The Mid Suffolk Light Railway
This story is one of a railway that ran out of steam, yet survived to serve one of the remotest parts of East Anglia for two generations. The Mid-Suffolk was conceived at the turn of the century as a network of standard gauge lines conveying farm produce and passengers from an area previously unserved and without major centres of population to no fewer than four junctions with Great Eastern main lines. What it became was vastly different: a line from Haughley, junction of the GER lines from Ipswich to Norwich and Bury St Edmunds, to the picturesque and remote village of Laxfield, and two short sections salvaged from uncompleted portions of the line which for a few years carried freight alone. When the Grouping came in 1923 the London and North Eastern Railway did its level best to avoid taking responsibility for the undertaking, later proposing to replace it with a road. From then until the early days of Nationalisation the Mid-Suffolk pursued an unspectacular though at times entertaining existence, becoming a local institution even for the ever-increasing numbers who never used it, and known to enthusiasts as a line with primeval stock, arcane working practices and a high attrition rate among its innumerable level crossing gates.
At the very end it was to inspire John Hadfield’s Love On A Branch Line, which, while published in 1959, only received the popularity it deserved when serialised by the BBC 35 years later. When the first edition of this book was published over 30 years ago the history of the Mid-Suffolk Light Railway - the ‘Middy’ to those who knew it - seemed firmly set in the past. More than a decade had elapsed since the line’s closure.
With this third edition, however, the story has a present tense once more and, with luck, a future. For since 1990 a determined band of volunteers has been working to reconstruct a section, at least, of the line, and while we may never again see trains cover the 19 miles from Haughley Junction to Laxfield, a steam service over a portion at Brockford and maybe even over the 2½ miles from there to Aspall does look capable of achievement. As this edition went to press, the reconstituted MSLR Company was in consultations with the local authority after an initial refusal of planning permission for a working line, but hopes were high that an accommodation could be reached.
Softback, 120 pages, black & white photographs, track diagrams
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