Thursday, 9 September 2021

September News Part 2

London North Eastern Railway 1950 Brake Corridor Third E1866 (GOLD)

Works on the doors and end corridor "bellows" continues to progress on an ongoing basis. Further attention is being given to the underside of the coach, with the new vacuum pipework which will "feed" the Direct Admission valves being the latest addition. These haven't been fitted yet but are in the process of being made, along with the required brackets to hold the new pipe to the chassis.

British Railways 1959 Brake Corridor Composite E21224 (GOLD)

The increasingly famous "trouser buster" heater (see previous updates) is now complete following the grill being screwed onto the wall, meaning there is no way we can set fire to any guards.

Also on the steam heat system, the remaining pair of brackets for the relocated steam pipe have been fitted making the system complete and self supporting again. The pipe now awaits a steam test using a locomotive before we can sign off the whole system and consider lagging it with insulation.

Given E21224's intention to run to Cromer, mainline suitable tyre slippage markers have been applied to all of the wheels. There are 24 stripes in all so they are now well covered!

British Railways 1956 Brake Corridor Composite E21103 (SILVER)

Again we have been very busy pushing forwards with the bodywork overhaul. On the body itself, the focus has been more on stripping down than renewal at present, so the landward side window bottoms remain to be welded up. However several of the doorways, which are going to be a challenge, are now being dismantled. This consists of removing an outer aluminium finishing strip along with any furniture such as brass handles or steel handrails, followed by the wooden door jamb and any surrounding interior woodwork. There are eight doorways in all and only one is in good enough condition to leave alone entirely!

Also stripped off have been the ends of the gutters at the Sheringham end and a small section of body skin behind. These often let water in and was in a terrible state on a previous coach we undertook work on, but thankfully only around six inches of water damage is apparent in the framework on E21103.

Also on the ends, more stripping of the furniture has been achieved (at both ends) with the wooden sections that bolt onto the steel mostly removed. Some of these have been taken onto the bench and all the old sealant scraped off with the wood then having a light sand to prepare it for repainting.

Other items from the end including the lighting jumper cable mounts and the coach data panel have also been removed for similar treatment. All of the items on the ends have to some degree corrosion behind them where water has become trapped over the years. The largest item(s) is the metal "hoop" that forms a tunnel for people to walk through. Both of these have had any loose paint removed and a sand to ready them for repaint.

Lastly, the final aluminium window frame which was removed (from the landward side of the coach) has been cleaned back to bare metal, primed inside and out and gloss painted on the inside. This means we almost have a full set of windows to refit back into the vehicle (the two windows for the wheelchair accessible saloon are currently under review as they may be changed).

We also have a full set of glass fully cleaned following sterling efforts by several volunteers to get us ahead of the game and ready for a swift refitting process.

British Railways (SR Design) 1948 25 Ton Brakevan 55167 (SILVER)

The vehicle is currently awaiting movement under the awning at Holt for its repaint/overhaul to be completed.


"A Exams" are now in progress at Sheringham, with all of the various running coaches having come through the busy summer "red service" unscathed. These exams are fairly light so are progressing without issue. Trains continue to be busy with extra coaches being added to some services, a happy situation indeed!

New moquette (upholstery) has arrived, and will be used to reupholster TSO M4958 over this winter. This is currently the worst vehicle in the fleet for seating degradation and has been a source of frustration as it is a very good coach overall which is spoilt by the seating appearance. We're looking forward to upholstering it in a red material (a colour we are currently short of in the fleet) and transforming it's appearance.


We continue to offer our services to the rest of the railway for non carriage work. Three projects are currently underway: the first is a station bench which is having its wooden components replaced with new.

The metal ends have been cleaned right back and repainted ready for the new wood.

The second project is a casting off steam loco Wissington, which is being turned into a pattern for a new casting after the original was damaged. All of the bolt holes and ports are being blocked up and imperfections smoothed out with filler, which will create a nice smooth shape to form a pattern from.

The last item is a wooden headboard, which has been produced, painted and signwritten in preparation for a special train later this month.

Saturday, 4 September 2021

September News Part 1

London North Eastern Railway 1950 Brake Corridor Third E1866 (GOLD)

Again this week is somewhat of a "more progress ongoing" type of update, with the previously introduced tasks such as door fitting work and the corridor connection bellows both being moved closer towards completion.

The inward opening guards doors are having their handles fitted whilst on the corridor various metal hoops are being fitted and sealed to the varnished wooden end located on the vehicle itself.

British Railways 1959 Brake Corridor Composite E21224 (GOLD)

With E21103 taking priority, sister E21224 is progressing at a more relaxed pace, although the jobs in hand are rather less severe than E21103's... On the exterior, all of the emergency isolating valves, and the air brake cocks on the bufferbeam ends, have been given a further two coats of red/yellow as required, as they hadn't had enough when we first painted them. Worth remembering is that yellow and red are both quite poor covering paints, so often need more coats than most other colours. Underneath the coach, the moving of the steam heat pipework to avoid the future fitting toilet tank has been completed, with around half of the new supporting brackets also completed. Two more brackets are all that remain to be fitted before the brand new steam system can be tested for the first time.

Sticking on the theme of steam heat, the historically inaccurate replacement guard's heater never received its custom made grill we had planned for it. This week, said grill was fabricated using off-cuts of steel bar and angle, married up to a sheet of stainless mesh ordered in. After painting in heat-proof silver, the creation is now ready for fitting into place, and will stop the heating element (taken from a passenger compartment) burning the guards angles or igniting their trouser legs!

Just next to the trouser-busting heater is the guards desk, which as mentioned in earlier updates had been rather scuffed and needed a piece removing from it to get it to fit past the relocated air brake pipework. You would not know this now however, as the holes have been filled and any poor areas recoated in cream gloss, so it now looks most presentable once again.

A final minor niggle rectified has been the fitting of the compartment door stops to the floor. The doors ran for a week or so without them, but longer term the enthusiastic opening of the doors would have damaged the runner mechanism without the supporting stops at the bottom. Three got lost during the restoration so new ones were cut faithful to the originals, and the whole set had new rubbers fitted after the blocks had been varnished.

A start has been made on the partial final fitting out of the toilet. The coach will be having the toilet itself fitted by contractors later this year, however there is no reason why we cannot add all the other components in advance. The first of which has been the skirting boards. These have been made and painted on the bench and were cut to size and fitted this week. The bin and sink now remain to be tackled, the latter requiring plumbing work to make operational.

Although no work has been done inside the compartments, I couldn't resist another photo as they look so good with the lights on, especially the two first class ones!

British Railways 1956 Brake Corridor Composite E21103 (SILVER)

This has remained "priority one" and we continue to make good, swift, progress. The remaining windows, on the landward side, which have been selected for removal have now been extracted. All the window frames for the seaward side have now been fully cleaned back to bare aluminium and the inside edges painted up into gloss, to form a barrier between the alloy frame and the steel coach. Cleaning of the glass panes themselves is also now in progress, as we hope to refit these back into the coach in record time.

Meanwhile, the window apertures in the coach bodyside have all been repaired on the seaward side, with the landward side now in progress. Most of these repairs have been patches to the bottom edge of the apertures.

The two windows from the wheelchair accessible saloon, which are of a different design, have been removed and set aside for now, as we will replace them with standard windows if we can.

The most advanced side, the landward, has had all rusty metal cleaned back where the windows will be relocated, and the "hidden" areas painted up into gloss to match the window frames.

With the window shapes coming to a close, attention is turning more concertedly to the doorways, which will be more involved than the windows. We are currently in the process of stripping them down, removing the wooden door jambs and assessing how badly the steel framework behind has corroded. Unlike some areas of the coach, which have come out better than we expected, these are looking rather ominous with lots of corrosion and distortion being found. It is likely these will take somewhat longer to sort out than the window repairs.

The two corridor ends continue to be stripped down by willing hands. The focus has been on the Sheringham end corridor this week, with the metal "hoop" being separated from the wood fixed to the bodywork, in order to remove/release it so that repairs can commence.

British Railways (SR Design) 1948 25 Ton Brakevan 55167 (SILVER)

Replacing further woodwork in the verandah area has been slow progress, however they are almost there, thanks to the Carpenter, his router and labourer!

The roof vents and chimney fittings are now in place ready for painting, which became the last task prior to the team's scaffold structure and tent being removed, bringing the brakevan back into daylight.

The new access has been used to jet wash and tidy up the underframe, which looked untidy compared to the much fresher body!

Most of the rubbish has been cleared from the restoration area and the inside of the van prepared for the next phase of works. It is hoped for the vehicle to be positioned under the awning of the Holt museum to allow the final exterior painting to take place. Before the vehicle was exposed, paintwork concentrated on the landward side, with two top coats applied to make life easier if/when the vehicle moves under the awning, where access to the seaward side will be easier. Meanwhile ironwork (handles, catches etc) have all been cleaned up and treated ready for undercoating. 


Maintenance work has focused on gala preparations for the steam event this weekend. We had been informed several vintage coaches would be in use so efforts were made to complete the engineering acceptances for GER 853 and M&GN 129, the latter being re-examined after having its new chassis fitted. Part of the outstanding work was testing, as subsequently passing, several welds. As far as I'm aware all was well so these vehicles are now fit for regular traffic in the future.

However it later transpired they weren't required but at least they will be ready for next year, or indeed the tail end of this year if required. The Gresley Buffet car was also brought to Weybourne for gala  preparation, the first time it had been used since Covid. Mold had struck the inside, on most of the surfaces including the ceilings! This was attacked by a team who blitzed it and returned it to former glories! The vehicle also had a mechanical exam to pass it fit for use again, and it was delivered to Sheringham for forming into a gala set of coaches.

Finally, a start has now been made on a round of "A exams" for the regular service vehicles.


The now normal stream of non-coach items have been being quietly processed in the workshop. The ex Ipswich platform trolley has been completed and finished in Great Eastern blue. This was replaced by a vintage wheelchair from Sheringham which has been repainted, given a general MOT and had its arms reupholstered. Also arrived has been a broken clock and a rotten bench, both of which are now also in progress!

Finally, we are preparing a headboard for a special occasion later this month, the inscription of which will follow in due course. The board has been cut out, sanded, primed and glossed in blue. It will be lettered shortly.

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

August News Part 2

 London North Eastern Railway 1950 Brake Corridor Third E1866 (GOLD)

Work has continued on the various projects described in detail last time. The doors continue to be worked on around the luggage (Sheringham) end and will be for some time as they are important and time consuming items to get right. Both the double luggage doors and the inward opening guards doors have continued to be the focus. Internal planking for the inward guards doors has also now been started using some timber we had in stock. Some repair work has additionally been started on the wooden hinged door at the corridor connection.

The material "bellows" for the corridor connections are progressing with more of a focus now on the Sheringham end now that the Holt end is fitted successfully.

British Railways 1959 Brake Corridor Composite E21224 (GOLD)

Work on completing the snagging jobs has now started at a relaxed pace given the main focus on sister E21103. Some air brake bufferbeam equipment has received additional coats of paint and some minor items such as the handles for the steam heat valves on the ends have been prepared and fitted. A set of door stops has been produced from timber and have now been varnished and await fitting to the coach. Inside the guards compartment, the rather odd "list to bow" in the guards seat has now been corrected and it swivels and operates normally! Also rectified in there was a hole in the guard's desk which has now been filled and patch painted back up into cream gloss. Outside the guards compartment, a porcelain light fitting which we found smashed after the gala has been replaced. All of these items are small but are required to bring the coach back to completion. Finally, a new section of steam heat pipework is being let into the centre of the coach as the original arrangement had to be modified to accommodate the new Network Rail approved toilet tank due to be fitted later this year.

British Railways 1956 Brake Corridor Composite E21103 (SILVER)

E21103 has now become the Alpha Male in the workshops and has been the main focus for most of us this week. The work has broadly been split into two directions, the first of which is preparing the corridor ends of the coach for repairs. This has involved the removal of interior panelwork at both ends which has allowed an inspection from the inside.

The ends have surprisingly been found to be in better condition than we thought which is certainly a bonus! At the Holt end of the vehicle, several volunteers have been involved in removing the corridor bellows to facilitate further exterior repairs and stripping.

The second area of focus has been the bodyside windows on the seaward side of the coach. All of these had corrosion issues and needed to be removed for both the alloy window frames themselves to be cleaned up but mainly for access to the surrounding steelwork to be stabilised/cleaned/replaced as required. 

This work has progressed at an amazing pace and in two weeks the entire seaward side has been stripped of its windows and all but one of them has had the apertures welded.

More than 3/4 of the removed window frames have been cleaned down back to aluminium and etch primed as part of the process for readying them for refitting.

The idea is to clean up the windows as fast as possible so as not to delay their refitting and these will continue to be a focus along with the treatment of the coach bodysides around where the windows sit. Together this will allow them to be refitted in time.

Very early investigations into the doorway repairs that will be required is now being made, with the usual removal of aluminium outer "weather strips" and wood door jambs to access corroded door pillars now in progress.

British Railways (SR Design) 1948 25 Ton Brakevan 55167 (SILVER)

No progress to report.

Friday, 6 August 2021

August News Part 1

Service returns after holidays to the Isle of Wight!

London North Eastern Railway 1950 Brake Corridor Third E1866 (GOLD)

The Thompson has progressed well over the last month, with a few more volunteers returning to the fray after the 18 month forced sabbatical. The main news for the exterior has been a start on the hanging of the doors, a major feature of the vehicle. These doors are made of a rather heavy wooden frame with a steel skin screwed to the outside edge, and had been off the vehicle receiving repairs before the pandemic. Before the steel skin is returned to place, they are being hung as skeletons to check the fit and the ensure modifications and easing can be done with ease. The team have continued with the worst doors on the coach, the luggage double doors, the challenge being lining up three edges at once (on two doors) rather than the usual two. Double doors on both sides of the vehicle are being attended to, with more adjusting still required at present.

At the opposite end of the vehicle, the first of the replacement canvas corridor connection bellows has been fitted, which incidentally are more of a PVC type material. This has proven quite fiddly squeezing it into place, but as with many jobs it came together in the end.

Underneath the coach, the linkages which will break the vacuum train pipe when the handbrake is wound on have now been finished and work nicely. This job required both mechanical rods and levers for the handbrake end, as well as the pipework for the vacuum side of the system utilising a guards emergency brake valve. The individuals working on this have now moved onto introducing two new T pieces into the previously straight vacuum pipe under the vehicle. These are to allow the fitting of BR Mark 1 "Direct Admission" valves, which are needed to go with the BR vacuum cylinders which are going to be fitted ton the vehicle. It was decided that the older LNER type cylinders with separate reservoir tanks (with no DA valves) are not going to be retained. Making the vacuum system (near enough) identical to a Mark 1 will have the added bonus of standardisation as well once the vehicle is in traffic.

In readiness for the full conversion, two BR type vacuum cylinders have been removed from store and prepared ready for fitting under the coach. Both cylinders had some issues when they were first tested on the vacuum cylinder rig, but with some cleaning up of components and a few replacement parts, two working cylinders were created without having to fully strip them down and overhaul them. However a weep in the top chamber was discovered on one of them during testing, which after some tapping became a hole! The cylinder in question was previously fitted to a wagon, which sometimes have more exposed brake cylinders than coaches, so we speculate that this localised area of corrosion on the top is due to it either resting against a piece of the wagon's framework/body, or directly below a point where water has been able to drip onto it over many years. The cylinder in question is currently awaiting welding up by paid staff.

Moving onto the interior, the brake area was found to be irreversibly damaged by steam engine smuts due to the vehicle spending a period outside with no doors, with the cream paint unable to be cleaned. Now that the vehicle is permanently indoors, the area was cleared of all detritus and a fresh coat of cream paint applied to the walls, and white gloss on the ceiling, returning it to how it was after its initial restoration.

In the passenger saloon area, insulation is being progressively fitted to the walls. With the coach being quite full of "stuff", almost as much time is spent getting to the relevant sections of bodyside than is spent actually fitting the insulation itself!

British Railways 1959 Brake Corridor Composite E21224 (GOLD)

I am unable to give this section justice, mainly due to being on holiday and being fully absorbed by the Class 31 upon returning. However in our absence, there was a two week period of high activity on the vehicle with most of the department pulling together to get the vehicle in a usable condition (not complete!) in time for the Mixed Traction Gala in July. The seating was fitted allowing the remaining missing items in the passenger compartments to be installed, including the varnished seat back edges, curtains tie backs and corner varnished beading.

Along the passenger corridor, the large varnished heater grill support beam was screwed to the wall which allowed the grills themselves to also be fitted. Further adjustments were also made to the compartment sliding doors, including the fitting of all their "furniture" such as the handles.

An item we though may have to be "left out", but was achieved in the limited timescale, was the Holt end corridor sliding door. This was hung into place, complete with runner screwed into the newly lino'd floor, and all cover strips and pelmets fitted.

One of the areas which received the least work were the toilet and store cupboard "compartments" which flank the passenger ones at each end. This was mainly because they were not priority areas (the toilet is to be added later this year) so work instead concentrated on the public areas that would be in use for the Gala. Other than re-hanging the two doors, which had to be removed for the fitting of the lino, these areas just received a quick clear out of workshop tools etc.

The guards compartment was almost complete already, but a few finishing touches such as the emergency "ambulance cupboard" signage and the fitting of the guards seat were undertaken. Immediately obvious was that we appear to have salvaged an incorrectly sized base bracket for the seat, which has positioned itself at a jaunty angle, which prompted a few jokes from some guards along the lines of those electric inclining chairs that are most useful for some who suffer from advancing years! The seat angle is now on the list for rectification!

The luggage van area was already ready for traffic so didn't require any work during the lead-up to the gala.

Underneath the coach, the two vacuum cylinders received works to get them operating once more, following ten years idle. Again, I have to be brief with details due to absence, but much reconnecting was done to "liven" the systems beneath now that the coach was on its bogies again. In the end, further ridge height adjustments of the springs was not required as the vehicle just came back into tolerance after all the heavy items inside had weighed the body back down.

All of the above contributed towards the coach passing a Fitness to Run exam allowing it to star at the Mixed Traffic Gala. The coach was well received and we have had many favorable comments, for which we thank those people who made them!

Nevertheless this particular blog is not a completion special, as there are still around 25 outstanding items of the coach to attend to before it is considered complete and robust enough for long term passenger traffic. The operating department kindly returned the coach to us to allow these further niggles to be attended to. These will be described in detail in future blogs, however some of the main tasks are the commissioning of the air brake system, the fitting out of the toilet compartment, a whole host of "snagging items" to make sure the interior is strong enough to withstand school children(!) and further works underneath including the completion of the new steam heating pipework and the underfloor systems for the Network Rail approved control emission toilet.

British Railways 1956 Brake Corridor Composite E21103 (SILVER)

The replacement for the Class 31 in the shed (see below) is our other Mark 1 BCK, an almost identical sister to E21224. E21103 has been in service on the NNR for far longer than it ran in "commercial service" for BR and is now due something like its third overhaul with us, or perhaps that should read overdue! Remarkably it has an excellent interior but the doors, bodywork and paintwork are letting it down badly and it is the first of the four "Covid Casualties" (that were withdrawn from service in 2020) that we seek to overhaul and return to service (the others being E4651, E4667 & M26012)

Releasing brake vehicles from traffic for works, particularly those which contain wheelchair accessible areas, is always problematic and is an issue that the railway is working towards resolving in the future. However for the time being, there is a pressing need for E21103 to be out of service for as brief a time as possible. The plan is to not take on too many other projects for the time being and have a more concentrated effort on E21103, to try and undertake the works in record time. We must balance the requirement to do a good job, so that this precious brake vehicle can last for a good while in service, against the dangers of getting too entrenched in "Gold standard" works which take a very long time to undertake, such as on predecessor E21224. We have made a tentative start on the vehicle already but given the amount of detail in the rest of this update I will hold off and provide more on E21103 next time.

British Railways 1960 Brush Type 2 D5631

The most photogenic and "headline" news for this update is the completion of the Class 31's repaint. A few years ago we stressed the importance of undertaking the final paint as late as possible in the restoration to prevent damage, and so it was that the final paint was being applied just days before the launch gala.

Following removal from the staging area, the process of gloss green, white stripes and varnishing was repeated for the lower sections of the loco. This done, volunteers set to applying a coat of black gloss to all the visible sections of the bogies and underframe, along with red on the two end buffer-beams. Air pipes, axlebox covers and buffer-beam equipment was then picked out in a mix of colours including red, orange, yellow and white.

All that remained was a few finishing touches such as the fitting of worksplates and shed plates, overhead warning signs and blue star coupling codes to the front. As planned, D5631 then went on to be formally launched on the Saturday of the Mixed Traction Gala, which also signaled the end of our involvement for now.

We are extremely pleased with how well the Class 31 turned out which now takes its rightful place as the best presented diesel on the railway. Enjoy it before the soot and sunlight get to it!

British Railways (SR Design) 1948 25 Ton Brakevan 55167 (SILVER)

The vehicle is now reaching an advanced stage, with both verandah ends now refitted. This has now heralded a new "painting era" with the previous repaired and prepared areas changing colour rapidly!

The first top coats are now being applied to the two bodysides, which are the most advanced areas.



Not so much maintenance, more of an addition to one of the working vehicles. The M&GN Society's DMU trailer car, E56062, has finally had its unique (but missing) single seat adjacent to the toilet returned to its rightful place. Most of them were removed prior to preservation, however a handful survived but not all owners wanted them so some have been removed post-preservation. We were able to secure one of these unwanted examples, albeit just the framework with no cushions, and have cleaned it up and repainted it to match the existing seat colours. Luckily we also had matching seat material left over, so the upholstery team made two cushions from scratch, with no references other than the frame they had to slot into. Newly upholstered, the seat was quickly installed into the vehicle and makes for a fine sight! Seating capacity is now up by one, although we haven't spotted anyone sitting on it yet!


With the closing of several projects at once, we took the opportunity to hold back the new tasks by a week to allow us time to have a serious "reset" of the lower half of the workshop which had become very untidy over the last few years. This task is logically much easier with no coaches inside getting in the way, giving much more space to sort and work.

Although done in two halves, the process has been the same, with everything first tidied up and all unnecessary material culled. Mobile items were them temporarily moved elsewhere before the shed floor itself was swept, hoovered, washed and wet-hoovered to create a clean floor. This was then painted for the first time since the shed was built, a task which was long overdue. This time around, we have opted for a mixed colour scheme, with the main (visitor suitable) walkways picked out in green, "no-go" bays in which the coaches are berthed in red, and everything else grey.

Time will tell whether the system is successful! The floors were finished off by marking out all the walkways and colour divides with yellow lines, which makes things very clear, along with returning all of our equipment back into their rightful locations. This will set us up well going forwards with our next round of restorations, which hopefully will benefit from the clearer, cleaner workspace.