Britain’s first new narrow gauge main line for over 60 years, the Bure Valley Railway in Norfolk, was officially opened on 10th July 1990. A train of 12 coaches hauled by Samson and Winston Churchill left Wroxham mid-morning for Aylsham where the line was officially declared open by TV personality and railway buff Miles Kingston. Large groups of school-children all along the route, some in period costume, waved and cheered; bands played at both ends; there were speeches and a meal for over 200 guests who had travelled on the official opening train; in all, a railway opening in the grandest manner, a day which will be remembered by those fortunate enough to be present on this great occasion.
The 9 mile line cost £2½ million and is the result of four years work. It is expected that 120,000 passengers a year will use the line which has three passing loops at Coltishall, Hautbois and Brampton. For the opening, fifteen new bogie coaches in red livery were delivered, built by Auto Plates on TMA Engineering bogies. A further six are still to come. There are two bogie brake vans with axle-driven compressors for the air-braking system.
The line will be marketed as The Broadland Line and there will be eight trains each way until the end of October. The service actually operated from 2nd July for trial purposes and eight-coach train-sets are in use. Hired Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway locomotives Samson (in GE blue livery) and Winston Churchill (in maroon livery) arrived in June and will be here for two seasons until the BVR’s own steam locomotives are delivered. The BVR’s own 4w-4wDH has been in use since 1989.
At Aylsham, the headquarters of the railway, there is a two-road loco-shed with raised inspection track, turntable and water tower. There are four platform faces under an overall roof, with a storage road. The halts at Brampton and Buxton have one platform face, whilst Coltishall has an island platform within the passing loop. Wroxham has one platform face with a run-round loop, turntable and water tower. Access to BR’s Station is by footbridge and the station building has a platform canopy. There are numerous over and under bridges with a girder bridge over the River Bure and a tunnel (179m) under the A140 Aylsham by-pass. Trains normally cross at Hautbois loop and radio-signalling is in operation. A public footpath parallels the line from which it is separated by a wire fence.
From 1990 until 1997 I was editor of Narrow Gauge News, the news journal of the Narrow Gauge Railway Society and the above report is that which appeared in Issue No. 180. The report consists of a combination of my writing, press releases and text from another member of the NGRS news team. It was a magical day to be present at the opening and no words can adequately express the atmosphere of the ceremony and excitement of the crowds all along the route.