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Friday, 31 August 2012

Bure Valley Railway

In a nutshell

Gauge:   15"

Length: 9 miles

Opened: 10th July, 1990


Bure Valley Railway,
Aylsham Station,
Norwich Road,
NR11 6BW

View Narrow Gauge Railways in a larger map
Tel,: 01263 733 858


Date of visit: 26 August 2012


Key Facts

    • The railway is built on the trackbed of the former standard gauge railway from Wroxham to Aylsham in Norfolk 
    • A footpath/cyclepath runs alongside the railway for its entire length
    • The railway regards itself as narrow gauge rather than miniature
    • It has five steam locomotives - four of which are based on the Indian Railways ZB class of locomotive (one has been modelled on a Vale of Rheidol loco and another resembles a Leek & Manifold loco). The fifth loco started life as a diesel locomotive and has operated on a range of railways across the country. It was converted to steam power when it joined the Bure Valley in 1991
    • The railway possesses three diesel locomotives
    • The station at Aylsham includes a cafe, a model railway shop and sells souvenirs. There is also a shop run by volunteers which sells secondhand books and memorabilia.




    My Impressions

    I arrived at the Aylsham Station in the late afternoon on a Sunday and was in time for the penultimate service of the day - the last steam-hauled service. I had half an hour to kill and so treated myself to coffee and cake in the Whistlestop café ..........

     ......... and had time to browse through the books in the volunteers' shop ...........

    .......... and view the model railway stuff and souvenirs in the shop where I also bought my ticket for the journey.

     The train-shed at the station is quite impressive, giving the railway an air of importance. At the end of Platform 2 was the line's principal diesel hydraulic loco, "2nd Air Division USAAF" so-named to commemorate the B24 Liberator bomber crews who flew out of Norfolk's airfields during WW II.

    With the other passengers, I made my way to Platform 3 where 2-6-2 locomotive "Spitfire" was waiting to haul the train to Wroxham.

    The 15" locos on the Bure Valley are impressive machines, well matched to hauling their trains at quite impressive speeds along the nine mile route.

    Before long the whistle sounded and we were off. For almost the entire journey a footpath/cycle path shares route of the railway.

    The train bowled along at what seemed like a remarkable speed, exaggerated by the closeness to the ground and by the clickety-clack of the wheels over the rail-joints. Within a short while we pulled into Brampton Station, though we didn't stop on this occasion as there were no passengers to be picked-up or dropped-off.

    Further along the line we arrived at Buxton where we dropped off a couple of passengers.

    We crossed the River Bure on a girder bridge which also includes a footbridge for walkers and cyclists.

     We soon rolled into the passing loop which marks the midway point of the railway where we awaited the arrival of the Up train, hauled by "Spitfire's" sister locomotive, 2-6-2 "Blickling Hall".

    After a short while we reached Coltishall Station near the site of the WWII airfield which was the base for the Spitfire 124 Squadron after which our locomotive was named. It was also the base at which the legless air ace Douglas Bader was based earlier in the war.

    At Wroxham we had twenty minutes while the loco was turned .........

    ....... in preparation for the return journey.

    The final train of the day which we passed at the midway point was hauled by the line's diesel.

    Before long, we passed through the line's tunnel before arriving back at the terminus in Aylsham.

    As the day was coming to a close, I was able to do some trainspotting ad the end of the platform as the steam locos were being refuelled and stabled for the night.

    The workshops are open to visitors and so, with the distinctive smell of steam oil and coal smoke in the air I reluctantly departed from this fascinating little railway.

    Despite its diminutive size, the railway is run in a highly professional manner. I found all the staff to be helpful and devoted to their work which is hardly surprising considering the attractiveness of the railway and its environs. One day, I will return to take some trackside shots.


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