Friday, 25 March 2016

March News Part 4

Great Eastern Railway 1899 4 Wheel Brake Third 853

It has been all about the woodwork this week, perhaps unsurprisingly on a wooden bodied carriage such as this. A great number of authentic tongue and groove panels (bigger versions of what you get on your garden shed) have been dug out of the stores having been collected out of different Great Eastern Railway grounded bodies over the past 20 years. These boards were pictured last week but were wrongly reported to be from the guard’s end of the coach. These boards have had their tongues removed (many of which were damaged) and replaced by grooves. A separate tongue has then been machined and inserted in-between the two grooves of adjacent panels. Very groovy indeed! There is enough of this reclaimed panelling to fully kit out the divides that form the two passenger compartments of the coach. There was even chance to use some of the off-cuts to clad below the seat at the Sheringham end, so it will look proper should any rivet counters get on their knees and look under the seat! With panelling obtained, some nice longitudinal bars were machined out of Meranti and dry fitted to give a tantalising glimpse of what the compartment divide will look like.

Whilst all of this action was going on, more mega-splicing of the rotten Holt/seaward corner pillar was undertaken.

British Railways 1962 Mark 1 First Open M3116

In preparation for the carpet layer, all of the grills which cover the heaters have been removed as these were screwed though the old carpet and were preventing its removal. The interior has also been cleared of stacked up tables and other detritus so that there is a fully open area ready for the re-carpeting, which is booked in for next week.

British Railways 1957 Mark 1 Tourist Second Open E4641

The vestibules have continued to progress, with the lighting installed in both the Sheringham and Holt end vestibules. The ceiling has also been fitted in the centre vestibule, which is now playing catch up to the other two. Elsewhere on the interior, all of the bulkheads (there are eight) have been varnished three times with just a single coat left to apply.

It was a good job Monkey was around to help with the enormity of the task...

British Railways 1955 Mark 1 Suburban Composite Lavatory E43041

Woodwork stripping continues on the pieces from around the windows, the forth compartment having now joined the party. Two more window panels have also been welded onto the seaward side.

British Railways 1955 Mark 1 Suburban Third Lavatory Open E48001

Bogie work has continued on an ongoing basis.

Dave rust treats the bogie

The Sheringham end bogie has had both of its wheelsets and axleboxes scraped down and painted in primer.

Midland & Great Northern Railway 1881 4 Wheel Tool Van 12

This interesting item of vintage rolling stock has been squeezed into the end of the shed for attention to bring it back into operational condition. Several years ago, severe wheel flats were put on the van which rendered it suitable for static display only until repairs could be made. Various deferrals prevented the van from coming in until now. So far, the van has been lifted and the two wheelsets extracted from underneath. The axleboxes have been removed so the wheels are now ready and are currently awaiting tyre turning. The opportunity of the wagon being indoors has led to the outside being removed of all its flaking paint and any areas that require it have been sanded down and filled. The seaward side appears to be much worse than the landward in this respect.


A great deal of effort has been directed this week on annual examinations of the operating fleet at Sheringham. This has focussed mainly on safety critical items such as brakes, couplings, doors and running gear etc however the interiors have also been assessed and a large list of remedial tasks formed. This list is now being worked through to make sure the coaching fleet is ready for the season ahead.

Friday, 18 March 2016

March News Part 3

Great Eastern Railway 1899 4 Wheel Brake Third 853

The exterior of the carriage has seen the splicing to the Holt end/landward side corner, mentioned last week, completed and the panelling returned on top of the repaired framework.

On the interior, the planking (which was removed for repairs) has now been returned to much of the guards (Holt) end, which has been supported by lots more sanding, filling and caulking of all the rest of the interior planking. This has allowed the Sheringham end wall to be completed to the stage where some seat back formers have been attached and even two supports for the seat base itself.

Planking laid out

Caulking planking

The design of LED replica gas lamps was so successful on previous project M&GN 3, that it is being repeated for 853. Consequently, the Axe-man was to be found producing four steel rings to support part of these lamps.

British Railways 1962 Mark 1 First Open M3116

The coach is now back out of Bridge Road Sheds (post Steam Gala) and a carpet layer has been booked to install....the new carpet which should be delivered shortly. Whilst we wait, the seating legs have all been cleaned up as the aluminium parts had become somewhat tarnished over the years.

British Railways 1957 Mark 1 Tourist Second Open E4641

The Holt end vestibule has progressed a little further after the ceiling beading mentioned last week was fitted into position, completing the ceiling. This has allowed the hinged end door (stops you walking onto the track if the coach is on the end of the train!) to also be fitted, having been restored some time ago. Inside the passenger saloons themselves, all of the interior bulkheads have now been fully sanded and are awaiting varnishing. To do this with the minimum dust contamination as possible, the sliding windows have all been gloss painted and then fitted to the coach to allow it to be sealed as best as possible from the rest of the workshop.

Martin refitting windows

British Railways 1955 Mark 1 Suburban Composite Lavatory E43041

Woodwork stripping continues, with items from compartments number 1, 2 and 3 being tackled this week.

British Railways 1955 Mark 1 Suburban Third Lavatory Open E48001

Scraping down the old rust and flaking paint from the chassis ready for repainting has now been completed to everybody’s relief. Half of the chassis has now also been painted in anti-rust primer.

In terms of bogies, the Sheringham end example has been focussed on and has been lifted off the wheels for overhaul. The frames have been cleaned down of detritus and much of it has been rust-proofed. Several of the bars and spring pins etc that hold much of the moving parts together have been stripped down, cleaned, re-greased and reassembled. Not much to write about, but again one of those tasks that will absorb a lot of time and effort over the next couple of weeks.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

March News Part 2

Great Eastern Railway 1899 4 Wheel Brake Third 853

Progress abounds of the vintage variety – both inside and outside of the most elderly of our restoration projects (the coach that is, not the staff!). Many of the ceiling and wall areas covered last week have now been caulked with decorators filler and built up with a white undercoat which is fast giving the interior of the coach the appearance of a padded cell. I shall leave readers to determine for themselves how appropriate this may or may not be for the inmates who have been duped into working in our department...

Some interesting patterns have also been appearing, created out of an eclectic mix of paper, wood, steel, rubber and glue. These fine creations are for re-casting the missing supports for the luggage nets inside the two passenger compartments. An approximation of their design using drawings, photos and similar surviving items is contributing to the design and aesthetics of the replicas.

On the exterior, the wood splicing continues with a major piece added to the Holt end/landward side corner to compliment the major work going on with the seaward side corner.

Meanwhile, after quietly taking the Axeman aside, we suggested that it was perhaps best for his colleagues and indeed himself if he were to spend some time away. Sadly he interpreted these gentle hints as permission to stick around elsewhere on the site, and set to modifying four buffer shanks (reclaimed off a Southern Railway “PMV” van) to Great Eastern Railway style inside the machine shop next door. They look impressive so far, as changing their shape slightly makes them look older than they are so they will not look out of place on the 1899 built vehicle.

British Railways 1957 Mark 1 Tourist Second Open E4641

The Holt end corridor connection has had its first components returned into position following the repairs. These include several large timbers which act as a buffer between the gangway and the end of the coach. The mechanism which operates the passenger alarm, which passes through these timbers, has also been oiled and refitted.

Moving onto the interior, it has been all about the three vestibule areas. The Holt end vestibule has had its ceiling installed, and now beading is being produced and painted to complete the ceiling. In the centre vestibule, the bulkheads were fully stripped of their old varnish and had to be bleached because the wooden veneer was badly discoloured with scratches and water damage. Surprisingly however they have come out quite well, and half of the vestibule has been fine-sanded ready for varnish.

An interior bulkhead ready for varnishing

Monkey tries his hand at being a Toilet Attendant!

Finally, the Sheringham end vestibule has had several fittings restored and returned to their rightful places on the two sliding doors, and a discrete panel has been added containing sockets for the audio equipment that will be required when this carriage is used for Murder Mystery events.

Sheringham end vestibule approaching completion

British Railways 1955 Mark 1 Suburban Composite Lavatory E43041

One of the new window surrounds, pressed out of steel, has arrived and been accepted for use on the re-skinning of the carriage. This single item has been welded onto the new framework at the Sheringham end of the coach on the seaward side, giving a sneak preview of what the re-panelled vehicle will look like.

Meanwhile, the team solely responsible for the interior woodwork restoration of E48001 have switched their efforts to E43041. Malcolm was to be found at a solitary bench and has broken new ground by stripping old varnish of the first sections from E43041. This is a very long and arduous task which has, appropriately, started with compartment number one, the woodwork surrounding the windows being the items in question. The highly polished interior woodwork inside suburbans W46139 and E48001 hopefully provides the inspiration to do it all again!

British Railways 1955 Mark 1 Suburban Third Lavatory Open E48001

The process of scraping down the old rust and flaking paint from the chassis ready for repainting has continued all week and is now approximately 75% complete. There’s no two ways about it, this is an awful and thankless job!

Graham cleaning up the underframe

The second bogie has also been wheeled out and dismantled of all its brake gear in a similar way to the first bogie. Both were rolled outside and jet washed before being brought back inside to dry off so we can contemplate how much detritus needs cleaning off these!

E48001 on jacks for underframe cleaning

Saturday, 5 March 2016

COMPLETION SPECIAL: Mark 1 Suburban Third W46139

It has been an exciting week for the department, as the second of the four coaches being restored as part of the “Suburban 4” project was released into service following a two year restoration from scrap condition. This has involved suburban “Third” W46139, which carried its first passengers on the NNR when it departed Sheringham at 09:25 yesterday as part of the Spring Steam Gala.

W46139 at Weybourne on its very first passenger train on the NNR

W46139 was built in 1954 by British Railways’ Wolverton works and had a working career of just 18 years, relatively short by railway standards. The coach has nine full-width third class compartments and has no corridor within the coach and no access to any adjacent coaches, being given the original classification “Third” or “T”. Of the nine compartments, seven were smoking with the remaining two designated non-smoking. The layout was typically suburban, with the full width seats each seating six people and a full-width passageway that was said to allow another six to stand in each compartment. The coach could carry 108 seated passengers, total capacity increasing to 162 if desperate commuters stood in the compartments. W46139 was introduced in December 1954 as part of a batch of 300 T’s which was the most numerous of the suburban designs, in BR’s standard unlined Crimson livery. It was one of 125 T’s allocated to the Western Region and operated commuter services out of London, most likely Paddington station, westwards into the suburbs. The coach could also have operated on secondary services further afield if required. The light crimson livery proved difficult to keep clean and also faded badly in sunlight, so this was replaced after a few years service by the standard (for the time) maroon livery. The BR suburban stock was the last non-corridor coaching stock to be built in the UK, as modern practice was favouring multiple units and electrification for suburban services, which explains the short working careers of this type of stock. The Western Region had therefore finished with W46139 by 1966, the coach getting a six year reprieve by being transferred to the Eastern Region to work Great Northern suburban services out of London Kings Cross behind Class 31 diesel locomotives, by this time painted in BR’s new corporate blue livery. In 1972, electrification of these routes and the introduction of new multiple unit stock led to E46139 being withdrawn from service.

A total of 18 T’s were preserved during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the other 282 being scrapped by BR. However preservation was not to prove a guaranteed sanctuary, as the isolated compartments and numerous doors and windows resulted in the coaches being unsuitable for normal tourist railway operations, and the limited resources of enthusiasts in the 1980’s and 1990’s resulted in the situation where water damage and steel corrosion was far outstripping the capacity to conserve and repair the coaches. Consequently, most of the preserved T’s declined in condition to the extent that disposal was the only remaining option and by the 2010’s only five T’s were still in existence. Just two of these were in an operational condition, the rest being in storage in poor condition. Our example, W46139, was saved in 1972 and was stored at Manningtree for 12 months before finding a home at the East Anglian Railway Museum. We are unsure of what work was carried out to the coach whilst there, o if it carried passengers. W46139 was relocated to the Great Central Railway in 1981 where it was restored to lined maroon livery and operated passenger services there. Due to the corrosion issues already mentioned, the carriage required more serious work after a time and was put into storage and later sold to the Churnet Valley Railway in 1997 who had aspirations to create a three coach suburban set. Unfortunately, this never materialised and W46139 remained in storage during its time there.

In storage at the CVR

The vehicle’s long term future was secured in the early 2010’s when the NNR’s Suburban 4 project, lead by the late Clive Morris, was launched and W46139 was sold to the NNR for a nominal sum. This was instigated because the NNR’s original ”T” W46147 had never operated in passenger service in preservation and was in extremely poor condition. W46139 was in poor condition itself, but represented a far better restoration prospect than W46147. The NNR are grateful to the group at the Churnet Valley who practically donated W46139 to us, and we hope that W46139’s rebuild and launch in original condition assures the group that their actions have helped to save the coach. W46139 moved to the NNR in May 2011 and was stored awaiting workshop capacity to start its restoration.

In November 2013, W46139 was brought to Weybourne for the restoration to begin. Extreme levels of body corrosion and severe water damage to the interior meant that a full rebuild was required. The carriage was stripped down to a bare shell and shotblasted, following which a period of re-framing and re-skinning was undertaken.

W46139 looked a lot better after shotblasting, however this picture is deceiving as severe corrosion was to be found underneath 

Much of the body between the roof and the chassis had to be replaced with new. All 18 doors were stripped down and rebuilt, with several having to be replaced entirely with spare examples. Most of the windows had been smashed by vandals whilst in storage, so once the bodywork was completed the windows were replaced, the doors re-hung and the roof cleaned and repainted which made the vehicle watertight.

During bodywork reconstruction

The chassis and bogies were stripped down and mechanically overhauled before being repainted. The steam heating was repaired, with sections of new pipe where the old had corroded and the heating elements stripped down and overhauled. The interior was then reconstructed with the varnished woodwork being laboriously stripped and water staining reversed before being re-varnished. Many pieces which had rotted were replaced with either spare parts or machined from new timber. The seating was reupholstered with new material and the ceilings replaced with new plywood. The lino flooring was replaced as the original had suffered from water damage. A long period of fitting out and finishing works were completed before the final repainting into Crimson livery was completed. This final week before service has seen the finishing touches being applied, such as lettering/numbering, footboard repainting and the final adjustments to the doors.

Monkey helps out with the lettering!

W46139 was shunted out of the shed and formed into a 2-coach suburban mini-set with Brake Third E43357 (which we completed in May 2015) for use at the Spring Steam Gala.A lot of effort was put into finishing the coach to a good standard in time for the gala, and all of the staff and volunteers are pleased with the fruits of their labours.

W46139 and E43357 at Sheringham as a pair

I’m sure readers will agree W46139 looks excellent and now that we have two suburbans in traffic, we are starting to get a glimpse of what the full “Suburban 4” set is going to look like. W46139 now joins our operational fleet but will only used on an occasional basis to preserve its condition until the other two suburbans can be finished to join it and BT E43357.

This entire train is owned and restored by the NNR. "Ring Haw" leads E43357 & W46139 during the Steam Gala

Great Eastern Railway 1899 4 Wheel Brake Third 853

The splicing work on the body’s framework continues to progress, with one of the largest, the Holt/Seaward corner, now receiving its first bits of new timber, which has been glued/clamped/screwed into position, returning structural integrity to this previous rotten crevice! The other repairs to the landward side (introduced last week) are ongoing with more cutting out completed. A panel repair has also been made on the seaward side close to the Sheringham end corner. The most visual progress however has been the further painting of the ceiling and Sheringham end wall panels. This has transformed the interior, and the roof and end have now had two coats of wood penetrating primer.

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

A modest level of progress this week, with one of the four stands being painted into gloss.

British Railways 1962 Mark 1 First Open M3116

This coach has been moved into Bridge Road sheds for temporary accommodation for the duration of the Steam Gala, releasing space at Sheringham for the steamy shenanigans...

British Railways 1957 Mark 1 Tourist Second Open E4641

The re-glazing of the main sheets of glass has now been completed with the last pane being fitted this week, and all of the window sealant has been cut off neatly. The Holt corridor end panelwork has also been completed, the new sheets having been welded onto the end and painted in rust-proof primer.

On the interior, it has been “more of the same” with varnish stripping of the centre bulkheads continuing. The Holt end vestibule gets ever closer to completion, with the end sliding door now re-hung and the outside painted in primer and undercoat. The steam heat radiator has also been returned to the vestibule. One notable leap of progress has been the varnished side panelling from the carriage. All of this has now been taken out of storage and carefully sanded back to clean up the wood grain pattern within the veneer. It is worth mentioning that all these panels have already been varnish stripped, having been done so progressively over the past 12 months. So far, they have all been coated with their first coat of varnish, with more to follow.

British Railways 1955 Mark 1 Suburban Composite Lavatory E43041

Still awaiting the delivery of some pressed window side sections to allow re-panelling to commence.

British Railways 1955 Mark 1 Suburban Third Lavatory Open E48001

Now that W46139 has been completed, E48001 has been moved into the workshop for its final push towards re-entry into service and become the third of the suburban 4 coaches. The reports on this coach will therefore be increasing as the resources cannon is aimed squarely in its direction! We have gotten off to a good start, with the coach being lifted into the air the day after it came indoors and the Sheringham end bogie rolled out from underneath. The bogie is now being stripped down for overhaul and cleaning/repainting. Whilst this is happening, other volunteers have set to on the area of underframe above where the bogie sat completing the undesirable task of scraping down the old rust and paint so the chassis can be reprotected. This is a nasty job but one which really makes the coach look good and protect it from the elements, as W46139 has recently proven. On the bright side, E48001 is the last of the four suburban coaches to have its underframe and bogies restored!