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Unread 30 Aug 17, 03:24 PM  
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The Easterling a steam train trip to Great Yarmouth

The Easterling a steam train trip to Great Yarmouth

The last time I was in Great Yarmouth was 58 years ago. I was 8 years old. We used to stay at a caravan park in Caister on Sea and bus it into the town itself. All I can recall is the Britannia theatre and pier and the Wellington Pier. There was also the Hippodrome more of that later.

So 8:30a.m. on August bank Holiday 2017 finds us wandering the precincts of Kings Cross station in London.

There is already a queue at Platform 9 where a luggage cart and owl cage is half way through the wall and folk line up to get photographs before pouring into the Harry Potter shop next door. There is a group of Japanese girls jumping up and down outside the shop windows as it isnt due to open for half an hour.
Eventually the platform for our special train appears on the indicator boards Platform 1.

As we make our way there we can see the famous British Rail carriages that we will be travelling in.

This will be our fourth trip hauled by the Tornado. Her headboard today will be The Easterling as we are headed to East Anglia Great Yarmouth in particular.

For the geeky ones amongst us, Tornado is a main line coal-fired steam locomotive built in Darlington, England. Completed in 2008, Tornado was the first such locomotive built in the United Kingdom since Evening Star, the last steam locomotive built by British Railways in 1960. The whole project cost some 3.5 million.

We are in coach B which currently is at the rear of the train along with coach A and a guards van unit that train staff use on the journey. The age of these carriages have to be 60 plus like me!

We settle in and soon we are enjoying a glass of champagne to start the journey.

At 9:03 a.m. on the dot we depart from Kings Cross. Out of the station and we immediately encounter Gasworks tunnel. This was constructed deliberately to pass under the Regents Canal. A brief glimpse of light and then we are into the Copenhagen tunnel the south end of which featured in the famous Ealing comedies The Ladykillers. Back into the light and we pass under the shiny tunnels of Eurostar which transverses above our heads.

We pass by the Emirates Stadium home of Arsenal football team at Finsbury Park.

(Library picture)

Then it's Hornsey Train Servicing Centre and Alexandra Palace. More tunnels follow. We take on board more passengers here and orange juice is served to everyone alongside champagne for those who have joined us. On through New Southgate and New Barnet. We reach Hadley Wood, famous as the home of Sir Nigel Gresley in the 1920s and 30s. He designed many a grand steam locomotive. Finally, we have climbed out of London and reach Potters Bar station, a difference in height of over 400 feet from our starting point.

There is a gentle 6 mile descent now. The sun is beating down outside and the temperature in the carriage is rising. No such thing as air conditioning back in the 1950s.

We pass by Hatfield House. Our view is partly obscured by some trees but this fabulous Jacobean house stands on the site of what was Elizabeth Is childhood home.

Welwyn Garden City is up next. This was once the home of Shredded Wheat breakfast cereal but they moved out some time ago. Onwards towards Knebworth and Stevenage. We pause at the latter to take on the final complement of travellers.

The next stretch of track is an 8 mile run known as a racing stretch. It was here that the Silver Link 2509 demonstrated it could reach 100 mph back in 1935. Quite a feat for its time.

Silver link:

Breakfast is served you can choose from melon and yoghurt, a half grapefruit, porridge or cereals. I have the cornflakes and Darrin goes with the melon. Then its a Full English smoked back bacon, sausage, fried egg, fried bread, grilled tomato, baked beans, black pudding, bubble and squeak and mushroom.

There are selections of bread rolls, pain au chocolat, croissant or straightforward toast. Copious cups of coffee or tea whatever your choice.

The world whizzes by and Tornado makes her very first trip over the Hitchin flyover one of the newest pieces of railway infrastructure. It was built to increase traffic through Cambridge Junction.
This affords a chance to get a shot of Tornado as she takes the curve but the photo is spoiled by the suns glare on the window:

Letchworth, officially Letchworth Garden City was one of the first garden cities and is proud to say that only one tree was felled in its development. Another bit of useless information is that it was the first place to get a traffic roundabout in 1909. Weve been on the go for nearly two hours now and we pass under the A1(M) through Ashwell and Morden and descend towards Royston. Whilst Norfolk is famous for its Fens (drained areas) they actually begin in Cambridgeshire and we can see them as we roll through Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton and into Cambridge station itself.


We cant see much of this famous University City (some founded as early as 1209) because we are surrounded by modern buildings of Microsoft research, Bio technology and heaven knows what else. Shame its a beautiful city. On such a beautiful day we can only imagine the amount of people punting on the River Cam.

We are now headed towards the Kings Lynn area.
The next major place is Ely its name originating from the eel fishing that went on before the Fens were drained.

Im going to wax lyrical about Ely Cathedral.

This is an amazing feat of medieval architecture. Known as the Ship of the Fens its construction started in 1083. The astounding octagon built over the nave crossing between 1322 and 1328 by Alan of Walsingham is considered to be an outstanding piece of work.

The building suffered under Henry VIIIs dissolution of the monasteries but it was faithfully restored between 1845 and 1870 to its fantastic glory. The cathedral can be seen on the horizon when viewed from 16 miles away in Cambridge admittedly from the top of Kings College.

We pass over the Great Ouse river and on to Shippea Hill , a request stop, which has the honour of being the second least used station in the U.K.

12 passengers were recorded in 2016. (Teeside Airport is in first place with just 8 passengers). Likewise Lakenheath only has bird watcher visitors for the nearby RSPB Lakenheath Fen with trains only stopping at weekends. Lakenheath itself is perhaps better known for the largest US Airforce base and not far away its sister at Mildenhall.

Next up is Thetford. This was the town used for Walmington on Sea in the Dads Army TV series. A statue of Captain Mainwaring sits by the riverside:

Harling Road is next home of St. Georges distillery the only single malt whisky distillery in England.

Wymondham a survivor of Dr. Beechings railway cuts in the 60s. Famous for its 17th century houses and medieval streets.

Tornado passes the outskirts of Norwich and its glorious cathedral with its wooden and lead covered spire. The Yare River is filled with boats on the sunny day.

Brundall , Lingwood and Acle (Oaks Lea) all slide by. Hundreds of oaks were felled in this area to build ships for Elizabeth I. There is a marshy area near the River Bure known as Nowhere (No-Where). This is where villagers in time gone by would produce salt for food preservation.

Its not long before we are running by Fens along the banks of the Yare River with Yarmouth beyond:

Its coming up to 13:45 so we are only a minute or so late.

Quite a crowd has gathered at Yarmouth Vauxhall to see Tornado.

We, in the meantime, have just under 3 hours to explore the town.
Its a fair old walk into town and you make your way over the Vauxhall bridge.

It started life as a box girder construction but the arches were added to strengthen it so trains and later, trams, could operate over it. Today it is pedestrians only. It has had a checkered history being built in 1847 to replace the old suspension bridge which had collapsed in 1845 under the weight of hundreds of spectators watching a circus stunt on the river.

We make our way along the Conge. Cong is a French word meaning 'holiday' but how that became a name of a road in Great Yarmouth is something of a mystery. We turn onto King Street are soon in the market area of the town.

A shopping mall, Market Gates dominates this area. We carry on following signs towards the sea front, past St. Georges Park and down Trafalgar Road. This is lined by the ubiquitous Bed & Breakfast places.

This brings us out at the Marina Leisure Centre on the Marine Parade and the beach.

As I look to my left I can see the Britannia Pier and theatre. I vaguely recall that and seeing Anne Shelton (Lay down your arms) there.

We make our way to the beach and there is a place selling Kellys Cornish ice cream. I opt for salted caramel and Darrin chooses a Cornish cream tea which seems to consist of clotted cream and strawberry jam.

There are plenty of people enjoying the glorious sunshine untypical of a British Bank holiday. There are even donkey rides at 2.50 a go. I think the last time I rode one it was 6d.

As we pass along the front I look for the Hippodrome. Its set back from the sea front.

This is a bit of nostalgia for me and also a story.

As I mentioned at the top of this report I, with my mother and father would stay in a caravan at Caister on Sea a short bus ride from the north of Great Yarmouth. To this day I hate the smell of Calor gas! I also recall a large Smiths Crisps factory which must be long since gone. My Mum was one for evening trips on coaches to lavender far and strawberry farms or Mystery trips. She also loved entertainment. We were booked to see the circus at the Hippodrome and I had been scrubbed and put in best clothes. Whilst my mother got ready I had wandered outside where there were several tree trunks resulting from a felling of quite a few trees. I was jumping up and down on them. They had green slimy coatings. Yes, you can guess!
As I jumped up on yet another stump my mother yelled: Get down off there now before you have an accident..
I slipped backwards and proceeded to take the skin off both shins. You can imagine the mess. Not only wounded but coated with natures growth. The trip to the Hippodrome never happened. The night was spent at Northgate Hospital whilst my wounds were cleaned and disinfected. I spent the rest of that holiday with bandages on my legs and not allowed anywhere near sand! So, to this day I have never seen the circus at Great Yarmouth.

We carry on towards the Wellington Pier.

I remember the strange architectural tops of this building. The pier itself has been shortened and its theatre has gone. Jim Davidson leased it for a time and turned t into a night club. These days it is an amusement arcade. Opposite the pier is the Winter Gardens of which I have no memories.

This structure was apparently bought from Torquay for 1,300 back in 1903. It had to close in 2008 as the structure is unsound. Figures of 6 million have been quoted to restore it.

We cross over the Marine Parade and discover that the town has a Nelsons column. Known as the Britannia Monument its actual name is the Norfolk Naval Pillar.

Sadly, it stands in an industrialised area and is inaccessible except by appointment. There are 217 steps to the top. Then there is the Nelson Hotel. Nelson never stayed there he preferred the Star Hotel on the banks of the River Yare.

Lord Nelson was born to the north of Great Yarmouth at Burnham Thorpe.

We pass the Windmill theatre no not the one in London. Down the years the likes of George Formby, Jack Douglas, Mrs. Mills, Norman Wisdom, Sid James, Tommy Steele, Billy Fury, John Inman, Frankie Howerd and dozens more have graced its stage. I dont remember ever going here but who knows?

By now we are both gasping for a cup of tea so we head back towards the market place area and find ourselves a table in Costa. I write a postcard for Auntie Kath. Shes Darrins auntie and we always send her a card from wherever we visit. She has albums of them.

We pop into Wilko and purchase two battery operated fans. At least we wont bake on the return journey. We head back to the railway station so we are in good time. Tornado has done a turn around and is on the platform away from us. Its 5p.m. and she pulls out of the station for a line switch into Platform 2 where we are due to depart from.

By 5:20 p.m. we are on our way back to London. The first fifteen miles will deviate from our arrival route.

The single track takes us through Berney Arms, a quirky station in the middle of nowhere being several miles from the nearest road. It comes to life on Sundays when anglers and walkers arrive here around the windmill and waterways of Halvergate Marshes. We join the line that comes out of Lowestoft. At Cantley we pass by British Sugar where they process sugar beet an dthen its the Buckenham Marshes of the RSPB. At Brundall we are back on our original route.

We have been enjoying a half bottle of Mumm champagne as afternoon turns to evening. Dinner will be served shortly.

There is a choice of Asparaus soup which I go for:

Darrin has the dressed Cromer crab:

Being Norfolk, the main course is turkey! It comes with minted new potatoes, roast potatoes, mashed swede, dressed Savoy cabbage, Proper gravy and cranberry sauce.

Dessert follows. Carrot cruncher cake with Limoncello cream:

There is then a selection of cheese Ferndale Norfolk Dapple (like Cheddar), Baron Giod (like Brie), Ferndale Norfolk Tawny (soft raw cheese washed with ale) and Long Clawson Blue Stilton.

We enjoyed Pinot Grigio as our wine.

Tea and coffee follow with after dinner mints and chocolates. The train rattles on until at Royston we have a twenty minute rest whilst Tornado takes on water. Most people are nodding off to sleep.We do get delayed on the rest of the journey and its 10:15p.m. rather than an hour earlier when we arrive back at Kings Cross. I grab one or two more photos of the locomotive before the crowds gather around her.

We head for the Underground and by 11:15 we are home and headed to bed. What a brilliant Bank Holiday day out.
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Unread 30 Aug 17, 03:38 PM  
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Super report on my stomping ground - a grand day out - and proves your trip reporting skills by making Yarmouth indeed appear Great!
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Unread 30 Aug 17, 03:41 PM  
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An other great trip and what wonderful weather you had a grand day out indeed
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Unread 30 Aug 17, 03:46 PM  
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What a fabulous day...very informative. Thanks for sharing.

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Unread 30 Aug 17, 11:26 PM  
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Geoff. What a lovely trip. Plus I can't believe how nice the weather was for you, so unlike the UK!
I must say the food looked really nice. Cannot be easy preparing meals on a train so credit to the Chefs.
What an informative post as usual. Well done.


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Unread 31 Aug 17, 06:40 AM  
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Originally Posted by stupet11 View Post
Super report on my stomping ground - a grand day out - and proves your trip reporting skills by making Yarmouth indeed appear Great!
Ha ha I thought the same, if I didn't live here I would come to visit. Glad you enjoyed your trip.

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Unread 31 Aug 17, 11:39 AM  
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Very informative! I always enjoy reading about your trips
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Unread 31 Aug 17, 07:24 PM  
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Another lovely trip report

The train journey looked good and plenty of lovely food

Our son was in Norwich with his University for two years, so have many happy memories visiting there.
Also I had a number of good holiday memories in Great Yarmouth, I did managed to go to see the circus, I believe that they flooded the floor and had swans swimming around at some time during the show, and remember seeing Matt Monro perform at the windmill theater, and also heard "The Tornadoes" play "Telstar" for the first time at the Brittainia Theatre. As you gather this is in the 60's
The first time our son Simon saw and played on the beach was at Great Yarmouth and he cried when we had to come off the beach
People buying boxes of Bloaters and seeing rock been made for the first time. All Fun.
Also know that the church near the market place has a beautiful organ, but forgot the name of it.

Thank you,

Lesley and Melvin
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