Nene Valley Railway

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Nene Valley Railway

Huntingdonshire, Northamptonshire

No. of stations: 5
Track: 7.5 miles
Operated by: Nene Valley Railway

The Nene Valley Railway is a preserved railway running 7½ miles along the course of the River Nene in Huntingdonshire and Northamptonshire. Its termini are Peterborough Nene Valley and Yarwell Junction, both on the Huntingdonshire side of the river. As well as stations at each terminus, there are currently three stops en route: Orton Mere, Ferry Meadows and Wansford.

The line's eastern terminus at Yarwell Junction and its headquarters at Wansford are in the northernmost bulge of Huntingdonshire surrounded by the River Nene (the county's northern border), and east of Wansford the line crosses the Nene to the Soke of Peterborough, crossing back to enter the Huntingdonshire towns which form Peterborough's southern suburbs.



The line was built in 1847 as part of the London & Birmingham Railway's line from Blisworth in Northamptonshire to Peterborough; the first railway to reach that city. In the late 19th century, the London & North Western Railway (which had absorbed the L&BR) built a new line that turned Wansford, previously an unimportant village station, into a major junction, and later it was joined the Great Northern Railway's line via Sutton, Southorpe and Barnack to Stamford.

Between 1900 and the 1960s, the line formed an important connection from Norwich, Cambridge and eastern counties to Northampton and the Midlands, but it did not escape the Beeching Axe. Services to Northampton and Rugby ceased in 1964 and 1966 respectively, and it closed to freight traffic in 1972.


Wansford Station

In 1968, the Rev. Richard Paten had bought British Railways Standard Class '5' 4-6-0 locomotive, number 73050, for its scrap value of £3,000, intending had been to exhibit it outside Peterborough Technology College as a monument to Peterborough's railway history. However, the locomotive was found to be in good working order, and there was much opposition to the idea of the engine's being "stuffed", and it was decided to restore it 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 a single locomotive but by 1970, the branch was strong enough to operate independently as the Peterborough Locomotive Society (PLS). In 1971, 73050 was moved to the British Sugar Corporation's sidings at Fletton, Huntingdonshire, where it was joined by Hunslet 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.

A 'Santa Special' on the Nene Valley Railway

In 1974, the Peterborough Development Corporation bought the Nene Valley line between Longville and Yarwell Junctions and leased it to the Peterborough Railway Society to operate the railway. The Society intended was to work the line with British locomotives and stock, but few were to be found that they might acquire. 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, but its European loading gauge (height and width) were thought too large for British railways. In 1974 a feasibility study showed that only one bridge would have to be demolished to allow the running to continental loading gauge, and some reductions also to the width of the platforms. In 1973, British Rail gave the Society permission to use Wansford signal box and, in September of that year, the first items of stock arrived at the PRS depot.

Opening the line

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.

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 of 26 May 1986. This extended the NVR to its current length, 7.5 miles.

Proposed developments

Proposals made by the Society or others include:

  • Crescent Link/Peterborough Parkway: Promoted by 'Railworld' - 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. It might involve reconstruction of the old Peterborough East station site.
  • Oundle/Elton: The society aspires to extend the line westward via Elton towards Oundle crossing the Nene westward out of Huntingdonshire into Northamptonshire.

An attempt was made to extend the Nene Valley Railway to both Elton railway station and Oundle back in the 1990s, but was abandoned for financial reasons. The station site is still intact but the buildings have been demolished since closure (with whole/entire land still free from redevelopment to a new site at Oundle.


The new station building at Yarwell
Ferry Meadows, once a goods office
Orton Mere, opened in 1983
Wansford's original station building

The stations of the Nene Valley Railway, west to east, are:

  • Yarwell Junction: the former junction between the lines to Northampton and Market Harborough. The new station is on the bank of the Nene, linked by footpaths across the river to Nassington and the mill village of Yarwell. The mile from track from here to Wansford runs through the Wansford Tunnel.
  • Wansford: the headquarters of the railway and where most of the facilities are based. The current station building was opened in 1995; it has a ticket office, shop, café and toilets, locomotive sheds, a picnic area and children's playground. The original Wansford station is on platform 3 is disused. The station is on the bank of the Nene, the opposite side of the river's loop.
  • Castor: a disused station between Wansford and Ferry Meadows, closed in the 1960s.
  • Ferry Meadows, near the site of Orton Waterville station, with access to Ferry Meadows country park. The station is also the site of the Night Mail Museum.[1]
  • Orton Mere: A two-platform station with a station building built in 1983 and a signal box. Until 1986 this was the terminus of the line. Most trains depart from platform 1. Just outside the station towards Peterborough is the Fletton Loop which links the NVR to the mainline.
  • Longville Junction: About a mile from Peterborough (Nene Valley) and links to the nearby East Coast Main Line.
  • Peterborough (Nene Valley): Alias Peterborough West, the current end of the line. Here there is a platform, a bay platform and a station building housing a ticket office, a small souvenir shop and toilets. It is a 10-minute walk from here to Peterborough City Centre. Railworld is next door to the station with a wide variety of rolling stock on display.

The Nene Valley Railway as a filming location

The line has been a location for a number of films, TV shows, and music videos.

  • Octopussy, a James Bond film has scenes shot here and Castor church can clearly be seen in the background, even though this section of the film was set in West and East Germany (pre unification).
  • GoldenEye, another Bond film, filmed on the line. For the film, a Class 20 was disguised as a Russian armoured train. In the film, a tunnel that the train seemingly goes into is in fact a small bridge over the tracks.
  • Casualty (BBC series) has also filmed here.

Secret Army, the BBC's wartime drama, was filmed between 1977 and 1979, many sequences for the were filmed here, principally at Wansford station.

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, No.3822 from Didcot, repainted) that was given the name 'Miracle Express' after the title of their 1989 album The Miracle.

  • Nine, starring Penélope Cruz and Daniel Day-Lewis, had filming at Wansford in October 2008.

In November 2009, ITV spent three days at the Nene for their remake of 'Murder on the Orient Express' for Agatha Christie's Poirot Series. They used the BR Standard Class 5 73050 'City of Peterborough' numbered '305' and the Belgian Coaching Stock, with most filming taking place at Ferry Meadows.

In September 2010, scenes were filmed for the BBC soap opera, EastEnders, on the line, in which characters Janine Butcher and Ryan Malloy were trapped on a level crossing with a train approaching them.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Nene Valley Railway)


  • 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

Coordinates: 52°33′50″N 00°20′23.25″W / 52.56389°N 0.3397917°W / 52.56389; -0.3397917