The Mid Norfolk Railway has enjoyed its biggest and most successful Polar Express season ever this year, as it announces significant development behind the scenes. Included in the developments is a restructuring of the railway’s management for 2023.
This year’s Polar Express ran with a ten coach train consisting of ex Greater Anglia Mk3 coaches with well over 40,000 passengers enjoying the full Polar Express experience. The experience began with a pre-journey stage show, before headed off to the North Pole. On the way the passengers were entertained by the Conductor and Chefs and enjoyed hot chocolate and cookies, before receiving their first gift of Christmas from Santa Claus himself.
Charlie Robinson the Chairman of the Mid Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust said: The Polar Express is the culmination of our running season and I would like to thank all of the team who have worked so hard to put on the show. To see the enjoyment and smiles on the faces of everyone makes it all worth while.”
Paul Andrew Goldsmith, the MNR’s Theatrical director said: “This was the biggest year of the production yet, and we are delighted by the fantastic cast team, the volunteers and staff of the MNR, for the incredible efforts made by all to make it such a magical and memorable experience for our audience”.
While the attention has been on the Polar Express, work has continued behind the scenes. At both ends of the line there have been developments. At County School the strong team of working members continue to make improvements and prepare the ground for the future return of trains to the station. At the same time the now resident North Norfolk Model Engineering Society continue to expand their own running line. This does in fact mean that trains have now returned to the station, just not full size yet.
At the Wymondham end of the line, 17 miles from County School, the former Spooner Row Signal Box is undergoing refurbishment before the railway’s S&T Department can begin the resignalling of this end of the line. The S&T Department however has not been idle and indeed this year has been extremely busy with the signalling at both Thuxton and Dereham nearing completion. The day is therefore not far away when the MNR will have three fully working signal boxes controlling the line from Wymondham to Dereham.
In the shed at Dereham work has continued all year on Mk1 FCK M 13225. This coach once complete will have had the most extensive rebuilt that the railway has ever attempted and all the hard work of the railways C&W Dept is now approaching fruition. Meanwhile several of the resident owners group have also been making steady progress with class 31 31255, Class 118, 51412 and Class 50, 50019 Ramillies all making progress this year.
Possibly the most significant, but least obvious development that is ongoing at the MNR is a complete restructuring of the MNR’s management. The Railway’s Trust Council has recognised that as the railway has grown and expanded into a multi million pound business, with several hundred staff, some paid, but the majority volunteers, that the railway had outgrown its existing management structure.
A process therefore has started that will continue into the new year to create a new management structure. The aim is this new structure will be better able to take the railway forward, building on the past 25 years and looking forward to the next 25 years.
As part of this process and as previously announced, the Railway’s General Manager position has been abolished and in its place a new range of posts are being created some paid and some volunteer that will carry out all of the previous duties of the GM role.
Charlie Robinson speaking about the changes said: “I would like to take this opportunity to announce that I will be stepping down as Chairman at the next AGM. I will remain a Trust Council member and will now focus on the organisation of future Polar Expresses and the railway’s ‘Wedding Specials’, both of which will be more than enough to keep me extremely busy”.
Details of the fully restructured management of the Mid Norfolk Railway will be announced once the process and implementation is complete.