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Heacham to Wells 
The West Norfolk junction

1866-1964

Welcome to Norfolk's disused railway's coverage from the disused railway line in-between

Heacham and Wells.

The stations along the route were 

Heacham

Sedgeford

Docking

Stanhoe

Burnham Market

Holkham

Wells

The Line originally was to have been built as an extension from the King's Lynn to Hunstanton branch line. Running from King's Lynn towards Holme next to sea through Thornham, turning to the East towards Brancaster, into Burnham Market, and Wells.

Also, the railway could have been extended through to Cromer and Norwich, but none of these plans came to see the light of day.

This plan would have meant the line would have had to travel through the new Hunstanton town, upsetting the hotel and the tourist attraction owners and going through a chalk ridge just after the station at the new Hunstanton town.

Henry le Strange, who had started the construction of the King's Lynn to Hunstanton railway, sadly died just before the Hunstanton line opened.

His widow Jamesina also opposed the extension, not wanting trains running through the town. Considering all these problems, John Sutherland Valentine, the King's Lynn to Hunstanton railway engineer, chose a start point two miles away from Hunstanton at Heacham.

So it was agreed that the new branch line would start from Heacham station and head east towards Wells, where a connection was also available for Dereham Fakenham and Wymondham.

The line in mind was to be a very simple, low-cost railway.

On the 23rd of June 1864, the line was given royal assent.

The total cost of the railway would be £100,000, costing £20,000 more to build than the King's Lynn to Hunstanton railway, which cost £80,000. The Hunstanton branch was also classed as a low-cost railway. Still, the King's Lynn to Hunstanton railway needed no severe infrastructure as being built on relatively flat land compared to the West Norfolk branch.

The West Norfolk branch was quite a difficult line to build compared to the Hunstanton branch, with cuttings, bridges and other engineering needed along this line. In contrast, the Hunstanton branch did not need as much engineering work.

A prime example is that Docking station was roughly 250 feet above sea level, whereas wells and Heacham were 20 feet.

The stations along the line were relatively simple, with Holkham and Stanhoe being simple stations with no goods line and only one platform compared with Docking and Burnham Market, which had goods yards and station master's houses.

Up to the end of its passenger services, the line was one of the last where one could travel in gas-lit clerestory coaches hauled by Victorian locomotives.

The line never had good results; with some of the stations sited long distances from the villages they served, the line closed on Saturday 31st of May 1952, worked by a class 4-4-0 engine driven by A.W Dowdy from Wells.

The line stayed open for freight use apart from one special pilgrim passenger service from Kettering to Walsingham.

This was to be the last passenger train along this route.

In 1953 the floods hit Norfolk and damaged the line between Holkham and wells, and British railway considered this part not worth the money it would need to spend on the washed-away line to reopen this short section.

In 1955 the line just past Burnham Market had been lifted, and a buffer stop was installed just past the station.

The remaining 11 miles 43 chains of the line between Burnham Market and Heacham ran for another 11 years and closed entirely in 1964

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Heacham station

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Heacham station started the West Norfolk branch line; Heacham also had services to Hunstanton and King's Lynn.

Heacham had three platforms, with two serving King's Lynn Hunstanton services.

A passing loop served the two platforms serving King's Lynn to Hunstanton services as the line arriving and departing was a single line.

The third platform at Heacham was a bay platform where the well's services started and terminated from the east side of the Hunstanton line.

The main station building was typical of the King's Lynn to Hunstanton railway's L-shaped design.

Heacham also had its own station hotel and a public house called the West Norfolk.

The station closed down with the closure of the Hunstanton branch line in 1969 and is now used as holiday accommodation.

Heacham station also has an old British railways mark one first-class carriage on site that's also used as holiday accommodation.

Heacham station past

Looking towards Hunstanton, a DMU is heading towards Hunstanton from Heacham, with the West Norfolk branch Junction seen heading off towards Wells to the right.

I would like once again to give a personal thanks to King's Lynn and area Model by J T Colquhoun for the use of the three pictures used below.

These pictures came from his dad's collection; please do not reuse them without permission.

The first two were by R Booth and the last by G Pring. 

 

The first shows a busy Box, and the last, the sad remains of the Wells line junction after closure, with a Derby Lightweight.

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A DMU leaving Heacham off towards Hunstanton in the last days of the line as the line had already been made into a single line simple layout railway.

The West Norfolk branch's track layout had been lifted when this picture was taken.

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King's Lynn and area Model by J T Colquhoun for the use of the three pictures used above.

Heacham present

Heacham railway station
Heacham railway station

The train leaving the Heacham station bay platform headed off to the West Norfolk junction sited just outside Heacham station.

The train would have either gone along a short part of the King's Lynn to Hunstanton branch before reaching the junction.Or alond a dedicated line from the bay platform at Heacham.

The picture below shows the rear of the Leaside housing estate that was built over where the line once ran many years ago.

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After leaving Heacham we come across the West Norfolk junction seen below that can still be made out when photographed in 2020.

Wells services ran off to the right while Hunstanton services went off stright ahead.

west norfolk branch
Heacham wells branch

Aerial view of what remains of the West Norfolk junction taken in 2020.

In the aerial shot, you can see where the old line has been built over on after closure.

Inbetween Snettisham and Heacham.

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The following two pictures are views from the old track bed. The first is viewed from the Kings Lynn Hunstanton line bed.

 

Looking towards the right is the old well's line

The second is viewed from the Wells branch with the Hunstanton line bed to the left.

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This picture shows where the wells line curved away from heacham bending around a new built housing estate and sports, social club in Heacham

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Sadly overgrown but luckily not vandalised or touched, these old railway buffers lay not far from where the railway curved sharply, leaving Heacham.

 

It could be nature's way of protecting these long-lost reminders of the past. 

Heacham buffer remains
west norfolk junction
heacham wells railway

The following pictures are after the sharp curve and where the railway line straightened and went straight off to Sedgeford Station.

 

Picture 1 is facing towards the Heacham junction. Picture number 2 is behind the Sports social club looking towards Sedgeford. 

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The line came next across Hunstanton road in Heacham, where a crossing cottage remains to this day and is used as accommodation.

After the crossing at Hunstanton road, the line headed towards Sedgeford through where this gate now sits.

After this field, there was another Crossing cottage at Ringstead road just outside Heacham village.

Not far from where the A149 bypass now sits.

After this crossing, the line went through the open countryside for a short distance before reaching its next station Sedgeford.

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Sedgeford station

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Sedgeford station opened

on the 17th August 1866

Closed on the 2nd June 1952 for passengers

On the 28th of December 1964, the station closed for goods.

Sedgeford station is 2 miles and 64 chains away from Heacham station.

Sedgeford had one platform, a level crossing, and its signal box in the early days. This was said to have been abolished in the 1920s, and in its place, a three-lever ground frame and a gatekeeper's hut were built.

Sedgeford was one of the smaller stations on the old disused route with only a small goods siding on the downside of the line.

Sedgeford station was a long way from the main village, making access for passengers very difficult to use this line, so most of the station's use was agricultural freight, not passenger use.

Sedgeford also had a small RAF base RAF Sedgeford based some distance from the railway station

1915-1919
1940-1942

The RAF base was minimal in size, and it's unknown if the railway had any help in constructing the airfield.

The Airbase is now used for agricultural use.

This line further up in 1953 was affected by nature being hit by floods at Holkham, but Sedgeford was also hit many times by bad winters.

In 1867 the station was closed for several days due to a snow drift.

In 1927 a train again got stuck at Sedgeford due to snow drifts.
Finally, during the arctic winter of 1947, another snow drift affected the station's operations, with three engines blocked off with snow in the march of that year with the crossing gates under the snow and one

engine under 8 feet of snow.

Currently, the station remains and is used as accommodation with a signal box also on the station.

The signal box that is at Sedgeford is not the original signal box, and I am not entirely sure but researching, I think this signal box was originally from Hilgay

 off the King's Lynn to Cambridge line.

Many thanks to the owner who let me photograph his property and chat with him about the old railway.

Thanks again lovely to speak to like-minded people

Sedgeford railway station
Sedgeford railway station

RAF Sedgeford Memorial

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Leaving Sedgeford, the railway went through the open countryside before reaching Docking.

 

Between Sedgeford and Docking, I found this Road bridge crossing still in excellent condition and used as a road crossing.

 

This bridge has sadly been used as a tipping ground for general rubbish.

Bridge HWS 1798

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After the bridge, the line weaved through the open countryside crossing over a small road bridge that has no trace left at all and passing through a cutting, whilst climbing to 250ft above sea level before arriving at the next station along the line Docking.

Docking station

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Docking station opened on the 17th of August 1886 and closed to passengers on the 2nd of June 1952 and freight on the 28th of December 1964

Docking was 6 miles and 21 chains from Heacham.

Docking station was also roughly 250ft above sea level, the highest station along this route.

Looking on a map, Heacham was roughly 20 ft, Sedgeford was approximately 100 ft, Docking was approximately 250ft, Stanhoe was approximately 170 ft, Burnham market was approximately 30 ft, Holkham was approximately 10 ft, and Wells was 20 ft. Showing the steep gradient needed along this route for the engines.

Docking was the only station to have two platforms and a passing loop. Docking is also the largest intermediate station on the West Norfolk railway line, with loops and sidings on both sides of the platforms.

To the Western side of the platform stood a level crossing; the upside of the easterly platform stood the signal box with a 32-lever frame installed inside the signal box.

The downside platform had a brick-built gable-ended waiting room with a canopy sited on the platform.

Docking station was like stations on the King's Lynn to Hunstanton route, being in an L-shaped design.

The goods yard at Docking was quite substantial, with a large shed on the line's downside.

Marsters granary, sited by the railway line, also had private sidings.

Docking railway station today still stands, from what I could see. The platforms are still intact and part of the station's garden.

Regarding the platforms of the old station that remain, I wonder if they have been shortened or are still full-length.

The railway goods shed at Docking has been demolished for housing, and after where the station stands, new houses have been built over where the old track bed once laid.

The site of the old granary is now built over with a housing estate.

Next to the new housing estate stands an old building that I can only imagine was part of the old granary buildings.

Reading online, the original granary buildings were destroyed by fire and replaced with a new building that has now been demolished.

Please tweet me if you have any information. 

@Norfolksdisused

Docking station photographed in 2022.

Looking at these pictures, the platforms might have been shortened to make way for the housing behind the station building.

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Station road Docking to the left is where the new housing estate is being constructed on what would have been the old granary site.

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Part of what must be the old granary building that was left behind after surviving the fire that destroyed the rest in the 1940s.

The site to the side is the Construction site of the new housing thats being built where the granary once stood.

Marsters' seeds building next to the railway crossing

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Demolition of the old granary.

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The old goods shed at docking that's now demolished and replaced with housing. The houses seen to the front of the goods shed, their back gardens would have been where the railway once ran out of Docking and on towards Stanhoe.

Leaving docking, the next station along the route would have been Stanhoe.

Stanhoe was a very short distance from docking. Once again, the railway would have passed through very rural Norfolk countryside along the short distance between these stations, passing only over a minor road crossing where the cottage still remains to this day.

Stanhoe station

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Stanhoe station had one platform and had the most simple layouts of all the stations along the line. 

Stanhoe was 8 miles 26 chains from Heacham.

Stanhoe had no goods sidings and only a tiny waiting room built from local flint and brick.

To the west of the station, there was also a level crossing.

Stanhoe station was the most rural station along the line, over a mile from the main village.

To this day, Stanhoe station remains intact with the station building and the platforms.

When I visited this station, it was used as a private residential home.

Stanhoe station is seen during the line's open days.

This picture was found via a Facebook group. .

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Stanhoe station taken in the summer of 2020

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Leaving Stanhoe station, the train headed towards Burnham Market, coasting downhill through rural Norfolk, crossing over an isolated crossing close to Burnham Market station, passing the goods shed, and arriving at Burnham Market station.

Burnham Market station

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Opened on the 17th of August 1866 as Burnham, the station was renamed Burnham Market in June 1883, and this name remained until the closure in 1964; Burnham Market in 1952 closed to passenger services and remained open for freight use only.

During the floods of 1953, the line between Burnham Market and wells was severely damaged; British railways decided it was not financially viable to replace the track there, and in 1955, the railway track was lifted, and a buffer was placed at Burnham Market with the 11 Miles 43 chains in between Burnham & Heacham only left in use for freight traffic.

Burnham Market only had one platform; Burnham Market was 11 miles and 43 chains away from Heacham.

Burnham Market had a brick-built two-storey station building on the downside of the platform with a single-storey ticket office; the station's building was built in an L-shaped configuration like many others along this line and the King's Lynn to Hunstanton line.

Burnham Market had a passing loop to the west of the station that was only available to be used by freight trains as there was no platform for passengers serving this loop.

To the east of Burnham Market station, there was a level crossing to the immediate end of the platform.

Burnham market also had four sidings coming off from the passing loop on the downside of the line with a goods shed in a similar construction to the one at Docking.

 

Burnham Market's signal cabin was sited to the west of the platform on the upside and was a small cabin equipped with a 20-lever frame.

This time of writing, Burnham Market has mostly stayed the same in its layout, but the village has changed dramatically. Now Nicknamed Chelsea on the sea by the locals as most of Burnham market has now attracted city owners and the second home market. Many homes here are only used for half of the year, a far cry from the local agriculture and sea fishing village Burnham market was during the railways open days.

The railway station remains and has been kept in fantastic condition by the owners and is now used as holiday lets with a short piece of a railway line and an old railway carriage sited on this short length of the track.

Burnham market goods shed still remains, and many thanks to the owners who once again have kept this old historical shed in fantastic condition.

Burnham market station, photographed in 2020 now used by the Hoste's arms as holiday lets.

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burnham market hoste arms
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Burnham Market Goods shed | Credit to Sangwine via Wikimedia

Sangwine

Leaving Burnham Market, the railway headed off towards the next station along the route Holkham.

The line between Burnham and Holkham passed over three level crossings and a small river, and between the railway served a small brickworks called Peterstone brickworks.

Looking at these old maps, the Brickworks had its sidings.

Thanks to the National Library of Scotland.

After the brickworks, the line crossed over what's now the A149 and beared around, heading towards Holkham.

Peterstone brick works

Holkham station

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Holkham station along the line was the line's shortest-lived station, opened in 1866 and closed to passengers in 1952. After the 1953 floods, the line was damaged and closed between Burnham Market and Wells station; even for freight use, the line was closed, and the railway line was ripped up.

Holkham was 15 miles and 64 Chains from Heacham.

Holkham station had one platform, no sidings and a level crossing. The station was within walking distance from the earl of Leicester's mansion and roughly half a mile from Holkham beach.

When the line was to be constructed, the Earl opposed the station's construction, expecting an influx of tourists to the area.

 

Holkham had a small wooden signal box controlling the single line and the signal box.

 

This would have been the last station constructed along this line as Wells station was already built for the Wells to Fakenham, Dereham, and Wymdonham lines.

 

To this day, all that remains of Holkham are small brick parts left behind from the demolition. I cannot see when this station was demolished, but I can imagine that it was close to the floods of 1953 and either at the same time or close to when the railway line was taken up. 

The road used by the station is now owned by the Holkham estate and is used for car parking.

Where the demolished station once sat is now open fields.

All that remains of Holkham station in 2022 this was photographed from Lady Ann's road, where this road now houses a car park owned by the Holkham estate.

Holkham station
Holkham station

Leaving Holkham, heading to wells became the most complex part of the line, with bridges, cuttings and crossings needed to enter wells town.

Leaving Holkham, the train headed off to its final station along the line Wells next to the sea, passing over what are now two farm tracks and along this embankment seen below.

During the 1953 floods, this is said to have been the track bed between Holkham and Wells after the fierce storms ripped the embankment apart where the railway ran.

When rewriting this page, it's ironic that whilst writing and researching the floods on BBC Radio Norfolk in the background, they were reporting on the 70th anniversary of the Great East Coast floods.

That happened 70 years close to the day that I wrote this page in late January 2023

After the embankment, the railway would have crossed over this road bridge.

When the bridge was taken down I'm not sure, all that remains are the abutments seen in the picture below.

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After this overpass bridge, the railway entered a cutting heading towards wells and passed underneath a road bridge.

 

Heading off again towards Wells, the railway crossed over this next bridge on the B1105, once again when this bridge was taken down, I can not say, but guessing close after the closure of the railway line in the 1960s

Heacham to wells

After the railway crossed over this bridge, the railway started to bear to the left, approaching wells station and converging with the wells Fakenham Dereham Wymondham branch and entering Wells station, where this train had completed its journey 18 miles 19 chains from Heacham and 31 miles 34 chains from King's Lynn.

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Wells station

Wells next to sea is a coastal town in Norfolk, the final destination of the Heacham to Wells railway line located 18 miles and 19 chains from Heacham and 31 miles 34 chains from Kings Lynn, here the journey on the west Norfolk branch came to an end.

Wells station in the coastal town of Norfolk was opened some nine years before the arrival of the West Norfolk branch from Heacham by the Wells and Fakenham Railway.

Wells was initially opened in 1857 for services to Wymondham via Fakenham and Dereham.

In 1866, the west Norfolk branch started running into Wells.

This service was never a success.

Services from Heacham stopped in 1953 due to the damage caused by the floods between Holkham and Wells, and in 1964, Wells station closed for good after services between Wells and Dereham ceased to exist.

The line between Wells and Dereham closed in 1964 to passengers; the line carried on from Dereham to Wymondham and closed in 1969 to passengers and carried on for freight use for some years.

Wells had three platforms and a two-storey brick station building.

Sited close to the station was Dewing & Kersley's mill, which also had its own sidings.

Unusually the Dereham line had a platform on both sides, giving travellers the choice of alighting from either side of the train.

With the Heacham branch on the outer edge of the island platform.

Wells also had a very short freight line down to Wells harbour.

Goods facilities at Wells consisted of a small goods yard north of the passenger station, with four additional sidings to the south.

There was also a 45-foot turn table sited at Wells station.

Wells had a combined freight and engine shed, and this closed in 1955. Unfortunately, the freight engine shed was also demolished soon after the closure.

Wells, unlike Hunstanton, Cromer was never a tourist destination but more of a working port with quays instead of gardens and promenades and seaside tourist attractions.

In 1953 the great flood soon hit the East Coast. Gail force winds, heavy seas and flood waters soon hit Norfolk.

 

Wells harbour was awash; the water soon overlapped the platform at wells station, and the stationmaster and his family were trapped in residential quarters on the station's first floor. The signalman was stuck in the signal box until the following morning. Meanwhile, the seas ripped the railway up between Holkham and wells, scattering track and sleepers in all directions.

After British railway said the line here was not costworthy to repair and the line between Wells and Holkham was closed in 1953, the line was ripped up.

The Wymondham branch five years later closed, closing wells station to passengers in 1964.

Well station in this day.

 

Wells station building still exists. The platforms have been demolished along with the goods and freight shed, and where are the sidings once sat, this is now used as an industrial estate called Great Eastern Way. The station building at this time is used as a bookshop and is still in exceptional condition. As seen in the pictures below. Some of the buttresses from the bridges remain, but sadly, where the platform once laid, there is no trace left at all; close to the station building, there is a granary that was Dewing & Kersley's that still exists in fantastic condition and still used as flats and small businesses. This mill was not part of the railway, but from what I can read, it had its private sidings.

Wells also had a light railway line linking the town to the beach. This line has also ceased to exist and has closed and been demolished and replaced by a bus. There is a page dedicated to this old closed line on Norfolk's disused railways.

Wells light railway page

Wells now is similar but also a completely different place. The harbour still looks quite similar to it did years ago, and even though there is no trace of where the railway once ran on the Quay, you can still see where it would have run as the Quay at wells is still used for fishing boats and remains unbuilt over.

Wells town has changed and is now very tourist inflicted with many city house owners now buying second homes at Wells like Burnham Market and in the summer this has become a bustling tourist attraction both at the Quay the beach and also the town centres attractions like the amusement arcades and the Norfolk coastal chip shops and novelty shops.

Wells station in 1963 

Geoffrey Skelsey 

CC BY-SA 4.0

Wikipedia

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Wells station, photographed in 2020, is now used as a bookshop and is kept in fantastic condition.

All the platforms have long gone and have been replaced with an industrial estate.

Wells railway station
Wells railway station
Wells railway station
Wells railway station

The old Dewing & Kersley's mill at wells is now used as flats and for two small industrial units.

wells mill

End of the line

Thank you for looking at my webpage on the West Norfolk branch line.

This old railway line is the second closest long-lost railway line to where I live; the Hunstanton Branch would have been my home's most immediate railway line.

 

But this line comes very close to second place.

 

I found the history of the West Norfolk branch fascinating to read about, as the original plan was for the Hunstanton line to be extended through to wells and maybe even a separate line going through to Cromer and then go to Norwich.

The part that interested me the most was how the track bed where the junction once laid at Heacham is still evident and remains clear.

Even though there will be no possibility of this line ever reopening, the track bed was still there from the junction at Heacham and heading out of the village around the sharp curve with the new housing estate being built around where the railway once ran. Small parts at Heacham are built over, but well over 55 years after the line closed, the track bed remains pretty clear to Docking.

Looking at gradient maps, I always knew Docking was one of the highest points in this part of Norfolk. Heacham station was roughly 20 feet above sea level, roughly the same as wells station, whereas Docking was 250 feet above sea level showing the ground level differences the trains had to climb across the route.

 

Here at Docking, an industrial unit once slightly stood on the site of the old sidings and has now been demolished. A new housing estate has only recently been built on the site where the railway once ran, skirting the edge of the old track bed.

After Docking station heading towards Wells, more houses have been built prominently over the track bed.

Even at Wells, looking at maps, you can still see clearly on maps where the railway once ran around the coastal town and on modern maps, the new housing estates have been built on the edge of the old track bed, up until where the station sits, there has been construction over the old sidings and also on the station platform site at wells.

Apart from Holkham, all stations along this line still stand today and are still used as residential or holiday accommodations.

However, docking has lost some of its platforms and goods shed, whereas at Burnham market, the goods shed and the station remains.

The other part of the West Norfolk branch that I found interesting is how rural the line was, especially at Sedgeford, Stanhoe, and Holkham. These stations were so far from anywhere, and any passengers would have a long walk to reach these stations, so out of all Norfolks closed lines, the West Norfolk Branch, I can understand why it was closed down early and used for successful freight use only during its last days.

The West Norfolk Branch 

Heacham to Wells

1866-1952-1964

 

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