Having arrived in Norwich after my journey with East Midlands Trains (read about that here) I took the opportunity to take a final trip on Greater Anglia’s ‘short set’ before it finished operating in the middle of May [turns out the short set is still operating when this post went live in early July!] . Operated on behalf of Greater Anglia by Direct Rail Services, the ‘short set’ comprises of two Mark 2 carriages top and tailed by Class 37 locomotives. With only one ‘short-set’ in operation, I planned my day around catching one of the services to Brundall before alighting and waiting for the same train on its return trip.
Due to Greater Anglia’s timetabling and various single-track sections of line, the ‘short-set’ arrived into Norwich’s platform 6 from its previous trip around 45 minutes prior to departure. Using some of the time to take photos of the historic Class 37s, I boarded one of the carriages to find them configured with all of the seats around tables, something that I believe is unique on trains operating scheduled services within the UK. Also on board were a collection of other railway enthusiasts, who, like me, had chosen to use the Bank Holiday take a ride on this historic train prior to its retirement.
Departing Norwich on time, the roar of the Class 37’s engine started, and we headed east along the banks of the River Yare with the line to Cromer and Sherringham diverging at Whitlingham Junction. The Wherry lines to Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft travel through the Norfolk Broads for pretty much their entire length, with the part between Brundall Gardens and Buckenham also passing through the Mid-Yare National Nature Reserve. Brundall station opened in 1844 and was the first stop after Norwich for 30 years until the now closed station at Whitlingham opened. In 1883, Brundall became a junction station after the branch to Great Yarmouth via Acle opened, with this route now being the primary connection between Norwich and Great Yarmouth.
The Class 37s were constructed between 1960 and 1965 and were the main traction for inter-city services in Anglia and Scotland as well as operating on secondary and inter-regional services before being withdrawn from most services in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Nicknamed ‘Tractors’ due to the agricultural sound of the engines, there are still over 60 of the 50-something year old locomotives operating on the main line and a further 30 preserved and located on heritage lines across the UK from the Bodmin & Wenford Railway in Cornwall to the Caledonian Railway in Scotland.
Brundall is currently home to one of the few manually operated level crossings still in existence and this, along with the staggered platforms and semaphore signals gives the station a very rural and quaint feel. The footbridge spanning the railway provided the perfect vantage point to watch the train’s departure and listen to the sound of the Class 37’s engines from outside the train. You can find a video of the departure from Brundall on my Instagram here! With a 35-minute wait for the train to travel to Great Yarmouth and back, I settled down to wait and watched the crossing keeper operating the crossing for a number of other services passing through.
With the crossing being closed and the distant clunk of the semaphore signal being cleared, the ‘short set’ appeared around the curve from Lingwood and pulled into Brundall’s recently refurbished Norwich bound platform. When at a stand in this platform, the leading Class 37 sits blocking the level crossing and so boarding is swift with the guard quickly giving the driver the right to depart. Passing Norwich’s Crown Point depot, I am able to catch a glimpse of one of the Class 755s that will eventually replace the ‘short set’ on services across the Wherry Lines and Greater Anglia’s numerous other branch lines. Our arrival into Norwich signals the end of my foray on the Class 37s and probably my last ever journey on a train hauled by one of these locomotives. Whilst the introduction of modern trains is great for passengers and train operators alike, I cannot help but be sad by the ever diminishing number of locomotive-hauled services operating around the country.