We hope readers had an enjoyable Christmas, so in the lazy period between then and New Year, with the workshops closed, here is a summary of the year 2015:
A total of five vehicles have entered traffic this year, following either major restoration or light overhaul. The first was Container wagon AF65970B, which took its place in the freight train during March after a 12 month rebuild including building a steel replica of the original (wooden) container which was too dilapidated to salvage. It had originally come to the NNR in 2012 but had been in storage until 2014. It was launched in full “Birds Eye” white and blue livery, representative of the slightly different “AFP” containers which were heavily used locally to transport frozen goods from Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft. The container was restored entirely by volunteers from the M&GN Society’s Coach Fund team.
In May, it was the NNR’s turn to shine, with the completion of the first of the Suburban 4 project: Brake Third number E43357. This coach had been on the NNR since 1977 and had also run the most miles of any suburban coach on the railway. Its major overhaul had been in progress since 2013 and included comprehensive bodywork repairs/repaint, full interior restoration of the seating and panelling in the compartments, and the back conversion of the brake area into original condition after it had been converted in the 1980’s into a generator compartment to power the NNR’s early dining trains. It was re-launched into service during the Diesel Gala event and is now patiently waiting for the three other suburban coaches on the NNR to be completed so they can run as a dedicated set.
Just in time for the summer season, “Fruit D” wagon 92097 received a light overhaul and was used on passenger trains for the first time in many years in July. It had been operating in the freight train but was looking decidedly shabby, so in an intensive few weeks saw the vacuum braking reinstated, the brakes adjusted, the doors made to open freely again and finally, three sides repainted and one side varnished. The light overhaul allowed the vehicle to be used on the second rake of coaches for the school holidays, carrying buggies and bikes during our busiest time of year.
Late August saw the trailer car of the railway’s DMU set, E56062, released from the workshops after receiving bodywork repairs and a full repaint. The interior and mechanics had been restored five years ago so required no work, however the paintwork required attention so it was repainted in order to match its partner which had had identical treatment in October of 2014. Sadly the vehicle has not yet carried passengers since its “intermediate overhaul”, due to problems in returning its partner powercar to service, however it is hoped to resolve this during 2016.
The fifth, and final, vehicle to be completed during 2015 was also the most spectacular. Midland & Great Northern Railway Saloon No 3, built as long ago as 1886 and returning to traffic for the first time since 1932! It had been salvaged by the M&GN Society in 2002 from a garden in Briston the and was stored until 2010 when a full five year ground-up restoration was undertaken by volunteers. An underframe was salvaged from a scrap Midland Railway brake coach then 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. The vehicle was finished off with a resplendent repaint into Midland Railway Crimson. The vehicle then took its well earned place in the railway’s vintage train.
Vehicles in the workshops which received a lot of major restoration work during the year but aren’t yet finished include Mark 1 TSO E4641, Mark 1 Suburbans W46139/E48001/E43041, a replacement underframe for M&GN number 129 and the commencement of the restoration of Great Eastern Railway Brake Third 853.
We also got up to plenty of smaller projects over the year. In January, a grounded-body number DB975129 (an old Mark 1 BSK) was scrapped in the yard at Weybourne and dining coach E4372 received replacement vacuum cylinders. The 1965 built petrol tanker 53083 (in use by the Loco Department as a water carrier) was also fitted with a through vacuum pipe.
February saw us repaint over the graffiti on stores coach M81114 to freshen up the appearance of the vehicle and also make it watertight. This coach had been a new arrival from the Churnet Valley Railway. Conflat wagon B502824 was re-varnished in preparation for loading the newly restored AF container onto it. We also heard of the passing of our Chairman Clive Morris, who had been instrumental in the project to restore the Quad Art set.
March saw a handbrake repair undertaken to the Wisbech and Upwell tramcar coach to allow it to run some charters, and the disposal of our spare suburban E48004 to the Llangollen Railway.
During April we had to undertake an emergency repair/wheelset swap to dining train kitchen car M81033, which was involved in an incident leading to the coach getting severe wheel flats.
May saw the 6 wheel underframe of Great Northern Railway 46 scrapped to provide the required parts for the project to return M&GN 129 to an original 6-wheel configuration. The month also saw a lot of maintenance on the second set of Mark 1 coaches down at Sheringham, to enable them to run during the busier summer months.
In June, future restoration project, Mark 1 BCK NE21224, was extracted from storage and asbestos stripped before being returned to Holt. The National Railway Museum’s DMU, M51192, also received a historically accurate 1950’s route indicator box on the cab end, replacing the 1990’s headlight it previously carried.
During July, the department entered the Cromer Soapbox Derby and had a great time racing our steam-engine styled soapbox “Snowy”, named after a much loved volunteer who had passed away shortly before. We won second in our class! Four Mark 1 coaches also had to receive replacement vacuum cylinders after a strange series of failures in quick succession.
To follow up the soapbox in the Carriage & Wagon’s endeavour to provide a rolling advert for the NNR, three C&W members plus another two from the Engineering department went to Aldborough (south of Cromer) in August to join members of their own club for a game of Cricket and amazingly, two of the C&W members won!
September saw a works hooter fitted to announce the commencement of tea breaks!
October into November was chaotic as the 4-coach Quad-Art set was brought into the workshops for revarnishing, being completed in record time. A replacement set of access steps were also fabricated for one of the stores vehicles at Sheringham, M81269. Another session was also required on brake adjustments to keep the fleet at Sheringham moving. Amazingly, dining coach SO E4372, was required back again at Weybourne for replacement vacuum cylinders, repeating the same job that had only been done in January!
Finally, December included many trips to solve steam heating problems with the operating coaching stock, as well as the mechanical resurrection of ballast hopper HW426 ready for planned track renewal work in January 2016. We also said goodbye to Andy Phillips, who retired from the department after a long involvement which started as long ago as 1979.
So, an action packed year certainly with many, many vehicles receiving attention, both day-to-day coaching stock and rarer vintage items. It is also worth noting that the Blog celebrates its first birthday, as it was New Year 2015 that it was launched to provide free information and updates of the department to anyone interested. The pages have received a magnificent 26,400 visits, so thanks to you, the readers, for coming back and making the effort of producing the reports worthwhile. All that remains is to wish everybody a Happy New Year, updates will continue into 2016 where all being well we will hit the 50,000 barrier...