The railway bridges of South Lynn, among other remnants

Me on the bridge at South Lynn
Me on one of the bridges at South Lynn, taken by David with a Voigtländer Vito B around 2006.

I've been asked before what is the best way of finding these bridges. The two you care about are on the Nar Valley Way footpath, and the easiest way of getting to them is to jump off the A148 "new" road (from Southgates roundabout to the A47 Saddlebow roundabout), onto the Nar footpath and head south for a few hundred feet. Here it is in a Google map for your convenience:


View South Lynn bridges in a larger map

Keep your eyes open on the walk there. You'll find things like this, buried in the nettles, which appears to be a component of a railway's wire fence:

Fence thing

The first bridge you'll come to is this beauty. Meet PMY2/53:

PMY2-53 bridge at South Lynn
Older picture, taken around 2006.

This bridge used to shuttle passengers from King's Lynn station to South Lynn station, and freight from King's Lynn yard (now the site of a Morrisons and a Matalan). One is immediately struck by what wonderful condition the bridge is in; the only thing that hints at decay is one of the cosmetic pillars having collapsed, and the predictable (and, I think, somewhat fitting) graffiti.

Today's throw-away society measures product lifespans in months, not decades or centuries, and the construction of a bridge is seen as a potentially-insurmountable technical challenge for any proposed railway construction (indeed, even by the 1950s, the cost of constructing a new bridge to cross the Ouse at South Lynn was treated as an oh-so-hard obstacle that justified the closing of the entire M&GN system in 1959). Meanwhile, the Victorians built things to last.

Of course, that's helped by the fact that this bridge was in use carrying freight to the beet factory at South Lynn. Nick Youngman's notebooks, from when he worked at Lynn Junction signal box, has the last train running on this section as 31205 collecting molasses tanks, on the 21st of July 1994, following the last firing of the beet factory on the 1st of March, 1994.)

Here's a close-up of some lovely hot rivets:

Bridge rivets

Wonderful. I don't know how one of them ended up missing. Here's PMY2 53, painted on the bridge:

Paint marking: PMY2-53

PMY2 refers to the South Lynn to Yarmouth section of the M&GN (PMY1 is Peterborough to South Lynn). I'd speculate that PMY means Peterborough, Melton Constable, Yarmouth, but I am not certain.

For the photographers out there, there's lots and lots of wonderful colour and texture out there to be shot. Here's one:

Rust
Rust. Kiev 88 and Arsat 80mm f/2.8, 1/60 at f/11, Kodak Ektar 100.

Here's a shot from 1993, this one with the track still in place, looking towards the old South Lynn beet factory:


Photo © Nick Youngman, all rights reserved, used here with his kind permission. Thanks Nick! Do check out his Flickr photostream for plenty of other railway photographs!

Before you move on, be so kind as to pick out any large weed growths from the ballast, so that future generations can enjoy this bridge, too. Thanks!

One last look before we move on:

Looking towards the main line on PMY2/53

Here we're standing on the west side of the bridge, looking towards South Lynn junction (and the current Fen Line). You can carry on walking down here; the undergrowth will stop you reaching the main line (or being seen by trains thereon). This comes a little too close to trespassing for comfort, but I did it anyway. Keep going down here enough, preferably with a pair of garden secateurs, and you'll come across a very short section of track.

Remnants of track at South Lynn

Hey, let's get some very small teddy bears in the house!

Tiny teddy waits for a train.
Tiny teddy waits for a train. Kiev 88 and Arsat 80mm f/2.8, 1/30 at about f/8, Kodak BW400CN. Note the double rail; this is a check rail, used on very sharp curves like this one to reduce the risk of derailment.

There's even a signal down there, but the last time I tried the undergrowth stopped me from getting to it (and I forgot the secateurs). Here it was a few years ago:

Signal at South Lynn

So anyway, let's head up the Nar for a few hundred yards. You'll eventually come to this, slightly less impressive (but still wonderful) bridge:

This was the bridge that once carried trains from South Lynn towards Yarmouth, Norwich, and many other places. Passenger services ended in 1959, but I believe it was used for freight services towards East Rudham until 1968 (this site tells me this is the case).

Here's some nice detail of the bridge:

So there's another bridge in South Lynn, almost exactly on the site of the former South Lynn railway station. You can't get to it from the other South Lynn bridges, you have to head up to the A47 Saddlebow roundabout to get to it. Here it is, a rather nice concrete single-tracked affair:

Concrete bridge at South Lynn

This is not the original bridge under the Saddlebow road; it's much more recent. I don't have an exact date, but it's probably late 60s or early 70s, and probably built around the same time as the A47 road that buried the original South Lynn station. The reason it was built was, of course, to allow freight trains towards the beet factory. You can see the bridge in the background in this photograph:

West Norfolk Freightlines Railtour at South Lynn, by Alan Moore
Photograph © Alan Moore (all rights reserved). Alan has an excellent website chock-full of great railway photographs, and who very kindly gave me permission to use this photo (shot on Agfa slide film) here. The plate on the front of the DMU reads "Fakenham & DRS West Norfolk Freight Lines Railtour". "Fakenham & DRS" means "Fakenham & Dereham Railway Society" which later evolved into the group that today runs the Mid-Norfolk Railway.

A passenger train at South Lynn! This was taken on the 29th of June, 1980, on the West Norfolk Freight Lines Railtour, which also visited the harbour branch and docks branch in Lynn, among other places. Alan informs me that the train could not go beyond this point; this page suggests that British Rail did not own the track from this point on.

Here's another, wonderful picture, taken from the bridge in the above photographs, most likely in the late 80s:


Photograph taken by Paul Miller, who graciously released a bunch of his old photographs under a license permitting redistribution. See tons more of them over here.

Nick Youngman's notebooks name the date that track lifting began in these sidings, carried out by the scrap merchant Derek Miller, as the 26th of March 1995.

There was one more bridge in the South Lynn area, crossing the River Nar and carrying freight from South Lynn junction to the former Harbour Branch in King's Lynn (and, in later years, towards what I believe was grain storage on the site of the old Muck Works, possibly until the late 1980s or early 1990s. This was nicknamed the "Casey Jones" bridge, after the famously brave American locomotive driver (because of its similarity in construction to early American railway bridges). Here it is:

The 'Casey Jones' bridge
Photo © Ray Bullock of the M&GN Circle, all rights reserved, used here with his permission. Thanks, Ray!

This was a wonderful little bridge; mostly thick timber construction, with the critical parts of the deck made of steel. The interesting part is that on my final visit there, the steel girders were marked with "Lanarkshire Steel". This gives at least that part of the bridge an earliest date of 1889, which post-dates the original construction of the Harbour Branch by about four decades, implying that it was rebuilt at some point.

Here's one taken while the tracks were still in place, in 1994:


Photo © Nick Youngman, all rights reserved, used here with his permission. Do check out his Flickr photostream for plenty of other railway photographs!

My hopes were very high that this bridge might be refurbished and become part of the footpaths around the developments on the Muck Works site in King's Lynn, and in fact rumours around the Environmental Agency (which manages the River Nar) said that this would be so. Sadly, it wasn't to be; this bridge was replaced and demolished some time around early 2011.

Around the Internets

A plea

There's very little information out there on the Web about this little slice of British railway history, post-M&GN closure. I would very gratefully receive any information or photographs about the railways around South Lynn which I don't have on this page. You can reach me at lewiscollard@gmail.com. Of course, if you enjoyed this page and just want to tell me so, that's fine too!

Thanks to all the people who have contributed notes and photographs. Additional thanks to Jenn for proof-reading this for me.