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A Year of Progress at the Mid-Norfolk Railway

As the summer running season at the Mid-Norfolk Railway ends and preparations for this years Polar Express event continues, the railway is pleased to highlight the progress made this year despite some set backs.

Crownthorpe Bridge

The work to replace the life expired waybeams that carry the rails across Crownthorpe Bridge will, together with associated track work replacement that is needed to run to Wymondham, be completed before the next summer’s running season begins. This work has been partially funded due to the generosity of supporters who have donated over £40000 so far. This sum together with some funding from general railway funds and through the efforts of the Head of Permanent Way (P-Way) to source materials means the project can now proceed at a lower cost than first anticipated. Donations however will still be gratefully accepted via the railway's Back on Track appeal.

Garvestone Level Crossing

In what has been an exceptionally busy year for the Permanent Way Department, before this work can commence however, the department has completed the relaying of the level crossing at Garvestone. This work together with other essential work has been carried out to ensure that trains could continue to run to Thuxton and to ensure the line is ready for Polar Express.

Dereham Platform Extension & Polar Express Contract

The Permanent Way Department has also extended Platform 2/3 at Dereham, this has been an aspiration for some years, but with the signing of a contract that gives the MNR a franchise to run 'The Polar Express Train Ride' for the next seven years the work has now been been undertaken. This work removes the costs of the temporary scaffolding platform that can now be dispensed with and therefore improves the profit margin for this key funding activity for the railway.

Annual General Meeting 2023

Another sign of progress this year has been the very successful Annual General Meeting that was held during September. At the meeting, attended by one of the largest turnouts of members for many years, a secret ballot election was held to fill the six Trust Council places that required filling. The ballot was caused by nine members standing.

The result of the ballot saw six new members elected and means that with the new members from last year including incoming Chairman, Graham Watts, the majority of the Trust Council will have changed in the 12-month period between AGMs.

Mr Watts said: “I take this as a very encouraging sign that members have been prepared to stand and are bringing their professional experience in a wide range of areas to the railway. This is essential if the Trust Council is to develop the business and achieve the Charitable Aims of The Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust.”

Charlie Robinson the outgoing Chairman of the MNRPT said: “As I stand down from the chairmanship, I would like to thank the Trustees who have worked with me during my chairmanship for their hard work. Some, such as John Hull and Barry Woodgett are the pioneers who have been involved since the very beginning and have been long-standing members of the Trust Council.

“As they now step down as Trustees, it is for the new Trustees and those that remain to now ensure we take the railway forward as a sustainable business.”

Events and Coaches

Other development this year have seen the successful reintroduction of events such as the Beer Festival and the addition of new events such as the Dino Trains. To facilitate these and other future services, a new rolling stock plan has been announced that has meant the railway has bought a Mk 1 duel braked BFK coach E14023.

This new coach, it is planned, will after some minor refurbishment including a complete repaint, enter service next year and will mean the railway will be able to create two rakes of vacuum braked heritage coaches. This will allow regular two train operations. In due course one set of five coaches will remain in British Railways Maroon livery and the other of four will carry the British Rail Blue Grey livery of the 1970s.

Work on E14023 has already begun as the repaint of FK E13447 into a matching Maroon livery with the rest of the MNR Mk1 and 2 operational fleet has been completed.

These two rakes of coaches plus the railways MK 3 white liveried coaches that are used for The Polar Express Train Ride will therefore allow several coaches that are currently out of service and are surplus to future plans to be disposed of and the money raised invested back into the operational fleet.

Tony Dunford the MNR Head of Traction and Rolling Stock Restoration said: “The purchase of the brake coach is significant, the costs and time involved in acquiring it and then bringing it into service are significantly less than the refurbishment of a coach we already own.

“This in turn brings forward the day when we will have the two MK1/2 Vacuum braked sets in service and means the railway will have much greater flexibility in the future to plan and run our services.”

Paul Mobbs Legacy

The railway has also this year received as a gift from the estate of the late Paul Mobbs, class 03 diesel shunter D2063/03063. This together with a goods wagon and a Conflat A that also formed part of the bequest, now join the railway’s fleet. The 03 once brought into service will become the railway primary shunter for Dereham. Mr Mobbs was a long time member of the railway who contributed in may ways.

Signalling Update

The work of the Signal and Telegraph Department continues at the railway to maintain and install new signalling along the line from Dereham south to Wymondham continues to make good progress. Dereham and Thuxton are approaching completion and the focus will now move to Wymondham, where the former Spooner Row Signal Box, now named Wymondham Church Lane, is now nearing the end of its refurbishment ready for handover to the S&T Dept to begin the installation of the signalling equipment to control this part of the railway.

Change Management Working Group

Behind the scenes the work of the Change Management Working Group continues having been given a remit to review, update and introduce new policies and procedures for the better governance of the railway.

Operations Manager

As part of this work the Trust Council has appointed Mark Collinson, as the new full-time Operations Manager. Mr Collinson rejoins the railway after working elsewhere in the Heritage Railway industry and will take on the day-to-day management of the railway operations.

Struggles, progress and looking forward

Summing up the year Graham Watts, the new Chairman of the MNRPT, said: “Of course not running to Wymondham this year has been disappointing, but despite that the railway is making progress and the key objective of the new Trust Council is to stabilise the business, to ensure we have the policies, procedures and good governance practices in place to run and develop the business so that we are financially stable and working towards our charitable aims.

Everyone is looking forward to The Polar Express Train Ride and then it is our intention to run a full programme of events next year for the first time since 2019”.

Events for 2024

Our website has now been updated for the 2024 calendar. Dining and event pages will be updated as we work through the winter period. A further update will be given when these become available.

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Members of the press are always welcome to contact
MNR Press Officer: Peter Singlehurst

E-mail:   Telephone: 07963935410
Mid-Norfolk Railway, Station Road, Dereham, Norfolk, NR19 1DF

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