by Lewis Collard
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:
The first bridge you'll come to is this beauty. Meet PMY2/53:
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.
I love the details of this bridge; even the most tiny, insignificant bridge over the smallest river constructed in this era seems massively overengineered. Of course, that could be survivorship bias; the alleged dubious safety of a bridge across the Ouse a little west was cited as a factor for closing the entire M&GN system. But this one is nice!
Its beautiful cosmetic condition is helped by the fact 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:
Wonderful. I don't know how one of them ended up missing. Here's PMY2 53, painted on the bridge:
PMY2 refers to the South Lynn to Yarmouth section of the M&GN (PMY1 is Peterborough to South Lynn). PMY means Peterborough, Melton Constable, Yarmouth.
For the photographers out there, there's lots and lots of wonderful colour and texture out there to be shot. Here's one:
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!
One last look before we pick some weeds from the bridge then move on:
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.
2021 update: this short section of track is now overgrown and entirely inaccessible.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
Next on your adventure, you may want to head back on to the A148 "new" road, head towards King's Lynn, jump down onto the bank of the Puny Drain at about (52.73662, 0.40200), and head southeast towards the former Harbour Junction. You will find this small bridge:
Its size and construction indicates that this is not a railway bridge, but it is almost certainly railway-related. I speculate that it was used for foot access to and from the former Harbour Junction signal box. The bridge's railings have fallen in the water here as of 2021; that is a signal of the bridge falling into disrepair. As always with these things, visit it while you can!
Next on your adventure, you may want to head back on to the A148 again, head towards King's Lynn, wander into some undergrowth, and visit this beauty at about (52.737, 0.403):
You may have seen this if you travel into King's Lynn by train and are the kind of person to keep their eye out for little bits of disused infrastructure. It's a concrete semaphore signal post! It is probably of M&GN heritage. This guarded the main line from the former Harbour Branch, a line which ran from Harbour Junction to the South Quay and, in later years, towards what I believe was grain storage on the site of the old Muck Works. This line was in use until at least the late 1980s, or possibly the early 1990s.
Here is some detail of the signal post; I would have liked to have gotten some close-ups with a longer lens, but I only had my fixed-lens X100 with me that day.
Visit it while you can; this signal has been lucky to survive this long, and likely won't survive whatever redevelopment is planned for the immediate area.
There was one more bridge in the South Lynn area, crossing the River Nar and carrying freight on the Harbour Branch. 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:
Photo © the late Ray Bullock of the M&GN Circle, all rights reserved, used here with his permission. Thank you Ray, and rest in peace.
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!
I had hoped this bridge might be refurbished and become part of the footpaths around the developments on the Muck Works site in King's Lynn, and a rumour I heard from someone in the Environmental Agency (which manages the River Nar) said that this would be so. That did not happen; this bridge was demolished some time in early 2011.
As of 2021, you can just about see some remnants of the pilings of the old bridge next to the rather nice modern footbridge that replaced it:
This is not a remnant anymore (it disappeared a long time ago), but it is interesting to me, and it does related to railways in South Lynn.
When I first visited King's Lynn in 1999, I saw a disused railway wagon sitting near the newsagent I was visiting on Wisbech Road. I thought, "that's odd", then forgot about it, and only started thinking about it a few years later.
I didn't think to take a photograph of it at the time - though my interests changed over the years, and I wish I had! Instead, Nigel Scarlett took photographs of it in 1999.
Photo © Nigel Scarlett, all rights reserved, used here with permission.
This wagon is B558090. It was a 16-ton mineral wagon built by Pressed Steel in 1957. According to the M&GN Railway Society, the grain wagons of the 1980s that ran on the remnants of the Harbour Branch had weak handbrakes, and so this wagon was put in place to stop rogue wagons from running onto Wisbech Road! After the lifting of the remains of the Harbour Branch, this wagon was likely not rail-worthy, so it was left behind.
It remained next to Wisbech Road until at least 2003, was spotted at Hardingham station in 2006, and then its whereabouts got murky for me.
When it re-emerged into my view around 2012, it had been purchased by the M&GN Society, and was undergoing restoration. After not being used for at least 28 years, and having a tree growing through it for some significant part of its life, that seemed like no small feat! Nigel Scarlett sent me a photo of it mid-restoration:
Photo © Nigel Scarlett, used here with permission.
That restoration was completed many years ago, and apparently you can find it on the North Norfolk Railway these days. That's a happy ending!
There's not a lot more to see of the Harbour Branch. Most of its route has either been redeveloped, has been bulldozed in preparation for being redeveloped as of 2021, or is now part of a short bus route. But, if you head to Boal Quay at about (52.749, 0.394), you can still see rails embedded in the quay:
When I first started this page on South Lynn railway remnants in 2011, there was almost no information out there about these lines post-M&GN-closure. I'm heartened to see this little bit of history getting attention from the Norfolk's Disused Railways site and Roger Farnworth mentioned above, but there is still more gap than there is real history. I would very gratefully receive any information or photographs about this period which I do not have already. You can reach me at email@example.com.
Of course, if you enjoyed this page and just want to tell me so, that's fine too!
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