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!