Joy as 'significant part' of town's railway heritage returns

Engineers from Balfour Beatty collect the new Coke Ovens Junction sign.

Engineers from Balfour Beatty collect the new Coke Ovens Junction sign. Picture: Community Rail Norfolk - Credit: Community Rail Norfolk

A piece of railway history has returned to Lowestoft with a new sign installed at Coke Ovens Junction, half a mile to the west of the town’s railway station.

The name of the junction disappeared in 1970 when the Lowestoft to Great Yarmouth line closed.

Although Coke Ovens Junction pre-dated the opening of the direct Yarmouth route in 1903, having initially served as the point where the railway had numerous coke ovens, the name had survived for more than 100 years.

The junction originally had a large sign reading: “Coke Ovens Junction Lowestoft ½ Mile” which would have been seen by thousands of passengers.

After a public appeal for images of the original sign was made earlier this year, Network Rail in conjunction with the Lowestoft Central Project, the Wherry Lines Community Rail Partnership and engineers from Balfour Beatty have now installed a replica of the sign close to the original junction.

A replica of the Coke Ovens Junction sign has been installed close to the original junction.

A replica of the Coke Ovens Junction sign has been installed close to the original junction. Picture: Community Rail Norfolk - Credit: Community Rail Norfolk

Coke Ovens were used to heat coal without air, the final product being a more stable substance to use in railway engines.

In 1854 the Eastern Counties Railway had 30 coke ovens at Lowestoft, the refined product being transported to Thames Wharf at Bow Creek, London.

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At its height, the coke ovens at Lowestoft numbered 83, with production in the town believed to have ended in 1866.

However the point where the later Yarmouth route left the lines to Ipswich and Norwich continued to be known as Coke Ovens Junction until 1970.

Following the recent modernisation of signalling and infrastructure along the Wherry Lines, Network Rail took the opportunity to bring this historic name back into use as both a junction and timing point for trains.

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail's route director for Anglia, said: "I'm pleased that we've been able to reinstate this sign close to its original location for our passengers to see when approaching Lowestoft."

Community Rail development officer, Martin Halliday, added: “The Wherry Lines Community Rail Partnership together with the Lowestoft Central Project are pleased to have been able to work with Network Rail and wish to thank Ian Martin from the Anglia route signalling team, David Taylor from the Wherry Lines modernisation project and Balfour Beatty for their help in bringing this small yet significant part of Lowestoft’s illustrious railway history back to life.”

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