The 36¾ mile Norwich & Brandon Railway, incorporated in 1844, backed by George & Robert Stephenson and built by Grissell and Peto, opened as the Norfolk Railway with a double track line on 30th July 1845. It made an end-on connection at Brandon with the Eastern Counties Railway, which had extended it's route from Shoreditch to Newport, Essex northwards via Cambridge and Ely on the same day. At Norwich, services terminated at Trowse until the Swingbridge was completed on the 15th December 1845 from when through services commenced between London, Norwich and Great Yarmouth, calling at Wymondham.
For the townsfolk of Wymondham, the coming of the railway was a huge event, coming at the height of the so-called "Railway Mania" (not unlike the dot.com boom of the late 1990s) ending the market towns rural isolation and paving the way for the growth of industry to supplement the predominantly agricultural rural economy. The Railway telegraph arrived - in it's day just as important in the communication of information as the internet has become in recent years. And there was also "Railway Time" as clocks were coordinated across the country.
Growth continued with the opening of the branch line from Wymondham to Dereham - now the 'Mid-Norfolk Railway' - on 15th February 1847, and later with it's extensions to Fakenham and Wells. In 1862, Wymondham became part of the giant Great Eastern Railway Company (which amalgamated many of the smaller companies) and whose initials "GER" can still be seen today in our platform seats and canopy brackets. Wymondham became a railway crossroads on 2nd May 1881 when the 6¾ mile line to Forncett, on the direct Norwich to London line via Ipswich was opened.
The station building circa.1890 - horse-drawn cabs wait outside
In 1923, in an attempt to stem financial losses, the GER became part of the London and North Eastern Railway (one of the 'Big Four' railway companies covering the whole country) until railway nationalisation in 1948 created "British Railways". And in the 1990s, the railways were privatised once more with the end of "British Rail" and the creation of 25 Train Operating Companies (TOCs) to run trains with Railtrack owning and operating the infrastructure. Now, most of the UKs TOCs are owned by just four big multinational companies. Train services at Wymondham Station are currently provided by Greater Anglia and East Midlands Trains, whilst the track and signalling infrastructure is owned by Network Rail.
At one time, Wymondham was provided with a staff of more than 50 "railway servants". There were station porters, shunters, goods clerks, ticket office staff, signalmen, permanent way (track) men, lampmen, carters, refreshment room staff, locomotive drivers, firemen and guards all based at Wymondham and presided over by the Station Master - at one time one of the most important figures in the town.
The station staff, circa.1890. the young boy in the centre would have been the 'lad porter'
While wages were not that good, the railway was seen as secure employment and for many, working on the railway became a family tradition. For many businesses, the railway opened up new markets with goods being despatched across the country from Wymondham and industries attracted to set up in the town. The railway was then a "common carrier" which meant that it carried anything and everything. If you wanted to send a goat to Inverness you just took it down to the station! And of course, goods arrived into the town too - the price of coal dropped when the railway opened because it was so much easier and cheaper to transport it in a railway wagon than by horse and cart.
The railway become a vital supply line for the town, never more so than in the two world wars, when there was heavy miltary traffic on Wymondham's railways. But after 1945, the inexorable rise of the motor car and improvements in the road system signalled the start of decline of the railways' predominant role in the in the distribution of goods and people. The line from Wymondham to Forncett was closed to passengers in 1939 at the outbreak of war, and goods traffic was withdrawn in 1951 - a short stub remained at Wymondham which was used by Kings Scrap Metal for dismantling and storing redundant railway rolling stock. The decline of the railways' fortunes continued into the 50s and 60s. Despite reduction to single track in June 1965 and economies in train working, the Wymondham-Dereham line closed to passengers in October 1969 although freight traffic continued until June 1989. Through the efforts of dedicated enthusiasts and volunteers, the line was never lifted and survives today as the Mid Norfolk Railway.
A BRCW unit crosses a Cravens DMU on 21st March 1979 Photo © Mark Dufton
Meanwhile, Wymondham station gradually lost most of it's through trains to London over the years and by January 1967 was left with a stopping service between Norwich and Cambridge on a route marketed as "The Breckland Line". As the freight and goods workings disappeared so did the staff required and on 6th March 1967, Wymondham station was destaffed completely (except for the signalman) and the "Paytrain" concept was introduced with tickets being sold on board the trains. Happily, after nearly 40 years, this trend was reversed with the opening of a new ticket sales point at Wymondham station, but was closed again in April 2011.To read a more detailed account of the way train services have changed along the line over the years, especially in more recent times, click here.
A 3 Car Met-Cam DMU Paytrain at Wymondham in 1983. Photo © David & Alan Hook.
W.H. Smiths had a bookstall on Platform 2 at Wymondham (a sub-stall of Norwich) from Great Eastern Railway days up until 7th January 1968. Newspapers printed in London were despatched overnight by dedicated 'Paper Trains', the bundles dropped off for Smiths at the station, and then daily newspaper deliveries were made locally from there. We are indebted to the Archivist at W.H.Smiths for the information and the provision of the photograph of the Wymondham Bookstall, which although undated, seems to be from the early 1950s.
The original 1845 station building on platform one (the Norwich platform) happily survived through all the railways good and bad years, but after destaffing, began to fall into a sad state of disrepair. Fortunately, local businessman David Turner saw it's potential and in the late 1980s negotiated a lease with British Rail's Property Board on the whole station. Gradually, and with a lot of hard work, the building was brought back to life, culminating in the beautifully restored and decorated building housing his Brief Encounter Refreshment Room & Restaurant, David Turner Pianos, and his railwayana collection. The Brief Encounter Restaurant was officially opened in October 1989 by Dad's Army star Bill Pertwee. Ten years later, a large anniversary celebration was held, featuring the famous Flying Scotsman locomotive. All the time and effort put by David Turner into the restoration work, and into the maintenance and upkeep of the buildings and the floral displays were rewarded with the station winning a number of prizes over the years in both regional and national competitions. In 2006, the station was awarded the ultimate accolade, being named "Small Station of the Year" at the National Rail Awards. You can read more about "The Brief Encounter Restaurant" further down this page.
David Turner took a well-earned retirement in February 2011, after 23 years at the Station, and sold his railwayana collection. The catering business continues under new ownership, trading as the Station Bistro.
David Turner tends to spring flowers at Wymondham Station (Picture: EDP)
Wymondham is a growing town these days, and eleven years ago, under sponsorship from the former Strategic Rail Authority and Anglia Railways, the Norwich to Cambridge train service was enhanced to an approximately hourly frequency and with a new 90 space car park to cope with the numbers of commuters travelling daily to Norwich, Cambridge and London, Wymondham station has, happily, undergone a revival in its fortunes. We hope you can visit us very soon and look forward to welcoming you to Wymondham Historic Railway Station.
Click 'Play' above for a 4 minute video history of Wymondham Historic Railway Station
DIESEL TRAIN DRIVER
In 1959, British Transport Films produced a series of staff instructional films for British Railways entitled 'Diesel Train Driver' which were shown to rail staff involved with the change from steam to diesel traction. One of these films, focusing on fault-finding on the then still relatively new diesel multiple unit trains, was made, in part, at Wymondham, and some still frames from the film are shown below.
Left: The driver has left his cab to find out what is wrong with the supposedly stricken train. Note the gas lamp and the platform flat trolley, used for parcels and light goods as well as mail bags and newspapers. The wagon in the (still extant) siding in the foreground appears to contain flints, which were still being sent away by rail from local sources at this time. The train is a (built at) Derby unit - ten of this type were based at Norwich in 1959. The train has been cleaned to an exceptionally high standard for the 'filming job'. Right: A more general view of the platforms. Note that the train doesn't have the so-called speed whiskers on the front, but that the cab roof is painted white - not entirely practical, but it looks good in a black and white film!
Left: A fine study of the driver (in immaculate uniform for the filming of course!), showing the junction for the Dereham line, which was still double track at that time, and Wymondham South Junction signalbox. The line directly behind the signalbox contains the coaling stage and pit - both steam and later diesel locomotives were serviced here, although Wymondham never had an engine shed. Right: In the film, the driver is required to liase with the signalman and is seen climbing the steps up to the box and then, in this shot, conversing with the signaller - whose uniform buttons are also exceptionally shiny!
Left: The train is shown in the sidings next to the Goods Shed. This bay platform was not generally used for passenger trains, and indeed the rear carriage is not actually adjacent to the platform edge. Right: The rear carriage is clearly seen on the angled centre road, with the driver climbing into his cab. Immediately on the other side of the train was the wagon turntable, used to turn wagons through 90° to access the goods shed. In the distance, the railway cottages and the former station master's house, behind the buffer stops, are little changed even today.
You can view the complete film on YouTube here.
CALLING AT ALL STATIONS....
Today fast trains take us along the route from Norwich and Wymondham to Ely, Peterborough and beyond. The village stations with their gated crossings and Victorian signal boxes provide plenty of clues that this is a route with a history. The pine and bracken of Thetford forest and the rich fenland soil have witnessed many changes since 1845. This is a brief guide to the stations past and present along the route – a mixture of history and obscure trivia. Click Here
(Information supplied by the Peterborough-Ely-Norwich Rail Users Group)
PASSING THROUGH WYMONDHAM - A DRIVERS-EYE VIEW
The view from the cab of a DMU (diesel multiple unit train) en-route from Norwich to Cambridge and passing through Wymondham Station, filmed in 1983. It is interesting to note how much the passing scene has changed over the last 26 years.
MORE ARCHIVE VIDEO
WYMONDHAM GOODS - 1985/6
A vanished scene from Brirtish Rail days 25 years ago. On an early summer day, diesel locomotive 37040 brings the mixed freight from North Elmham and Dereham into Wymondham, stopping outside the signalbox to return the single line token. Note the Guard riding in the brakevan. The train shunts back into the down sidings and deposits the brakevan, before moving out onto the main line and setting back ready to move into the up sidings. Later, having left the Dereham wagons in the up sidings and collected some cement tanks, and then returned to the down sidings to reattach the brakevan, the loco powers out of the yard and away through the station towards Norwich, leaving a trail of exhaust fumes. The video also includes brief shots of the interior of Wymondham Signalbox, and glimpses of Met Cam and Cravens DMUs on local stopping services.
THE BRIEF ENCOUNTER RESTAURANT
From October 1989 until February 2011, the catering outlet at Wymondham Station traded as 'The Brief Encounter Restaurant', under the ownership of David Turner. With it's wonderful home cooked lunches, morning coffees and afternoon cream teas - all could be enjoyed in the surroundings of the beautifully restored and decorated original station building, built in 1845.
Brief Encounter was voted as one of the UK's Top Ten Station Eateries in May 2009 by The Guardian newspaper. The Brief Encounter Restaurant and the Wymondham Station Ticket Office were jointly awarded 1st Prize as "Best Station Retail Outlet" at the 2008 Community Rail Awards.
The Restaurant was featured on ITV1s "Tales from the Country" in 2008 - click 'play' below to see a short excerpt from the programme.
The 'Brief Encounter Restaurant' at Wymondham station was shortlisted for the "Best Station Buffet" award at the 2007 Community Rail Awards. Here's what the Judges said:
"The Brief Encounter café at Wymondham Station typifies a fantastic mix of business entrepreneurialism and commitments to the local community. The proprietor David Turner’s efforts have been recognised previously for his contribution in the caring for the station, with superb floral displays and the immaculately kept station building. The Brief Encounter is a thriving catering business with an excellent reputation for its food and is the catalyst for everything that is good about the station."
The Restaurant paid homage to one of the most fondly remembered classic British romantic films of all time, Noel Coward's "Brief Encounter".
Released in 1946, and directed by David Lean, Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard starred as the two strangers who fall in love after meeting accidentally in the refreshment room at a railway station. Unfortunately, both are already married - but their romance blossoms over the tea and cakes! There were many still photographs from the film on display, together with lots of interesting items connected with it.
The Brief Encounter Restaurant was visited by a number of well-known names from the world of entertainment over the years. The official opening ceremony was performed by Bill Pertwee (Mr. Hodges in "Dads Army") and more recently stars such as Dora Bryan, Su Pollard, Rita Tushingham, Virginia McKenna, Sylvia Syms and Shirley-Anne Field have visited, in connection with personal appearances in Wymondham when their films have been shown at "The Regal Experience". You can find details here. A guest in April 2008 was the much-loved comedy actress June Whitfield, star of Absolutely Fabulous. In 2010, both former politician and now TV presenter Michael Portillo and the late actress Susannah York visited Wymondham Station.
'Recently I went to a small railway museum at Helensville, New Zealand. The enthusiasm of the man there reminded me of going to your station and refreshment rooms during my visit to Wymondham a year ago. On my return from NZ I decided to look your website up and remember with great joy the lovely time I had in Norfolk. I was taken to your station by a friend from Hethersett. We loved the fresh daffodils on the tables. Thanks for the wonderful memories from your website too'. - Ruth Duncan, Australia by e-mail 17/3/09
'I enjoyed enormously my visit to Wymondham Station on a recent stay with friends near Norwich. I was impressed by the cleanliness and ambience and of course the 'Brief Encounter'. I live in Trowbridge, the county town of Wiltshire, and our main line station is a sorry comparison with your delightful one'. - Peter Bubb by e-mail 19/11/08
'Just wanted to praise you on an excellent meal that myself and my family enjoyed when visiting you yesterday (table 3); the food was excellent and the atmosphere wonderful.' - Darren Rose by e-mail 13/8/07
'I would just like to add my name to the list of many
people who have expressed their appreciation of the beautiful and
evocative Brief Encounter Restaurant and enjoyed a delicious meal.' - Virginia McKenna, Actress and Wildlife Campaigner, by e-mail 10/9/07
Actress Virginia McKenna joined David Turner at the Brief Encounter Restaurant on Sunday 9th September 2007.
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The www.wymondham-station.com website is operated independantly by Wymondham Station Adopters and not by Abellio Greater Anglia or East Midlands Trains. Information and links are shown for the benefit both of customers using the businesses based at the station and travellers using the train services calling there.