Is mystery find at heritage railway from 1915 crash?
- Credit: Picture: MID NORFOLK RAILWAY
A mystery find has been made at a heritage railway in mid Norfolk during routine maintenance work at one of its stations.
A piece of buried metal was discovered at the Mid Norfolk Railway’s (MNR) County School Station on a permissive footpath running alongside the track bed.
Richard Cullen, the MNR’s volunteer stationmaster, who is overseeing the restoration of this part of the railway, said: “As some of our volunteers were carrying out routine maintenance of the railway’s 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.”
The plate is part of the arrangement on steam engines where the firemen shovels coal into the firebox, which in turn provides the heat to the boiler.
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Though the mystery remained as to how this became buried by the side of the line near the station.
County School Station was originally built by the Great Eastern Railway in 1886 and 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.
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But the station never had an engine shed or any facilities to service or repair steam locomotives.
However, during 1915 there was a collision of two Great Eastern Railway steam trains close to the station site, which saw both locomotives damaged.
It happened when a freight train travelling from Wroxham collided with a passenger train from Fakenham.
The collision happened at slow speed but resulted in both engines and some of the wagons and coaches being damaged, but thankfully there were no injuries.
It is believed that the plate could have been from that accident.
Mr Cullen added: “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.”
A damaged buffer, believed to be from the tender of one of the locomotives, is currently on display at the station’s museum after it was previously discovered at the site.
The deflector plate, once conservation work is completed, will be added to the growing museum at County School Station.
The crash of January 20, 1915
On January 20, 1915, at 11.46am, the Y14 class steam engine number 629 was hauling 12 empty and four loaded wagons.
It ran into a six coach passenger train, which was being hauled by a T26 class locomotive number 446.
The accident happened on the scissor crossing close to the County School signal box.
Nobody was injured in the crash, which took place at low speed, although both locomotives were damaged along with other vehicles in both trains.
In the subsequent inquiry, the responsibility for the crash was placed on the driver of the goods train for failing to observe that his signals were at danger.
Today, County School Station serves as a visitor centre with a small museum and includes a display about the station and Watt’s Naval School, which gave it its unusual name.
Due to coronavirus, the museum is currently closed to the public but plans to reopen in Spring 2021.
More information can be found at the website .