Southwold Railway #3

Southwold Railway #3

Forty years of dereliction and decay:

After closure the line remained derelict for the next twenty years or so. There were moves to reopen it, none of which came to fruition. Most of the route’s track remained until the early forties. The army blew up part of the Blyth bridge thus the line was severed and that preventing any possible reopening.

The most positive move towards reopening of the line had in fact taken place during the latter half of 1929. It was said by Modern Railways a Mr Ronald Shephard of Wimbledon was in negotiation with the railway’s owners and the LNER (for access through their station.) Mr Shephard’s plans were for it to reopen in March 1930 with new carriages used instead of the old.

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Derelict Wenhaston station in the 1930s. Source: Twitter

Mr Shephard is well known for having taken a considerable number of photographs of the railway in its dereliction throughout the thirties and some of these are featured in books on the railway and on the internet. He returned to Halesworth for the last time in 1942 to take some final pictures. By that time however any remote prospect of the railway reopening had vanished because of the Blyth bridge’s demise.

As the forties drew into the fifties, the railway’s remains were gradually reduced, and by the mid fifties, most of it had gone. The locomotive shed at Halesworth was demolished leaving the one unfortunate locomotive (Blyth) open to the elements and it was slowly taken apart, no doubt for much needed scrap as the war itself drew on.

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The River Blyth bridge probably 1938-39. The photo can easily be dated because Southwold’s art deco water tower seen in the distance was not built until 1937. The army destroyed the main span in 1942 for reasons of wartime defence. Source: Twitter

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Southwold possibly 1943 as the track has now disappeared. The station sign said ‘Southwold for Reydon and Wrentham.’ The Station Hotel is just visible behind the trees. Source: Twitter

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This is what it had once looked like! Note the Station Hotel in the background. Source: Twitter

By the sixties the remaining road bridges including the large one on the A12 at Blythburgh (replaced by an embankment, now removed too) had gone and most of the station buildings had vanished. However the goods shed at Blythburgh remains and is ‘the last remaining Southwold Railway building left on the planet.’

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The goods shed at Blythburgh in 2009. Source: Geograph

There were still traces of the railway into the early seventies, and this included a part of Southwold station, the railway cutting with its footbridge, the remaining half of the bridge across the River Blyth (this was the fixed span that was not blown up by the army), much of the old Harbour and Blackshore Quay track remained and considerable sections of the old alignment were now a footpath.

There were also a good number of traces of the line at Halesworth until perhaps the early 1950s. Rolling stock was on show in a very derelict state until the end of the forties, despite those attempts by Ronald Shephard to revive the line as a tourist attraction. Until the late 1970s the famous station name’s sign proudly declared it as being ‘Halesworth for Southwold.’

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Trains no more. Halesworth’s narrow gauge trains and station in the 1930s waiting for the inevitable. Source: Twitter

Bramblewood Way is on the east side of the railway station. The bus lay-by is exactly where the carriage and small station building seen in the previous picture once stood. The trees and the grassed area between Bramblewood Way and the existing Ipswich-Lowestoft line (just visible behind the trees) was once where the narrow gauge goods yard stood. Source: Google Streets

The most enduring section of track that remains from the railway has to be those bits that consisted of the harbour branch. The track lies alongside Blackshore Quay complete with buffer stop. However its in a delicate state and likely wont last many more years.

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The remains of Southwold station in 1966! Source: East Surrey N Gauge blog

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Southwold station in 1966 with luggage van No.14 present. The van is now at the East Anglian Transport Museum. Source: East Surrey N Gauge blog.

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My own photograph of the one and only footbridge in July 1971 – seen 42 years after the last trains had passed beneath it. This structure was actually built from rails belonging to the Southwold Railway. The former gasworks can be seen in the distance and this is where the new museum and operations to rebuild the railway is currently based.

This video at the East Anglian Film Archive shows the celebration of the Southwold Railway’s centenary in 1979. Mr Barrett Jenkins is present as well as the railway’s former station master, Bert Girling, who rings the original station bell.

The Southwold Railway Trust is committed to restoring part of the line in Southwold itself.

The Halesworth to Southwold Narrow Gauge Railway Society is restoring parts of the former route at the Halesworth end of the line.

Southwold Railway Posts:

The Southwold Railway #1

The Southwold Railway #2

The Southwold Railway #3

Updated May 2022.