The Great Eastern Railway: ‘Rarely other than Idiosyncratic’

Presenter: Ray Scofield

Physical Meeting at Shenfield Parish Hall

Ray presented a history of the railways in East Anglia, illustrated with images of many locations as well as trains and locos, drawn from his personal collection extracted from various sources and those he captured himself. Following the openings, in successive years in the 1830s, of the significant London main line stations at London Bridge, Euston and then Paddington, there followed a minor station in Mile End, Devonshire Street, as the terminus of a railway planned to link the capital to Norwich via Colchester and Ipswich. Another early railway was to use the same terminus, but connect London to York via Cambridge and Lincoln.  This was before the birth of the Great Northern of course, when York was accessed from London via Euston. This second line ground to a halt halfway to Cambridge, but was piggy-backed by the first, who used it to gain Norwich via Cambridge and Ely, so deserting the shorter route via Ipswich. A rival concern from Ipswich then rapidly completed the direct route. Not only did East Anglia then have two disjointed main line routes to Norwich, but also other independent connections and a plethora of idiosyncratic rural branch lines, most of which amalgamated to form the Great Eastern who soon after opened a prominent terminus in the City.  So, we had three termini in Norwich and three in Great Yarmouth. The story was told, and many of the routes were travelled in this presentation, one of a trilogy of railways in the ‘Eastern Region’ that Ray has developed presentations about. It was good to see pictures of trains taken in the last decade or so of steam, which for many of us were the halcyon days, with Britannias hauling trains in BR colours.  There was much of interest in Ray’s talk as there was in the railway scene in those far off days, which some of us remember so fondly.  Ah! The magic of steam!