Friday, 30 October 2015

October News Part 4

A holiday to the Isle of Wight prevented an update last week. Every cloud has a silver lining however, as in my absence the 20,000th visitor arrived on the blog. As viewing figures are one of the few indications of the success of these ramblings, hitting the 20,000 mark is a reason to celebrate. Thank you readers and keep coming back!

London North Eastern Railway 1924 Quad Articulated Set 74

The workforce was struck down last week with an incurable disease: Quad-Finger. A nasty way to go... The process of prolonged rubbing down into the corners of the 1920’s panelwork and beading creates much soreness of the end of fingers. The lucky ones will have wrapped masking tape onto the ends of their fingers to prevent the symptoms, however many did not and I think we may have lost a few gallant hands to this most terrible of afflictions. However they will not suffer in vain, for the rubbing down of all four coaches was completed in record time leaving the way clear for the sides to be washed down and varnished.

One of our (many) Dave's rubs down the end of the Quads

The varnishing has been progressing behind the army of sanders, so has moved at an impressive rate. Only one side of one carriage now needs varnishing and the set shall be complete. The pictures should more than sum up the result of everybody’s endeavours and everyone involved is very pleased with the result.

Landward side fully re-varnished

With the main task of the weather proofing completed, attention has been able to turn to some other outstanding tasks and maintenance whilst the vehicles are in the workshops. Much window cleaning has taken place on the insides of the compartments and a general check of the interior made for faults and irregularities. Several doors, specifically their lock mechanisms, have been adjusted and any that require attention stripped down for light overhaul to keep them in fine fettle. The guards van has seen some attention, including the production and fitting of some door handles to the inside of the guards door as the Quads have always been difficult vehicles to climb into from track level. Moving to the underneath, all of the (full length) step boards have been rubbed down and repainted in gloss black to tidy them up as they do get a bit of a battering. The bogies have been cleaned and oiled, as has the brakegear. Work to fit a valve that prevents the vacuum brakes being released if the handbrake is applied is currently also ongoing. Some problems with the alignment of the various linkages has meant many adjustments have been required.

British Railways 1957 Mark 1 Gangwayed Brake M81269

The overhauled access steps have now been painted and they have been returned to the vehicle at Sheringham. With December approaching this coach will be busy as the Commercial Department prepares for the deluge of little darlings and their parents!

British Railways 1955 Mark 1 Suburban Composite Lavatory E43041

Work has continued on the steelwork reconstruction, with the Sheringham half of the seaward side being concentrated on. The framework has now been replaced in the two Sheringham-most compartments, although more steel is required before any more dramatic progress can be made.

Replaced framework

Reconstruction of the exterior doors has continued with another two being completed bringing the total to seven.

British Railways 1954 Mark 1 Suburban Third W46139

About half of the paid members of staff have been busy all week on this coach. The main focus has been the final preparation of the sides for painting, and several runs of sanding and body filling have been made.

Prepared section on the left with the protective maroon (still to be sanded) on the right

By the end of the week, the Sheringham end and seaward side had both been completed, which represents the half way point for this tedious job.

The Holt en during sanding/filling

A series of “loose ends” have also been tackled in parallel with the bodywork. Dan and David have cleaned up all the door lock catches (which were splattered with grime and paint) and polished up the brass door handles. Some end handrails and staff access steps were also missing, so these have been fabricated from steel and welded onto the end prior to the painting commencing.

Polished door handle

British Railways 1955 Mark 1 Suburban Third Lavatory Open E48001

Varnishing work has continued, however other progress has been limited as resources are directed towards W46139.


Maintenance work has concentrated this week mainly on the steam heating connections and pipework, after several leaks had been reported.


Our ailing lighting in the eastern section of the workshop has become more obvious now that the darker wintery days are drawing in. An innovative solution of changing several failed bulbs was devised involving some duck tape, an engineering manager and a long wooden pole which after a suitable risk assessment meant we did not need to empty the shed and get a cherry-picker in after all... Ingenious!

Friday, 16 October 2015

October News Part 3

Great Northern Railway (later M&GN) 1887 6 Wheel Third 129

This vehicle has been temporarily removed from the workshops and put into temporary storage at Holt to create the space required for the Quad-Art set. However the vacuum cylinder for the chassis has had its overhaul completed and also a successful test on the vacuum rig. It has also been painted gloss black.

Vacuum cylinder on test

London North Eastern Railway 1924 Quad Articulated Set 74

The Quads, the Quads, my kingdom for the Quads! The infamous re-varnishing of this delightful four-coach set is now upon us and half of the workshop has been cleared of restoration projects to accommodate this work. As I’m sure most readers will know, the Gresley Quad-Art set is an articulated set of coaches i.e. they share bogies between vehicles. Of course this means the individual carriages can never be split apart in ordinary circumstances so when the valuable teak panelled exterior requires re-varnishing (every 1-2 years) the entire set has to be brought indoors and done in one go.

48864 on day one of the rubbing down

It is safe to say that the job is a foul one, few relishing the task of rubbing down the rows and rows of intricate side panels and window surrounds. It is the finest presented rake of coaches the railway has (along with the vintage set), however this comes at a cost of making sure they are well looked after. For this reason an admirable team of volunteers from all corners of the workshops have stepped forward to undertake this inglorious task. This week two days of rubbing down has been completed and an excellent start has been made, with about one and a half coaches now rubbed down on the landward side. This work will be continuing for the next couple of weeks, and work on other carriages slows right down until the Quad-Arts are completed.

The first side of the first coach fully rubbed down
Chris shows what a tight squeeze it is between the permanently coupled coaches!

British Railways 1957 Mark 1 Tourist Second Open E4641

This vehicle has been temporarily removed from the workshops and put into temporary storage at Holt to create the space required for the Quad-Art set.

British Railways 1957 Mark 1 Gangwayed Brake M81269

Due to the requirement to have as many steps in the workshop as possible for the Quad-Art re-varnishing, we have been trying to complete the replacement set of access steps for this carriage (described in full last week) as soon as possible. All the welding repairs to the original parts of the steps are now complete and the new handrails and top step added. Only painting is now required.

Nico welding the new handrails onto the steps

British Railways 1955 Mark 1 Suburban Composite Lavatory E43041

Another major setback threatens to delay this project. Discovery of further corrosion in the floor has meant we are now faced with having to remove all the ceilings and corridor bulkheads to allow the floor to be replaced entirely. This work was originally not anticipated and the bulkheads and ceilings were to remain in position as they were in excellent condition. So far three (out of the eight) compartments have been dismantled at the Sheringham end.

The floor and bulkheads being removed from the Sheringham end

Sadly, the ceilings cannot be removed without damaging them so a great deal of work to replace them and reassemble the compartments will be required before we can even return to the point we are at now once the welding repairs are completed. This was quite a disappointing revelation but we shall forge ahead, and indeed the exterior steelwork is now complete at the extreme Sheringham end of the carriage, with new panelwork being attached and painted this week.

Work on the steam heating elements has also continued.

British Railways 1954 Mark 1 Suburban Third W46139

The seaward side door woodwork is now complete having had its four coats of varnish. Whilst we are waiting for more materials to be delivered to allow us to progress further with the interior, a start has been made on rubbing down the outside prior to repainting. All steelwork and some filling has already been completed and the coach was painted in maroon gloss to protect it from the elements whilst it was outside, however final body prep, including sanding and filling, is required before the coach is ready for the “proper” final BR crimson colours to be applied.

British Railways 1955 Mark 1 Suburban Third Lavatory Open E48001

Work continues on the toilet reconstruction, in similar vain to previous weeks.


A glut of maintenance at Sheringham has seen between one and two people there most days this week. Three coaches that were planned to be in use decided to have their brakes fail, so several adjustments, changes of “direct admission” (vacuum) valves and tests have been required to see these returned to service.

A steam heat test was also undertaken on the dining train so we can see how much work we have to do to get them in a fit state to heat our diners over the winter period!

Friday, 9 October 2015

October News Part 2

As with all projects a few forgotten items always appear to be addressed once a vehicle has entered traffic. The M&GN Picnic Saloon is no exception, and this week a start has been made on machining a paper towel rack and litter bin from hardwood, as it was found that the toilet area was lacking these essential items.

Great Northern Railway (later M&GN) 1887 6 Wheel Third 129

Another good week on the underframe project. As mentioned last week, the W irons are being built up with weld where they are visibly worn after a long hard life. I was personally hoping that Axeman Collier would go out of the workshops with the Picnic Saloon, and maybe even be moved into Bridge Road Carriage Sheds over the winter as well – however to my mild dismay he has returned to us looking for more work! As such, he has been making good progress with welding the W irons which will be ongoing for a few weeks.

John Collier welding W irons

The buffer shanks have also had all the filler that they require and have now been painted in primer and black undercoat.

The two large C section beams that will be fixed to the outside of the chassis have had the inside (which will be hidden) have been painted (also in primer and undercoat) to protect them.

Peter painting the C sections

Finally, the vacuum cylinder for the chassis has been dismantled to assess its condition. It is very rusty on the outside and previously offered little hope on the condition of the internal, important, bits. However most pleasingly, the insides are in far better condition than the outside and are ripe for refurbishing and reassembly. This process has now started and both the inside cylinder and the outside metal bowl have now been cleaned up.

British Railways 1957 Mark 1 Tourist Second Open E4641

A quieter week this time. Lone victim Steve continues to varnish strip the interior single handedly with more seat and window components emerging as fresh timber.

British Railways 1957 Mark 1 Gangwayed Brake M81269

This coach, in static use only at Sheringham for the Commercial department, has to be accessed by staff from a set of steps from floor level in the car park. These have lived outside for many years and had gotten to the stage where they were dangerous. They have been temporarily swapped with a similar set indoors and the original examples have been brought into the workshops for repair. They will also be modified to make them easier to use whilst we are at it. Dan has already chopped off the top two steps (as they were too tall originally) and handrails. The feet and other corroded areas will be repaired and the handrails reattached on one side only as time and resources allow.

Dan modifies the steps

British Railways 1955 Mark 1 Suburban Composite Lavatory E43041

The metalwork on the Sheringham end has spread around the two corners from the end and towards the first door pillars. These have been replaced on both sides of the carriage and the intervening framework (between these pillars and the corner of the carriage) has been replaced.

The removed floor will have to wait a while for attention until some more steel of the correct size can be ordered in. Door reconstruction continues, with both welders and carpenters alike now working on the steel skins and wooden frames respectively.

Carpenter Biss attaching a door skin to a repaired frame

Whilst all 13 of the doors are now “in progress” it is quite hard to judge progress on the task as a fraction, however five examples have been fully rebuilt (inside and out) and are now set aside (in primer) ready to be refitted to the carriage once the steelwork repairs are completed this winter.

A completed door

A start has also been made on overhauling the steam heat elements (which were removed from underneath the seats).

British Railways 1954 Mark 1 Suburban Third W46139

After the garnish rails and door cards had been trial fitted, these were built up with varnish all week with a rub down and additional coat each day where possible. The landward side of the vehicle is now complete and the door woodwork has been assembled permanently. The seaward side is only one day behind (they require their final coat of varnish) so will be following shortly.

Door woodwork - now completed

Inside the compartments, several volunteers have been busy scraping paint off the insides of the windows and also applying filler into the gaps and dips in the floor to achieve a smooth surface ready for the fitting of the lino flooring at some point. A meeting concerning this carriage has also been undertaken where progress to date has been reviewed and decisions/priorities made so that the coach can be completed as soon as is practically possible. This coach will be the next example to enter service from the workshops and will become the second of the “Suburban 4” vehicles to reach completion.

British Railways 1955 Mark 1 Suburban Third Lavatory Open E48001

Trial fitting of the window woodwork in the Holt end saloon has been completed and so these components now require final varnishing before they are fitted permanently. Some other fittings to the saloons including air ventilator covers and lighting shades have also been fitted to the ceiling areas.


The steel sheet trolley (pictured last week) has been completed and is now painted in a fetching off-white colour. It is substantially stronger than its predecessor so perhaps it will be the wheels rather than the frame that gives up this time?!?

Saturday, 3 October 2015


Humpty Dumpty sat on the pit,
Humpty Dumpty’s springs wouldn’t fit,
Carriage & Wagon’s new Picnic Saloon,
Rolled out of the shed,
A little too soon!

Well it was a wild week but the Picnic Saloon’s five year restoration is officially over with the first public passengers having a ride this Thursday. The slightly distasteful(!) poem is in recognition of the saloon’s last dirty attempt to resist a return to public service. On Monday the vehicle was shunted out of the shed and into the inspection pit where locomotive “Kelbus” weighing gear was used to ascertain the weight which was being applied to each of the six wheels.

Never having adjusted the weights on a 6 wheeled vehicle before, it was going to be interesting for all concerned. What started out as a supposedly simple task of adjusting each spring (to set a fairly equal weight on each wheel and make sure the coach sat straight on the rails) turned into a nightmare. Several people spent three frustrating days wrestling with the problem and two springs even had to be removed from the coach and swapped around to try and even out the weight which wouldn’t not budge from one corner despite everybody’s efforts! The coach was jacked up, springs were wound up, wound down, people jumped up and down inside the coach but the weight figures stubbornly wouldn’t add up. For this reason, the coach was unable to be put into the vintage train for its first planned days use on Wednesday. However a final push on this day saw the weights fall into place at 16:15, remarkable as we had to vacate the pit by 16:30. There was then a frantic scramble to get a loco to complete a gauging run in all of the railway’s bridges and platforms that evening so that Cinderella could go to the ball on Thursday.

No3 (behind D5631) getting ready for its very first test run down the "main line"

The vehicle was coupled up and we headed for Holt. For ten minutes calm descended on the coach as it pottered up Kelling bank. The sun was setting and the test-team sat in the coach and looked through the panoramic side windows down on Weybourne village and windmill.

Kenso joined us for the test run and became the first dog to enjoy a First Class Picnic Saloon in the preserved era... 

The six wheeled vehicle was riding beautifully as the fields went by and it became apparent that it had all been worth it!

A rather poor image showing the unbeatable views out of this rather plush carriage!

No3 having successfully completed its gauging run

The gauging run went faultlessly and the vehicle was unveiled to the public the following morning, as part of a four-strong vintage train also comprising the LNER Pigeon Van, M&GN No129 and the Wisbech & Upwell tramcar.

No3 at Weybourne during the first day's services

The previous owners of the (then) grounded body were reunited with the coach in a rather different setting and the event was filmed. Fittingly, the specials were hauled by the society’s own little Wissington.

Wissington heads the first public train to contain M&GN 3 since 1932

This is just the latest chapter in the vehicle’s long and interesting history. The saloon was built as Midland Railway First Class Saloon number 1616 at Derby as long ago as 1886, making it nearly as old as some of the team who have restored it! One other saloon built to an identical design survives: No 1260 under restoration at the Midland Railway Butterley. There are a total of four Midland Railway “saloons” in preservation but ours becomes the first to return to service. Returning to “1616”, it was run by the Midland for 17 years where it was hired/reserved by more wealthy groups, being attached to otherwise ordinary rail services. In 1903 it was transferred to the Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway and renumbered 3. It retained its original Midland Railway crimson livery but the MR 1616 lettering was replaced with M&GN 3. It continued to be used on the M&GN in East Anglia for similar purposes before being withdrawn from passenger service, life expired, in 1932 having clocked up an impressive 46 years in service. It survived for a further three years however as a departmental Signal & Telegraph vehicle being used as a mobile workshop and mess room. Falling just short of half a century travelling on the rails, No3 was removed from rail use in 1935 and the body was removed from the original chassis (the latter was scrapped) and placed on the ground at Briston Recreation Ground as a club house. However this was to prove a short lived move as the body was transferred again around 1937/1938 to a garden in Edgefield Road by horse and cart. An interesting story is that the body was manhandled over the garden wall by a group of men from the nearby M&GN Melton Constable railway works! The body was immediately put to good use in 1938 for a wedding reception before settling down to a whopping 60 year career as radio and television workshop. It was in 2002 that the vehicle’s working life was to be terminated, after an impressive 116 years...

M&GN 3 just before moving to the NNR

99 years after becoming M&GN property, the coach body was transferred to M&GN Society ownership and moved to Sheringham yard in late 2002 where it was sheeted over to prevent further deterioration and await its turn in the restoration queue. Three other vehicles were set to be restored for the North Norfolk Railway’s vintage train before No3, however its turn did come and it was later (around 2010?) brought into the workshops for a full restoration to 1900’s M&GN condition. An underframe was salvaged from a scrap Midland Railway brake coach (number 184 for anyone interested) and this was adapted and fully restored for passenger use. The body was stripped down and the skeleton was extensively repaired where required following which the sides and windows were built back up. Doors and a reconditioned/re-canvassed roof followed and perhaps most impressively the luxurious saloon style seating, interior panelling, bench tables and toilet compartment was reconstructed from scratch piece by piece. By 2015 the restoration was approaching its end and the vehicle was finished off with a resplendent repaint.

The vehicle takes a well deserved place in the railway’s fantastic vintage train as the forth member of a rake of five. The vehicle has been restored entirely with volunteers with no company funds or labour. It has been fully funded by generous donations and the M&GN Society’s own funds and is unreservedly a real credit to those who made it happen. Names do not need to be mentioned, as those involved will know who they are. Those of us involved with the NNR’s day-to-day stock can sometimes be constrained by the balance of preserving heritage against the commercial needs of a business that needs to support itself to survive. However the completion of a Society-managed vehicle such as No3 emphasises the place that our older and special vehicles have on our railway, and it is a pleasure to see this area of the railway thrive. Joint Heritage Coach Fund, take a bow!

Great Northern Railway (later M&GN) 1887 6 Wheel Third 129

With all the excitement of getting M&GN 3 ready, it is a near miracle that work has been able to be done on 129 during the same week. A start has been made on welding up the pitted/corroded sections of the “W irons” to increase their strength where there is visible wear. The buffer shanks (pictured last week) have received another round of filler and the vacuum pipe has been fitted to the vehicle. On the braking system, the brake show drop links have also been re-bushed.

British Railways 1957 Mark 1 Tourist Second Open E4641

The last of the six exterior doors pictured last week has been cleaned of its old paint so it won’t be long before these are all in primer ready for refitting. The first of the large exterior windows has been fitted, to the Sheringham end.

British Railways 1955 Mark 1 Suburban Composite Lavatory E43041

Work on the Sheringham end continues: new crash pillar bottoms have been welded in and attached firmly to the chassis of the carriage, which wasn’t the case on the originals! The exterior doors receive yet more welding and reconstruction work...

British Railways 1954 Mark 1 Suburban Third W46139

The heater control repairs mentioned last week are now completed, as is the garnish rail and door card fitting which was done just before close of play on Friday. More luggage racks have had their repaired nets restrung and reattached to the newly cleaned up alloy frames. We are hoping to fit these soon so as not to get them damaged or dirty in storage.

British Railways 1955 Mark 1 Suburban Third Lavatory Open E48001

Varnishing continues on the saloons and the lino has now been fitted to the second (landward side) toilet compartment. A great many fittings have been screwed into the walls on the seaward side toilet which is fast approaching completion now that the sink, toilet pan and plumbing is in position.


A new trolley has been fabricated for moving sheet steel for carriages (NOT BOILERS!) after the old one was borrowed by some of our colleagues on site and shamelessly overloaded with spectacular effects!

The workshop got a tidy up and sweep out to prepare the area into neat walkways for the tours which are being conducted as part of M&GN member’s day. An attempt was made to clear round one side and end of each carriage so that photographs of our current projects would be possible. We hope any visitors who took up the offer of a tour enjoyed what they saw.