News, Social Media & Press
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used the MNR to stable part of their new fleet of trains and also as an initial storage location for old stock as it is withdrawn.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.”
All aboard the Mid-Norfolk Railway The Polar Express™ Train Ride this Christmas, as the MNR has begun selling tickets for its new and improved Polar Express experience, as you travel to the North Pole to meet Father Christmas.
This year, the cast for the Polar Express will again be overseen by MNR Theatrical Director Paul Andrew Goldsmith of the Twisted Reality Theatre. Also new for this year, the MNR is pleased to announce that passengers will be journeying on the newly acquired Mark 3 coaches that have been purchased for the railway from leading railway rolling stock leasing company Porterbrook.
Charlie Robinson, the Chairman of the Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust said: “This is an important day for the railway, as the revenue we receive from our Polar Express experience, forms a vital part of the railway’s income that ultimately pays for the railway. The acquisition of the coaches has come at a difficult time, but it was an opportunity we could not miss for the long-term future of the railway.”
This year’s Polar Express will begin at Dereham station where passengers will be transported into the magical world of the Polar Express, before being invited aboard the train by the Conductor. On the way look out for the Hobo and the Chefs amongst others before you get to see the “Big Man” himself.
Tickets are now on sale from Mid Norfolk Railway at www.midnorfolkthepolarexpressride.com
1st June 2020 - Railway Closure Update & Reopening Plans
The railway remains closed to the public until at least August. Anyone who has booked in June or July for services will be contacted. The railway is working on our Reopening Plan in accordance with regulations from the Government and ORR. We are asking for your feedback to help us with our plans at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSesxAAeQvXCbUm-g_LfYPVl_Uqk0mxkqo7vO6OjwxivUUOZJw/viewform?usp=send_form - Thank you for your support.
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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