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.


  1. Congratulations on an excellent job. Rode in the picnic coach this afternoon and was most impressed.

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  3. Exultant work done by everyone on the picnic coach have you any photos of the brake 3rd coach as it is now please?

    Is there any plans to purchase more old 6 / 4wheeled coaches like some 3rd/1st or another brake 3rd or something different?

  4. There are currently no plans to acquire additions to the heritage coach fleet. There are four bogie coaches in store that await restoration once the vintage train project has been completed. The only picture I know of online of Brake Third 853 is the one on the M&GN website, at Photography of 853 at present is difficult as it is under a tarpaulin.

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