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9th October 2020 - MNR receives £190,000 Heritage Lottery Fund Grant
The Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust (MNR) has received a £190,000 lifeline grant from the Government’s £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund.
The Culture Recovery Fund is administered by Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund on behalf of the Government and is intended to provide vital financial support for qualifying organisations such as the Mid-Norfolk Railway.
This MNR’s successful bid is one of the first round of grants that have been issued from the Culture Recovery Fund and is part of the £1.57 billion package that has previously been been announced by the Culture Secretary. The fund is designed to secure the future of Britain’s museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues with emergency grants and loans.
The Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden MP said: “As a nation it is essential that we preserve our heritage and celebrate and learn from our past. This massive support package will protect our shared heritage for future generations, save jobs and help us prepare for a cultural bounce back post Covid.”
Charlie Robinson, Trust Chairman said: "The Mid-Norfolk Railway is thrilled to have been successful in our bid and we are extremely grateful to the Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund. The grant will make a really important contribution to the Railway's plans to reopen to the public in a manner that is compliant with the ongoing Covid-19."
The money the MNR has received, will be used for several purposes. More than half will allow work to commence immediately on the full restoration of a Mark-1 corridor coach. This is extremely important as once restored it will join other coaches the railway has recently restored and means that the railway will be able to run trains that are long enough to comply with Covid-19 social distancing regulations, but just as importantly are also economically viable.
Money will also be used to hire in specialist machinery to allow some essential track maintenance work to be carried out that will ensure the railway’s staff and volunteers will be able to socially distance. Finally, the remainder will be spent on IT equipment, to allow homeworking, advertising and some consultancy advice for our planned reopening for the 2021 operating season.
George Saville, MNR General Manager explained further when he said, “All the heritage railways are different, as we have seen some have been able to run public trains this year and other like ourselves have not. This has been because the nature of some of our stations and our rolling stock has meant we have felt we could not run a service that would be compliant with Government Covid-19 precautions and also be economically viable. This grant will allow us to meet those requirements and once again be able to run a public service.”
21st September 2020 - Second Pacer unit joins the MNR
A second Pacer diesel multiple unit (DMU) has arrived at the Mid-Norfolk Railway’s Dereham station to join the railways growing fleet of heritage DMUs.
Pacer unit number 142061 was delivered by Rail Support Services Ltd, a company that specialises in the road haulage of rail vehicles. The unit arrived at Dereham station after being stored at the Gascoigne Wood sidings near Selby, where it has been stabled since being withdrawn from service by Northern Trains.
142061 together with 142038, the MNR’s first Pacer unit are now planned to enter service with the railway during the 2021 passenger operating season. The pair of Pacer units will also be refurbished. The railway also plans to return one of the units to its original Regional Railways livery, as used by British Rail when they were first introduced onto the network during the 1980s.
Charlie Robinson, the Chairman of the railway said: “The acquisition of Pacers by the railway is important, as they join our first generation of Diesel Multiple Units and mean that we are assembling an important collection of this oft forgotten aspect of our railway heritage.”
He added: “Pacers have had in some quarters a controversial past, often being described as noisy and uncomfortable, but that you must remember was when they travelled at 70mph on the national network. Here they will be travelling at much slower speeds and will be an excellent way to travel on our line and enjoy our beautiful Norfolk countryside views.”
A mystery find has been made at the Mid-Norfolk Railway’s County School station. The find was made during maintenance work on the railway’s permissive footpath that runs alongside the track bed at the station.
Richard Cullen, the MNR’s volunteer County School Stationmaster, who is overseeing the restoration of this part of the railway said: “As some of our volunteers were carrying out routine maintenance of the railways Permissive footpath, they found a piece of metal buried. After digging it out, it appeared to us, that we had found the Firehole deflector plate from a steam locomotive”.
This plate is part of the arrangement on steam engines where the fireman, shovels coal into the firebox that in turn provides the heat to the boiler.
The mystery is however, how did this come to be buried by the side of the line near the station?
County School station was originally built by the Great Eastern Railway in 1886. It served as a junction station between the railway’s Dereham to Fakenham line and the East Norfolk Railway’s branch line to Aylsham and Wroxham. The station however never had an engine shed, or any facilities to service or repair steam locomotives.
During January 1915, there was however a collision of two Great Eastern Railway steam trains close to the station site, with both locomotives being damaged. Richard and the volunteer team wonder, could this plate be a reminder of that accident?
This accident happened when a freight train travelling from Wroxham collided with a passenger train from Fakenham. As the collision fortunately only happened at slow speed it resulted in both engines and some of the wagons and coaches being damaged but there were no injuries.
Already a damaged buffer, believed to be from the tender of one of the locomotives, is on display at the station museum. This buffer was previously discovered at the site and the deflector plate, once conservation work is completed, will be added to this growing museum.
County School station presently serves as a visitor centre and small museum including a display about the Norfolk County School / Watt's Naval School that gave the station its unusual name. At this time, due to Covid-19, the museum remains closed to the public, but it is planned to reopen in Spring 2021.
Richard Cullen said: “We at the railway would be delighted to hear from anybody who might have some knowledge on this unusual find and of course we are always on the lookout for volunteers to join us, to help with the restoration of the railway at this wonderful station.”
10th September 2020 - Polar Express 2020 at MNR Cancelled
The Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust (MNRPT) is today announcing that sadly this year’s Polar Express™ Train Ride has been cancelled due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation. The Trust which oversees the running of the railway has been forced to make this difficult decision as it has become clear that, as the Covid-19 situation continues, it would be impossible to put on the full show that makes the Polar Express such a unique experience and maintain the social distancing that is still likely to be required.
As such the railway does not, therefore, want to put on a version of the show that would likely be a disappointment for our passengers when compared to previous editions. The very nature of the show requires the cast to interact with the audience who are, of course, the passengers.
Charlie Robinson, the Chairman of the MNRPT said: “We have come to this difficult decision because we have to take a long-term view that safeguards both the railway’s reputation and that of The Polar Express™ Train Ride. We appreciate that this will be a major disappointment to our passengers, but we hope that there is understanding as to why this decision has been made.”
The MNR does, however, have some good news to announce as the railway has signed a contract with Rail Events Inc., the rights holder on behalf of Warner Bros., which will see The Polar Express™ Train Ride return to the Mid-Norfolk Railway each year till 2024. The Trust is, therefore, delighted to say the show will be back on the road, or in our case rails, for 2021.
George Saville, the Railway’s General Manager, said: “All of our Polar Express ticket holders have received an email from the railway setting out their options. These are a refund of the ticket price, as previously promised when they booked, or to transfer their ticket to the 2021 Polar Express.”
In the meantime, the Railway is currently investigating an alternative steam-hauled Christmas train service which will comply fully with all social distancing regulations but allow families to enjoy a festive train ride this Christmas. More information and updates will soon be available on our website at www.mnr.org.uk
5th September 2020 - No public running for Summer 2020 at the Mid-Norfolk Railway
The Mid-Norfolk Railway is today announcing that there will not be any public running for the remainder of the Summer 2020 operating season.
Charlie Robinson, the Chairman of the Railway’s Trust said: “The railway recognises that our passengers will be disappointed by this decision, but the railway has come to the conclusion that the reduced service we could provide taking into account our rolling stock and the current social distancing measures make such a service unviable for the railway.
“This year despite the public closure the railway’s volunteers have been working hard to prepare the railway for our winter operations and our 2021 season and we have therefore decided it is better for the long term future of the railway to continue this work during September”, he added.
Since volunteers have been able to return to work on the railway following the initial lifting of Covid- 19 restriction, the railway has benefited from a concentrated effort to improve the track, signalling and also the rolling stock, it is this work that will continue.
The General Manager of the Mid Norfolk Railway, George Saville said: “Sadly, Covid-19 resulted in the MNR’s 25th Anniversary events having to be cancelled, but our volunteer teams have instead of running the railway been working hard to improve and develop the line. This will mean that as we enter our next 25 years, we as a railway will be in the best situation we can be.”
During the public closure the railway has renewed the track in several places including the major upgrade of the Yaxham Road level crossing at Dereham. Signalling work has continued at Dereham Station, which is part of the long-term aim of returning public passenger service to County School Station.
Several of the railway’s Mk1 and Mk 2 coaches have been refurbished. This includes being painted into British Railways’ maroon livery from the 1960s in the railway’s new maintenance shed that was built in 2019. Work on the recently acquired ex Greater Anglia Mk 3 coaches is continuing, as they are returned to their original seat configuration, ready for their use in MNR service.
Charlie Robinson said: “We at the railway are looking forward to our running season next year, which will include the first visit of the Flying Scotsman to an East Anglian heritage railway. We are therefore confident that when we welcome our passengers back, they will see a number of improvements as we continue to restore and develop the railway.”
2nd September 2020 - Flying Scotsman visit to the Mid-Norfolk Railway confirmed for 2021
World-famous steam engine Flying Scotsman will visit Mid-Norfolk Railway (MNR) for the first time in October 2021.
The visit was originally due to take place this October, but Flying Scotsman’s 2020 programme was cancelled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
National Railway Museum-owned locomotive, No.60103 Flying Scotsman, will appear at the heritage railway for ten days with a mix of static display and Flying Scotsman-hauled trips, along the railway’s eleven-mile line.
George Saville, General Manager of the MNR, said: “All of us at the railway are looking forward to welcoming this famous engine to the railway and being joined by the many enthusiasts who will travel here to experience a ride on a train hauled by Flying Scotsman.
“This year has seen the coaching stock refurbished and significantly added to, which means that our passengers will be travelling in greater comfort behind Flying Scotsman along our beautifully line.”
Flying Scotsman’s visit to the Mid-Norfolk Railway will take place from Friday 2 October to Sunday 18 October 2021. A further announcement will be made in the New Year when tickets go on sale for what is expected to be a very popular event.
Flying Scotsman was built in Doncaster, the first locomotive of the newly formed London and North Eastern Railway (LNER). It left the works on 24 February 1923 with the number 1472. It was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley as part of the A1 class - the most powerful locomotives used by the LNER at that time.
By 1924, when it appeared at the British Empire Exhibition in London, the locomotive had been renumbered 4472 and given the name 'Flying Scotsman' after the daily 10.00am London to Edinburgh rail service which started in 1862.
Since returning to the tracks in 2016, Flying Scotsman has been hauling special passenger tours and making appearances across the UK at heritage railways and the National Railway Museum in York.
Charlie Robinson, the Chairman of the Railway Trust said: “We, at the railway, look forward to the visit of the Flying Scotsman and are planning to make sure our visitors will be able to get up close and personal to this famous steam engine here at the Mid-Norfolk Railway.”
Sarah Price, head of rail operations at the National Railway Museum, said: “Flying Scotsman’s plans for 2020 had to be postponed following the coronavirus pandemic and I am very pleased to announce the visit to Mid-Norfolk Railway which is the first date to be confirmed from Flying Scotsman’s draft 2021 touring schedule.”
Colin Green, Director at Riley & Son (E) Ltd, said: “I am very pleased that Flying Scotsman will be visiting the MNR after all in 2021 and I am looking forward to seeing the famous engine back in action.”
The Mid-Norfolk Railway is owned and operated by the volunteers of the Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust. From a base in Dereham, Norfolk, the railway operates along a preserved railway line to the market town of Wymondham, outside Norwich.
For more on the MNR and to find out more about Flying Scotsman’s visit to the Mid-Norfolk Railway, this will be available at: www.mnrflyingscotsman.co.uk
3rd August 2020 - MNR Members buy Class 31 locomotive
The future of Mid-Norfolk Railway resident class 31 locomotive, 31255 has been secured for the railway following its purchase by several MNR members for use on the railway.
The purchase of 31255 has been agreed with the previous owner, Harry Needle of the Harry Needle Railroad Company and means the locomotive will, once restored be used on the railway. Restoration work has immediately begun on the locomotive following its arrival at Dereham from long term storage on sidings at Hardingham station on the MNR.
The first step of the process is a thorough examination and assessment. A plan of works will then be drawn up which will see the mechanical and electrical systems restored first, followed by the bodywork, before ultimately the restoration will be completed by deciding on a which livery the engine will carry.
The immediate aim is to have the engine restored to a standard that it can be used in service safely for the 2021 running season at the MNR. The full restoration will however be a more long term project.
The group of members have bought the locomotive as the class 31s were synonymous with the railway’s history for over 60 years. As such the MNR will once again see class 31 hauled passenger trains in the future on a regular basis.
Charlie Robinson the Chairman of the MNR Preservation Trust said, “This is yet another important and exciting development for the railway in this our 25th Anniversary. The railway trust council and the membership are extremely pleased that some members have secured this locomotive for long term use on the railway and it will make an important addition to our mission of celebrating the railway heritage of East Anglia.”
21st July 2020 - MNR Volunteers return to work
It is full steam ahead at the Mid Norfolk Railway as the volunteers have returned to work on several projects at the railway following the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions.
Currently the railway remains closed to the public with no passenger trains running because of CV-19. The railway itself however has never closed to traffic, with regular movements by Greater Anglia amongst others, as they have used the MNR to stable part of their new fleet of trains and also as an initial storage location for old stock as it is withdrawn.
As the Government has relaxed the Covid- 19 restrictions, in addition to the essential workers needed to operate the railway, volunteers have now been able to return to work. First on the agenda was a bridge refurbishment and the commissioning of another signalling box by the Permanent Way and Signalling teams respectively. The carriage and wagon team have also restated work on restoring and refurbishing railway coaches.
During routine inspection last year, the railway identified that refurbishment work was needed on bridge number 1683 just north of Hardingham station. The work was planned for this summer and has now been completed.
The issue that had been identified was that, what are known as the “Waybeams” needed replacing. These large wooden beams sit in metal toughs and are used to carry the rails across the bridge and the inspection had revealed that the beams were approaching the end of their working life.
To replace the beams is therefore a significant task, as they weigh 2.5 Tonnes each, and this would require careful planning. Starting on the 10 July the railway’s Permanent Way team plus volunteers from the railway’s other teams, first removed the rails and ballast before then removing the old beams.
Once the beams were out, the exposed metal work of the bridge was inspected and the ironwork treated. The new beams were then installed set in a special preservative resin, and new rails re-laid. The second part of the project required specialist plant and was carried out by Sonic Rail Services a regular contractor for heavy infrastructure work on the railway.
George Saville, the General Manager of the railway said: “This has been a very important project for the railway, our volunteers and Sonic Rail Services have made an excellent job of the refurbishment work. On behalf of the railway I would also like to thank Sonic Rail Services for their support in making this project happen.”
As the work was progressing on the bridge, a small team of volunteers from the Signalling team has been working on the railway’s Dereham North signal box. The structure of the box has stood at the end of Platform 1 at Dereham station since 2007, where it was erected following its recovery from Lowestoft
Now the Signalling team have installed the signalling frame and associated infrastructure ready to commission the signal box as a working box. Charlie Robinson, the Chairman of the Railway Trust said: “This is another important step along the road to our eventual aim of reopening the line to County School Station.”
The MNR’s main running line currently reaches the level crossing at North Elmham, and this work will allow the railway to begin the process of restoring the signalling on the line north from Dereham.
The Mid-Norfolk Railway has today announced that all of the special events trains for the summer 2020 running season have now been cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions.
2nd July 2020 - The Mid-Norfolk Railway applies for Government feasibility study money
The Mid-Norfolk Railway (MNR) can confirm that together with a number of partner organisations, is part of a consortium that has applied for Government funding to conduct a feasibility study into the restoration of a regular passenger service on the line.
The Consortium, of which the MNR is a member, submitted one of the 50 applications that has recently been announced by the Department for Transport that will now be reviewed.
The Mid-Norfolk Railway Consortium, in addition to the MNR, also includes Greater Anglia, Norfolk County Council, Breckland Council, and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.
Charlie Robinson the Chairman of the MNR Preservation Trust said: “This bid is for Government money to conduct a feasibility study into the practicality of reopening the line from Dereham to Wymondham to restore a regular passenger service on the line and then onward to Norwich.”
He added: “Let me be clear however as the Chairman of the Trust Council, we are not seeking to handover our railway to Network Rail, so that a Train Operating Company such as Greater Anglia can run a daily passenger service, rather we want to explore how the MNR can develop in the future for the good of the local community. We fully intend to maintain our heritage roots”.
The Mid-Norfolk Railway has restored a significant part of the former line that was originally built between 1847 and 1857 by several railway companies that ran from Wymondham to Wells next the Sea. The last passenger service ran from in Dereham to Wells in 1964 and the last passenger service from King's Lynn via Dereham to Norwich ran in 1968.
The line remained open till 1989 for goods traffic and was then closed to traffic. As such the closure of the line was nothing to do with the Beeching cuts and indeed, the Beeching Report recommended that the line all the way to Kings Lynn should be retained.
The MNR has now successfully refurbished the line from Wymondham to just short of North Elmham. The railway is also actively working to relay track to County School station. The MNR owns the track bed between North Elmham and County School station which has already been restored.
Currently the railway is working to reopen for heritage passenger service when it safe to do so, so that Covid-19 precautions can be met. The railway has however continued to see rail operations during the Covid-19 shut down with Greater Anglia, DRS and GB Railfreight all running over MNR tracks for a variety of reasons.
George Saville the General Manager of the MNR, “The operating model for the railway has always included working with commercial partners to extend the use of our tracks, such operations are a key part of how we run the railway and as such contribute to our income that allows the heritage side of the operation to function. Joining the consortium to seek funding for a feasibility study therefore is a natural development for the railway”.
29th June 2020 - Dereham Station Carpark used as Covid-19 Testing Station
The Mid-Norfolk Railway is this week hosting a Covid-19 testing station in the car park of Dereham Station.
The station car park is being used for a mobile testing station, which is being operated by a military team from The British Army's 7 Regiment, Royal Logistics Corps on behalf of the NHS. This follows a request from the NHS and partner agencies.
The Covid-19 testing station started operating on Monday and will be open again as required for members of the public who have booked tests via the NHS Covid-19 testing website.
Charlie Robinson, Chairman of the Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust said: “When we were approached by the NHS to use our carpark at the station for this testing facility, we were delighted to be able to assist the local community in this small way, during the Covid-19 pandemic. The railway is, we believe, an important part of the local community and we want to play our full part. This will include helping to regenerate the local economy as we all look to the future”.
The Mid-Norfolk Railway is currently working with partners and external organisations towards reopening the railway to the public in a safe manner, taking into account the Government's Covid-19 guidance. The aim is for an August reopening.
The General Manager of the Mid-Norfolk Railway, George Saville said: “We were very pleased, when the call came to be able to assist the NHS at this time. It might only be in a small way, but it is important to all of us at the railway that we can play our part. Currently as part of our reopening plans, we have had a very successful ticket sale launch for the Polar Express and this will also show the railway is playing its part in helping to revive the local economy at this difficult time for everyone.”
1st June 2020 - Yaxham Road Level Crossing Replacement Success
The Mid-Norfolk Railway is pleased to announce the completion of the Yaxham Road level crossing renewal scheme on time and on budget. The road was re-opened to traffic before the midnight deadline. The railway will be announcing the full story shortly but we would like to immediately thank Sonic Rail Services, TXM and all our contractors and our volunteers for helping us with this major project.
6th May 2020 - Vandalism in Dereham Yarm
The Mid-Norfolk Railway is extremely sad that over the weekend of May 1st - 4th, we have suffered an extensive vandalism attack at Dereham. Extensive damage has been done to a number of vehicles, including our recently restored and painted brake coach which the railway has spent nearly £45K restoring and our Blue DMU. Everyone at the railway is shocked and devastated by this, it couldn't have come at a worse time when the current crisis means the railway has no revenue income
Norfolk Police would like to hear from anyone who may have seen anything suspicious, or holds CCTV footage from the area at the time. Anyone with information should contact PC Sophie Webster at Dereham Police Station on 101, quoting crime reference number 36/29074/20. Alternatively contact Crimestoppers 100% anonymously on 0800 555111.
If you would like to donate to help the charity at these tough times, visit our website our Coronavirus Closure Fund page.
Members of the media/press are always welcome to contact us
MNR Press Officer: Peter Singlehurst
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