Waveney Valley line

Last updated

Harleston Station Harleston Railway Station.jpg
Harleston Station

The Waveney Valley line was a branch line running from Tivetshall in Norfolk to Beccles in Suffolk connecting the Great Eastern Main Line at Tivetshall with the East Suffolk line at Beccles. It provided services to Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Ipswich and many other smaller towns in Suffolk with additional services to London. It was named after the River Waveney which follows a similar route.

Tivetshall railway station

Tivetshall was a railway station on the Great Eastern Main Line located in Tivetshall, Norfolk. It was also the western terminus of the Waveney Valley Line from Beccles. It was first opened when Norwich and London were connected by the Eastern Union Railway in 1849. The EUR was taken over by the Eastern Counties Railway before becoming the Great Eastern Railway in 1862. The station building was believed designed by Frederick Barnes (Architect) who was responsible for designing a number of other stations at this time in East Anglia.

Beccles market town and civil parish in the Waveney District of the English county of Suffolk

Beccles is a market town and civil parish in the English county of Suffolk. The town is shown on the milestone as 109 miles (175 km) from London via the A145 and A12 roads, 98 miles (158 km) northeast of London as the crow flies, 16 miles (26 km) southeast of Norwich, and 33 miles (53 km) north northeast of the county town of Ipswich. Nearby towns include Lowestoft to the east and Great Yarmouth to the northeast. The town lies on the River Waveney on the edge of The Broads National Park.

Great Eastern Main Line 133 mile major railway line of the British railway system

The Great Eastern Main Line is a 114.5-mile (184.3 km) major railway line on the British railway system which connects Liverpool Street station in central London with destinations in east London and the East of England, including Shenfield, Chelmsford, Colchester, Ipswich, and Norwich. Its numerous branches also connect the main line to Southminster, Braintree, Sudbury, Harwich, and a number of coastal towns including Southend-on-Sea, Clacton-on-Sea, Walton-on-the-Naze and Lowestoft.



Waveney line.jpg
Waveney Valley Line
Great Eastern Main Line
BSicon CONTgq.svg
BSicon eABZq+l.svg
BSicon exlvHST-.svg
BSicon CONTf@Fq.svg
BSicon exHST.svg
Pulham Market
BSicon exKBSTaq.svg
BSicon exABZgr.svg
Upper Vaunce's Farm
BSicon exHST.svg
Pulham St Mary
BSicon exHST.svg
BSicon exHST.svg
BSicon WASSER.svg
BSicon exHST.svg
BSicon WASSER.svg
BSicon exHST.svg
BSicon WASSER.svg
BSicon exHST.svg
BSicon WASSER.svg
BSicon exHST.svg
BSicon WASSERl.svg
BSicon exWBRUCKE.svg
BSicon WASSER+r.svg
River Waveney
BSicon exHST.svg
BSicon WASSER.svg
BSicon WASSER+l.svg
BSicon exWBRUCKE.svg
BSicon WASSERr.svg
River Waveney
BSicon WASSER.svg
BSicon exHST.svg
BSicon WASSER.svg
BSicon exHST.svg
BSicon WASSER.svg
BSicon exHST.svg
BSicon WASSERl.svg
BSicon exWBRUCKE.svg
BSicon WASSER+r.svg
River Waveney
BSicon exSTR+c2.svg
BSicon exCONT3.svg
Yarmouth–Beccles line
BSicon lHST~F.svg
BSicon dSTRc2.svg
BSicon STR23.svg
BSicon exABZ3+1g.svg
BSicon exSTRc4.svg
BSicon dSTRc3.svg
BSicon CONT1.svg
BSicon d.svg
BSicon lHST~G.svg
BSicon d.svg
BSicon STRc14.svg
BSicon CONT4.svg
East Suffolk line

The line was authorised by the Waveney Valley Railway Act on 3 July 1851. [1] The line opened in stages, firstly from Tivetshall to Harleston on 1 December 1855, then to Bungay on 2 November 1860, and finally to Beccles. When the line was completed it was incorporated into the Great Eastern Railway. The line then became part of the LNER on 1 January 1923.

Great Eastern Railway pre-grouping British railway company

The Great Eastern Railway (GER) was a pre-grouping British railway company, whose main line linked London Liverpool Street to Norwich and which had other lines through East Anglia. The company was grouped into the London and North Eastern Railway in 1923.

London and North Eastern Railway British “Big 4” railway company, active 1923–1947

The London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) was the second largest of the "Big Four" railway companies created by the Railways Act 1921 in Britain. It operated from 1 January 1923 until nationalisation on 1 January 1948. At that time, it was divided into the new British Railways' Eastern Region, North Eastern Region, and partially the Scottish Region.

Starston and Redenhall stations were closed in 1866, only 11 years after the line opened.

Starston railway station

Starston was a railway station on the Waveney Valley Line in Norfolk, England. It was open for just ten years before low traffic usage caused its closure in 1866 nearly a century before the rest of the line. It is now a cottage.

Redenhall railway station

Redenhall was a station in the small hamlet of Redenhall, Norfolk. It was opened in 1861 as part of the Waveney Valley Line between Tivetshall and Beccles and closed in 1866. It was close to the settlement of Harleston.

Early services on the line were worked by the company’s only locomotive named Perseverance. This was a 2-2-2T locomotive built by Sharp Stewart and Co (Manchester). It did not perform particularly well and was rebuilt by the GER in 1864 as a 2-4-0T. Withdrawal was 1880/1 and the locomotive was broken up in November 1881.

Some old pictures show the following classes of engine that worked over the route: [2]

GER Class Y14 class of 289 British 0-6-0 locomotives, later LNER class J15

The Great Eastern Railway (GER) Class Y14 is a class of 0-6-0 steam locomotive. The LNER classified them J15.

GER Class T26 class of 100 British 2-4-0 locomotives, later LNER class E4

The GER Class T26 was a class of 2-4-0 steam tender locomotives designed by James Holden for the Great Eastern Railway. At the 1923 grouping they passed to the London and North Eastern Railway, who classified them E4. Eighteen survived into British Railways ownership in 1948, and the last was withdrawn in 1959, making them the last 2-4-0s at work in Britain. Their BR numbers were 62780–62797.

GER Class M15 class of 160 British 2-4-2T locomotives, later LNER classes F4 and F5

The GER Class M15 was a class of 160 2-4-2T steam locomotives designed by Thomas William Worsdell and built for the Great Eastern Railway between 1884 and 1909. The original (F4) class of locomotives were fitted with Joy valve gear which was notoriously difficult to 'set'. This earned them the nickname of 'Gobblers' thanks to their high coal consumption rates. As a result, between 1911 and 1920, 32 of them were rebuilt by James Holden with Stephenson valve gear and higher pressure boilers. Despite this, the nickname stuck for many years after.

The line was closed to passenger services on 5 January 1953. With the last passenger train from Tivetshall junction to Beccles pulled by ex GER Class C32 (LNE classification) Class F3 2-4-2 tank locomotive No 67128 (British Railways number). [3]

A Light Railway Order was obtained in November 1954, after which there were some special services run by railway enthusiasts.

From 1960 the line was split into sections – Tivetshall to Harleston and Beccles to Bungay.

The lines were finally closed from 19 April 1966 during the Beeching Axe and the track eventually removed. Some of the last wagon loads to leave Ditchingham were sand and gravel from Broome Heath, used in the construction of Hammersmith fly-over in west London.

In the early 1980s, many of the remaining old buildings, including stations and goods yards, were demolished to make way for a new road (the A143).


The line ran regular passenger and freight services daily, except for Sundays. This was a condition placed on the railway by landowners in the Starston area of Norfolk who had to give their consent before the line could be built.

Departing from Beccles there were stations at Geldeston, Ellingham, Ditchingham, Bungay, Earsham, Homersfield, Harleston, Pulham St. Mary, Pulham Market before the line terminated at Tivetshall.

During World War I however, troop trains were known to operate each day. By October 1915, trains had reached their peak of 8 trains per day, but the demands of World War I reduced this to 6 trains per day in 1917.

During world war two there was a large increase in traffic, this was due to the airfields and military establishments built along the line. Bombs were stored on a bomb dump near Earsham Hall until, after the war, the unused bombs were taken away and disposed of – this continued until 1954.

By 1953, when passenger services closed, services had remained unchanged for 36 years.


The following are rarely documented accidents that occurred on the Waveney Valley railway:

Beccles and Bungay Weekly News 9 March 1863 [4]

Reports what probably the first accident on the Bungay/Beccles Section. On the 4:50pm Bungay–Beccles train "When going over the bridge on the Bungay side of the factory, the engine lost the metals, dragging with it eleven tracks and two Passenger Cars for about seventy yards, when it ran off the embankment with some of the coaches."

"Bungay Station: Killed on the Railway" – (Unknown Date)

"On Thursday an inquest was held at the Kings Head Hotel by H.E Garrod, Esq. , Diss, coroner for the liberty of the Duke of Norfolk, on the Body of Frederick William Skipper, aged 23 Years, porter of the railway station, who was killed the same morning. Mr. John Haythorpe, station master, deposed that at twenty minutes to eleven he was on the platform, and saw an engine taking some goods trucks on to the siding. The deceased duty was to assist in the operation. He could not see him from where he (Witness) Stood as the trucks took a curve. The duty of a porter was to keep outside the trucks when being shunted. There was an eye on the side of the truck to which the rope should be hooked. After the engine parted with the trucks, Kerrison, the foreman/porter called to him and Haythorpe went and saw the deceased lying across the rail apparently dead. Skipper was generally described as a "Careful" Man. But the evidence of Kerrison, Foreman/Poter, went to show that the rope was attached to the engine, and the other end to the front of the trucks to the couplings between the buffers. Skipper put it there instead of on the side where there was an eye on purpose for it. When the engine got forward of the trucks the rope became tight. Skipper was between the truck and the rope. The rope broke and Skipper was seen to fall across the metals, and five trucks passed over his body. No-one was to blame except the deceased, who should have put the hook on the eye of the truck. Other evidence being given, the jury returned the verdict of "Accidental Death."

"Shocking Death At The Railway Station" - (Unknown Date)

"A shocking affair occurred at the Harleston Railway Station on Monday Morning. An elderly man named Henry Baxter, living at Harleston, was trespassing in the station yard, and while leaning against the new cattle pen walls, next to the metals, was accidentally killed, being crushed against the wall by a Ballast Train, which was shunting. An inquest was held at the Railway Tavern on Monday Afternoon, before H.E Garrod, Esq., of Diss, coroner, and a verdict of "Accidental Death" Returned."

Present day

The Bungay to Harleston section of the route now forms part of the main A143 road and was opened on 9 November 1983. Other sections of the route are now tracks and footpaths.

The line from Beccles station was partly converted to an industrial estate, reaching the river next to the aptly named Railway Score. The remains of the bridge over the River Waveney on the Norfolk side of the river are still visible. From the bridge, the trackbed is in overgrown condition and the ballast is still present in places. At Ditchingham, the former Silk Mill, later The Maltings served by the railway still survive following redevelopment in 2015 as the Waterside housing development.

Several stations do survive including:

The water tower from Bungay was saved and taken to the North Norfolk Railway and placed at Weybourne where it is the largest object from the line still in railway use.

Related Research Articles

River Waveney river in East Anglia, United Kingdom

The Waveney is a river which forms the boundary between Suffolk and Norfolk, England, for much of its length within the Broads.

South Norfolk District in England

South Norfolk is a local government district in Norfolk, England. Its council is based in Long Stratton. The population of the Local Authority District was 124,012 as taken at the 2011 Census.

East Suffolk line

The East Suffolk line is an un-electrified 49-mile secondary railway line running between Ipswich and Lowestoft in Suffolk, England. The traffic along the route consists of passenger services operated by Greater Anglia, while nuclear flask trains for the Sizewell nuclear power stations are operated by Direct Rail Services.

Beccles railway station

Beccles railway station is on the East Suffolk Line in the east of England, serving the town of Beccles, Suffolk. It is 40 miles 34 chains (65.1 km) down the line from Ipswich and 109 miles 11 chains (175.6 km) measured from London Liverpool Street; it is situated between Brampton and Oulton Broad South stations. Its three-letter station code is BCC.

Alburgh farm village in the United Kingdom

Alburgh is a village and civil parish in the English county of Norfolk. The village lies about four miles north-east of Harleston and 16 miles south of Norwich.

Ellingham, Norfolk village in the United Kingdom

Ellingham is a civil parish in Norfolk, England. It covers an area of 5.61 km2 (2.17 sq mi) and had a population of 532 in 238 households at the 2001 census, the population increasing to 554 in 248 households at the 2011 census. It lies approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) from Bungay and 4 miles (6.4 km) from Beccles. Other close towns to the village include Diss and Gt. Yarmouth.

Angles Way

The Angles Way is a long-distance footpath in England, close to the River Waveney and River Little Ouse and thus close to the Norfolk/Suffolk border between Great Yarmouth and Thetford.

Bungay railway station

Bungay railway station was located on the now disused Waveney Valley Line which ran between Tivetshall and Beccles. The station was closed in 1953 and the buildings eventually demolished to make way for the A143 road. It was one of two stations in Suffolk on the line, which curved across the county boundary then back into Norfolk.

Pulham Market railway station

Pulham Market was a railway station on the Waveney Valley Line in Norfolk, England. It was closed for passengers in 1953

Pulham St Mary railway station

Pulham St Mary was a station in Pulham St Mary, Norfolk on the Waveney Valley Line which is now closed. The station has been demolished.

Harleston railway station

Harleston was a railway station in Harleston, Norfolk, on the Waveney Valley Line. It was an early post-war closure; passenger services on this line were withdrawn in 1953 with goods trains lasting until the complete closure of the line in 1966. It should not be confused with stations in Harlesden, a suburb of London.

Homersfield railway station

Homersfield was a railway station which served the village of Homersfield in Suffolk, England, although it was situated in Alburgh on the Norfolk side of the county boundary which runs through the settlement. The station was part of the Waveney Valley Line

Earsham railway station

Earsham was a railway station in Earsham, Norfolk, on the Waveney Valley Line, connecting Beccles with the Great Eastern Main Line which opened in 1860, and closed to passengers in 1953, and to goods services in 1960. It was not demolished, but lay derelict for many years before being converted into housing. The platform still remains as do a lot of original features.

Ellingham railway station

Ellingham is a former railway station in Ellingham, Norfolk. It was opened in 1863 as part of the Waveney Valley Line between Tivetshall and Beccles, Suffolk. It was closed to passengers in 1953 and closed fully on 19 April 1965, when the last goods train called there. The station still stands much altered

Ditchingham railway station

Ditchingham was a railway station in Ditchingham, Norfolk on the Waveney Valley Line. Opened in 1863, it closed to passengers along with the rest of the line in 1953.

Geldeston railway station

Geldeston was a station in Geldeston, Norfolk – a station on the Waveney Valley Line. It was opened in the early 1860s, and closed to passengers nearly a century later in 1953. It was the penultimate station on the line, and the last in Norfolk as the line crossed the border into Suffolk before the junction station of Beccles. The station still exists today and can easily be found in Geldeston.

Redenhall with Harleston

Redenhall with Harleston is a civil parish in the South Norfolk district of the English county of Norfolk, comprising the town of Harleston and the neighbouring village of Redenhall. It covers an area of 13.73 km2 (5.30 sq mi), and had a population of 4,058 in 1,841 households at the 2001 census, the population increasing to 4,640 at the 2011 census.


  1. George Kettilby Rickards (1861). The Statutes of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. 1807-1868/69. His Majesty's statute and law printers.
  2. Blick, R (April 1978). "Locomotives of the constituent companies of the Great Eastern Railway - Part 2 The Waveney Valley Railway". Great Eastern Journal (14): 16.
  3. Shewring, Collin (1980). Steam in East Anglia. Becknell. p. 96. ISBN   978-0-907087-01-4.
  4. Extracts from "Waveney Valley Railway" By R.S Joby 1982