Norfolk Enchantsnarrow-gauge preservation
A family holiday to a fantastic art deco (ish) house on the cliffs at Sheringham in Norfolk. The standard gauge North Norfolk Railway runs from and through the centre of town, but the more interesting one to gain “achievement unlocked” on was the 15″ gauge Bure Valley Railway down the road at Aylsham.
Built relatively recently in 1990, on the former trackbed of a Great Eastern Railway route, the BVR has an impressive headquarters in Aylsham including a well-stocked model shop, and runs 9 miles to Wroxham where it meets the Norwich to Cromer/Sheringham national rail line. Although only 15″ gauge, the gradients call for powerful locomotives and a “standard” design inspired by the Bagnall ZB class built for 2′ 6″ gauge railways in India has been adopted. Except smaller, of course.
Different body styles have been used on the same basic mechanicals to differentiate the fleet. Our train was hauled by No. 8, a 2-6-2T resembling the Vale of Rheidol locos but also in service was No. 6 Blickling Hall which demonstrates much more ZB-ness.
A few diesels supplement the steam locos, including an interesting conversion of a 2′ gauge Hudson Hunslet.
The ride itself is pleasant, the scenery during the journey peaceful and bucolic although aside from a beautiful Elizabethan manor house beside the line about halfway along nothing too memorable. The locos are turned at both ends of the line, which adds some novelty value to the conventional run-round.
Perhaps due to its relative modernity and slight air of sparseness in the non-Aylsham facilities the railway didn’t really feel that characterful, although it is a slick operation and understandable to focus resources on the important part – running the trains. The ride quality in the small carriages also wasn’t that great, but since the last 15″ gauge line I rode on was the Ravenglass & Eskdale in the mid 1990s I can’t really remember enough to make a comparison.
Overall a pleasant way to spend a few hours with the kids, who really enjoyed the journey – especially “racing” the cyclists on the adjacent foot and bike path, and also the good cafe afterwards. Worth the visit, certainly, but not sure if it would stand up to many repeats.