Hundreds catch glimpse of historic Mayflower during visit to town
PUBLISHED: 12:53 03 September 2019 | UPDATED: 12:53 03 September 2019
More than 1,000 people turned out to welcome the first major rail tour to Lowestoft in almost five years.
And thousands more lined up along the Wherry Lines - through Oulton Broad, Somerleyton, Reedham and Brundall - to catch a glimpse of a historic steam train that used to be regularly seen across East Anglia.
The 61306 Mayflower, one of two surviving B1 Class steam engines, returned to the region on Saturday and visited Lowestoft with several hundred visitors aboard 10-coaches on an excursion from London Kings Cross Station.
To mark the occasion, volunteers from the Wherry Lines Community Rail Partnership and the Lowestoft Central Project decorated the station with bunting, provided refreshments and held a railway book sale in aid of the station restoration.
The newly restored station Parcels Office presented a return of the hugely popular Departures railway photographic exhibition by Norwich-based photographer David Pearce and a display featuring the 175-year history of the Wherry Lines.
In addition, representatives from the Halesworth to Southwold Railway Preservation Society, East Suffolk Lines, Wherry Lines and Bittern Line Community Rail Partnerships, Lowestoft Heritage Open Days and East Suffolk Travel Association all provided information on a host of activities, rail routes and tourist attractions.
Boosting the local economy, several hundred passengers from the tour - which had travelled via Cambridge, Ely and Norwich - spent around two hours visiting the town centre, heritage quay and seafront.
During the afternoon the 10-heritage carriages, which included a classic Pullman dining coach, occupied platform four at the station and provided a backdrop reminiscent of the railways' illustrious past.
Organised by Steam Dreams, the outgoing part of the tour was hauled as far as Norwich by the historic B1 locomotive Mayflower with a heritage Class 47 diesel unit taking over for the final leg while the steam engine received water at Norwich.
To the delight of crowds of all ages, Mayflower, built in 1948 and resplendent in early British Railways apple green livery then arrived at Lowestoft later in the afternoon to head the tours return to London.
During the afternoon visitors were treated to an additional visit from two Class 37 locomotives forming a passenger service to Norwich, with all three of the station platforms packed to capacity before members of the public waved goodbye to the train just after 4pm.
Station improvements showcased
Community Rail development officer, Martin Halliday, said: "We were thrilled to welcome this major rail tour to Lowestoft on Saturday together with the arrival later in the afternoon of the historic B1 steam locomotive, Mayflower.
"It proved a great opportunity to showcase to both visitors and residents the major improvements that have taken place at the Station.
"Organisers of the tour told us of their delight at the warm welcome received in Lowestoft and that they hope to return to the town with another tour in the future."
Lowestoft station will be the centre of attention again later this week with the launch of Greater Anglia's brand-new fleet of Bi Mode trains currently being introduced along the Wherry Lines.
And from Friday, September 13, the station will host the box office and information hub for the towns' Heritage Open Days Festival, with a series of free talks and exhibition taking place in the Parcels Office.