North Norfolk’s Poppy Line set to become centre of engineering excellence
- Credit: copyright: Archant 2013
It is well known for its heritage rides through the picturesque north Norfolk countryside aboard one of its much-loved locos.
But now the North Norfolk Railway (NNR) is set to become a hub of heavy engineering – providing all the mechanical services needed to keep historic engines on track – after acquiring the expertise, machines and order book of a loco restoration firm.
The heritage railway has struck a deal worth £100,000 with Chatham Steam Ltd, which will see the loco repair firm move its operations from Kent to the Poppy Line's engineering base at Weybourne.
Staff at the railway's loco sheds currently maintain and repair resident locos overhauling their chassis, wheels and keeping the carriages in tip top condition.
But with the addition of Chatham's expertise and equipment, mechanics will be able to take care of the whole engine and its 'crucial' component – the boiler.
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Colin Borg, NNR marketing director, said: 'The most important bit of the loco is the boiler, that has to be made and serviced by very highly qualified mechanics.
'We have not been able to do boiler work at our works but we have wanted to for a long time and we have wanted to expand our engineering.
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'We're very excited. It's a huge boost for our railway's reputation, certainly amongst the enthusiasts.
'It's great to bring that business into Norfolk again and I think it will be great for the customers.'
Despite paying out the six-figure sum, the deal is expected to save the railway money as engines will no longer need to be sent away for boiler repairs.
And the newly-expanded mechanical department – operating under the name NNR Engineering – will not just work on Poppy Line locos, but will be a service available to heritage railways across the UK and even abroad.
'The idea is it will become a centre of engineering excellence where other lines will send their engines. It's a one-stop shop for people who want their engines repaired,' Mr Borg said. 'And it's going to put us on the map as far as our fellow railways are concerned because hopefully we're going to be doing a lot of business with them. Certainly we intend to expand and do more work than Chatham Steam are currently.'
As well as bringing the heavy metal element of steam back into north Norfolk, NNR Engineering is expected to create new jobs as well as apprenticeships.
Mr Borg said it was hoped 'at least' one apprentice would be working at Weybourne within a year and two permanent positions would be created by the end of 2014.
The loco sheds are now being 'reconfigured' to accommodate the new machinery and until they are ready NNR Engineering will trade from Chatham's base in Maidstone.