Along the Line
Along the Line
Most passengers join at Wansford, which is a through station. The train usually departs to the west, passes under the A1 and runs through a steep cutting before entering the 617yds long.Wansford tunnel.The tunnel is straight and level and has no ventilation shafts. At the far end the line curves gently south until it emerges from a wooded cutting where a set of mail exchange equipment may be found before it terminates at Yarwell Junction on an embankment south of the River Nene between the Sibson Fisheries. From this point after the run round of the engine, the train makes it's way to Peterborough Nene Valley Station.
After returning to Wansford the train departs, crossing the Old Great North Road by a level crossing at the eastern end of the station. During peak traffic times before the dual carriageway bypass was constructed in 1959 this crossing was a major bottleneck and on summer Saturdays the gates were sometimes shut against road traffic for up to 20 minutes at a time. The signals at the platform ends are two of the few surviving Great Northern Railway somersault signals, once a familiar sight to passengers on the Ramsey branch off the East coast main line.
On the north side of the line, sandwiched between the road and the river is Wansford signal-box, one of the largest preserved operational boxes in Britain. It was built in 1907 and its 60-lever frame replaced three earlier signal-boxes. The signalman also controls the level crossing gates.
The railway crosses the River Nene on a girder bridge followed by a series of brick arches over the river flood plain and passes the site of the junction with the Stamford branch. This line was closed in 1929 but the course of the railway can easily be followed as the overgrown embankment curves north towards the village of Sutton. Despite being over 75 years since the branch closed, all the intermediate stations are still in existence. The branch was opened in 1867 and its trains used a bay platform in the Wansford station.
Once across the river the railway curves in an easterly direction for 400 yards on an embankment above the flood plain and then enters the long straight section of 3 miles for Ferry Meadows. At the start of the long straight is the location of Sutton Cross where the Railway has located it's first set of apparatus equipment used in the past to transfer mail to and from a moving train and can be seen on the south side of the line just beyond the pylons that cross the railway. The apparatus equipment is operated when a Travelling Post Office carriage is available.
The section of line beyond Sutton Cross is rich in history. To the south of the line across the fields can be seen the picturesque village of Water Newton. The water mill here was built in 1791.
Once over the Castor crossing the railway passes the site of Castor station, closed in 1957 and demolished soon after. The station was damaged by a 'doodle bug' flying bomb in the last war. Nextwe pass over Ermine Street, once a major Roman road, although nothing is now visible from ground level.
To the archaeologist this area is of great importance for it is the site of Durobrivae, centre of the Roman pottery industry. "Castorware" was widely exported and has been found as far away as Turkey. Also from Durobrivae came the unique collection of early Christian silver plate, the Water Newton Treasure, now in the British Museum.
The railway continues past the twin villages of Ailsworth and Castor, in the distance to the north, where the tower of the Norman Church at Castor, dedicated to St. Kyneburgha, can be seen. Castor was also the site of one of the largest Roman villas found in Britain.
Beyond Castor the railway enters a shallow cutting, passes under Mill Road bridge and falls on a gradient of 1 in 270, the steepest on the line. Mill Road bridge is partially constructed from old stone blocks once used instead of timber sleepers when the London and Birmingham Railway was built in 1837. These blocks were also used to construct the façade of Wansford Tunnel.
The railway crosses the River Nene for the second time on Lynch Bridge. There is a speed restriction for trains over the bridge due to restricted clearances for continental rolling stock.
Over the river the railway enters Nene Country Park, the centrepiece of the Nene Park Trust. In Ferry Meadows, the centre of the country park are three lakes, covering 120 acres and were the result of gravel extraction. The largest of these, Overton Lake, can be seen to the north of the railway with Milton Ferry Bridge, built in 1716, in the distance.
The line now enters a wooded cutting and climbs gradually through Alwalton Lynch before descending gently to Ham Lane level crossing. Ham Lane was once just a farm access road but is now the main access to Ferry Meadows. To handle the extra traffic without undue delay the NVR installed a continental type crossing controlled by automatic flashing lights.
Over Ham Lane crossing is Ferry Meadows station, serving the central area of the Country Park. This is an excellent point for passengers to break their journey on the Nene Valley Railway to explore the park. Within a few hundred yards of the station are the park offices, information centre, snack bar and toilets. There is a large caravan and camping area, play areas for children as well as a miniature railway, which runs from the information centre to Overton Lake sailing club.
Ferry Meadows is built on the site of Overton (later Orton Waterville) station, which was closed in 1942. The station building is the original Great Northern Goods office from Fletton Yard, which was moved brick by brick and re-erected at Ferry Meadows.
Beyond Ferry Meadows the railway runs on an embankment between flood meadows, curving gradually to the north-east, passing the headquarters of the Peterborough Yacht Club. After one mile it enters Orton Mere station, which was built by the Railway partially under the bridge carrying Nene Parkway, and has good access from all parts of Peterborough. A footpath crosses the river at the locks known as Orton Staunch, which gives access to Thorpe Wood golf course, which is built over the site of a Roman fort covering 27 acres. As many as 2,500 Roman soldiers were stationed here between 44 and 65 AD.
Soon after departing Orton Mere the main line link can be seen swinging away to the right at Longueville Junction. The train passes the site of what was once the British Sugar Corporation, which closed in 1991 and originally the home of "Thomas". A mile further on, the line runs alongside the river past the former Woodstone Staunch, once the site of the Co-op Wagon Works, which closed in 1963.
As the train runs into Peterborough Nene Valley station, opened in 1986, it passes a signal-box, which came from Welland Bridge in Spalding. The entire area between the station and the river was once the site of the London & North Western Railway Woodston Locomotive Shed, which closed in 1932.
Passengers may break their journey at Peterborough and visit nearby Railworld or the city centre which is only a short walk away along the riverside path and over one footbridge. The high level railway is the East Coast Main line while the lower level line is that of the Peterborough to East Anglia route. On the other hand for those who wish to make the return journey immediately, there are various items of goods rolling stock for inspection.