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The Nene Valley Railway (NVR) is a preserved railway in Cambridgeshire, Englandmarker, running between Peterborough Nene Valleymarker and Yarwell Junctionmarker. The line is currently seven and a half miles in length. As well as stations at each terminus, there are three stops en route: Orton Meremarker, Ferry Meadowsmarker and Wansford.


In 1845 the London & Birmingham Railway (L&BR) company was given parliamentary assent to construct a line from Blisworthmarker in Northamptonshiremarker to Peterboroughmarker. Completed in 1847, it became Peterborough's first railway line, terminating at Peterborough, later 'Peterborough East' station. The sheds and one platform face of this redundant station are still clearly visible next to the former Matalan store on London Road.

The line was of little significance until the late 19th century, when the London & North Western Railway (L&NWR), which had absorbed the L&BR constructed a line, via Nassington and King's Cliffe to Seatonmarker, below Welland Viaductmarker. This turned Wansford, previously an unimportant village station, into a major junction. Its importance was increased a few years later when the Great Northern Railway constructed another line, via Suttonmarker, Southorpemarker and Barnackmarker to Stamfordmarker, on the Midland Railway line. In 1884 the line received a royal visit when the royal family travelled between Peterborough and Barnwell, some 13 miles beyond Wansford, to visit Barnwell Manormarker, home of the then Duke of Gloucester. The station building is now preserved at Wansford station on the NVR, and is known as the Barnwell building.

Between the turn of the century and the 1960s, the line formed an important connection from Norwichmarker, Cambridgemarker and eastern England to Northamptonmarker and the Midlands. The line was generally acknowledged to be a secondary mainline and regularly saw large engines such as Black 5 and B1. However, the NVR was one of the last passenger line closures of the Dr Beeching era, services to Northampton and Rugby having ceased in 1964 and 1966 respectively. It remained open until 1972 for freight traffic only.

The Nene Valley Railway has a full-scale 'replica' of Thomas the Tank Engine working for passenger and freight service on 'Thomas' events; it was the first railway in the world to possess one. The Nene Valley Railway's Thomas is considered the 'official' Thomas The Tank Engine, because it was named by the fictional characters' creator the Rev. W. Awdry in 1971. For this (and other) reasons, the Nene Valley Railway does not host official 'Day out with Thomas' events like most railways do. The Nene Valley Railway run Thomas at various special events, weekends and bank holidays.

Peterborough Locomotive Society

Wansford station viewed from the road
In 1968, the Reverend Richard Paten had bought British Railways Standard Class '5' 4-6-0 locomotive, number 73050, for its scrap value of £3,000. His intention had been to exhibit it outside Peterborough Technology College as a monument to Peterborough's railway history. However, there was one problem - the locomotive was found to be in good working order. Because of the engine's condition there was a large amount of opposition to the idea of the engine being 'stuffed'; many people pressed the idea of the locomotive being restored to full working order.

On 28 March 1969, the Peterborough Branch of the East Anglian Locomotive Society was formed, with the intention of purchasing and restoring the BR Pacific locomotive, number 70000 'Britannia'. By 1970, the group was sufficiently strong to form its own group - the Peterborough Locomotive Society (PLS). In 1971, 73050 was moved to the British Sugar Corporation's sidings at Fletton, where it was joined by Hunsletmarker 0-6-0 locomotive 'Jack's Green'. Later that year, the PLS held a meeting at which the group's name was changed to 'Peterborough Railway Society' and the idea of the Nene Valley Railway was formally launched.

In 1974 the Peterborough Development Corporation (PDC) bought the Nene Valley line between Longueville and Yarwell Junctionmarker, and it began leasing it to the PRS to operate the railway - a major milestone in the society's history.

The Nene Valley Railway

When the PRS acquired the line, the intention was to work the line with British locomotives and stock. However, enthusiasts from other railways and preservation societies had already acquired almost all of the serviceable ex-BR locomotives - all that was left was a collection of rusting hulks. Apart from 73050, the society's locomotives were mostly small, industrial shunting engines and therefore not suitable for the 11 mile round trip. Ex-BR rolling stock was also in very short supply following the disposal of most pre-nationalisation (pre-1948) stock. The PDC, having paid out a considerable sum of money for the line, was anxious that trains should start running as soon as possible - certainly before the opening of the new Nene Parkmarker in 1978. However, with the PRC's lack of stock and locomotives this looked highly improbable.

A continental solution

Swedish 'B' Class No.101 hauling the Santa special on the Nene Valley Railway
In 1973, PRS member Richard Hurlock had approached the society for a home for his ex-Swedish railways 2-6-4T class S1 oil-fired locomotive, number 1928. Because the engine was higher and wider than British stock it was to be a static exhibition only. During 1974 it was realised that the use of foreign stock and engines could answer the NVR's prayers. After a feasibility study was carried out it was discovered that only one bridge would have to be demolished to allow the running to continental loading gauge. Some reductions would also have to be made to the width of the platforms. In 1973 BR gave PRS permission to use Wansford signal box and in September of that year, the first items of stock arrived at the PRS depot.

The first train

Before the stock could be moved from the BSC depot to Wansford, the missing 400 yards of the Fletton Loop had to be rebuilt, allowing access to the Nene Valley line. The track was completed in March 1974, and the stock moved to Wansford in time for the Easter weekend, when the new 'Wansford Steam Centre' opened for the first time. Between 1974 and 1977, the line was upgraded to passenger-carrying standard and the first passenger train ran on 1 June 1977, hauled by the 'Nord' - a French locomotive and '1178' - another Swedish tank engine, pulling a set of ex-BR electrical multiple unit coaches owned by the Southern Electric Group.

The Peterborough extension

In the early 1980s, the NVR decided to extend its running line, which then terminated at Orton Mere station, along the route of the original Nene Valley Line to a new station west of the East Coast Main Line, adjacent to the new Railworld Museum. Peterborough Nene Valley opened, for the first time, on the Late Spring Bank Holiday Weekend 26TH May 1986. This extended the length of the NVR to its current length, 7.5 miles. Since 1999, there has been talk of the 'crescent link' project - a scheme to allow the NVR to run trains through the westernmost end of the Nene Park, across the river Nene into the Peterborough mainline station to connect directly with National Express East Coast, National Express East Anglia, East Midland Trains, Arriva Cross Country and First Capital Connect services. It is thought likely this might be done in accordance with the proposed redevelopment and modernisation of Peterborough station. However, no fixed date has been set for this development, and it is uncertain if the project will ever go ahead.

Elton Extension

The NVR had plans to extend its running line into Elton & eventually Oundle in the early 1990's, (The last station on the Cambridgeshire side before crossing the border onto Northamptonshire), However the original station buildings where demolished years ago, the NVR plans of the proposed Elton Extension, but unfortunately the cost of rebuilding the river bridge and other considerations led the plans to be dropped.

NVR stations

Stations currently on the Nene Valley Railway:


Elton is currently disused and abandoned, (it was last station on the cambridgeshire side before crossing the border onto Northamptonshire), However the station buildings of Elton were (years ago) demolished, the NVR plans would have rebuilt the station as part of the abortive extension.

The brand new station building at Yarwell.

Yarwell Junction

Yarwell Junction was formerly the junction between the lines to Northamptonmarker and Market Harboroughmarker. It is the current terminus of the NVR's operating line. During April 2006 a track realignment was conducted, allowing for the construction of a platform at Yarwell Junction, which opened at Easter 2007 (there was never previously a station on the site). The new station is served by footpaths to Nassington and the mill village of Yarwell, but there is no vehicular access. Yarwell Junction is situated approximately 1 mile west of Wansford station, at the other end of Yarwell Tunnel.

The new station building, as used by present day visitors.
The original station building, which is not in use, on Platform 3.


Wansford is the headquarters of the railway and most of the facilities are based here.

The current station building was opened in 1995 and contains a ticket office, shop, cafe and toilets. The locomotive sheds are located at this station. Also at the station there is a picnic area and children's playground. The station was formerly the junction for a branch to Stamford, which separated to the north just east of the river bridge at Wansford.

The original Wansford station is located on platform three and was built in 1844-1845 in Jacobean style for the opening of the railway. This building does not belong to the railway, though the railway is trying to acquire this building.

The new station building at Ferry Meadows, which used to be a goods office.

Ferry Meadows

Ferry Meadows is located near the site of Orton Watervillemarker and provides access to the nearby country parkmarker. The current building was moved brick by brick from its previous location of the old goods yard at Fletton Junction on the East Coast Main Line, it replaced a portable building desperately in need of repair. NVR plan to add a canopy. The station building was offered to the NVR for £1 plus transportation costs.

The Park is open throughout the year, but most facilities such as the miniature railway and pedaloes only run from Easter to the end of October. Ferry Meadows station is on the site of the former Overton stationmarker.

Orton Mere station building, which opened in 1983.

Orton Mere

Orton Mere is a two platform station with a station building (built in 1983) and signal box. Until 1986 this was the terminus of the line. Most trains depart from platform one. Just outside of the station towards Peterborough is the Fletton Loop which links the NVR to the mainline. The signal box controls the passing loop and had to be adapted from 1 lever to three.

This station provides access to the eastern end of the Nene Park.

Peterborough (Nene Valley)

Peterborough Nene Valley is the end of the line. Here there is a platform, a bay platform and a station building housing a ticket office, a small souvenir shop & toilets. It is a 10 minute walk from here to Peterborough City Centre. Railworld is next to the station with a wide variety of rolling stock on display.


Operational steam locomotives

Polish Class Slask/TKp 0-8-0T No 5485
  • Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0T No 1800 'Thomas' - restricted to both shunting around Wansford Yard and hauling Wansford - Yarwell - Wansford branch line shuttles only
  • BR Standard Class 5 4-6-0 No 73050 'City of Peterborough'

Steam locomotives undergoing overhaul or restoration

  • Polish 0-8-0T Class Slask/TKp No 5485. Undergoing repairs. Date of return to traffic unknown.
  • Danish 0-6-0T Class F No 656 'Tinkerbell' (unofficial name). Undergoing a major restoration which is going well, the loco is now completely dismantled and the frames have been cleaned. The wheels will go away for repair soon. Motion being rebuilt and the cab and bunker are being restored.
  • Swedish 2-6-2T Class S No 1178. Undergoing major restoration. Work on the frames is going well with the needle gunning now complete and also replacement of the rods and bearings on the pony truck has also been completed. Making new pins for the brake rigging is underway and new angles have been made and are now welded onto the frames. A new cab floor has also been made and has been fitted to the loco frames.
  • Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0ST No 1308 'Rhos'. Undergoing a major overhaul and restoration.
  • Cockerill 0-4-0WT Tram Engine. Undergoing a major overhaul and restoration.

Stored steam locomotives

  • Swedish 4-6-0 Class B No. 101A. Withdrawn towards the end of January 2005 for overhaul and is currently stored awaiting an overhaul.
  • Hunslet Austerity 0-6-0ST 75006. Awaiting overhaul after being withdrawn in 2004.
  • German/Polish Kriegslok 2-10-0 Class 52/Ty2 No 7173. Awaiting major overhaul after being withdrawn in late 2001.
  • German 2-6-2T Class 64 No 64.305. Overhaul of this engine will start once 1178 is complete as lots of people want to see this engine in service.
  • Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0ST No 1539 'Derek Crouch'. On display in the yard at Wansford.
  • Hunslet 0-6-0ST No 1953 'Jacks Green'. Has recently been cosmetically restored and is on display awaiting overhaul. Its cab is accessible to visitors. This locomotive can be found between the 1995 built station building and turntable.

Operational diesel locomotives

No D306 'Atlantic Conveyor'.
In service
  • BR Class 40 1Co-Co1 No D306 'Atlantic Conveyormarker'. In service and in regular use on diesel services in the summer named in preservation after the ship with the same name that sunk in the Falklands War.
  • BR Class 47 Co-Co No 1971/47270 'Cory Brothers'. Recently arrived after purchase from Freightliner has recently been repainted into BR blue, renumbered (carries both pre-TOPS and TOPS numbers) and named 'Swift'. Currently at Washwood Heath being restored to Mainline condition by Hanson Traction.
  • BR Class 31 A1A-A1A No 31271 'Stratford 1840-2001',in regular use.
  • BR Class 14 0-6-0 No D9516. Sometimes used on passenger/works trains.
  • BR Class 14 0-6-0 No D9520. Sometimes used on passenger/works trains.
  • BR Class 14 0-6-0 No D9523. Sometimes used on passenger/works trains.
  • Yorkshire Engine Co. 0-6-0 "Janus" No D2670 'Stanton No 50'
  • Sentinel 4 wheeled No 11. A regular shunter in the yard.
  • Sentinel 4 wheeled No 10202 'Barabel'. In regular use in the yard.
  • Sentinel 0-6-0 No DL83. In service. A regular shunter in the yard. Sometimes used on passenger trains.
  • Class 107 3 car DMU set Nos 52005+59791+52031

Diesel locomotives undergoing overhaul or restoration

  • Hibberd 0-4-0 No 2896 'Frank'. Undergoing a major restoration.
  • Yorkshire Engine Co. No D2654. Undergoing repairs.
  • BR Class 56 Co-Co No 56128. Arrived at Wansford early in 2008 for overhaul. Once complete, the locomotive will be departing for use on the mainline under the management of Hanson Traction Ltd as No. 56313
  • BR Class 56 Co-Co No 56114. Arrived at Wansford in 2009 for overhaul. Once complete, the locomotive will be departing for use on the mainline under the management of Hanson Traction Ltd.Departed 14th August 2009
  • BR Class 31 A1A-A1A No 31190. Arrived at Wansford in 2009 for overhaul. Once complete, the locomotive will be departing for use on the mainline under the management of Hanson Traction Ltd.Departed 30th July 2009 with 47270 "Swift"
  • BR Co-Co Class 50 No. 50008 'Thunderer'. Arrived at Wansford in 2009 for overhaul. Once complete, the locomotive will be departing for use on the mainline under the management of Hanson Traction Ltd.

Stored diesel locomotives

Locos that have left the line

LNER Class B1 1306 "Mayflower," Now at Battlefield Line, Shackerstone.

Steam Locomotives

  • French DeGlen Compound 4-6-0 NORD No 3.628. Has left the railway and went to France to be restored to work on the mainline. Is currently being cosmetically restored.
  • LNER 4-6-0 Class B1 No 1306 'Mayflower' 1991-2006 Battlefield Line, Shackerstone
  • Avonside 0-6-0ST Class B4 No 1945. Elsecar Railway, Barnsley.
  • Bullied 4-6-2, Unrebuilt Battle of Britain class, No. 34081 '92 Squadron'. Moved to North Norfolk Raliway, Sheringham
  • BR 4-6-2 Class 7MT No 70000 'Britannia' 1980-2000 The Railway Age, Crewe
  • German 0-6-0T Class 80 No 80.014 1981-1997 Holland
  • Danish 2-6-4T Class S No 740 1980-1995 Denmark
  • LMS 4-6-0 Class 5MT No 5321 1988-1993 Ropley
  • Barclay 0-4-0ST (2248)/90432 1972-1991 East Kent Light Railway, Shepherdswell
  • Swedish 2-6-4T Class S1 No 1928 1973-1989 Grosmont, North Yorkshire Moors Railway
  • Peckett 0-6-0ST No 2000 1977-1984 Barrow Hill
  • Avonside 0-6-0ST No 1917 'Pitsford' 1973-1983 Elsecar Steam Railway
  • Hawthorn Leslie 0-6-0ST No 3837 'Corby No. 16' 1974-1981 Leatherhead
  • Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0ST No 1604 1975-1981 Wetheringsett
  • Avonslde 0-4-0ST No 1908 'Fred' 1976-1981 Dendermonde, Belgium
  • Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0T No 1844 1976-1980 Scrapped (spares for 1800 'Thomas')
  • Southern Railway 4-6-0 Class S15 No 841 'Greene King' 1977-1978 Grosmont

Diesel Locomotives

  • BR Class 117 3 car DMU Nos 51347 / 59508 / 51401, 1998-2009. Destination: Gwili Raliway, Wales
  • BR Class 56 Co-Co No 56057 "British Fuels" 2004-2007 Main Line use
  • 2894 "Percy" Hibberd 0-4-0 1972-2006 Norfolk
  • 31108 BR Class 31 A1A-A1A 200?-2005 Midland Railway, Butterley
  • D9529 "14029" BR Class 14 0-6-0 DH 1988-2000 Beechbrook Farm
  • D2112 BR Class 03 0-6-0 DM 1991-1998 Boston Docks
  • 08704 BR Class 08 0-6-0 DE 1993-1997 Boston Docks
  • 319294 Ruston & Homsby DS165 0-6-0DM 1991-1996 Northampton & Lamport Railwaymarker
  • 4220033 John Fowler 0-4-0DH 1991-1996 Northampton Ironstone Railway Trustmarker, Hunsbury Hill
  • D7594 BR Class 25 Bo-Bo DE 1992-1994 K&ESR
  • 804 Alco 1986-1991 Railworld, Peterborough (adjecent to Peterborough Nene Valley station)
  • 8368 "Horsa" RSH 262 hp 0-4-0 DH 1980-1991 East Dereham
  • 294268 Ruston & Homsby DS48 4wDM 1975-1991 East Kent Light Railway, Shepherdswell
  • 321734 Ruston & Homsby DS88 4wDM 1979-1991 East Kent Light Railway, Shepherdswell
  • D2089 BR Class 03 0-6-0 DM 1991 Mangapps Railway Museum, Bumham-on-Crouch
  • 1212 SJ Class Y7 Diesel Rallcar 1984-1989 Fleggburgh
  • D9016 "Gordon Highlander" BR Class 55 Co-Co DE 1984-1989 Tysley
  • D9000 "Royal Scots Grey" BR Class 55 Co-Co DE 1983-1986 Barrow Hill
  • D615 Hudswell Clarke 153 h.p. 0-6-0DM 1977-1978 Ellastone

As a film location

The line has been a location for a number of films, TV shows, etc. Scenes from the Bond film "Octopussy" were shot here and Castormarker church can clearly be seen in the background. Another Bond film, "Golden Eye", a tunnel that the train seemingly goes into is in fact a small bridge over the tracks. BBC TV drama "Casualty" has also filmed here.

Between 1977 and 1979 many sequences for the BBC's wartime drama Secret Army were filmed here, principally at Wansford station, notably in the episodes: The Hostage, A Matter of Life and Death and The Last Run.

In Spring 1989 the rock band Queen shot a video at the railway called "Breakthru" that reached number 7 in the British charts. They are filmed on a steam train (a GWR 2884 Class, repainted) that was given the name 'Miracle Express' after the title of their 1989 album The Miracle.

In October 2008 Hollywood returned to Wansford with the filming of the musical Nine starring Penelope Cruz and Daniel Day-Lewis.


  • Rhodes, John The Nene Valley Railway Turntable Publications, Sheffield, 1976
  • Waszak P.J. and Ginns, J.W. Peterborough's First Railway: Yarwell to Peterborough Nene Valley Railway, Peterborough, 1995
  • Nene Steam (magazine of the NVR) 1979 onwards

See also

External links

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