Landscape (UK)

A HERO’S JOURNEY

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At the start of the February half-term, the Norfolk Hero and Norfolk Heroine chug off on their first journeys of the year, along the world’s longest 10¼in narrow gauge steam railway. The Wells & Walsingham Light Railway (WWLR) runs between Walsingham and Wells-next-the-Sea, steaming 4 miles through the countrysid­e to the coast. The WWLR began as a passion project for Lieutenant Commander Roy Wallace Francis, a naval officer who served on HMS Edinburgh and HMS Manchester during World War II. Aged 34, he retired from the Navy, set up a boat-building company on the Norfolk Broads and developed an interest in railways, taking his steam trains to fairs throughout the 1960s and 1970s. In 1979, he sold the 10¼in gauge Wells Harbour Railway he had built for Norfolk County Council to finance the WWLR. The railway follows the route of the old Great Eastern line, which was closed during the Beeching cuts, and on 6 April 1982, the first train, Pilgrim, set off. This was a 0-6-0 side tank engine, which ran for five years until Norfolk Hero, a bespoke 2-6-0 + 0-6-2 Garratt locomotive, was introduced. The Heroine, another train of the same model, joined in April 2011. The station at Wells is housed in a converted wooden signal box, painted cream with a teal trim. Downstairs is a small shop and café, with memorabili­a for sale and guidebooks to peruse while waiting for the train to come in. More informatio­n can be found on the website at www.wwlr.co.uk.

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