Saturday, 31 December 2016


We hope readers had an enjoyable Christmas, so on the eve of New Year, with the workshops closed, here is a summary of the year 2016:

A total of seven vehicles have entered traffic this year, following either major restoration or light overhaul, which significantly tops 2015's total of five such vehicles. Pleasing to note is that three of the projects completed were long term major overhauls which should now last for many years to come. The first major overhaul to be completed was Suburban Third W46139, which entered service in March for the Spring Steam Gala and marked the half way point in completing the four coach Suburban Mark 1 set.

Just one month later, M&GN Tool Van No12, the oldest operational vehicle on the railway, was returned to service after being used for static duties only for a time whilst waiting for wheel flats to be remedied. The van had received a cosmetic overhaul and repaint whilst it was in for repairs as well.

A second brakevan, the LMS example, followed M&GN 12 in having repainting works, as it had become rather flaky in recent years. The cosmetic work was undertaken entirely at Holt in the open, making use of the sunnier weather than summer offers, and it reentered service during August.

Also in August, the third Suburban, TLO E48001, reached the end of a 5 year overhaul and entered service for the Steam Gala, boosting the Suburban set to three vehicles and giving a tantalising indication of what the full set will look like.

Early September saw the power car of the National Railway Museum's DMU set, M51192, released from the workshops after receiving bodywork repairs and a full repaint. The interior and mechanics required no work, however the paintwork and roof badly required attention so it was slotted into the programme at short notice.

The third and final “super overhaul” to reach its end this year was TSO E4641 in November. This coach had been in for two years and had received the full works both ionside and out, the first time it had been properly overhauled in its preservation life. It was out shopped in the same livery as the dining train so that it can substitute for dining vehicles if required to.

Just when the year was nearly out in December, a third Freight vehicle was completed having had a full repaint. Fuel Oil tanker 53083, which had never received any attention since arriving at the railway many years ago, was restored complete with Carless branding, representing the flow which has run from nearly North Walsham using such vehicles in the past. It is interesting that both the newest wagon on the railway (53083) and the oldest (M&GN 12) have both been treated this year.

Vehicles in the workshops which received a lot of major restoration work during the year but aren’t yet finished include Mark 1 Suburban E43041, a replacement underframe for M&GN number 129 and Great Eastern Railway Brake Third 853.

We also got up to plenty of smaller projects over the year. During January, ballast hopper wagon HW426 re-entered service after several years out of use, dispensing ballast as part of the relaying of track within Weybourne station. We also had carriage axles tested for cracks ultrasonically for the first time as part of the preparations for registering some of the fleet to run on Network Rail's metals to Cromer.

February saw us readying the operational coaching stock for the season ahead, which was complicated after major vacuum failures were found on two of the coaches. Three vehicles also had their couplings swapped to allow the correct ones to be fitted for Cromer running.

March was spent almost solely progressing the long term rebuilding projects.

During April, the interior of vintage coach 853 reached a milestone when all of the internal bulkheads were completed returning the vehicle to its original layout for the first time since it became a grounded body. Dining coach M3116 was also re-carpeted.

May saw the Wisbech and Upwell tramcar receive some modifications to its bufferbeams and some seat strengthening. Dining car M3116 had its seating reupholstered and looked stunning. We also readied the new nameplates for Black Prince!

During June a strategic spare wheelset for a B4 bogie was restored and stored ready for when one of these unusual wheels currently in service requires repairs or replacement. The Quad Art set was also prepared for its week in daily service.

A sigh of relief came in July when the four dining coaches received their acceptance to operate to Cromer, which cleared our side of the huge preparations required for this event.

We had to say farewell to stalwart volunteer Ken Barker during August, who had decided to retire from working on the vintage coaches. We broke new ground for the railway when the dining train operated from Sheringham to Cromer on Network Rail infrastructure.

During September the replacement underframe for M&GN 129 became a “rolling chassis” for the first time following the fitting of the wheels. The “Fruit D” van had to come in for emergency repairs following a broken spring, and it also had its wheels turned whilst it was with us. The department also hosted the annual Carriage Convention event. The weekend saw a party of delegates from Carriage & Wagon departments from all round the UK gather for knowledge sharing and presentations before being showcased the NNR's collection of interesting rolling stock.

In October, LNER Pigeon Van 6843 came in for its wheel flats to be eliminated and for a general freshen up. A station bench for Weybourne was also cosmetically restored.

The department was improved significantly during November when the new mezzanine floor was erected, which will solve many storage problems which have been building up over several years. The M&GN Society's Austin K2 lorry was refurbished and repainted into M&GN colours. Suburban Brake E43357 had some modifications to its guard's steps to enable easier access. Volunteers also assisted in the painting of the WD locomotive's tender during this period.

Finally, December saw the other half of the DMU, M56352, come in for a freshen up so that it maches its partner which was similarly treated during the summer.

So it would seem that 2016 has been even more action packed than 2015. The Blog also celebrates its second 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 75,100 visits to date, so thanks to you, the readers, for coming back and making the effort of producing them worth it. See you in 2017!

Friday, 23 December 2016

December News Part 4

Great Eastern Railway 1899 4 Wheel Brake Third 853

This coach has been receiving the same treatment that it has been receiving all month...that of door woodwork restoration. The task is not to be underestimated, as the doors are such a large part of the restoration. Fastidious attention now will produce benefits in the years to come once the carriage is in service. One door in particular, one of the four passenger compartment doors, is now getting rather advanced and is having paint applied to the parts that will be hidden on the inside edges.

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

The spring hanging brackets pictured last week have now all been painted into gloss black to match the rest of the underframe. As this "new" underframe is of Southern Railway origin, the practice of fitting protecting chains around the braking gear (supposedly there to catch them if they "fall off" in service) is being retained in this case. Consequently, a set of chains have been cleaned and painted and now await fitting into their respective positions.

British Railways 1955 Mark 1 Suburban Composite Lavatory E43041

As in previous weeks, E43041 has been the main focus for the department over the last week. The exterior of the carriage continues to see the finishing touches required before it can be released into the big wide world. The windows on the seaward side have been cleaned of all the paint splashes and have also been polished inside and out to remove the workshop grime and to make them shine. The last of the footboards have been fitted and now just require a last coat of gloss to smarten them up. Most noticeably, the signwriting has been added to the bodysides, which includes the numbers, Number 1's on the first class doors, a "CL" designation in each corner, and the route on the two ends. With regards to the latter, we have reproduced what we found underneath the paintwork, so "Liverpool Street-Ipswich" on the Sheringham end and "Grantham No1" on the Holt end.

The coach has been lifted on jacks for 3 days so that the important mechanical "underneath work" could be finished off. Starting off with electrics, all the wiring underneath was checked and poor condition examples replaced with new. A set of temporary batteries were fitted to then enable "live" testing to be undertaken. Apart from one dead light fitting in the toilet, a full compliment of train lighting was achieved immediately, which is great news.

The steam heat piping has been completed; with the two stop valves added to the bufferbeams of the coach, a small repair made to one of the pipes which was holed (and got missed last time!) and all of the individual steam heaters connected up to the main steam pipe with new copper connecting pipes. These had to be made from scratch as the originals were sadly contaminated and were lost during the asbestos stripping process last year. All that remains now for the steam heat system is for the inter connecting pipes top be added onto the ends of the coach.

The two bogies have had their braking gear assembled and fitted. All the bits had already been cleaned and painted several months ago, so this process was a rapid reassembly affair and was completed in just two days. They were then rolled back under the coach and reconnected with the rest of the braking system.

The vacuum system has also been completed. The main problem (mentioned last week), a large hole in the pipe at the Holt and of the coach, was repaired by replacing the section of rotten pipe entirely, which included a "T" in the pipe feeding the emergency passenger communication apparatus. This required some careful manufacturing of parts, but we got there and it was all reassembled by the end of the week. Both vacuum cylinders were checked and after some modifications were resident in their final required positions. The accompanying valves (the "direct admission" and "release" valves for anyone interested) were then fitted, having all been restored already. After piping up, including the two vacuum pipes on the ends of the coach, the cylinders were mechanically attached to the system and a test made. Your author wasn't around during the test itself, but as it went quiet afterwards I presume it passed with no further work required! With all the underneath work completed, Friday saw the bufferbeams painted in black gloss, a task that was being held back until all the other nasty dirty work was finished!

The interior of the coach has also dramatically changed once again. The main visual difference is the fitting of the luggage racking and the seating to four (out of the eight) passenger compartments. This has, at last, covered up the last of the "bare wall" space and basically completes the interior in these compartments in terms of what the human eye initially sees. The First Class compartments are particularly sumptuous and huge credit is due to the upholstery volunteers who have made such a good job of them. This is particularly so for the First Class, as these are the most complicated seats they have ever reupholstered for us and there were many elements in the recovering that involved learning new skills.

Also in the compartments, the picture frames have been assembled and fitted to the walls, as have the light shades in the centres of the ceilings. The toilets are now all plumbed in and await testing, although sadly at the last minute a creased pipe was discovered in one of the toilets that has to be replaced so final testing will have to wait until the new year.

British Railways 1958 Class 101 Railcar Driving Trailer Second Lavatory M56352

Work has been limited due to the big push on E43041. However a limited amount of filling and sanding has continued on the seaward side, and the repaired vacuum piping has been added underneath the driver's desk which will enable us to finish off the front end repairs next month.

Seasons Greetings

All that remains is for me, and Monkey of course, to wish all of our readers a Merry Christmas and a Peaceful New Year. Monkey has decided to jet off to sunnier climes for the festive period, but he assures me he will be back in 2017 to keep an eye on quality control and to keep readers happy. On the subject of which, I hope readers are happy and continue to visit and keep up to date. 47,400 visits were made to the Blog this year, almost doubling 2015's figure of 26,400. Total visits therefore stand at 73,800, which well and truly smashes the intention to reach 50,000 during 2016. Here's to another year, where all being well we will comfortably reach the six figure milestone, and do not forget to drop in just before New Year when the Review of 2016 will be published!

Friday, 16 December 2016

December News Part 3

Great Eastern Railway 1899 4 Wheel Brake Third 853

This really is an a-door-able coach to behold! But seriously, some excellent work continues to go into the doors, with more repairs and resin protection now being applied.

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

Despite being moved around a little, progress has continued on the underframe project unabated. One (axe)man and his Monkey have been busy preparing brackets which will support the six leaf springs that are now back from the spring emporium. Said brackets were then attached firmly in place on the underside of the underframe before painting, thus ticking off another item from the list that needs adding to the chassis.

British Railways 1955 Mark 1 Suburban Composite Lavatory E43041

The exterior of the vehicle is now on the cusp of completion, having been flatted off (again!) and the second (top) coat of Crimson gloss applied. The rich red colour does look gorgeous when it is new, far superior (in my opinion) than the maroon livery we normally deal in. Alas if only the red weathered as well as the maroon in service! With the painting completed, some finishing touches have been able to be added such as the grab handles next to each door and the brass tread plates in the doorways.

Moving downwards, the carriage has been moved out of the staged area meaning the underframe is now accessible once again. A corroded vacuum pipe has been extracted from the Holt end bufferbeam and will require replacement next week if the brakes are ever to work again. The coach has been lifted once again on the carriage jacks to facilitate this work, and the bogies will be rolled out shortly to have the brake gear (restored some time ago and featured in these pages) fitted into position.

Inside the compartments, the heaters have been installed and several of them piped up to the main steam heating pipe which runs down the centre of the vehicle. Upholstered side panels are also starting to appear, and have been fitted in half of the compartments. Work in the upholstery department itself continues at excellent speed. Four compartments have upholstered seating ready to fit, with the latest area of focus being the rather plush separate cushions that live in the First Class areas.

The aluminium luggage racking has also been cleaned up and are all ready for brand new rope nets to be strung onto them. Approximately a quarter of the coach has strung nets ready for fitting now.

Whilst all this is going on, cleaning of Formica panelling and building up coats of varnish on the wooden panels has continued, the former task having reached completion. Painted beading pieces are now being attached in the Formica areas which covers gaps and adds the finishing touch. The ceilings, mentioned last week, are now all completed and are resplendent in cream gloss. Toilet fitting out also continues with more odds and sods being fitted into position. Now that the coach is in the air again the final pipe runs can be checked and the toilet plumbing tested to ensure the thrones are live! As I'm sure readers can gather by the comprehensive and list-like report on this coach, it is still very much the priority for the department, in its huge push to get the Suburban 4 project completed.

British Railways 1958 Class 101 Railcar Driving Trailer Second Lavatory M56352

The front end welding work introduced last week has continued steadily, we are grateful to the Locomotive Department who have been providing extra labour that has enabled these front end repairs to progress this week. The bottom edge is now nearly complete and some work around the cab windows has also been done. The more metal that goes in, the less body filler will have to!

Down the sides of the vehicle, specifically the rear part of the seaward side, the previously chipped out areas of loose paint are starting to be filled and sanded for a smooth finish in which to paint on.

On Friday, during a big shunt about to get this vehicle into the staged area, the opportunity was taken outside to remove the corridor connection, which was required in order to attend to some serious tin-worm around that area. The rear end is now sulking awaiting its repairs!

Friday, 9 December 2016

December News Part 2

Great Eastern Railway 1899 4 Wheel Brake Third 853

There has been more progress on the door reconstruction. A start has also been made on modifications to four reclaimed W irons (hold the axles to the chassis) which were originally on the underframe currently being prepared for M&GN 129. Both Axeman and Monkey alike have made this their next project, and so far various bits are being welded into position to make the W irons suitable for their new home on the original Great Eastern chassis still attached to 853.

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

The springs have now arrived back from the...err...spring people. They are now in the shed awaiting unpacking and fitting to the chassis project.

British Railways 1955 Mark 1 Suburban Composite Lavatory E43041

Painting has continued to progress and the first coat of Crimson gloss has been applied all round the vehicle this week.

The interior has also progressed well. The biggest transformation has been the fitting of the lino flooring which has made a real difference. This has been done to an excellent standard, having been laid by an outside contractor. With the lino laid, the grills which go underneath the bench seating were screwed down, having been painted up earlier in the week.

Six of the eight compartment ceilings which were featured last week are now painted in cream gloss, leaving only two which still require sanding down and painting. The toilet fitting out continues with the seats now fitted amongst other less important items!

British Railways 1958 Class 101 Railcar Driving Trailer Second Lavatory M56352

Bodywork has started on this "simple repaint" project, as paint does not stick to holes! The front end is one of the worst places for the larger areas of corrosion so has already seen a few areas chopped out and new metal welded in. Meanwhile, surface defects and corrosion along the landward side of the vehicle has been identified and all loose paint etc chipped out so the affected areas can be rust treated.

A corroded vacuum pipe, which was hidden under the driver's desk, is also being replaced by the locomotive department who can take useful advantage to the large access holes being cut into the front presently.

New metal has been welded into the doorway (on the left of the picture) whilst other holes (right) provide access for internal repairs

Metropolitan Cammell 1965 4 Wheel Petroleum Tank 53083

The repainting work to this vehicle has now been completed, bringing the end to the project.

One of the final tasks was the painting of the underframe components into gloss black.

The seaward side solebar has been finished in red and the lettering and symbols picked out in white. Lastly, large vinyls have been applied to the tank sides mimicking the livery carried by the local North Walsham flow when similar tanks were used. It looks very smart indeed and will leave the shed during the next shunt and return to its usual home in the yard as a softened water transporter.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

December News Part 1

Great Eastern Railway 1899 4 Wheel Brake Third 853

Door rebuilding continues, with new galvanised steel panels being let into the repaired hardwood frames.

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

Awaiting the return of its springs.

British Railways 1955 Mark 1 Suburban Composite Lavatory E43041

The coach has been transformed twice in the past week. The prepared exterior was first coated in primer during the earlier stages of the week.

This was followed by the crimson undercoat (sides) and black undercoat (ends) which changed its colour again.

The roof has also been completed having had both of its coats of specialist roof paint. Interior reassembly continues, with the toilets having progressed particularly well this week. The sinks and toilet pans themselves have both been installed with the lav seats currently being sanded down (an excellent job) and varnished up.

Various trimmings such as shelves and paper towel racks are also being installed on the walls.

In the passenger compartments, the ceilings are being sanded down where the originals are still in situ, a task which is currently half way there. The ceilings which have been replaced from new are being painted in primer already, and are three quarters complete. One ceiling has reached undercoat stage and gives an idea of how they will look when finished.

The luggage racking is in the process of being cleaned, with approximately two compartments done, and finally the grills which go under the seats and cover up the steam heaters are being cleaned back and repainted, with well over half having been completed this week.

As readers will undoubtedly notice, this coach has been a major source of attention this week with most members of the team directed towards this rather than other projects.

British Railways 1958 Class 101 Railcar Driving Trailer Second Lavatory M56352

The next project is some swift bodywork repairs and repaint (including roof) to the second half of the National Railway Museum's DMU set. This is the concluding part of the work we undertook in August to the powercar which was given similar treatment. The vehicle has been moved into the shed but work is yet to begin as E43041 remains the priority.

Metropolitan Cammell 1965 4 Wheel Petroleum Tank 53083

With the springs for 129's underframe yet to arrive, a good bit of attention has been directed towards the tank wagon. The tank itself has now been completed in its grey gloss paint complete with end ladder picked out in white for visibility.

The solebar is not far behind and is being painted a vivid red colour which contrasts very nicely against the grey. The landward side solebar has been finished which has allowed the lettering to all be picked out in white, a nice finishing touch. No doubt the seaward side will be following suit soon.