In raw terms of light or major overhauls produced, we have fallen right in between the previous two years, with six vehicles entering service after such work (compared with five in 2015 and seven in 2016). We have done quite well to achieve this, as in 2016 we enjoyed the completion of several major overhauls, the effort for which was in reality spread over several years. With more projects being started from scratch this year, to produce six would seem perfectly respectable!
The first project to be completed was the fourth and final of the major Suburban Project "Gold standard" overhauls, Composite Lavatory E43041, which left us in March having been in works for almost two years. This represented a major step change for the department, as we were now no longer working on any suburbans for the first time in over five years. It also opened the opportunity to go "full tilt" on our normal, less glamorous, operating stock. E43041 was finished in time for the official Suburban 4 launch day which was held in April (more on that day below).
Also in March, Phase 1 of our new 4-stage dining train exterior refurbishment was completed, the "Silver overhaul" of Restaurant Buffet E1969. This coach had given us some nasty surprises in the form of bad corrosion around the windows and doors, which was unexpected as the coach had already been through a Gold overhaul relatively recently. Additional pressure included the buffet car being essential to the operation of the dining train, so overruns were not acceptable on this occasion. Thankfully the work was completed in time for the "main season" commencing in April.
During May, Class 101 DMU M56352 emerged from the works having received "Bronze" exterior repairs and repaint. This was the first "extra" of the year for us i.e. projects which were added in to the original programme at shorter notice than normal. This was done due to the exterior appearance of this high mileage vehicle becoming unacceptable for the railway to continue with.
July saw the only wagon of the year to be added to the operating fleet, Royal Navy wagon 269, which received repairs and a repaint comparable to a Bronze overhaul. Other wagons were maintained and painted over the year, but this one is singled out as it was returned to service having previously been a "works/store" vehicle. It was added to the freight set complete with false Torpedo load, being a flat wagon it would have looked too empty without a load on!
Also in July the department produced the second "extra" of the year. Covered Carriage Truck M94125 was looking rather shabby, and much like the DMU, being a high mileage and often visible vehicle, it was felt an exterior spruce up was required. Bronze repairs and a repaint followed and it was returned to service just in time for the busy summer season trains for which its use is essential.
August saw our final vehicle return to the rails. Tourist Second Open and true "bread and butter" coach, E4236, had been receiving "Silver" overhaul work and rejoined the fleet part way through the summer holidays.
Vehicles in the workshops which received restoration work during the year but aren’t yet finished include Mark 1 Brake Corridor Composite E21224 (Gold), Mark 1 Tourist Second Open M4843 (Silver), Mark 1 Covered Carriage Truck E94464 (Bronze), Southern Railway Parcels Van S1359S (Bronze) a replacement underframe for M&GN number 129 and Great Eastern Railway Brake Third 853 (Gold).
We also undertook plenty of smaller projects throughout the year. In January, the customary annual examinations had to be completed to allow the operational stock to operate into the year ahead.
In February, we bid our farewells to Roger Williams who had been part of the C&W staff for over 10 years but had this year decided to commence his retirement. His replacement was Phil Utting, who had already been working with us on the Suburban 4 project for some time on a Heritage Lottery Funded temporary contract, but was henceforth able to continue as a permanent staff member.
March saw the Class 03 shunter released, which had sneaked into the works with us for a few months to be repainted into BR Blue. We also started the major restoration of BCK E21224 which had been waiting its turn very patiently in Bridge Road sheds for several years.
During April, the stand out event was of course the official launch of the Suburban 4 project, which nicely drew to a close approximately five years of hard work. Back in the workshops, steam loco WD 90775 was repainted, and our upholstery shop was also used as a backdrop to take some publicity photos for the Cromer Pier Pavilion's production of “Made in Dagenham”.
In May we had our old stores coach inside the workshops for the first time in a long while so that it could be emptied onto our new Mezzanine floor level, which required a lot of lifting, shifting and sorting! The freight train also saw some improvement works with the 16T mineral wagon and the conflat (which carries the Birdseye container) receiving re-varnishing.
In June, we accommodated the National Railway Museum's DMU powercar as it was required to be lifted for bogie repairs. The M&GN Dray, which normally resides at Holt, was also repainted.
July saw more freight stock attended to, with some vehicles on static display at Holt repainted. These included the interesting Colmans mustard van. Two more vehicles, resident at Weybourne in the cattle dock, were also repainted. These were PMV 1476 and an LMS box van.
The month of August left a hole in the form of the departure of our foreman and carpenter Michael Biss who moved onto a job in the building trade after working with us for three years. We also undertook emergency vacuum pipe repairs on Mark 1 SK E25189 after it started leaking at an unacceptable level.
Outside work started to become more limited by the end of September, however Esso tanker 1982, on static display at Holt, was repainted nonetheless.
October was a busy month for distractions, with two Mark 1 TSO coaches prepared to be loaned to the Churnet Valley Railway for the winter, of course they needed more work than we'd first estimated! We also started the re-upholstery of the trailer car in the National Railway Museum's DMU set.
In November, the final vehicle of the freight train to receive attention for the year was finished: Fruit D Van W92097. This had only been brought in for emptying of storage contents, but the time undercover was taken advantage of with some body repairs, a revarnish and some patch painting work.
Finally, December saw the unwanted distraction of cleaning graffiti off one of our stored coaches, as well as some more positive work on PMV 1359 which is being prepared cosmetically for the S&T department who will be having it at Sheringham as a workshop over the next year or so.
So I think it's fair to say that 2017 has measured up well to the equally action packed 2016 and 2015 that the Blog has chronicled so far. These pages themselves are now three years old, how time flies! Readership has grown as well which is excellent! 2015 saw 26,400 visits, which increased to 48,700 during 2016, and I'm pleased to report a further increase to 63,400 for 2017. Although numbers aren't everything, the "success" of online Blogs can be notoriously hard to measure so this increase in page "hits" would lead me to suggest that they are getting more popular which of course makes it worth continuing with! I would like to finish by thanking all of those who have shared with me kind words of encouragement concerning this Blog, be it through online comments or to myself in person. This feedback makes sitting down each week to type it worthwhile! So let us all look forward to 2018 - all being well another year that we can share together watching the North Norfolk's Carriage & Wagon Department stumble forwards!