Dream rums out of steam

RICHARD BATSON Sick staff and railway engines have hit plans to run a “steam dream” trio of locomotives at a Norfolk tourist attraction over the New Year weekend.

RICHARD BATSON

Sick staff and railway engines have hit plans to run a “steam dream” trio of locomotives at a Norfolk tourist attraction over the New Year weekend.

The North Norfolk Railway was aiming for the first time to run three engines with connections to the former Great Eastern Railway.

But there will be just two, as its flagship B12 express is still in the workshops, where long-term staff illness has left it still awaiting coupling rods, springs and boiler testing which could take until May.

The railway was also tackling “a catalogue of other disasters”, said general manager Geoff Gowing.

A 2-8-0 American austerity engine had blown its superheater elements, while the Battle of Britain-class engine 92 Squadron was out of action with firebox problems.

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“On top of that just before Christmas our coal loader digger broke down, which meant we had to fuel the locos by hand,” he added.

Despite the hiccups, the Poppy Line railway was looking forward to a successful steam gala and another busy year in 2007.

The gala would feature the N7 tank engine which used to run commuter trains out of London, and the J15 loco which hauled light goods around East Anglia.

A highlight of the coming year was the return of the railway's unique “quad” set of coaches, after a near-£500,000 rebuild funded by a £341,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

In the 1920s, the natural wood-finish carriages helped ferry millions of London commuters, but had sat in the railway's sidings until the cash came through to secure their salvation. They have been away since the spring of 2003 and are expected back in March. Other projects include finishing new carriage sheds at High Kelling, which would be the quads' home, and a £40,000 appeal to buy jacks to lift locos off their wheels.

Mr Gowing apologised that steam dream was not happ-ening but said: “That's the joy of dealing with the vagaries of old steam engines.”

Visit the website at www.nnrailway.co.uk

The Mid-Norfolk Railway saw another rise in passenger numbers on its Santa Specials.

Preparations are under way for the Mince Pie Specials on New Year's Day.

Trains leave Dereham at 11am and 2pm and Wymondham Abbey Station at 2.45pm. Bookings can be made on 01362 851723.