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.
“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.” Richard Cullen, the MNR’s volunteer County School Stationmaster, who is overseeing the restoration of this part of the railway.
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.
“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.” Richard Cullen, MNR County School Stationmaster
At this time, due to Covid-19, the museum remains closed to the public, but it is planned to reopen in Spring 2021.