Narrow Gauge Pleasure

The Bure Valley Railway

Aylsham Station
Photo Courtesy of the BVR

The Railway Today

The Bure Valley Railway is a modern 15" gauge passenger railway built with tourist traffic in mind. It is remarkable for being by far the most ambitious project of this kind in post war Britain. Modern locomotives, both steam and diesel, haul trains of comfortable modern rolling stock some of which has electric heating for use during the colder parts of the season.

Having been built so recently the Bure Valley Railway obviously lacks the fascinating history in which so many other lines are steeped. None the less it remains a railway in it's own right and at nine miles length it has to be seen as one of the countries major narrow gauge lines.

The railway runs through the pleasant Norfolk countryside, well known for its pastoral tranquillity and for the Broads, a picturesque series of lakes which are the remains of ancient peat cuttings. The line's headquarters is located at the old market town of Aylsham which is, in itself, well worth a visit.

Nine miles from the Aylsham terminus lies Wroxham station on the edge of the Broads. Many a boating holiday starts from Wroxham, as do a variety of boat trips. A special rail and boat ticket is available for one of these combining the return rail journey with a broadland boat ride.

A high level of passenger comfort!

The line is extremely well equipped in all respects with modern track, locos, rolling stock and buildings. Most passengers board the train at Aylsham Station where the large modern buildings include cafe, shop, museum and workshop.

The permanent way is to a standard not often seen on the British narrow gauge with rails bought new in 1989 mounted in chairs with Pandrol 'e' clips (smaller versions of the ubiquitous pandrol system used by Railtrack) on wooden sleepers.

Amongst the locomotive stock "Blickling Hall" and "Spitfire" are outstanding. These two are real departures from the 15" scale model concept. Although based on larger narrow gauge locomotives they are first and foremost purpose designed 15" gauge engines. With their tall funnels and large cabs they offer comfort for the driver, these elegant machines may be considered the pinnacle of the British 15" gauge.

Another outstanding feature of the Bure Valley Railway is the solidly constructed and comfortable passenger accommodation. The carriage doors shut with a satisfying clunk and all the seats are comfortably upholstered. The loading gauge of the line is large by 15" standards and so the accommodation is spacious too.

All in all the Bure Valley Railway provides a very comfortable ride through countryside which is green and pleasant in an area where narrow gauge railways are all too scarce.

The entire loco stud at the BVR
Photo Courtesy of the BVR

History and Origins

The current narrow gauge railway is built on a part of the track bed of the Midland and Great Northern Railway which closed through lack of traffic in the 1950's. The track bed ultimately fell into the hands of the British Rail Property Board who sought to dispose of this surplus asset. Many miles of disused railways in the UK have been converted into footpaths and this is indeed what happened to much of the M&GNR track. The stretch from Wroxham to Aylsham however was to have a slightly different fate.

The Aylsham to Wroxham section was acquired by The Broadlands District Council in 1987 and half it's width converted to a footpath, the remainder of the land was leased to the Bure Valley Railway company. In 1989 the company began construction of the first new narrow gauge passenger railway of it's size built in the UK for at least fifty years. The projects £2.5 million cost was part funded by the English Tourist Board and the DOE and the railway opened to passengers in July 1990.

Even in it's short history the railway has been through the periods of financial uncertainty which seem always to be a part of the narrow gauge story but in the hands of the current owners, Westernasset Limited, the future seems secure.

Comments on this Railway

Add your comment on this railway.

Jayne and Peter Boulton   03 Dec 2013
Took my two Rottweilers and Jack Russell for the trip from Aylsham to Wroxham and back a couple of summers ago ... they loved it. If you see a Rottie head with ears flapping in the wind with her head out of the window say hello to Willow. Unfortunately, my old boy has passed now, but it was a lovely memory we have of him looking out of the window, watching the countryside rush by. Wasnt cheap taking the dogs on, but worth every penny. Lovely lunch in Wroxham, then back again. Tourists take advantage, its a wonderful way to get into Wroxham for shopping.
David   25 Dec 2011
What size is the rail and what Pandrol clips did the Burr use for its impressive track?
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