The East Suffolk Line is one of the greatest unsung survivors of the infamous Beeching report and the decimation of Britain's railway industry in the 1960s. The first part of the Ipswich to Lowestoft line, the Halesworth, Beccles & Haddiscoe Railway, opened in 1854 and was renamed the East Suffolk Railway later that year. Leased by the great Victorian entrepreneur and engineer Sir Morton Peto, the route was completed with the southern section to Ipswich opening in June 1859. For many years, the route was used by express services between London, Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth, but after the nationalisation of the railway industry, these services were transferred away leaving the line with an uncertain future. Reprieved from closure in the 1960s, the line became a testbed for many of the innovative systems adopted by British Rail, such as radio-controlled signalling, in order to reduce costs. Today, the line continues to play an important role in the provision of public transport in this attractive part of East Anglia. With 2004 marking the 150th anniversary of the opening of the line, there can be no more appropriate time to publish this first comprehensive history.
Accompanying the author's detailed research, are 450 illustrations including photographs, line drawings and memorabilia that bring to life the story of this important, but often ignored, line. Incorporating reminiscences from railwaymen who used to work the line over the years, the book is also an interesting piece of social history, covering trades that are now long forgotten by the railway industry. The East Suffolk line links Ipswich with Lowestoft via Beccles, Halesworth, Saxmundham and Wickham Market. Associated with the line were two branches to Framlingham and Aldeburgh as well as the narrow gauge Southwold Railway, from Halesworth to Southwold.
John Brodribb lives in Beccles and has been active for many years on the local railway scene. He is the author of many Ian Allan Publishing titles, including, most recently, Branches & Byways: East Anglia.