The Return of the ‘Zombie Sites’ of Ipswich from Dennis Miller

My memory banks whirred into action after reading this letter from Graham Day [Issue 218], taking me all the way back to 2004 when I was Minutes Secretary for the Society.

I was struck by the number of derelict and empty sites around town so I set about photographing some and investigating the reasons for their neglect. Nothing was ever resolved but it is interesting now, 15 years later, to see how the situation has changed.

The two properties that I was particularly concerned about were those in Museum Street and St Margarets Street (see photos). Both of these are now back in working order with one now a well established restaurant and the other only just restored as accommodation.

Here also are photos of other properties, some of which still have not been touched!

[See the ‘then and now’ photographs on this PDF file. This was the majority of the bonus colour section of this issue. -Ed.]


Ransomes and railways from Graham Hardinge 

Thank you for another interesting read [Issue 218]. With my Ipswich Transport Society Vice- Presidential hat on, there are a couple of items I would like to comment upon.

1. By one of those odd coincidences, only two days after I had read Mervyn Russen’s ‘Ransomes & Rapier’ letter concerning the R & R-built turntable at Didcot, I caught up with a magazine article published by the Friends of Vintage Trains. VT operate main line steam specials from their base at Tyseley Locomotive Works, previously a GWR and BR steam depot located in the southern outskirts of Birmingham. Briefly, the detailed and quite technical article describes the former steam depot here, the enormous covered area (220 ft x 360 ft) – long since demolished – containing four turntables. One of these turntables survives (now in the open air) and is currently undergoing restoration. Its history has Ipswich connections in that British Railways (Western Region) ordered four x 65 feet Mundt turntables from Ransomes & Rapier in 1957 to replace elderly existing turntables. Two of these were destined for Tyseley, but in the event only one was installed during the Spring of 1959. Bearing in mind that steam traction was about to be run down at a rapid rate, with Tyseley depot closing to steam little over seven years later, 1957 seemed rather late in the day to place an order for new turntables but it was good for our local engineering employees.

2. The other subject of particular interest was Izzy Lane's story of the Soham wartime explosion which needs some minor amendment. The incident took place in 1944, not 1942, while the naming of the two Class 47s diesel locomotives (47577 'Benjamin Gimbert GC' and 47579 'James Nightall GC’) took place at March on 28/9/81, not 1960 (the locos weren’t built until late 1964!). Both were regular sights at Ipswich prior to the electrification of the Great Eastern Main Line. While in BR service, they later had their nameplates and explanatory brass plaques removed, but both survive. Of these, 47579 is privately preserved and restored to its 1981 condition, complete with nameplates and plaques, and is resident at Mangapps Railway Museum near Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex. Two, more modern, diesel freight locomotives: nos. 66077 and 66079 – note the same last two digits – have now carried the names, but on less attractive plates and no plaques, since 2004.

On the subject of locomotives, the one involved at Soham was an Austerity locomotive, not the other way around. Despite being totally wrecked, it was rebuilt and spent its subsequent life at Longmoor Military Railway in Hampshire (closed in 1969) where Royal Engineers were trained in railway operations and construction. I visited the LMR in April 1966 where I saw it stored and awaiting disposal. For possible added interest, the accompanying photographs are of preserved 47579 ‘James Nightall GC’ at Thuxton, on the Mid-Norfolk Railway, in 2014 and WD 400 ‘Sir Guy Williams’ awaiting scrapping at Longmoor in 1966, 22 years after it was wrecked in the Soham explosion.

Apologies for the probable onset of boredom, but the facts must be right! By way of a postscript and to complete the series of photographs, I’ve just remembered that I have a picture of the locomotive that currently carries ‘James Nightall GC’ nameplates over the national network. Unfortunately, this is barely discernible (it is under the driver’s cab side window) but the train it is hauling was the first passenger train to run over the then new Bacon Factory curve at Ipswich on 25/5/14. Has that line really been open for 5.5 years already!

Above: ‘James Nightall GC’ at Thuxton in 2014.

Above: ’Sir Guy Williams’ awaiting scrapping in 1966, 22 years after it was wrecked in the Soham explosion.

Above: ’James Nightall GC’, the name just discernible below the driver’s cab window at right.


The Soham explosion from Spencer Greystrong, River Gipping Trust

Thanks for the latest newsletter, yet again full of interesting facts and pictures.

Could I just pick up on one very minor point in Izzy Lane's article on the Soham explosion. The locomotive was an Austerity type 2-8-0 produced in large numbers specifically for War Department use. This particular engine was numbered WD 7337. The  North British Locomotive Company built the majority of these locomotives (545 in total) and virtually all of them were shipped to Europe for use by the Army after D-Day.

If your readers would like to see the only remaining preserved example of these engines they can find No. 90733 on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway where it is currently being overhauled.


Herbert Clarke and the tidal barrier viewing area from Graham Day

I was pleased to see in the last edition of the Newsletter [Issue 218] the letter and photograph from Mervyn Russen about the Ransomes and Rapier turntable now in-situ at the Didcot Railway Centre. It reminded me of another part of the engineering portfolio of Ransomes and Rapier: that of water control sluice gates. From the early 1980s until the mid 1990s, we made an annual trip to the Spalding Flower Parade, now sadly confined to the annals of history. Walking from the  parking place at  a local school, and after watching the parade in the town, we walked to Springfields to see the parade again and look around the wonderfully colourful gardens. Our route took us past a majestic sluice gate, standing proudly on the river with its elliptical plate proudly proclaiming ‘Ransomes and Rapier, Ipswich’. The contribution of engineering to the development of Ipswich is always poorly represented.

On occasions when working in Ipswich, I often walk around parts of Old Stoke, my home area. I often pass by the pocket park and the memorial garden to Herbert Clarke, the guard on the Soham munitions train. The excellent Newsletter article was well complemented by Izzy Lane’s good photograph showing the condition of the plaque on the park entrance. I wonder who is responsible for the park and the plaque. The plaque does need to be cleaned and repaired or replaced. A man of Stoke, Herbert Clarke’s bravery on that fateful night needs better recognition than this.

My route on my last walk took me to where I thought the viewing area by the new flood barrier would be. I had heard about the problems with the railway line, but was not prepared for the tall hoardings which had been erected around the viewing area preventing public access.

Surely, someone should have given consideration to the possibility that trains might use the track on the odd occasion, and thought through the design before committing to the building work? What would be an excellent feature is now shrouded in hoardings and also in mystery as to its future. Like the Orwell Bridge, we will have a solution at some indeterminate date distant years hence!