|E4641 the day it was removed from the workshops|
E4641 is one of our “bread and butter” carriages. Unglamorous and of a common design, E4641 is part of a core fleet of standard Mark 1 coaches that keep the railway in existence. The railway currently have another eight coaches of identical layout and design as E4641, making them the most numerous within our collection. They travel up and down the railway covering around 60 miles a day, a task they literally perform daily throughout the main tourist season. They are the vessels in which the vast majority of visitors are carried to savour their steam experience. Whilst the more historic carriages bring great joy and variety to the railway during special events, it is rugged workshorses such as E4641 that earn the money that allows the railway to remain sustainable. Almost every visitor to the North Norfolk Railway will have travelled in a coach of this design.
|E4641 less than a month after entering the workshops for its overhaul|
We are therefore proud to present this, which after discussion with my predecessors, can lay claim to be the most thorough rebuild ever undertaken on a non-dining Mark 1 carriage in the history of the NNR. Some very thorough Mark 1 rebuilds have been done in the past, however such work has mostly been reserved for the dining train. E4641 will be operating throughout 2017 in normal day-to-day trains, meaning the considerable effort put into its overhaul can be enjoyed by the everyday visitor. As long term followers of the Blog may remember, the lower half of the carriage is made from brand new steel, both frame and skin. Both corridor connections have been rebuilt and all of the windows removed, refurbished and returned into place. It has had a brake and bogie overhaul and underframe repaint. One of the toilets has been reinstated and the other converted into a cleaner's store room. Both of these areas were stripped out and disused prior to the overhaul.
|2/3rds of the sides of the carriage were replaced|
The interior was completely stripped out and every components thoroughly cleaned and refurbished. All the woodwork, and there was a mountain of it, was laboriously stripped back of its many years of stain and varnish and varnished up again to its 1950's glory. The interior of the coach used to be a dark mahogany colour due to previous owners staining it down. The same interior is now a much lighter and brighter timber, and the natural grain and pattern of the wood is now far more visible. Finally, all of the seating was reupholstered in new material. It took two years and three weeks to complete this work, although it should be noted that there were periods within this that the coach had to be set aside to ensure continued progress on the Suburban restorations.
Eagle eyed viewers will notice that E4641 entered the workshops in Maroon livery, but leaves in Crimson & Cream, the colour used for the dining train. The reason for this is that the railway has for some years operated a single 64 seat carriage (TSO) painted in Crimson & Cream to act as a strengthener to the dining train (which is required approximately half a dozen times a year) and also as a maintenance spare should one of the dining coaches be out of service for unplanned repairs. This coach has traditionally been TSO E4667 however the condition of this coach is worsening with both the interior and exterior appearance declining somewhat. E4641 has therefore been painted Crimson & Cream in order to "replace" E4667 as the dining train strengthener. The seating has also been upholstered the same colour as the dining train seats, which coupled to the high quality of E4641's interior restoration, will make it a much better prospect for dining passengers than E4667 currently is. When the resources are available for E4667 to be overhauled, it is likely that it will be painted maroon to re-balance the fleet.
|E4667, the current dining train strengthener, seen here fulfilling its normal role within a standard service train. E4641 is the third coach back!|
Going back to the beginning, E4641 was built in 1957 at British Railways' York works, which were at full capacity producing a lot of "standard" Mark 1's at this time. It was the third carriage within its "batch" and the NNR owns another two identical carriages from the very same batch (E4651 & E4667). Weighing 33 tons, E4641 seats 64 second class passengers in three saloons (one of which was designated non smoking). There are three passenger vestibules allowing entry/exit, or alternatively two corridor connections each end of the vehicle for movement to an adjacent coach. At one end are two toilets, although one is no longer extant.
E4641 entered service in July 1957 on the British Railways Eastern region, and would have likely have been delivered in BR's (then standard) lined maroon livery. It then started a reasonable life working medium and long distance locomotive hauled services within and to/from the east of England It would have been hauled by both steam and diesel locomotives. In 1964 it was renumbered NE4641 to reflect usage in the North East, but the coach was returned to E4641 four years later, the same year as the demise of steam traction. Around this time, E4641 was repainted into the new corporate Blue & Grey colour scheme, which it would carry until its withdrawal from front line duties in November 1985.
The coach was preserved the following year by wildlife artist and steam devotee David Shepherd who was building up rolling stock for his railway the East Somerset. Whilst there the coach was repainted back into original maroon colours and in-authentically presented as a First Class open coach. Electric table lamps were fitted and the carriage used in their dining train. 15 years later, much stock and the railway was being sold by Mr Shepherd to new owners. During the year 2001, officials of the NNR were inspecting other Mark 1 stock (which led to M26012 being purchased for the NNR, but that is another story) and during this visit E4641's good condition was noted.
|Stock being inspected at the East Somerset. E4641 is thought to be the second coach back (picture Steve Allen)|
18 months later, E4641 was also put up for sale and the NNR immediately made moves to purchase it. This successful, the coach was relocated in the Spring of 2003 and started operating services almost immediately.
|E4641 on its first day in service, 2003 (picture Steve Allen)|
The coach was badly faded so received limited works and a repaint before rejoining the "coal face" working daily services up and down the NNR. Having been in reasonable condition when purchased, a major overhaul was not necessary prior to getting usage from the vehicle. However this situation inevitably would change as the condition of the vehicle started to slowly worsen, understandably given the coach's excellent suitability for most services. The interior survived well but was extremely dark due to various wood stains being used in its past to hide old water damage. The exterior fared much worse and by 2014 (10 years on) the paintwork was thin once more, corrosion was becoming a problem in the lower half of the coach and the doors were requiring more and more maintenance to keep them operating.
|E4641 working trains in the summer of 2006. Note the painted over toilet window, and indication of the locked out of use toilet|
A slot became available that year for a TSO to enter the workshops for an overhaul. Four of the railway's coaches operating in service at that time were "shortlisted" and E4641 was selected, mainly on the basis that its exterior paintwork made it stick out most when working within trains. The original scope of works for E4641 was much smaller than what was eventually done, as within six months of the overhaul it became apparent that E4641's condition underneath was much worse than originally fared. Thankfully, the railway were in a position to decide to undertake all of the required works and produce E4641 to a high standard with (hopefully!) years of life ahead. It now joins the rest of the fleet at Sheringham as the best standard service coach, having previously been one of the worst! It will be in use on Santa Special services and will then be in normal trains for 2017 and beyond.
Great Eastern Railway 1899 4 Wheel Brake Third 853
Elsewhere in the workshops, progress has continued as normal. The door reconstruction, described in previous weeks, has continued steadily.
Great Northern Railway (later M&GN) 1887 6 Wheel Third 129
The underframe for 129 has now been shunted back into the workshops, now that E4641 has freed up some space. However due to the refurbished springs having not yet arrived, no further progress has been able to be made.
British Railways 1955 Mark 1 Suburban Composite Lavatory E43041
This coach continues to hurtle towards completion at great speed. The exterior paint preparation has now been completed in record time, with our long suffering Phil taking the brunt of the punishment. He now requires the sound of an electric sander to be played to him softly each night or else he can't get to sleep!
The two ends of the carriage were also completed but required more than just paint prep. There were handrails, electrical jumper sockets, lighting control gear and lamp irons to fit, all of which have been cleaned up and installed so that painting can commence on Monday.
Interior reassembly also continues with more woodwork fettled into position. Pretty much all of the woodwork is now in position, so work is now concentrating on returning to problem areas where they don't fit so well against each other, and also increasing the number of coats of varnish on some of the panels.
More fittings continue to be installed. The heater control discs (seen each side of the windows in the picture above) have all been fitted so slowly all of the gaps and holes are being occupied. Another milestone is also the fitting of all of the lighting wiring and bulb holders. The wiring was in poor condition so this was quite a task. We are unable to test currently as the coach has no batteries but hopefully there will be a grand switch on in time for Christmas! The passenger communication chords and the plastic "scoops" in each compartment have all been fitted down both sides of the coach and hooked up to the relevant apparatus at the end.
Reupholstering of the seats is progressing well with several compartments worth of seating now ready, I really must get round to taking a picture of these magnificent items as they are impressive with their brand new material, particularly the first class examples.
British Railways 1956 Mark 1 Suburban Brake Second E43357
With remedial works having been completed, the coach has now been returned into service and is tucked away inside Bridge Road Carriage Sheds for the winter with the other two suburbans.
Metropolitan Cammell 1965 4 Wheel Petroleum Tank 53083
The tank wagon has been brought into the shed now that E4641 has departed and consequently has been a source of attention once more. The remaining side which had yet to be repainted has now been cleaned down and undercoated.
The chassis solebar has also been primed ready for further paint.
Some of the smaller details are now in a position where they can be attended to. Some brake pipes, chassis numbering details and axlebox covers have been picked out in red, yellow and yellow respectively. Strangely, it is these smaller items that actually grab people's eye and provoke compliments when repainting, rather than the plainer, larger areas.
A large rubber hose attachment has also been removed from the seaward side where the tank used to be discharged back in the day. This pipe had been modified many years ago by the railway so that this tank could provide additional watering facilities for steam engines at Holt station during gala events, before the water tower was built there. Last used around 10 years ago, the attachment is being removed so that the original cap can be refitted.
There have been two items of progress on the workshop improvements this week. The first will most be a surprise for regular readers, as it involves us going round and round again. Yes you've guessed it, the Axeman! He has been busy designing a ingenious device that slots onto our existing wheelset stand and allows the wheelset to be moved around on wheels. Previously it had to be semi-dragged around using a pallet truck, which isn't really man enough for the job. This simple addition will make wheel movements around the workshop significantly easier.
The second item concerns the mezzanine floor. Whilst it will be January before we can get onto it properly, the floor has at least been painted this week, and is now a fetching grey colour, perhaps to try and match the tank wagon?