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New plan for station

PUBLISHED: 16:04 30 April 2008 | UPDATED: 14:32 07 July 2010

It's every little boys dream to own a train set, complete with signal box, station and coveted toy trains.

And while some little boys grow up, others, like Mike Urry, decide they want a slice of the real thing.

It's every little boys dream to own a train set, complete with signal box, station and coveted toy trains.

And while some little boys grow up, others, like Mike Urry, decide they want a slice of the real thing.

The self confessed Norfolk railway enthusiast from Hellesdon is well on his way to creating his dream of owning his very own station, complete with, he hopes, steam trains.

The 49 year old has bought the former Midland and Great Northern Railway (M&GN) owned Whitwell and Reepham train station in mid Norfolk for £300,000 and a diesel train for £8,000.

And by March next year, 50 years after the MG&N station closed to passengers, the father of two hopes to have a working train station there once again, with at least one train running, a museum and tea room.

It's a little bit different to hid day job running his printed circuit board business, One Way Circuits, at Lenwade, near Reepham.

“It is one of those childhood things, you get a train set. It's grown from that,” said Mr Urry.

“I'm a railway enthusiast and always will be. My brother and I used to go around on the rural rover ticket, you could get all over.

“I don't remember too much about steam, but you could smell it, it was a lovely smell.”

The station has been redundant for years and, after a developer failed to get permission to turn in into homes, it went up for auction on Mr Urry's birthday last year.

It is a slightly larger project than the set bought for him by his wife two years ago.

Unlike its former owner, fondly known as the Muddle and Go Nowhere Railway, he has already set to work clearing the site as he waits for planning permission for building work.

His main plan is to open a museum and tea room to the public, rebuild a signal box, turn the goods shed into an engine shed and to lay track in front of the station, with the aim of having steam trains on the line.

Pipe dreams include creating a line between his station to the old Reepham station, where there is also a small museum and tea room, having a restaurant car and train driver training days.

He says bobble hats were not his style but that he was looking forward to having a play on his real life train set.

“I can see myself playing on it,” he said. “I'm never going to make a lot of money out of it, I just want to bring it back to its former glory.

“It is a great opportunity on one of the lines I like, the Melton Constable to Norwich city,” he said. “It was a sad time when that line closed.”

Once he has got planning permission he will be able to bring his diesel engine, a 1977 ex-MOD engine formerly based at Gosport, to the site.

Villagers have been helping out at the site and it is hoped children from the high school in Reepham can go along and do some work.

“We have had nothing but good responses from people. I'm very impressed by the local support and enthusiasm,” he said.

Mr Urry would like to hear from anyone with any memories, photographs or information about the station. Go to www.whitwellstation.com or email updates@whitwellstation.com.

Whitwell and Reepham station was built in the late 1880s and opened on July 1, 1882.

It is the only one left of five all built to the same plan, the others being Hellesdon, North Walsham Town, Fakenham West and Aylsham North.

When it first opened from Melton Constable to Norwich, the line was called The Lynn & Fakenham Railway.

The Whitwell and Reepham station was in the centre of the agricultural area in Norfolk, farmers would bring their produce to the station, from grain to carrots and fruit, to be transported across the country.

Sugar beet was transported directly from the station to beet factories in the winter months, cattle and hides from a local tanning factory were transported from there and coal was brought in.

It was once controlled by a station master, signal man and porter with a number of other men based in the yard.

A large signal box once stood on the end of the down platform and there was a timber footbridge over the line, replaced by a lattice girder in the 1930s.

The station closed to passengers on February 28, 1959, but the lines were left in place for carrying sand from Drayton and large concrete beams from Lenwade.

The tracks were finally taken up in 1985 after the Lenwade concrete firm closed.

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