, it would actually have involved complete rebuilding (and resignalling) (so is there any evidence in the Railway Inspectorate's reports of the period?). And, anyway, what traffic would have warranted the (not exactly cash-rich LNER) engaging in such an elaborate engineering exercise, bearing in mind the other diversionary routes available.
The speculation about use in WW2 can be no more than that (what on earth purpose would such connection serve when there were alternative routes already available?) - there is no hint of such connection in the series of articles on the wartime works that were undertaken which appeared in Railway Gazette from 7 September 1945 onwards and which were subsequently abridged in Railway Magazine of March and May 1946.(RM)

last updated: 07/02/15