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Southwold Railway

Discussion in 'Narrow Gauge Railways' started by Bar Side, May 7, 2012.

  1. Hicks19862

    Hicks19862 Member

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    Recent article in Heritage Railway on Steamworks and the Trust’s future plans.

    Interestingly it mentions plans to reinstate the harbour branch after the Steamworks site is complete, before looking at reinstatement of the rest of the line.
     
  2. Johann Marsbar

    Johann Marsbar Member

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    That's interesting, but would need to use a section of the original formation between the Steamworks site and the junction of the harbour branch which is a well used footpath and part of which is in a cutting. The section between the cutting and the branch junction would certainly need widening to accomodate the railway and a foot/cyclepath.

    A couple of photos from when I was there in December...

    The cutting.

    19-994.JPG

    A rather soggy, low lying field, that you can just make out where the track of the harbour branch curved away to the left. The "main line" to the river bridge is off-shot to the right. 19-997.JPG

    It would actually provide a nice, self contained, link between the end of the main street and the harbour, but it's the sort of thing that would give the "locals" (ie those with second homes in the area...) heart failure !
     
  3. Hicks19862

    Hicks19862 Member

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    A
    Angry locals with pitchforks and burning torches aside, it seems like a reasonably attainable aim, and will turn Steamworks in to a real railway without the complications of having to cross the river.
     
  4. JMJR1000

    JMJR1000 Member

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    Having read the article myself and followed for this project for sometime, this project certainly has my interest, and I would agree rebuilding the harbour branch is good sound idea in my view. Looks to be scenic route, and handy that they should be able to link it with their Steamworks site too. As an added bonus as well it allows them to avoid Southwold itself, which from what I gather seems to be the stronghold for many of the objectors to the railway in the general area.

    In fact if they succeed in rebuilding this harbour branch and look to expanding on the original formation further, it may be wise to extend the railway towards Walberswick and beyond, then perhaps consider extending Southwold as and when the town is actually more welcoming to the railway.
     
  5. Johann Marsbar

    Johann Marsbar Member

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    I'm not sure just how much closer to the "Town" they can actually get than their Steamworks site, as there are allotments, houses and a fire/police station built on the original trackbed as far as I can see. Their current site is reached via a very poorly maintained "unadopted" roadway which has some seriously large potholes to catch the unwary - particularly if they are filled with water! When I went there in December, I didn't even bother testing my cars suspension by travelling down it....

    Back in 2003, a very good quality publication was produced (which I have a copy of) detailing a proposal to reopen the line in its entireity, but on a completely new alignment (north of the river) between Blythburgh and Southwold, with it actually having a station at Mights Bridge (the river bridge carrying the main road into the centre of Southwold) and the line then continuing to serve a terminus close to Southwold Pier/boating lake!

    I've uploaded this photo which was taken nearer the end of the cutting which shows the trackbed heading off towards the footbridge (site of old rail bridge) over the river - The bridge can just be made out if you look closely. You can also see the houses shown on the harbour branch photo to get an idea of the distances involved...

    19-995.JPG
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2020
  6. James Hewett

    James Hewett New Member

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    Johann - I thought it might be time for an update. HSNGR re-started work in May - this time on our third site at Blythburgh Station. Numbers are necessarily small - and distanced - but as all the local builders are back at work, we see no reason not to do the same. Naturally, many of our volunteers are shielding and isolating, but there's enough to carry on.
    We are well on with the reconstruction of the last remaining railway building - the Blythburgh Goods Shed of 1880 which, though in a very poor state indeed, can be restored, with at least some of the original timber re-used. Getting on for a tonne of tree branches, ivy and earth have been removed from the roof, and several tonnes of fly-tipped rubbish from the interior. Some interesting artefacts are being unearthed from the surrounding fill and gravel.
    The brick plinth is restored, using reclaimed bricks which were made at the same local brickworks. Wall reconstruction is well on, and the roof started: everything that we can retain is treated against worm and rot, and especially valuable parts (the unique louvres/loading openings on the south wall) treated with wood hardener. Donated roofing sheets are now stitched together and painted for re-use on the north side.
    There seems to be a good deal of support from the village, with 100% positive reactions so far.
    This autumn, when the greenery dies down, we plan to look for the (apparently still extant) station building base, boundary fencing, signal base, and platform edge. Reconstruction of at least part of the station is certainly physically possible, depending, as always, on the attitude of the planning department.
    The site is visible from the A12 car park - but we ask visitors not to try to enter the building.
    James
     

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  7. Bikermike

    Bikermike Member

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    Had a lovely trip to Southwold last summer, and stayed in the Hotel opposite (formerly the railway). Had an enjoyable nose round the steamworks site.

    If I'm honest, the multi-site approach seems a bit odd to me, but look forward to seeing it grow, and I do follow the website.

    If you can get adnams on board, the idea of trundling down to the harbour at sunset with a pint in hand sounds a lovely prospect.
     
  8. nine elms fan

    nine elms fan Member

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    A pint thats no good, get about 150yds on that, got to be half a dozen, Broadside preferred. :):confused:
     
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  9. Bikermike

    Bikermike Member

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    6 pints of pub broadside (4.7%) I can imagine, 6 bottles of 6.3%(?) Broadside? - you're on your own...
    (I can't remember the precise percentage, but it is materially stronger than the pub stuff...)
     
  10. James Hewett

    James Hewett New Member

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    Bikermike and Nine Elms Fan - as has been said before on this forum, Adnams officially objected to the idea of railway re-instatement.
    To be fair to them, in this, they reflect the view of most people in Southwold (both the residents and the vast majority of their representatives on the Town Council), who continue to be pretty fanatical about opposing the railway in any form. They say it would "attract too many tourists" and "spoil the town". Add to that the frequently-expressed negative views of all the local wildlife groups (RSPB, Suffolk Wildlife Trust, AONB) and of the East Suffolk planning department, and it becomes easier to understand why the emphasis is shifting towards Halesworth, where there is probably majority support.
    Anyone who lives in the area would give zero chance of any railway reaching the Harbour, let alone Walberswsick or Blythburgh, from the east (Steamworks was passed very much against the wishes of the Town Council, but re-organisation of the District Councils now means that that would be very unlikely to happen again. There is a strong planning presumption, amounting to a rule, against any new tourism development east of the A12)
    Suffolk, as a rule, does not go in for heritage railways (in contrast to Norfolk), with only the Middy, the EATM, and soon hopefully Leiston - and two of those have had tremendous fights with the planners, and against local intransigence. We have been trying to educate the nay-sayers for many years (they believe - no - they KNOW that railways ruin people's lives, kill all the wildlife in sight, and reduce the value of their property) but it's an uphill struggle!
     
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  11. nine elms fan

    nine elms fan Member

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    Annoying but i still like the beer. :):):)
     
  12. Bikermike

    Bikermike Member

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    Yes, it's a shame that Adnams are like that, maybe their tone will change as they see the opportunities.
    I guess they are the biggest employer in town.

    The beer is rather nice.
     
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  13. Mark Thompson

    Mark Thompson Well-Known Member

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    I follow this thread with curiosity as much as interest. I have never been to Southwold, and I'm not sure I want to, apart from curiosity, that is. It seems a strange place, apparently run by ex-metropolitan middle classes, determined to prevent any sort of change, however benign, nor any incursion by "outsiders" on to their second-home territory.
    Over the past few years, the pejorative term "Little Englanders" has been much thrown about, mainly by people from the London Bubble, at those whose world views differ from their own.
    And yet when affluent people move out from the cities to colonize rural areas such as Southwold, they behave in exactly that fashion, seeking to pickle their environment in the aspic of their moment of arrival, and heaven forbid that any undesirable tourist, or worse still, their awful children, should ever darken their doorstep.
    Other names, such as Parracombe or Salehurst can also be linked with this phenomenon. Why is it that such resistance is so often led by people who originate from London?
    for some reason it puts me in mind of the "Midwich Cuckoos".
    I'll probably get into trouble for this post, but just felt like getting it off my chest:mad:
     
  14. kscanes

    kscanes Well-Known Member

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    I don't disagree with your comments about Londoners moving in and then trying to pull up the drawbridge, but could I put an alternative thought: Have you ever been to Beamish or Blists Hill or similar, and enjoyed walking round the preserved (or even replica) streets of bygone England? Think of Southwold like that with the plus side you don't have to pay to get in. Ever been to say Stow-on-the-Wold (or one hundred and one other similar pretty villages) and admired the beauty .... which is only there these days because of strict planners and pressure groups. Without solid push back the developers would demolish Ann Hathaway's cottage and build a block of flats.

    Don't be put off visiting Southwold based on what you read of the politics. As a visitor you need not be aware of it. It's a nice pleasant seaside town though busy with tourists in the summer just like all other pretty places. Yes it is a bit back in time. So what? That's its charm. The lack of chain stores on the high street is wonderful. Follow part of the route of the Southwold railway, it's a pleasant walk. The pubs and food are good.

    There is no law that says everyone must want a railway. There is no right to be able to preserve a railway. The Southwold Railway have failed, for whatever reason, to garner local support where it matters, so will always face an up hill battle.

    Neither is there a law that says everyone must encourage tourism at every level. There are many places that are designed for the mass tourist market (with their awful children :)), Southwold just isn't one of them. Good for them.

    (I do not live in Southwold, but do visit occasionally.)
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2020
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  15. Bikermike

    Bikermike Member

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    I have yet to see any small-c conservative grouping of older people from anywhere who react enthusiastically to change, not quite sure it's fair to talk about "Londoners" in that way. Try doing something similar in the villages round Brum, or do anything at all in the New Town in Edinburgh etc etc. It is usually well-educated professionals who lead the charge because they are confident and articulate in challenging authority.

    TBH, I think possibly the best angle for the railway is not about bringing tourists in, but getting them out. If you get 10% of them to park in Halesworth and have a trundle on the train, then that's a win for everybody.

    The fundamental problem is that people are making more people and not more land
     
  16. nine elms fan

    nine elms fan Member

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    My wife and i have had a weekend stay in Southwold many times, it is a very pleasant town if have never been there do go, as the saying goes "dont knock it till you have tried it"as for the Railway as much as i would like to see it, as post 94 says it will be an uphill battle and the hill is very steep.
     
  17. Mark Thompson

    Mark Thompson Well-Known Member

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    Sure. You have a point. You all do. I suppose I view it from my own neck of the woods. We live in an AONB, a particularly glorious part of E Sussex. We have much tourist traffic, but our village is straggling and linear. It has no nucleus, so nobody ever stops there. Our local businesses really struggle. It would be wonderful if we had something to bring people in and persuade them to spend money in the local economy. As much as people would like to see our local railway reopened, there is no practical reality of such a thing ever happening.
    Whilst on the other hand, I see the prolifigacy of moving out of a city into a honeypot, and then resisting the attempts of anyone to introduce an economic driver for good. Even a picturesque one like a narrow gauge railway.
    I guess at the end of the day I'm probably slightly jealous that a town can afford to be so insular
    All this reminds me of a conversation I once had with an American friend when she came to Britain for the first time. Looking at the scenery, we got talking about "Midsomer Murders", which they seem to love out there. She called it "cute, and kinda funny".
    I warned her that she'd very soon realise it was in fact a hard-hitting documentary about rural England...o_O
     
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  18. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    The key difference between your corner of E Sussex and Southwold being the number of tourists - you have too few for comfort, they have too many for comfort.
     
  19. Mark Thompson

    Mark Thompson Well-Known Member

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    Then I will help to assuage their sensitivities by not visiting.
     
  20. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    I'm sure that this is as much a hardship for you as it is for me;)
     
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