As there are just two weeks left to savour semaphore control of the Wherry Lines from Norwich to Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, this felt like the moment to pay a farewell visit, and attempt to see some Class 755 action at the same time.
Introduction of the new Stadler bi-mode units has been little short of disastrous and the spate of last minute cancellations continues, with workings cancelled on my 16 January 2020 visit including the 11.36 Norwich-Great Yarmouth, with the 12.55 to Lowestoft being heavily delayed.
What had also changed since my previous visit was introduction of the 3-car variant, with a trio of 755/3s in operation on Wherry Line services (755327/333/337) just one 4-car unit (755412), along with a reminder of the old order in the form of 156402.
Having been visiting Brundall for the past three years I felt I had pretty much exhausted the photographic possibilities of the station itself, so decided to venture off and check out a couple of new locations, as well as re-visit two old favourites.
First up was a foot crossing of the Acle line just east of a bridge where the line goes over the road to Strumpshaw. St. Michael’s Way No. 3 crossing gives you a good view of up outer home BL34 with a sighting board behind it, which stands adjacent to the road bridge (top photo, showing 755327 with the 10.17 from Great Yarmouth).
Moving on from here to the village of Strumpshaw then diagonally crossing a large field on a marked footpath brings you to another foot crossing of the line, Chapel Lane No.4, where there is a fine view of Brundall’s Acle line up distant, BL35 (bottom photo).
755412 nears Brundall Junction Signal Box with the 13.48 Lowestoft-Norwich
Having been thwarted in photographing a Basil heading east towards the Chapel Road distant CR1 by last minute cancellation of the 11.36 ex-Norwich (this signal is also visible from the foot crossing), I decided to press on and head south to the Lowestoft route.
Returning to the village of Strumpshaw and taking a road off to the right just before St. Peter’s Church brings you – after a walk of about 30 minutes – to a foot crossing of the double track Lowestoft line that provides access to the popular Strumpshaw Fen RSPB bird reserve.
755323 passes BL32 on 16 January 2020 with the 12.57 Lowestoft-Norwich
What this foot crossing also offers is a fine vantage point from which to see and photograph the other semaphore distant signal controlled by Brundall Junction Signal Box, BL32, which stands around 100 yards west of the crossing (pictured above).
Saving myself the 1½ mile walk back to Brundall when I was offered a lift by a kind RSPB volunteer, my second new vantage point was a foot crossing just west of the down platform end, on a path leading to the extensive Bell Boats boatyard.
755333 pauses at Brundall on 16 January 2020 with the 14.05 Norwich-Lowestoft
This is very close to down outer home BL3 and up section signal BL28 and gives a good vantage point to photograph a down train heading round the slight right hand bend into the station, with down home BL4 and the junction signals BL5/7 visible beyond.
755412 departs Brundall with the 13.48 Lowestoft-Norwich
I have hugely enjoyed my many Wherry Lines visits over the past few years, and speaking to numerous local people about my passion for its signalling heritage. I will miss it a great deal, but hope for the sake of local rail users that progress really is progress and that, come the end of next month, new signals and new trains will prove both compatible and reliable!
My book “Britain’s last mechanical signalling” is out now, and is available from publishers Pen & Sword, from good transport bookshops and from many online retailers.