67 Fen land Railways Allan Mott Oct 2016

Following a short AGM at our meeting in October we were pleased to welcome Allan Mott , a well known local railway author and photographer, as our speaker.

He used a selection of his own photographs to trace the routes of some of the many lines which once existed in the Fens. The majority of his photographs were taken in the 60’s and 70’s when much of the permanent way had been removed leaving just station buildings and platforms. However his first photographs were from two lines which are still very much in use, namely the East Coast mainline and the Nene Valley Railway.The ECML photos, taken at Huntingdon, included shots of a diesel electric ‘Deltic’ and also the first all electric train to arrive at the station, while the NVR photos showed the preserved railway in its early days. We then followed the branch from Peterborough to March and were reminded of the freight only connection to Benwick which had a statutory speed limit of 15 mph. Linked to March was the then very extensive marshalling yard at Whitemoor part of which now operates as a recycling centre for Network Rail. March was also connected to Wisbech and there are now proposals to restore this link which would give direct access from the area to Cambridge. Wisbech was also connected to Upwell by a tramway which ran along the public highway and which used steam locomotives whose wheels were protected by skirting and which had a ‘cowcatcher’at the front.

We then moved to Ely with pictures showing the station with work being carried out to improve the junction; it is interesting to note that today Network Rail has plans to carry out further improvements to the junction. Our last ‘journey’ was on the branch line which connected March to St. Ives and included a photo of Somersham station with one of its brick built platform buildings. The corresponding wooden building on the opposite platform was removed and rebuilt in the garden of Sir William McAlpine. At St. Ives our attention was drawn to a large building near the station where Sir Clive Sinclair began his work on pocket calculators and also developed the infamous C1 ‘car’. Allan’s talk reminded us that although much of the once extensive network of railways in the Fens and surrounding areas has disappeared there are still many reminders if you know where to look for them.

Our next meeting is at 10.30 am on Monday 12th December in Huntingdon library when Alex Turner, a retired senior civil engineer with Network Rail, will tell us more about railway bridges and tunnels.