Giant new timeline unveiled to mark 175 years of the railway in Lowestoft
- Credit: Mick Howes
A new timeline has been unveiled to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the railway reaching Lowestoft.
The new display at the town's rail station was unveiled on Tuesday, May 3 as it commemorated 175 years since the line between Norwich and Lowestoft was opened.
Waveney MP Peter Aldous marked the occasion as a special timeline of events was unveiled at the most easterly point of the entire UK rail network.
In 1844, Sir Samuel Morton Peto - who lived at nearby Somerleyton Hall - purchased Lowestoft Harbour and announced plans to construct a railway from Reedham.
Following Parliamentary approval, construction started in 1846 with the line opening to goods traffic on May 3, 1847 as passenger services began a few months later on July 1.
The town grew considerably after the arrival of the railway, attracting major industry in addition to trading links via the port to Europe.
The initial route to Norwich was followed in 1859 by a line south to Ipswich and in 1903, a direct route to Great Yarmouth, as the railway brought huge prosperity to the town.
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Lowestoft railway station is a great survivor - having escaped serious damage in two world wars, fire, floods, attempts to relocate it away from the town centre and the Beeching Report.
Key historic events around the station have include the former Great Eastern Railway stables becoming the first UK railway premises to be bombed in a Zeppelin Air Raid in 1915, the arrival of more than 500 Jewish children escaping Nazi oppression in Europe as part of the Kindertansport Initiative in 1938 and the evacuation of over 3,000 children away from the threat of invasion and bombing during the Second World War.
The station was even used as a filming location for Anglia Television’s drama series, Tales of The Unexpected.
In recent years, Network Rail has invested more than £60m upgrading signalling and level crossings as well as creating brand new freight sidings which operated for the first time earlier this year.
In 2019 Greater Anglia introduced a brand new fleet of trains which operate services from Lowestoft to Ipswich and Norwich.
The special timeline has been installed by the Wherry Lines Community Rail Partnership and the Lowestoft Central Project, who in recent years have rejuvenated the station - creating an exhibition space inside the former parcels office and recently opening the town’s Tourist Information office.
With Tuesday’s events signalling the start of a summer of celebrations to mark the anniversary, Mr Aldous unveiled the giant new large timeline - which features the history of the railway in the town - at 11.30am after its installation in one of the arches at Lowestoft station.
Mr Aldous was joined by the mayor of Lowestoft, Alan Green, representatives of local organisations, rail operator Greater Anglia, the Wherry Lines Community Rail Partnership, the Lowestoft Central Project and Network Rail for the special launch.
There was also the chance to view Departures – the critically acclaimed exhibition by photographer David Pearce - at the exhibition space inside the former parcels office as the changing East Anglian railway scene over the past 50 years was showcased.
Highlighting Lowestoft Railway Station's wartime and military connections at the 175th anniversary event, local historian Bob Collis said: "The history of the railway is inextricably entwined with that of our town.
"In the First World War Lowestoft's railway station was the first railway property in Britain to be damaged by enemy air attack when a bomb from a Zeppelin landed nearby in April 1915.
"The station led a charmed life in the Second World War two with bomb craters and buildings destroyed all around it in Denmark Road and Commercial Road and railway lines hit several times.
"Luckily the station itself escaped any serious damage.
"In addition to the famous wartime evacuations and Kinder transport that preceded them, tens of thousands of military personnel, plus their equipment and supplies arrived and departed by train."
Mr Collis added: "Its wonderful to see important anniversaries like this being marked and I have nothing but praise for the organisers."