MEMORY LANE: Remembering Norfolk and Suffolk village railways 50 years after closure

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Did you know only 50 years ago, many south Norfolk and north Suffolk villagers were just a short distance from a mainline train to all of the region’s big destinations?

Alas, tomorrow marks exactly half a century since the fateful day of November 5, 1966, when the well-used services from Burston, Forncett, Tivetshall, Mellis, Finningham and Haughley were all lost to the ages, as a result of the controversial ‘Beeching Report’.

The Diss station is one of the few services in the area to have survived those mass closures, which came about, amid strong local opposition, due to transport cost-cutting recommendations put forward by Dr Richard Beeching, then British Railways chairman, in the 1960s.

Diss historian Dennis Cross said he regularly caught the train from Burston to Great Yarmouth and elsewhere in the region, and he recalled the station’s platform always being packed on Sundays.

“You could get anywhere by train. There were lines everywhere. The railways were very popular,” Mr Cross told the Diss Express.

“We were young and adventurous and just wanted to see all about us. We went all over the place.”

Mr Cross explained the line to Norwich, which went through a number of these villages, once travelled straight up to the now-shut Norwich Victoria station, up until the Second World War, at which point it diverted to the current Nowich stop.

He recalled still seeing steam trains on the lines when he was growing up, before diesel engines gradually overtook the services from the mid-20th Century

Mr Cross added: “It was great to take advantage of these excursions. They were lovely days.

“But Dr Beeching said they’ve got to close, and close they did. They closed hundreds of stations.

“As soon as they shut, the bulldozers moved in. There was a bit of a fight when they went. They shut them all on that night, and that was the end of it.”

* Do you have any good memories of using the south Norfolk and north Suffolk village railway services before November 1966?

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