Norfolk Orbital Railway

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The Holt, Melton Constable and Fakenham Railway Company (Norfolk Orbital Railway)
TypeRegional rail
LocaleEast of England
Track length0 miles (0.00 km)
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Route map
Cromer Beach
To Norwich via
Bittern Line
West Runton
Occasional use level crossing
over Station Road
Sheringham (NNR)
Weybourne (NNR)
Kelling Heath Halt (NNR)
Holt (NNR)
Melton Constable
County School (MNR)
North Elmham (MNR)
Dereham (MNR)
Yaxham (MNR)
Thuxton (MNR)
Hardingham (MNR)
Kimberley Park (MNR)
Wymondham Abbey (MNR)
Breckland Line

The Norfolk Orbital Railway — as the Holt, Melton Constable and Fakenham Railway Company — is a community railway project in Norfolk, England, to investigate and with others put in place a cohesive public transport structure for all who live and work in Norfolk as well as visitors.

The proposed line would link stations at Sheringham and Wymondham on the national rail network by using tracks of the two standard gauge heritage railways in the county, and restoring the former Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway line between Holt and Fakenham, creating a circular route which could be used by passenger services.

The heritage lines affected are Mid-Norfolk Railway and the North Norfolk Railway. The route would include stations on both of these lines.


The line from Fakenham to Melton Constable was part of the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway's main line from Peterborough to Great Yarmouth. The line from Melton Constable to Holt was part of the M&GN branch line to Cromer.

The main line closed to passengers in February 1959. The branch line remained open, operated as part of the line from Norwich Thorpe, when it was cut back to Sheringham in 1964.

In January 2019, Campaign for Better Transport released a report identifying the line which was listed as Priority 2 for reopening. Priority 2 is for those lines which require further development or a change in circumstances (such as housing developments).[1]

Line status[edit]

Norwich station.
Salhouse on the double track Network Rail section.
Sheringham's Network Rail terminus.
Sheringham level crossing.
Weybourne on the North Norfolk Railway.
The end of the line at Holt.
Closed and lifted M&GN formation near Stody.

The line would form an 83 mile line through the county of Norfolk, with two likely reversal points. The route is outlined as follows:

Network Rail section (30 miles)

The first section of line that the project intends to use runs from Norwich to Sheringham, and is part of the National Rail network, marketed as the "Bittern Line". Leaving Norwich, trains call at

*Hoveton & Wroxham
*North Walsham
*Roughton Road
*Cromer - formerly Cromer Beach, a terminus station on the M&GN, where services reverse direction
*West Runton
North Norfolk Railway (5.5 miles)

Network Rail services terminate at a simple halt in Sheringham, with the next section of line, from Sheringham to Holt, being owned and operated as the North Norfolk Railway. Since March 2010 the two lines have been connected by a "periodic use" level crossing.

*Sheringham (North Norfolk Railway)
*Kelling Heath Park
*Holt (North Norfolk Railway)
Holt to Melton Constable section (5.5 miles)

The Norfolk Orbital project owns 50 yards of former railway formation beyond the limits of the North Norfolk Railway. This is isolated from the railway by a removed road bridge and the new station's coach park, but an isolated section of track, along with rolling stock, is intended to be laid here for publicity purposes. The route through Holt, including the site of the original station, has been used for the single carriageway Holt bypass, with new housing developments being approved since the launch of the project. Beyond Holt the formation largely remains, although some sections have been lost to agriculture and housing developments.

*Holt - original station lost under road scheme, but new station planned.
Melton Constable to Fakenham section (9 miles)

The station site at Melton Constable has been lost to an industrial estate, the platform site now the town's telephone exchange. The station throat, formerly a deep cutting, has been filled and restored to agriculture.

After reversing at Melton, the trackbed is mostly intact as far as Thursford, where it has been lost under a road for a short distance. Close to Fakenham, the formation was affected by quarrying and is now a track through Pensthorpe wildfowl preserve, with some sections having been lost to planned lakes forming the core of the wildfowl park and the route of the line passing metres from the visitor buildings at the attraction. A new, diversionary route would be needed to avoid this location.

*Melton Constable
*Thursford - this former station is not listed as part of the Orbital project.
Fakenham to County School (6.5 miles)
Bridge 1715 at Fakenham, owned by the Norfolk Orbital Railway.
County School on the Mid-Norfolk Railway facing Norwich.

A new station would be needed at Fakenham, with trains likely to need to reverse direction at this point. The line would join the former Great Eastern branch from Fakenham to County School, which also forms part of the future route of the Mid-Norfolk Railway. It is mostly intact, although the line is blocked at Great Ryburgh by an extension to the town's maltings. The trackbed from County School to Fakenham is in the last stages of protection; this also includes a short M&GNJR spur to the Fakenham gas works where a station could be provided.

*Fakenham West - a new station close to Fakenham West is planned for the MNR and NOR.
Mid-Norfolk Railway (17.5 miles)
Hardingham station, facing Norwich.

The line from County School to Dereham retains most of its track and is owned by the MNR. The line from Dereham to North Elmham has been restored to operational standards and carries the heritage services of the MNR.

*County School
*North Elmham
*Kimberley Park
*Wymondham Abbey
Network Rail section (9.5 miles)
>Wymondham, Network Rail, facing Norwich.

The final section of line planned for use as part of this project is part of the National Rail line between Ely and Norwich. On arrival at Norwich the train would have completed a loop around the county of Norfolk, hence the "orbital" aspect of the project name.


Rolling stock[edit]

The company does not plan to own rolling stock. The track would be operated by existing companies.


The Sheringham link to Network Rail.

The Midland & Great Northern section[edit]

The Sheringham link[edit]

After 36 years the Bittern line was reconnected to the North Norfolk Railway via an "occasional use" link between the Network Rail station and the North Norfolk Railway's tracks.

Although the length of the link is only a few yards the agreement represents a step towards a permanent link and new interchange station. This link is initially available for occasional use (such as charter trains from Norwich and/or London) and for delivery of rolling stock.

The Holt trackbed.

The crossing was opened on 11 March 2010, after two months of work.[2]

The Holt link[edit]

The first section of the formation to be purchased by the Norfolk Orbital Railway is located between the North Norfolk Railway's Holt station site and the town bypass, which was built on the railway formation.

The company paid £25,000 for the 50-yard stretch of former track bed,[3] and erected a small sign on a tree to indicate that it is now back in railway ownership.

The Great Eastern section[edit]

Fakenham Land[edit]

In 2009 the Norfolk Orbital Railway attempted to secure a section of the railway formation in Fakenham,[4] but was outbid by a London developer who claimed not to know of the project. The land was once again auctioned on 10 December 2014, and was secured for the railway project for £24,000.[5][6]

In 2016 the project was awarded £60,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help repair the Fakenham bridges, provide an education resource, equipment for the Fakenham Area Conservation Team and to create a walk along the preserved formation for people to enjoy. The walkway is currently maintained by the conservation team, but has also suffered from the attention of local vandals.[7]


  1. ^ [1] p.42
  2. ^ Keller, David (11 March 2010). "North Norfolk Railway gets reconnected to National Rail". BBC News. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  3. ^ Clapham, Lucy (15 August 2013). "Holt land buy signals 'vital' step for Norfolk Orbital railway campaign". Eastern Daily Press.
  4. ^ "Part of bygone rail network up for sale". Fakenham & Wells Times. 7 July 2010.
  5. ^ "Opportunity to buy land at Pudding Norton... deadline December 10th 2014". Norfolk Orbital Railway. Archived from the original on 5 December 2014. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  6. ^ Scotter, Kate (15 December 2014). "Norfolk Orbital Railway project gets closer to reviving old link to Fakenham". Eastern Daily Press.
  7. ^ Railway project will steam ahead despite another set back as vandals strike again

External links and references[edit]