Long-term Mid-Norfolk Railway resident former Great Western Railway 'Toad' Brake Van 17438 has just undergone a refurbishment. The brake van is privately owned but like most heritage railways the Mid-Norfolk Railway, plays host to a number of privately-owned rolling stock items.
The refurbishment saw the complete rebuild of the wooden body, with new oak timbers. This was then followed by a full-repaint into GWR Black livery, instead of the rather tired and faded livery it previously wore. The interior is set up as accommodation currently and is used by the owners, James and Chris Francis-Beck, when volunteering at the railway.
James said: “since buying the brake van we have been looking to both restore and make the it both comfortable but also a useful asset. This we are confident we have achieved so far, but there is more work to be done”.
Prior to coming to the MNR the van had a large amount of mechanical attention and is therefore mechanically sound. The next stage in the refurbishment, but at a later date is to replace the metal veranda side sheets
James is however keen that the brake van is also used on the railway and as one of the few brake vans that is fitted with vacuum brakes, it can be used to carry passengers. This suggests a possible Brake van special might be in the offing at the MNR. The Brake van is already in regular use by the railway for weed killing trains on the line with the large veranda making it particularly suitable.
The brake van was built 1941 for use on special perishable trains between Weymouth and Marazion in Cornwall. Later it was used by BR as a mess van during the rebuild of Liverpool Street station.