Steam in the gardens
Bressingham - at last!
24 August 2006
One of the first "Rail Diaries" pages was "The
Bressingham Avoider" of 6 May 2000. The
famous garden centre with railways (or is it the
other way round?) had been on the to-do list
for some time, and when a friend mentioned
the railtour, which would include an afternoon
at Bressingham, I jumped at it. We never got
there - the nearest we got was a pint at
Norwich, before setting off homewards barely
a couple of hours after arrival (see "The Bressingham
Avoider" for the full sad tale).
Some six years later, an opportunity for a couple of nights in
Cambridge raised the possibility of a visit - although I should
perhaps have checked the weather forecast more carefully. What
started out as a fine, sunny day in Shropshire turned into
torrential rain near Bury St Edmunds. The road was flooded
beside a field of pigs - I half-expected to see the upturned
trotters in the muddy waters spilling onto the dual carriageway.
By the time we'd arrived and had a bite of lunch, the rain was
easing a little, and we set out to explore the railways. Firstly the
"Nursery Railway", the 1' 11" gauge line which is host to some
nice little ex-Welsh quarry locos. No such luck - we rode behind
"Toby" - a dressed-up Motor-Rail (which would have been
perfectly acceptable in its native form...) complete with face.
The Nursery line crosses the 15" gauge "Waveney Valley Railway"
in a couple of places, and as we trundled through the rain-
sodden fields, we met "Männertreu", the hefty
1937 Krupp-built pacific - which, a little later,
provided us with our next ride.
Two locomotives were in steam on the standard
gauge line - "King Haakon 7", the Norwegian
2-6-0, and "Terrier" 0-6-0T no. 662. The latter
was on test - I hoped a run or two up the line
might take place - but no, it just simmered
gently all afternoon. The 2-6-0, in the meantime,
made a few demonstration runs up and down the line. The damp
conditions at least meant there was plenty of visible steam...
We had a wander around the museum exhibits - there are some
notable locomotives on display, including both Great Northern
atlantics, the LT&SR 4-4-2T "Thundersley", the Great Eastern
2-4-0 no. 490, plus some unusual industrials, including the two
tiny Beckton gas works locos, and the unique Beyer-Garratt
"William Francis" from Baddesley colliery. I mustn't forget all the
non-railway exhibits - traction engines and steam rollers in
abundance, and numerous stationary engines. My wife studied
these with some interest in their origins - "This one's a jam
engine!" she exclaimed. It was, too - ex-Chivers, of Histon near
Finally, we took our third ride, on the 10¼" gauge Garden
Railway - behind the very attractive "Alan Bloom", an
approximately half-scale Hunslet quarry type. This is really one
for the kids (including, of course, big kids...) who are set the
objective of counting the numerous cuddly toys hidden along the
route (no, we didn't manage to spot them all...).
Conclusion? I'm pretty sure we'll have to go again... An excellent
afternoon, despite the weather.
Bressingham Steam and Gardens
Geoff’s Rail Diaries