Lost Railways of the Broads
It was rather an inclement June
evening when 28 of us arrived at this
very different and interesting Museum,
which sits comfortably along-side the
water’s edge at Stalham. After an
introduction we each had the opportunity
to have a look round.
Some chose also to take a ride on Falcon,
a beautiful steam launch built in 1895, interestingly commissioned for Sir Edmund Lacon from the famous Lacon Brewery. Some of us were rained-on in the boat, but the peaceful trip in the misty evening light more than compensated for a little damp and didn’t at all worry the parent swans with their five cygnets or the small regiment of geese that steered their way carefully around us.
From Roman times we see how this special area has developed, how local folk worked the land, how boats of various sizes carried goods up and down the rivers, and of course how the large boats we know as Wherries carried everything from coal to grain along the rivers through the broads to Great Yarmouth.
The Museum’s 2019 Special Exhibition is The Lost Railway of the Broads. It is 60 years since this section of
our railway network closed and was
and still is to a degree sorely
missed. It tells the story of how
important the railway was in
bringing the holiday industry to
this area from the 1880’s to 1959.
Steam trains from the Midlands
carried hundreds of excited
passengers as they alighted with
their suitcases ready to enjoy the
delights of Coast and Broads. Holiday camps provided entertainment day and night. The photograph is North Walsham Railway Station in 1959, on the old Broads railway (picture: MEMBERS OF THE M&GN CIRCLE).
It must have been a magical journey for adults and children alike. I thought the ticket office, the photos, and the information given was extremely informative.
After wandering around I found myself in the Oulton Boatshed, quite alone, looking at the boats. I thought of the Marshman cutting the reed for thatching, working and living on the Broads; of the boat builders, people who years ago lived quite isolated lives; of the wherries and the folk who lived hard lives on these vessels. But I thought also of the joy that this special area has brought to so many and still does to this day, and of the people who now work to manage this area and especially of this Museum giving us a living history, encouraging all who visit to appreciate how special Broadland really is.
Janet Edwards (with bits by Noel)