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Poppy Line link could bring in the stars

PUBLISHED: 14:37 04 June 2008 | UPDATED: 08:59 13 July 2010

Star steam engines could be heading to a Norfolk tourist attraction line if a 200ft stretch of rail track can be re-laid.

After years of talk, plans have now been lodged to reconnect North Norfolk's Poppy Line to the national rail network.

Star steam engines could be heading to a Norfolk tourist attraction line if a 200ft stretch of rail track can be re-laid.

After years of talk, plans have now been lodged to reconnect North Norfolk's Poppy Line to the national rail network.

A low-tech crossing, using chains and school lollipop style stop boards, would let guest steam trains across the road into the previously isolated preservation railway.

Director Julian Birley has assured that disruption would be minimal and the benefits to the North Norfolk Railway, as well as the towns of Sheringham and Holt along its route, vast.

Owners of the nation's most historic steam locos would only let them do guest appearances if they went by rail rather than road - as loading on to lorries caused huge stresses on the engines.

If the link was restored the North Norfolk Railway hoped it could bring famous engines such as the streamlined Sir Nigel Gresley, the sister loco to the record breaking Mallard.

“We really want to raise our game, and this link is vital to us,” said Mr Birley.

It would also pave the way for steam enthusiast charters, bringing trains full of 350 people - probably out of the main holiday season - which would also be a boost for trade in the local towns, and support more than 600 jobs, such hotels, shops and taxis, dependent on the railway, he added.

The railway, which attracts 120,000 visitors a year, is on a stretch of former rural branch line which was lopped from the main network in 1966 when the crossing was dug up.

The current plans to reinstate it should cost just tens of thousands of pounds - a fraction of the cost of earlier multi-million pound schemes seeking to make the link using barriers and footbridges.

Under the scheme a visiting steamer would arrive at Sheringham station. Staff would remove safety rail clamps on both sides of the crossing, before halting vehicles and pedestrians with a combination of chains and “stop” boards, before the train was led across at walking pace.

Mr Birley said it would take about three minutes, and would only happen about half a dozen times a year.

Ideally they would like to have the link open by February 28 next year, for the 50th anniversary of the closure of the Midland and Great Northern railway,

The plans were supported in principle by Sheringham Town Council's planning committee on Tuesday, despite some major concerns voiced by one member.

Doug Smith feared a “catastrophe” if the present Bittern Line buffers - which have been hit by two trains in recent years - were removed and replaced with lightweight removable clamps.

He also said there would be a loss of station car parking and open space on Otterndorf Green.

Mr Smith also felt the scheme could be paving the way for the Bittern Line to finish at Cromer, allowing the North Norfolk Railway to extend eastwards having discovered it was unviable to go west.

But the committee did not share his views, saying he was being over negative and voted 6-1 to support the scheme, having heard that officers were seeking more detail.


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