M&GN Ghosts

November 2017

Talks about local railways always attract a crowd, and so ours did in October. We put out a few more chairs to make seating flexible, and comfortably accommodated the 60 to 70 folk who were tempted by the enigmatic title. Ghosts also pull in an audience so, almost by accident, we had drawn two good things together – the opposite of a double whammy.

You may recall how in August we went on a walk to see the restored North Walsham and Dilham Canal – and, out of the blue, we met a man who knew all about Honing Station, the very spot where we were to start the walk.

Stuart McPherson proved to be a member of the Norfolk Railways Heritage Group, a historian and a photographer. After only a small amount of cajoling, he became our speaker for this event, assisted by his younger friend Dan, whose surname I have failed to remember, but whose glorious occupation I do – he is an engine driver – every small boy’s dream in my days.

A different kind of talk - rather a guided tour through what used to be, has been lost, and is being resurrected by Stuart’s remarkable photography skills and much excavation work by the Heritage Group. They have only been going for a few years but their work is thought to be so important that it has already found support from the Heritage Lottery Fund to the tune of £700,000. Yes – seven hundred thousand pounds!

The ghosts proved to be photographs of railway scenes from the 1950s – engines, trains, stations, passengers, signal boxes, turntables. Stuart had located the precise spot and direction from which each photograph had been shot and then taken a picture of now from the same location. He then superimposed the old onto the new with remarkable results – some surprising, some actually haunting. A train emerging from the front of a house; another apparently roaring along a suburban estate road; a third about to run down a yellow clad workman under a bridge. There were stations now engulfed by woodland, passengers waiting among the trees.

The Honing Station picture worked well. Here it is – it looks much better in colour. It was a good example of the excavation aspect of the work.

Notable among the finds were the tiled floor of the porter’s room, the key to the waiting room (apparently thrown down the drain when the station was abandoned) and the blackened wall of the men’s urinal!

Toilets are often exposed by archaeologists. But seriously, these people are doing us all a good turn as they bring back a past that many of us still love, messy though sometimes it was, and preserve it for future generations. Watch out for a Martham ghost sometime soon.                         

Noel Mitchell


(Above: the ghost of Honing Station)

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