Wisbech and Upwell Tramway

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Wisbech & Upwell Tramway
Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway
Wisbech North
Wisbech Quay Goods Stations
River Nene
Wisbech EastWisbech Line
Bramley Line
Boyces Bridge
Outwell Basin
Outwell Village
Wisbech and Upwell Tramway

The Wisbech and Upwell Tramway was a rural standard gauge tramway in East Anglia. It was built by the Great Eastern Railway between Wisbech, Cambridgeshire and Upwell, Norfolk to carry agricultural produce. Although called a tram, in many ways it more closely resembled a conventional railway line.


Six trams a day in each direction provided passenger services, with the full one way journey taking one hour. By October 1884 traffic had grown to 3,000 passengers per week, with peaks of 2,000 in a day for fetes and other special events. The tram competed with a canal that ran between Wisbech and Upwell and with the canal being in a poor financial condition the tram eventually finished it off.[1]

Its success was one of the reasons for the Light Railways Act 1896. Competition from motorised buses ended passenger services in 1927, but freight carried on until 1966 when it was cut as part of the Beeching cuts.

Originally the line used GER Class G15/LNER Class Y6 0-4-0T tram engines, which in accordance with Board of Trade regulations had sideplates and cowcatchers. These were replaced by more powerful 0-6-0T GER Class C53/LNER Class J70 and later by Drewry 0-6-0DM (Class 04) shunters. One coach survives.

For a short time in 1930-1931 two LNER Class Y10 Sentinel geared steam locomotives were used.


Street name The Tramway
The former office of the Outwell Village depot

Opened in 1883, the Wisbech and Upwell Tramway ran from the Cambridgeshire town of Wisbech to the Norfolk village of Upwell. Its route carried it close to farms and villages, allowing goods to be shipped into Wisbech where they could be transferred onto the main line and carried to destinations further afield. It was this agricultural trade that caused the line to be constructed in the first place, and what kept it afloat after passenger services ceased in 1927.

Its Upwell depot was 5 miles 72 chains (5.9 mi; 9.5 km) distant from Wisbech.[2] The line had eleven sidings, with two originally allocated for passenger traffic. During the fruit season the sidings could hold more than a hundred vans. The depot had a cattle dock, a depot office, a passenger waiting room, and a coal merchant's office and staithes. There was also an ash pit, and an old GER tender was used for a water tower until 1953 when it was removed.

From the Upwell depot, which was the southern terminus of the tramway, the trains headed northwards to the village of Outwell, crossing Small Lode and passing a farm before emerging on Low Side which was the final request stop.[3][4] A farm driveway now runs where the railway trackbed used to be.[5]

Running parallel with Well Creek (the old course of the River Nene) the tramway then ran along the grassy verge beside the creek before reaching the final section of reserved track at Goodman's Crossing request stop.[6]

Outwell Village depot was located by the old course of the River Nene and adjoined by St Clement's church on the other side. It originally had four sidings and was equipped with coal chutes to transfer coal to barges for distribution through the Fens. The depot had a small office building built from red brick and an old van body for storage.[7] The brick office still stands, but most of the depot site has since been built over by modern housing. The name of the cul-de-sac/access road is "The Tramway".[1]

Motorists passing through Wisbech along Elm High Road near to the fire station may notice a small stretch of grass and trees, this would have been the canal between Wisbech (River Nene) and the Outwell Creek. The tram however finished off this section of the canal, though Outwell and Upwell still have some of their canals left.

In fiction

The Rev. W. Awdry drew much inspiration from the tramway for stories in his Railway Series children's books. In the book Toby the Tram Engine the character Toby and his coach Henrietta are introduced, both of whom are based on stock used on the tramway.[8] Toby subsequently appeared in many more of the books and also became one of the main characters in the spin-off television series Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends.


  1. ^ a b Evelyn Simak: Wisbech & Upwell tramway - Outwell Village depot. The Geograph (TF5103).
  2. ^ Evelyn Simak: Wisbech & Upwell tramway - Upwell Depot/Townley Close. The Geograph (T5002).
  3. ^ Evelyn Simak: Wisbech & Upwell tramway - Upwell depot. The Geograph (TF5002).
  4. ^ Evelyn Simak: Low Side. The Geograph (TF5103).
  5. ^ Evelyn Simak: Wisbech & Upwell tramway - Low Side The Geograph (TF5103).
  6. ^ Evelyn Simak: Wisbech & Upwell tramway - Goodman's Crossing. The Geograph (TF5103).
  7. ^ Evelyn Simak: Wisbech & Upwell tramway - Outwell Village depot. The Geograph (TF5103).
  8. ^ The Wisbech and Upwell Railway: Introduction

External links

  • Wisbech and Upwell Page at the LNER Encyclopedia

Coordinates: 52°38′42″N 0°11′01″E / 52.6451°N 0.18355°E / 52.6451; 0.18355

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