- A feature from the October 2017 issue of Suffolk Norfolk Life magazine
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By Stephen Roberts
London, Liverpool Street is the gateway to East Anglia. Well, it is if you take the train anyway. London, King’s Cross is in with a shout too if you want to venture up to King’s Lynn.
I’ll start with the railways of Suffolk though, so we’ll keep King’s Cross and King’s Lynn for another day. We need to board a train at Liverpool Street and get to Ipswich; our routes then open up. From Ipswich we can head north-west to Stowmarket and Bury St Edmunds, but at Stowmarket the main East Anglian line veers north-east, heading for Diss, and ultimately Norwich. From Ipswich there is also a line heading north-east to Westerfield and all stations to Lowestoft. From Lowestoft there is a second line, heading north-west across the Broads, which eventually comes into Norwich from the east. From Ipswich and Westerfield there is also a line heading south-east to Felixstowe.
There is one other line in Suffolk, which doesn’t touch Ipswich, so we may as well start with the exception to the rule. The line starts in Essex as it leaves the Liverpool Street to Norwich (Great Eastern) Main Line below Colchester (at Marks Tey) and heads north-west to Sudbury. It is dubbed, of course, the ‘Gainsborough Line’ after the artist, who was born in Sudbury (previously it was the ‘Lovejoy Line’, which doesn’t quite have the same ring about it). It’s a run of just under 12 miles, through Chappel & Wakes Colne (Essex) and Bures, arriving in Sudbury after the Mill Tye level crossing. The Stour Valley Railway, as it is also known, was not always so truncated. It used to extend to Shelford, near Cambridge. However, the Sudbury-Shelford section was closed in 1967 as part of the Beeching closures, rendering Sudbury a terminus. I’m sure that won’t be the last time I mention Beeching!
Sudbury’s railway history is not as straightforward as that pithy summation suggests. The station was originally a terminus for the line coming up from Marks Tey (1849). When the line was extended to Cambridge, a new through station opened, with the previous terminus becoming part of the goods yard. With the closure of the Sudbury-Cambridge section, we once again had a terminus, as events went full circle. The second station was then closed in 1991, making way for an extension of the Kingfisher Leisure Centre, with a new terminus constructed a short distance east.