Boost to keep railway on track

Just Regional
Apr 2, 2020 3 mins read

The North Norfolk Railway has been given a welcome boost to help it get over the current crisis and look to the future.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought difficult times for all heritage railways, with lines closed and no fare income likely for some months, and the North Norfolk Railway, which announced its closure last week, is no different.

One of of East Anglia’s top tourist attractions, the 5¼ mile heritage railway from Sheringham to Holt normally carries around 160,000 passengers a year, but it also has the benefit of a supporting charity, the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway Society, whose trustees moved quickly to offer a much-needed support package. 

Society chairman Neil Sharpe said: “The society trustees have spent a lot of time over the past few days thinking how we can assist the railway in the current emergency and have devised a programme of support which we have discussed with senior managers of the railway and which the NNR Board have now taken.”

The package aims to provide the NNR with much needed cash during the closure period and thereafter stimulus in the form of new business through projects and grants to assist with the recovery process. 

The most significant element of this is the purchase of the popular Hunslet 0-6-0ST locomotive No. 1982, Ring Haw, which has been a long-time resident on the line and is shortly due for overhaul. In this way, the society is offering a substantial lifeline to the railway’s cashflow and also taking over responsibility for the cost of the locomotive’s next overhaul, which it hopes to bring forward to provide new business for the railway.    

The locomotive Ring Haw, which has been bought to help the NNR.

Ring Haw was built by the Hunslet Engine Company in 1940 to work at the Nassington Ironstone Quarries, near Peterborough, which opened that year. It was used to haul iron ore tipplers out of the quarries, usually three to four at a time, to the dispatch sidings to make up longer trains ready to be picked up and taken away on the mainline. Here it worked with fellow preserved Hunslet locomotive (Works No 1953 Jacks Green). Both locomotives continued to work at the quarry until 1970 when it closed and were therefore the last steam locomotives to work in ironstone quarries in England. Ring Haw was gifted to the Railway in 1970. The locomotive returned to steam after its last overhaul in September 2014

The society has also agreed to buy the Grove Allen H404 crane, christened Horace, which came to the railway when it acquired the steam boiler business, Chatham Steam Ltd, in 2013. The crane, with a lifting capacity of up to 40 tons, is an invaluable piece of equipment for the railway. It is currently in need of repair and overhaul which the society has agreed to finance once Weybourne works recommence operation.

The society has also offered the railway the use of its locomotives for reduced steaming fees, once passenger services resume later this year, bringing forward projects involving society locomotives and grants for work on NNR owned assets once Weybourne works and infrastructure teams are back in operation.   

NNR chairman Steve Allen said: “I would like to thank the society for this speedy assistance at our time of need. Not only will this help the NNR get through the current crisis it also means that Ring Haw is assured a safe future and secured for future use on the NNR. This will also see Ring Haw overhauled more speedily than had been planned.”

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