For enthusiasts,researchers and modellers of the Great Eastern Railway

Meeting Report
GERS Half-yearly meeting at the Assembly House, Norwich on 15th October 2011

Although I had an invitation to accompany Andy Grimmett on the cushions, my excuse for driving to Norwich was that I had four boxes to deliver to Rodger Green.
Norwich is a wonderful city and the Assembly House a fantastic venue.  On arrival all the usual features were to be seen.

The Society's well-stocked second-hand stall had many interesting books and drawings.  I found one dating from the 1930s which contained three interior views of Stratford Printing Works. This was passed on to David Challis for a Journal article he is preparing.

The first talk of the day was by Rik Alewijnse and considered Railway Shipping in East Anglia. 1883 saw the opening of Parkeston Quay and the launch of the S.S. Norwich and the S.S. Ipswich.  They were fine new screw ships and heralded the Great Eastern Railway's switch from paddlers. Rik described the preceding paddle-propelled ships, including the Adelaide, which was the company's first ship built of steel instead of iron.  He noted that navigation of the river delta to Rotterdam was more suited to paddle-steamers.

Using the Society-produced minutes extracts, the need for new construction technologies and screw propulsion was demonstrated. By reference to an article in "The Engineer" of 23rd January 1885 and a fine line drawing of the ships the layout of the two vessels was described. Interior and deck scenes were illustrated from contemporary newspapers and GER publications.
The use made of the ships and their fares was then described. The S.S. Ipswich was particularly accident-prone but the S.S. Norwich had a much less eventful career - although she did transport a tiger in 1893. The Norwich was also used as an icebreaker during the Great Freeze of 1895. Rik noted, finally, that Able Seaman C.A. Fryatt joined the GER service in the Ipswich in 1892 but that, as he said, was another story.

After lunch the Harry Jones Award was made to David Challis for the first in the series of two articles concerning the Mildenhall branch. The Award was presented by Journal Editor Geoff Ashton.
Following this, the Society's latest venture, the Files Emporium, was launched by the President, John Watling.

Our second presentation was entitled The Ups and Downs of the GER in Norfolk and was by Graham Kenworthy.
He explained privately beforehand that the Ups were aerial photographs taken by Mike Page and the Downs were ground level pictures at the same locations. Graham told me:  "I don't usually reveal the content behind the enigmatic title until I start on the images, so I would prefer that you left things up in the air, so to speak". We were treated to views of Norfolk's railways such as we had not seen before and gradually made our way from the county's hinterland to its capital.
One was of the station buildings at Norwich Victoria, which housed a circus prior to their railway use. There was on especially fascinating view of the Low Level sidings at Norwich Thorpe station.  This was interesting as it is the only one known to our speaker which includes a view of the Italianate tower of the original station, there. One member was surprised at the description "low level sidings" as they were only three feet below the level of the remainder of the yard.  He wondered, too, about the pronunciation of some Norfolk station names.  Was it Hunstanton, for example, or Huns'ton? Graham provided us with a really most enjoyable "all round view" of the railways of Norfolk.

Before the refreshment break, the Society Archivist, Lyn Brooks, provided an update on the status of the Society's Collection and the soon-to-be-available digital index.
Afterwards was the raffle draw, when five or six lucky winners were able to select a book-prize of their choice.

The final presentation of the day was by John Hull, Vice-Chairman of the Mid-Norfolk Railway.  His chosen subject was The Mid-Norfolk Railway, Past and Present. John has been involved with the Wymondham - Dereham - Fakenham line since he moved to Norfolk in 1974. He joined the Rail Action Committee that campaigned to get passenger services reinstated.  They ran several special trains over an eleven year period until final closure to freight traffic in 1989. Publicity from these activities led to the formation of the MNR and the local council's purchase of the line between Wymondham South Junction and County School station. John was elected Chairman of the railway and continued in that role during the initial opening of the line. Later, he became a normal volunteer.  Now retired, he has been able to take a more active part, once again.
John's talk had three sections and each was prefaced with a brief history and introduction:

  • General slides of the line from Wymondham to Fakenham between 1974 and 1985
  • Pictures taken during a brake van ride in 1975
  • Transparencies made in the weeks before the presentation.

All-in-all an entertaining and informative day was had.  Many thanks to all our speakers and the Meeting's Organisers for their efforts prior to and at the meeting.


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