The enduring love affair with railway design

As a nation, despite our grumbling about the state of the railway system and its operation, deep down we seem collectively to continue to have a close affection for ideas of design in the railways in Britain. Quite apart from the engineering aspects of the railway, rolling stock, engines and the perceived romanticism of bygone rail travel, the architecture and form of the infrastructure and the visual communication methods deployed by the rail companies themselves continue to have a distinct ‘heritage’ aesthetic, even when newly created. There has long been a tradition in railway advertising of using historic sites at locations which the railway served or passed by.

This has been seen most recently in advertising campaign rolled out by GWR – itself a relaunched heritage brand harking back to the days before British Rail (also a distinct heritage brand with a very strong design heritage). The advertising seen across the rail network in the west of England and in the London termini have drawn on the classic childrens’ literature aesthetic centred around Enid Blyton’s Famous Five to create a sense of adventure, discovery, social relations, holidays and the idea of it being fun to travel by rail. Various buildings and landscapes across the south west have been depicted as well, producing an interesting layering of heritage messages and associations with this form of travel

Alight here for Sutton Hoo

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Melton Railway Station © David Gill

We are beginning to plot out our visitor journey for the Department for Transport funded project. Train passengers will travel from Liverpool Street (or Stratford) to Ipswich, then change to the Lowestoft line, alighting either at Melton or at Woodbridge.

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Woodbridge riverside and railway station © David Gill

From Melton there is a short walk over the river bridge and then up the hill to the site of Sutton Hoo. Woodbridge, opposite the burial mounds, provides access to the waterfront and other visitor facilities such as restaurants and shops.

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King Raedwald and Sutton Hoo

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Abellio Greater Anglia ‘Raedwald of East Anglia’ © David Gill

Our Heritage Tourism project evokes King Raedwald. In one sense there is the debate over the view that Raedwald could have been buried at Sutton Hoo (see ODNB entry).

But King Raedwald is also in service with Abellio Greater Anglia (as a Class 90) on the Liverpool Street to Norwich line (change at Ipswich for Woodbridge and Melton for Sutton Hoo).

So next time you travel to Suffolk keep an eye out for Raedwald.

Travel Back in Time with King Raedwald

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In March 2016 the Department for Transport announced a £1 million fund to make it easier to travel by rail. Minister Claire Perry MP has spoken about the ‘great ideas’ that had been put forward.

A group of us proposed a project, ‘Travel Back in Time with King Raedwald’. This will involve using proximity prompts to encourage visitors to move from viewing the Sutton Hoo finds in the British Museum, the UK’s top tourist attraction (see here), to the find-spot in Suffolk. The app will provide information about how to get to Liverpool Street, how to buy tickets, where to change (at Ipswich), and where to alight (Woodbridge or Melton). It will then have further details of where to buy food and coffee, and how to walk (or find other transport) from the station.

Minister Claire Perry MP announced the winners yesterday (“Rail tourism winners announced“, 25 May 2016). The competition “offers grants to rail operators for innovative ideas and trials and is aimed particularly at heritage railways and community rail partnerships. It hopes to encourage more tourists and make it easier to explore the UK by rail.”

‘Travel Back in Time with King Raedwald’ was one of the 17 winners and the team members are looking forward to delivering the project over the next year.

Claire Perry MP commented: “We want to show the best of British to our visitors and Heritage and Community Railways are part of that package. I am delighted that this project is one of 17 national winners across Britain. I look forward to seeing the scheme develop, providing another great reason to visit Suffolk.”

Heritage Winter Walks

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Custom House, Ipswich © David Gill

A group of us went on a heritage “winter walk” as part of a well-being initiative at work. We had a walk round the Wet Dock that now forms part of the marina at Ipswich. The dock was planned by H.R. Palmer in 1837 and opened to shipping in 1842. A new entrance  at the south end was created in 1881. This was crossed by a swing bridge to carry the railway (1903).

On the north side of the dock is the Old Custom House, designed by J.M. Clark and completed in 1845.

To the right of the Custom House is Waterfront House, originally a grain store. This was converted in 1986/7 as part of the initial regeneration of the Ipswich waterfront.

The Southwold Railway

Bridge over the river Blythe on the Southwold Railway © David Gill

Bridge over the river Blythe on the Southwold Railway © David Gill

The Southwold Railway dates back to 1879 and ran from Southwold on the Suffolk coast to Halesworth. It closed in 1929. Traces of the line can be found, most notably where it cross the river Blythe near Walberswick. The replacement pedestrian bridge uses the original bases.

The Southwold Railway Trust promotes awareness of the heritage of the Southwold Railway.

A film of the railway can be found in the East Anglian Film Archive (EAFA) in addition to a short film about the last train before closure.

Heritage Fortnight in Ipswich

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Back on Track Heritage Lecture © Caroline Gill

UCS contributed two lectures to the Ipswich Heritage Fortnight: one on the Saxon Shore by Professor David Gill, and the other on Back on Track by Dr Geraint Coles. They were opportunities to present to a wider public the two projects that we would like to develop through Heritage Futures: the first linked to the benefits of heritage tourism, and the second to economic regeneration. We were impressed by the large audiences for both the lecture (as well as the Sutton Hoo conference where there was a waiting list). We are hoping to hold follow-up workshops to both lectures.