The Mid-Norfolk Railway is pleased to announce that Mr. Graham Watts will be taking over as Chairman of The Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust after the AGM in September. Graham is currently the Commercial Manager but will relinquish that post on assuming the Chairmanship of the MNRPT.
Graham’s working life saw him rise to director at Cambridge City Council managing a wide range of public services.
He will also be joined on the Trust Council by two new Co-Opted members Andy Parsons who is a career railwayman that has risen to senior management positions with Railway infrastructure companies after first starting as a BR Apprentice. Andy is joined by Mark Radda a cooperate branding specialist with huge experience with major companies, charities and heritage organisations.
Charlie Robinson the outgoing Chairman said “I am extremely pleased that Graham is taking on the role of Chairman. During my tenure the railway has developed significantly, most notably with the continuing development and success of Polar Express. “Also during my time, the rolling stock has taken a significant step forward. The purchase of the Mk 3 stock and the refurbishment of a number of Mk 1 and 2 coaches means that our visitors travel in some of the best coaches to be found on a heritage railway. I will be remaining on the Trust Council and look forward to supporting Graham in his new role”.
The announcement comes as the railway’s ‘Back on Track’ Appeal that is helping to fund the refurbishment of Crownthorpe Bridge and associated track work that will allow trains to once again run to Wymondham from Dereham is approaching £30,000 raised in public donations. Donation to the Appeal can be made at midnorfolkrailway.co.uk/emergencyappeal
Meanwhile a number of infrastructure projects have made progress or been completed. The former Spooner Row Signal Box, after first being moved to the railway has now been completely refurbished with the roof and walls all receiving attention and the windows replaced. This work has been made possible due to the generosity of donors to the previous appeal which surpassed the target and raised just over £20,000 and is now closed.
The railway’s in house S&T Department has now begun the resignalling of this part of the line having installed the original lever frame and the first planned signal to be planted being a former LNER Concrete post signal that was recovered from Somerleyton Swing Bridge. As a working signal box it has become the Wymondham Church Lane Signal Box ready to begin a new phase of its working life.
In addition to the Wymondham Signal Box refurbishment, the work at Crownthorpe Bridge is now being planned despite more funding still being needed. Also the level crossing at Garvestone has been replaced and Greens Road in Dereham will be replaced. Both of these projects have long been known that they needed doing and have been previously planned for this year.
The work at Garvestone was due to Sonic Rail Services donating and installing, a Pollysafe Segmental Crossing deck type crossing, for which the railway is extremely grateful. Now the work is complete it removes another long term speed restriction on the line. This work was essential as it also removed a temporary weight restriction and ensures that this year’s Polar Express can be run. The work at Greens Road is planned for the end of September and will be complete in time for Polar trains beginning in November.
While work continues on refurbishing railway infrastructure, the Traction and Rolling stock department has also been busy with the result that the Mk 1 FK M13225 has now entered service after the most extensive restoration that the railway has ever attempted. The work funded by a Heritage Fund Covid recovery grant has seen the interior completely refurbished, both ends rebuilt and new paintwork.
Also back in service is the Mk 1 TSO that has returned to its original Eastern Region number of E 4702. This coach is an important addition to the railway as it began its BR service on the Norwich Liverpool Street service. Both coaches join the ever growing BR Maroon liveried Vacuum braked set.
Supporting the railway’s passenger service, the Dereham Station Buffet and Tearoom is now being run by a new catering manager who comes to the railway after previously running the hugely popular Norwich Catholic Cathedral tea room. The Buffet and Tea room now serve a new menu of locally sourced food and drinks many of which are made on site from locally sourced ingredients.
The running season after a delayed start in addition to the return of the popular Breckland Fryer and Afternoon Tea service, has seen the return of a Special Gin tasting experience train known as the Black Shuck Express. Also returning for the first time since Covid the railway will be running Murder Mystery trains again.
Speaking in his current role as the railway’s Commercial Manager Graham Watts said: “I am delighted that we have been able to reintroduce these services with our local partners. It is an important development as it continues our policy of seeking to work with local partners to develop our services. “As a charity it is important we have a wide variety of services to offer the public that will generate the revenue that will be used to achieve the charity’s objectives of both refurbishing and preserving the railway and East Anglian Railway heritage”.
Tickets for the all special trains must be pre booked through the Mid-Norfolk Railway’s website at www.midnorfolkrailway.co.uk