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Bid to unearth Norwich's lost rail stations

PUBLISHED: 18:07 30 December 2010

Members of Friends of Norwich City Station helping to uncover and preserve one of Norwich's lost train stations. Left to right, John Batley (project manager), Gareth Kidman, Dan Knight and Stuart McPherson. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Members of Friends of Norwich City Station helping to uncover and preserve one of Norwich's lost train stations. Left to right, John Batley (project manager), Gareth Kidman, Dan Knight and Stuart McPherson. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2010

A group of dedicated volunteers are working hard to unearth and preserve the remains of the city's forgotten train stations for future generations.

At one time Norwich had three thriving stations, but two were closed and have been demolished and long forgotten. Only one remains in use.

But a group of local train enthusiasts, called the Friends of Norwich City Station, have begun to unearth what still remains of the buildings and tracks, and document the memories of those who worked at them.

Jon Batley, 39, lives on Drayton Road and is leading work at the City Station site near Halfords in Norwich.

He wrote a letter to the Evening News earlier this month and said that it had brought lots of interested people forward to tell their stories.

“The response has been immense,” he said.

“The memories that people have left have been fascinating.”

The group contacted the council to see who owned the land the station sat on and were told that since the decline of British Rail it had become public land.

They have been clearing shrubs and trees and digging up the ground to find what remains of the station.

Although most of the two 700ft long platforms are now gone, they have found much of the two shorter platforms and a 40ft inspection pit.

“It’s been derelict for many, many years. When you’re down there people come up to you and say ‘what are you doing?’ They say ‘was there a railway station here?’,” said Mr Batley.

“It’s been largely forgotten since 1969 when it was swept away. When I was a young boy, I can remember my dad taking me down there and the platform was still there, and suddenly it was all gone and swept away.

“It’s been a life-long passion. We were all brought up as young lads around that area and remember it fondly. We’ve decided to preserve what we can.

“We’re not there to make it into a play park; we’re there to preserve the remains we find as a tribute to the people who worked there.

“There’s all sorts of little bits and pieces still there and its all coming to light, which is great. There are lots of remains,” he added.

Several people who remember using the station have come forward to the group to tell their stories.

Brian Ward, 78, was a fitter on the railway for 50 years from 1948.

He now lives off Hall Road and remembers working at the main station, but taking trips to City Station to fix engines when they broke down.

“I lived in Reepham years ago and I travelled to city station to work every day,” he said.

“The engines were maintained at Melton but they were stabled overnight at City Station and, if anything cropped up, we had to go over there.

“They used to have two or three engines there at a time.

“When the steam went away it was like a bereavement to me,” he said.

He remembered his career and the station fondly but was less optimistic about the future of the remains still left, which managed to escape demolition.

“I don’t see how you’re going to stop progress. If those bits of platform get in the way, they’re going to do them over,” he said.

The group has also been working at Hellesdon Railway Station, where it has uncovered three quarters of a platform which had been buried.

Hellesdon was the first stop on the Norwich branch line from City Station to Cromer or King’s Lynn.

It is hoped that more people will come forward with memories and photographs of Norwich’s lost stations, and that more interested volunteers will come forward and help with the project.

One of the most needed items are detailed maps of the area from later in the station’s life. Currently the group only have maps from 1909 and 1928, before the Second World War bombing changed the area dramatically.

Anyone with information or who would like to assist the preservation effort should contact Mr Batley on 07813 166325 or email j.batley@tesco.net.

Do you know anything about any of the Norwich stations? Call reporter Matthew Sparkes on 01603 772439 or email matthew.sparkes@archant.co.uk

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