Saturday, 14 July 2018

July News Part 2

Great Eastern Railway 1899 4 Wheel Brake Third 853

This week has been less "visual" with all work concentrating on minor alterations to the doors which are all in the process of being fully fitted to the vehicle. Most of these are now in position but have been receiving much tweaking to stop them bouncing and rubbing as they try to close cleanly. Some on the landward side have had their "check straps" fitted which prevents them opening too far and swinging round and hitting the bodyside. These straps are being produced in house with recycled materials, which has the added bonus of saving costs as well. On a slight tangent, some may be surprised to hear that the cost of restoring 853 will be significantly cheaper than the cost of a 1950's Mark 1 overhaul!

British Railways 1959 Brake Corridor Composite E21224

Also currently exiled inside Bridge Road sheds, some spare labour was available this week to continue with some of the interior components ready for refitting in due course. The latest victim has been a sliding cage door for the luggage area which is being rubbed down of all old paint to make it smooth and nice again for new paint. The square steel mesh is particularly difficult to clean and various repaints over the years has resulted in a paint build up on the mesh.

British Railways 1959 Tourist Second Open M4843

At the Sheringham corridor end, initial bodywork preparation is finished and the areas which are to be covered up by components are being painted to protect them before the items are refitted. Some of the corridor bellow timbers have also been trail fitted into position, these are the originals which were deemed good enough to retain once they had received repairs to splits etc.

In preparation towards refitting the corridor, the faceplate itself has been moved from the yard indoors for cleaning up and repair. The two rubber sprung brackets at the stop required the backing plates (which hold the rubber inside the bracket) to be replaced as they had rotted badly where they had been up against the coach and received bad water ingress. The rubbers themselves however have remained serviceable.

Inside the vestibule at the same end, the replacement floor supports have now been fitted into position and work has moved on to measuring and then cutting the new plywood floor. It will be nice to be able to stand inside the vestibule once again!

Meanwhile at the Holt end, more cutting out and cleaning of metal in common with previous weeks. The focus has been on the seaward side toilet, the floor of which has required levering upwards to assess corrosion beneath and get to the welding repairs that will be required. Unlike the other side however, repairs should be limited to the lower sections rather than all the way up! It's all looking a bit messy in there at the minute, and like the Sheringham end, full replacement of the flooring instead of keyhole surgery is looking more likely.

British Railways 1962 Corridor Second M26012

This week, the repainting work has been concluded, with the second coat of maroon being finished and the two ends receiving coats of black undercoat and then gloss.

Some finishing touches have been completed as the coach is due to leave the staging area soon to make way for E3868. These have included varnishing the top line (which was kept during the repaint to save time) to bring back some of its colour, scraping stray paint off the bodyside windows and cleaning the bodyside windows. A start is now being made to apply the lower lining.

British Railways 1953 Tourist Second Open E3868

It has long been the policy not to use varnish on the steel bodied Mark 1's during the repainting process. During 2018 it has been decided to experiment with reintroducing varnish to some vehicles. Three experiments are to be taken: firstly, the next Silver/Gold overhaul to be completed will receive a coat of varnish over its newly applied paint before it enters service. Secondly a coach that wasn't varnished originally but which has been in service for five years will have a coat of varnish applied. And finally a coach that is due for a repaint but which we do not have capacity to undertake yet will have a coat of varnish applied. All three will be assessed to see how they fare in our particular local conditions.

The third option has already been applied to BSK W35148 at the start of the season but unfortunately the general consensus is that it hasn't worked too well. Now we are pursuing the middle option i.e. varnishing a coach half way (5 years) through its life. The selected vehicle is E3868 which was outshopped in 2013 following a Silver overhaul. The vehicle is having very little other work whilst it is in with us so it should be a fairly quick project. So far, the exterior has been washed thoroughly which has included a good steam clean of the bogies and underframe. The vehicle was then moved inside the shed and has been rubbed down gently ready for varnishing next week. A few patches of rust are coming through on the vehicles ends, so these have been picked out, treated and re-filled as a stop gap measure. The black ends will receive a single coat of black paint as opposed to varnish in order to cover/seal these repairs.

What this work will hopefully achieve is the ability to field a main service set of Mark 1's that have all been painted or varnished in the 2016-18 period, which could potentially include the following vehicles:

E3868 (varnish 2018) + M4236 (paint 2017) + E4641 (paint 2016) +  M26012 (paint 2018) + W35148 (varnish 2018) + E94464 (paint 2018)

This will be a major milestone in the railway's aim to catch up on deferred cosmetic attention of our main Mark 1 fleet, gaining ground which was lost whilst resource was directed for several years towards the suburban set.

British Railways 1960 Brush Type 2 D5631

Members of paid staff are currently transferring next door into the locomotive sheds on a part-time basis as they require assistance in their project to overhaul the Class 31 diesel. The project won't be featuring too heavily in these notes but it's worth celebrating the fact that our welders and body prep staff are in demand! This week it's been roof support hoops and rotten air intake filters brought across to C&W for replacement and repair respectively.

Friday, 6 July 2018

July News Part 1

Great Eastern Railway 1899 4 Wheel Brake Third 853

Door hanging continues and there are now six at the "hung" stage awaiting the next stage which will be fitting of the catch/locking mechanisms. The four remaining to do are the pair of luggage doors and two compartment doors on the seaward side.

Meanwhile, progress also continues to be made on the passenger communication gear. On the exterior, the feed pipe which links the apparatus valve to the main train vacuum pipe is now complete and in position.

Internally, more pipes (that accommodate the chain) have been produced and in some cases fitted. Work on the adjusting thread and end stop (which is located at the opposite end of the coach where the chain ends) has started.

British Railways 1959 Tourist Second Open M4843

The landward side solebar, pictured last week, has now been painted into gloss black which finishes this particular task.

More coats of paint are being applied to the ironwork which will adorn the two coach ends once all other repairs are completed.

The Holt end metalwork repairs have been noisily progressing with lots of chiseling and needle gunning of old metal to clean it up or remove it for replacement. Some new sections of major "crash pillar" are being prepared for welding into position on the seaward side shortly.

The removed toilet window from the same end is having coats of paint built up on the rear so that it can be refitted in due course.

Meanwhile at the Sheringham end, paint preparation work has started on the end here all the new metal joins the old.

The new floor in this end is also beginning to take shape, with several reproduced framework bearers now completed and painted ready to install on top of the chassis.

British Railways 1962 Corridor Second M26012

The full extent of the vehicle has been coated in a first coat of gloss this week, closely followed by a rub down and a second coat, the latter being 3/4 complete.

On the interior, all of the four-a-side bench seating has been swapped 180 degrees around. This is due to the nature of the vehicle and its wear patterns. The side corridor faces the sea on this coach meaning the compartments/seats face the sun. The seat position nearest the window naturally gets more sun damage than the other three seats on the same "bench". Additionally, when only one or two people travel in a compartment they naturally sit by the window, so the seats nearest the window also get more bottoms than the others! The combination of these two factors, let's call it the "sunny bottom syndrome", has led the seats to be on the verge of wearing out on just 1/4 of their length, the remaining 3/4 still being very presentable. The cure for sunny bottom syndrome has this week been to swap the two seat backs and bases in every compartment round with each other, putting the two worn seating positions closest to the corridor and away from the window, and the two least worn seating positions are now "taking the hit" next to the window, ready to receive maximum summer sun and passenger traffic. It was very hard work but hopefully this move will keep the overall look of the seating in this coach better for longer which prolongs the date which we will have to reupholster.


There hasn't been any updates from upholstery for several weeks, however they have remained very busy. The latest project has been the stripping down of first class compartment seat backs and bases and making patterns for new material. The first, pilot, seat back has been completed and it's magnificent in its first class "chestnut leaf" moquette.

A second back is now following and has been stripped of its old material. These seats are from Brake Corridor Composite GE21103 which is one of the operational brakes, but I'm not sure if they are going back in that coach or are being fitted to similar 21224 which is currently in the restoration programme.

Friday, 29 June 2018

June News Part 4

Great Eastern Railway 1899 4 Wheel Brake Third 853

Last week the hanging of the exterior doors was mentioned. These doors have continued to progress but are a very time consuming pursuit so many hours are required to get them hinging and fitting correctly. Pleasingly, three doors (two of the compartment doors on the landward side plus an inward opening guards door on the seaward side) are now at the "hung" stage and now await the next stage which will be fitting of the catch/locking mechanisms.

The passenger communication chord project is also advancing. Two internal tubes have been fitted to the guards area which represents the first section of the pipe run which will take the chord down the vehicle.

The exterior equipment featuring the valve which applies the vacuum plus the "butterfly" tell late indicators has now also been properly fitted, on the guards end of the coach.

London North Eastern Railway 1924 Quad Articulated Set 74

This flagship set was posed for official photographs at the start of the week, and very nice they looked too! A few days later they were test run to bed in the new brake blocks and check for other issues. Sadly it was discovered that the flexible rubber vacuum piping was chafing on the bogies at an alarming rate, so some protective sleeves have been produced and fitted to them to get around the irritating design feature. The set is due to debut at the Vintage Transport day on Sunday (1st July), don't miss them!

British Railways 1959 Tourist Second Open M4843

The landward side solebar has been cleaned up and undercoated this week. This brings it up to the same stage as the seaward side which was similarly treated last week.

On the Sheringham end, the last of the original paintwork from the metal not replaced has been heat-gunned off the vehicle to prepare the end for sanding and filling soon.

In preparation for the Sheringham end going back together, all of the small fittings from the corridor are being re-assessed and any that have been left out from previous restoration are being stripped and primed so that we can get everything at the same stage when reassembly is required.

British Railways 1962 Corridor Second M26012

This coach has now moved indoors. The emergency repairs and paint preparation started last week of the bodysides has been rapidly completed allowing repainting to start. Just the two ends remain to be treated.

What the above allowed was painting to commence three days earlier than originally planned. By the weekend the landward side had received a coat of gloss, returning a sort-of-shine to the vehicle.


Recently a spring on one of bogies under Tourist Second Open E4651 started behaving slightly differently than normal. The coach continued in service with the spring being monitored with no ill effects, however there was a strong desire to see what was going on. The coach was therefore quickly been transferred to the workshop for attention.

The easiest way to tackle the issue was to swap the suspect spring with a spare, which was done quickly. The coach can now be returned to traffic whilst the suspect spring is examined at our leisure...


Other workshop projects also thrive. The Axeman's project to create meshed storage crates is progressing well with example number 5 almost at the completed stage.

A bike from Weybourne station also seems to have sneaked in for repainting and attention to make it look a little perkier.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

COMPLETION SPECIAL: London North Eastern Railway 1924 Quad Articulated Set 74

Just over 12 months after the completion of the final member of our Suburban 4 set of coaches, we are pleased to report on the completion of the major intermediate overhaul for their predecessors: the unique London North Eastern Railway Quad-Art set.

The Quad-Art's have a remarkable story, of which only a much reduced version can be repeated here. Thanks go to Steve Allen for providing original information & research concerning the Quad's history which has been used in the text below. Also for providing many of the images spanning 1966-2008.

The Quad-Arts are a unique surviving example of a fascinating type of carriage set. Four mid-length wooden carriage bodies sit over five articulated bogies. Three all third coaches are joined by a brake third at one end. Other than the brake which has a modest sized luggage space and guards seating/equipment, the entire set is dedicated to full width compartments which have no joining corridor to allow maximum capacity. The whole set is just over 166ft long and seats over 300 which is a remarkable capacity bearing in mind that the set occupies the same length of two and a half British Railways Mark 1 coaches. The Quad art coach bodies are teak paneled and have a varnished finish. Roofs are canvassed, painted white. The interiors are basic - moquette on very thin bench seat backs and bases. The side and door panelling are oak matchboard. The bulkhead partitions feature three picture frames and wired luggage racks. Pictures above the seats usually include famous watercolour prints, a route map, and some adverts.

The concept of the articulated Quads was born when the Great Northern Railway (GNR) was investigating innovative ways to get round problems experienced in moving large numbers of commuters in and out of their lines from London Kings Cross. Short platforms, steep gradients and poor quality 4/6 wheel coaching stock in the 1910's led to Nigel Gresley being tasked with designing replacements. Whilst being most famous for his locomotive designs, Gresley also had a history of Carriage & Wagon (C&W) matters, having first worked for the Lancashire & Yorkshire's C&W department as long ago as 1901, quickly rising to the post of GNR C&W Superintendent by 1905.

Gresley pioneered to use of articulation, with two carriages sharing a central bogie between them, known as "twins". This allowed the coaches to be closer together and lighter in weight, proving beneficial to the GNR's short platforms and gradients respectively. His own design of bogie also improved the poor riding characteristics of the GNR's previous stock considerably.

By 1923, the railway's had been "grouped" into four large companies, the one of relevance here being the London North Eastern Railway (LNER), of which Gresley was appointed Chief Mechanical Engineer upon its inception. Gresley was therefore in a position to continue his work on articulated coaching stock and in the same year of grouping, the first of his new extended "Quads" appeared, fixed sets of four carriages with all inner bogies shared. These followed successful earlier conversions of "twins" into "quads".

From 1923-1929 more Quad-Art sets were produced, each batch being slightly different to the last incorporating more passenger improvements as the design involved. Set 74 was one of the earlier batches, however it was fitted with electric lighting which was a step up from the earliest sets which had gas lighting. Nearly 100 sets were built and they nearly always ran in pairs, creating eight coach formations.

Like most suburban railway vehicles, our set No74, ran an uneventful life running on the same lines out of London Kings Cross doing the same job for several decades. Under British Railways (BR) ownership, the higher maintenance teak side panelling was over painted into their standard maroon colour scheme. The introduction of BR Mark 1 suburban stock in the mid 1950's started a replacement period for the Quad Arts with withdrawals from service from that point onwards. The introduction of Diesel Railcars in 1959 further accelerated Quad-Art disposals. Ironically these railcars were originally ordered to run the Midland & Great Northern branchlines but were themselves displaced whilst still under construction after the M&GN system was closed!

The last Quad Art sets operated in service in the year 1966 and set 74 was one of the sets that survived into this final year of operation. Shortly afterwards all of the surviving examples of wooden bodied articulated stock were all burnt and scrapped at various sites, with the notable exception of set 74. This set had been sent to A. King and Sons at Wymondham, on a one-way journey to Norfolk for scrapping, however the set was to later be resident in that county far longer than originally anticipated!

Wymondham 1966

Initially stored on the closed Wymondham East Junction – Forncett line, set 74 was purchased by the embryonic Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway Society who reputedly preserved the set for the same reasons the LNER built it, as a high capacity set with a low weight.

Stored on the Farncett line

These attributes were deemed desirable for the fledgling M&GN who wanted the facility to carry lots of people during events using small ex-industrial steam locomotives. It was only later that the national significance of set 74 was fully appreciated after it was known that not a single example of 1920's articulated rolling stock had survived into preservation.

Quads at the rear of a formation bound for the NNR

From 1969-1979 the Quad-Arts formed the backbone of the growing North Norfolk Railway's services between Sheringham and Weybourne. Some cream paint was applied over the top of the maroon in the late 1960's to improve their appearance as a stop-gap measure, with the set fully repainted in the early 1970's into brown livery.

However the set was worn out, and the deterioration condition of the doors led to the set's withdrawal from service in 1979.

The set was briefly resurrected in 1983 following some limited cosmetic work to star in the filming of "Swallows and Amazons" following which they were returned to store.

During filming

In 1987 steps were taken to try and halt the worrying deterioration which had been accelerating. Interior paneling was removed, rotten timber disposed of and interior bulkheads partly dismantled in some cases. This access allowed all of the main structural timber to be coated in preservative which went a great way towards saving the remains of the set for any future project to restore them fully. However the articulated nature of the coaches meant that restoration of the four coaches would have to be done all at once, which was far beyond the reach of the North Norfolk Railway's resource. For this reason, the set continued to stand under tarpaulins at Holt for the whole of the 1990's.

In 2001 a comprehensive survey was undertaken which estimated the cost of restoration to be £500,000. After a generous benefactor offered £50,000 if it could be matched, fundraising began to restore set 74. Following an appeal and articles in the railway press, the Heritage Lottery Fund put forward a match funded grant of £341,000 with representatives from the National Railway Museum acting as project monitors. At last the fortunes of the set had been reversed.

Full restoration (rebuild) was carried out under contract at Carnforth between 2003 & 2008, the set temporarily leaving Norfolk after a fleeting 37 year stay!

Whilst at Carnforth each coach had to be stripped down to its bare skeletion, major framework repairs undertaken.

Each door was completely rebuilt and refitted, new teak panelling replaced much of the old and the exterior returned to its original varnished appearance.

The roofs were repaired and re-canvassed, interiors rebuilt and the underframes stripped down and repaired.

Each bogie was also similarly rebuilt with no stones left unturned.

Following its return to Norfolk, the sets final finishing was undertaken before being formerly launched at "Quad Art week" in July 2008.

Since 2008, the Quad Arts remained in service at special events on the NNR, used each season as required. The previous deterioration of the 1970's-1990's was much reduced owing to the set now being stored undercover when not in use. However after about 8 years use, some evidence of water ingress was detected inside the vehicles, so they were immediately withdrawn from use and kept indoors whilst a slot in the workshops could be found to undertake repairs.

In April 2018 the set arrived in the sheds at Weybourne for repairs to be undertaken. After a joining of forces of several volunteer groups, it became apparent that the opportunity to do more than the original repairs and it later turned into an intermediate overhaul, quite fitting as we were approaching the ten year anniversary of the completion of the original restoration. The following works were completed over the next three months:

  • Roof canvas repaired around the electrical trunking which had failed allowing water to enter the interior
  • Trunking modified to prevent a re-occurrence and the whole area re-sealed
  • Roofs claened down and repainted white
  • Bodysides and ends rubbed down and re-varnished
  • All bodyside metalwork (such as grab handles and window mechanisms) repainted LNER brown
  • Footboards and certain visible underframe components repainted black
  • All brake blocks replaced for the first time since BR days
  • All doors and locks mechanically inspected and repairs carried out
  • All other mechanics given a major exam
  • Interior compartment ceilings repainted
  • Compartment vents permanently closed to prevent further mould issues
The culmination of the above work is the re-launching of set 74 that looks as good as it did in 2008 when first launched. In fact, some have commented that it looks even better than 2008 owing to the fact that the varnish is "deeper" as a result of it having many more coats today than it did ten years ago.

Very fittingly, the Quads return to service will be during the "Story of Suburban Travel" week, 2nd-8th July, the same event formerly known as "Quad Art week" and ten years exactly from the sets original re-launch into service.

Great Eastern Railway 1899 4 Wheel Brake Third 853

With all the excitement of the Quad Arts being rolled out, remarkably there has also been good progress on 853, a predecessor to the Quads! The vehicle's exterior appearance is changing dramatically again as it is being painted in the next coat of primer, salmon pink.

We may be persuaded to keep this as its final colour as it would be authentic for the London & South Western Railway at least...

Two doors are in the process of being hung and so far proceedings have gone remarkably well as doors have a real reputation for being difficult.

The equipment for the passenger communication chord is being overhauled and modified so that an example from a Mark 1 coach can be used here.

The reclaimed buffer heads have also been measured for final adjusting so that they can be fitted in the near future.

British Railways 1959 Tourist Second Open M4843

Work has concentrated mainly on the two ends. At the Holt end, the new steel sheet paneling has been welded into position properly and dressed up. The window aperture is now also present and the window which lives in this slot has been cleaned up ready for refitting with new sealant.

The corroded roof edging has had replacement section also welded in. This covers up all that rotten framework which has been dealt with in previous weeks.

Also at the Holt end, the corridor connection has been removed to allow for the full repairs on the end itself to be tackled in due course. This required the telehandler to compress the connection slightly so we could draw it outwards with its buffing legs still attached.

We don't normally do them this way but issues with the Sheringham end have led us to modify our technique for this end to avoid unnecessary hassle twice over.

Meanwhile at the Sheringham end, steady progress on rebuilding the interior of the vestibule continues. The focus this week has been the production of the flooring bearers which will be bolted into the floor and from which new flooring can be built back upwards.

The seaward side solebar has also been cleaned up and repainted into undercoat.

British Railways 1962 Corridor Second M26012

Work on this "chocolate overhaul" has been limited by the fact the coach was waiting outside until we could remove the Quad Arts freeing up inside space. However a run of good weather has allowed good outdoor progress to be made in the meantime.

This week has seen completion of remedial work to the lower "skirt" which had been showing signs of corrosion. This done, the whole thing has been painted up as far as undercoat. The rest of the coach bodysides from the waistline downwards has been filled and sanded ready for a quick coat of paint in due course.

Any remaining time has been spent doing spot repairs and repainting of the aluminium window frames.