Giant timeline unveiled to mark 175 Years since the railway reached Lowestoft

Thursday, 5 May 2022

Unveiling the timeline, left to right: Martin Halliday, Community Rail Development Officer, Jonathan Denby, Greater Anglia Head of Corporate Affairs, Cllr Alan Green, Mayor of Lowestoft and Peter Aldous, MP. Credit: Mick Howes

A mural was unveiled at Lowestoft rail station yesterday to commemorate 175 years of the arrival of the railway in the town.

To mark the occasion, the mural – which depicts a timeline of events since the Norwich – Lowestoft ‘Wherry Lines’ railway opened on 3 May 1847 - was unveiled by Waveney MP Peter Aldous.

The mural has been installed by the Wherry Lines Community Rail Partnership and the Lowestoft Central Project, who in recent years have worked with Greater Anglia to substantially rejuvenate and restore the station, with major initiatives including the creation of an exhibition space inside the former parcels office and the opening of a new Tourist Information Office at Lowestoft station.

The timeline details the many changes the line has seen over the years, culminating in the introduction of brand new trains by Greater Anglia in 2019.

Martin Halliday, Community Rail Development Officer said, “We were pleased to create this special timeline marking 175 years of railway history here in Lowestoft.

“The arrival of the railway brought enormous growth and prosperity to the town with the expansion of the port and creation of a Victorian resort. 175 years on and the railway still plays an integral role in the towns economy, enabling greater connectivity for residents and visitors with the railway station itself being situated at the very heart of the community which it serves.”

Greater Anglia’s Head of Corporate Affairs, Jonathan Denby, said, “After 175 years the Norwich – Lowestoft line continues to go from strength to strength, benefiting from the introduction of our high quality, brand new trains; regular and frequent services on both the lines to Norwich and Ipswich and first rate performance, with punctuality consistently over 95% all year around. Add in improvements to station facilities and recent re-signalling upgrades and the railway is well placed to continue to serve the community with an excellent service, connecting people to work, social and leisure opportunities.

“We’re grateful for the ongoing support of the Wherry Lines Community Rail Partnership, our amazing team of station adopter volunteers and other local partners in ensuring a bright future for the railways in Lowestoft, providing great connectivity and facilities for the local community.”

Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney, said, “It is important to mark the 175th Anniversary of the railway coming to Lowestoft, as it has played such an important role in the town’s history.

“Special thanks are due to the Community Rail Partnership and the Lowestoft Central Project for their tireless work in renovating and refurbishing the station, which has such an illustrious past, including the welcoming of 500 Kindertransport refugees in 1938 and saying a temporary farewell to 3,000 school aged evacuees 2 years later.

“It was a privilege to help unveil the timeline recording these and other important milestones over the past 175 years and to look forward to an exciting future.”

In 1844, Sir Samuel Morton Peto who resided at nearby Somerleyton Hall purchased Lowestoft Harbour and announced plans to construct a railway from Reedham. Following Parliamentary approval, construction started in 1846 with the line opening to goods traffic on May 3rd 1847 with passenger services commencing a couple of months later on July 1.

After the arrival of the railway the town grew considerably, attracting major industry in addition to trading links via the port to Europe. Morton Peto also created a fashionable resort to the south of the harbour. The initial route to Norwich was followed in 1859 by a line south to Ipswich and in 1903, a direct route to Great Yarmouth.

The railway brought huge prosperity to the town, with a network of goods lines conveying products from major factories including war rations from the Maconochie canning factory and later produce from famous brands such as Morton and the Cooperative Wholesale Society. The railway enabled fish caught in Lowestoft, to be available in Manchester or London within hours.

Lowestoft railway station is a great survivor having escaped serious damage in two World Wars, fire, floods, attempts by the local authority to relocate it away from the town centre and the infamous Beeching Report.

Key historic events around the station include, in 1915 the former Great Eastern Railway stables becoming the first UK railway premises to be bombed in a Zeppelin Air Raid, the 1938 arrival of over 500 Jewish children escaping Nazi oppression in Europe as part of the Kindertransport Initiative and the evacuation of over 3000 children away from the threat of invasion and bombing during World War 2. The station was even used as a filming location for Anglia Television’s acclaimed drama series, Tales of The Unexpected.

In recent years, Greater Anglia introduced a brand-new fleet of high quality, comfortable air-conditioned trains, which have operated services from Lowestoft to Ipswich and Norwich, from summer 2019 onwards (including the first service operated by one of the new trains anywhere on the Greater Anglia network in July 2019). Network Rail has also invested over £60m upgrading signalling and level crossings, as well as creating brand new freight sidings which operated for the first time earlier this year.

The special timeline has been installed by the Wherry Lines Community Rail Partnership and the Lowestoft Central Project, who in recent years have helped to rejuvenate and restore the station, creating an exhibition space inside the former parcels office and most recently, opening the town’s Tourist Information office.

Credit: Mick Howes