History of the M&GN
After the War, all the nation’s railways were in need of a great deal of investment just to return them to pre-war standards, let alone any thoughts of modernisation. In 1948, the government nationalised the railways under the ‘British Railways’ banner. Right from the outset, there was a drive to reduce costs and prune non-profitable areas.
This was made a lot simpler by the growth of road transport. Not only had the government themselves subsidised road haulage heavily since World War 1 – and continued to do so - but the privately-owned motor car was fast becoming an affordable means of transport for everyone. From now on, the railway had to compete with the burgeoning road users and it was soon clear exactly which areas would need pruning.
In Norfolk, the N&S Joint had never achieved its full potential and the cuts began here. 1953 saw the closure of Breydon Bridge – in use for only 50 years - and the Cromer to Mundesley section. Cromer High Station soon followed, with services now concentrated on Cromer Beach. The larger 70 foot turntable from Cromer High was moved to Cromer Beach to allow the servicing of larger locomotives.
1955 saw Government money for the Railways in the form of the Modernisation Plan. Out would go labour-intensive steam, ancient coaching stock, old signalling systems and non-profitable lines. The closure of lines was thought to be a good way to help fund the other changes.
During 1958 the plan to close most of the M&GN was made public. Despite much protest about the loss of services, almost all of the M&GN closed on 28th February 1959 – the first main line to close. The replacement bus service from Lynn through to Melton Constable took over twice as long as the train! Some few sections remained open, such as the Melton Constable to Sheringham line. However, this closure did not release as much money as was expected and 1961 saw the appointment of the infamous Dr Richard Beeching as chairman of the British Transport Commission, later the British Railways Board.
As far as Norfolk was concerned, Beeching completed the closure from Melton to Sheringham, with the line closing to passengers on 6th April 1964. As a result of Beeching’s “The Reshaping of British Railways” report of 1963, most of the railway infrastructure of Norfolk disappeared, leaving just the few remaining lines we see today.
History of the M&GN articles written by Dave King, curator of the William Marriott Museum.