'World's smallest railway' gets back on the rails

Mr Armstrong is one of the volunteers who help to run the railway when it is open Picture: Chris Bis

Matthew Armstrong, volunteer driver at the Wells and Walsingham Light Railway who isolated at the site last year, is returning as the railway reopens.   - Credit: Archant

Streams of steam will rise once again over a scenic stretch of north Norfolk countryside as the Wells and Walsingham Light Railway prepares to get back on track. 

Known as the world's smallest light railway, services on the line will resume on Saturday, May 1 following a closure for much of the past year due to the pandemic. 

Its managing director, Nick Champion, said although they could have opened earlier according to the roadmap out of lockdown, they took some extra time to give the railway's team time to shake off the cobwebs and ensure everything was Covid secure.

Train buff Matthew Armstrong who is self isolating on the Wells and Walsingham Railway in Norfolk P

Matthew Armstrong, volunteer driver at the Wells and Walsingham Light Railway who isolated at the site last year, is returning as the railway reopens.   - Credit: Archant

Mr Champion said: "Because we're a railway we have to make sure we follow the safety protocols. Some of our drivers haven't driven for a year because of Covid."

Among the team returning will be volunteer train driver Matthew Armstrong, who made international headlines last year when he was self-isolating by living at a caravan at the railway.

Mr Armstrong, who works as an assistant practitioner at Hellesdon Hospital, even got to drive the locomotives around to conduct maintenance on parts of the track. 

Wells to Walsingham steam railway, Roy Francis, 1991. Picture: Archant Library

Roy Francis driving the Wells to Walsingham Light Railway in 1991.   - Credit: Archant Library


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Although the services will start by not going all the way to Walsingham from the Wells station, Mr Champion said it was still well worth the journey. He said: "The countryside is beautiful this time of year. We've got brown hares in the fields and it's starting to become really verdant."

Mr Champion said they had been given "excellent support" from the tourism body Visit North Norfolk and had high hopes for a successful 2021 season. 

Wells to Walsingham steam railway. Roy Francis, commander of The Norfolk Hero, 1992. Picture: Archan

Flashback to 1992: Roy Francis, commander of The Norfolk Hero, on the Wells to Walsingham line.   - Credit: Archant Library

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He said: "People are a bit reticent to travel abroad and hopefully we'll see a bit of a renaissance in domestic tourism. The small tourist attractions like ourselves rely on our staff and volunteers, but we're only small fry in the business community. 2020 has been an existential threat to a lot of small tourist operators, and I cannot praise Visit North Norfolk enough in terms of the support they have given."

The railway will operate daily until the end of 2021. Bookings are not needed, and services will start off by operating every hour.

Wells to Walsingham steam railway, 1990. Picture: Archant Library

File photo of the Wells to Walsingham Light Railway from 1990. - Credit: Archant Library


 

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