New chairman of north Norfolk’s Poppy Line set to steam ahead with business plans

The new chief of north Norfolk's popular Poppy Line is steaming ahead with plans to expand its appeal to tourists and rail experts alike.

Clive Morris has taken over as chairman of the heritage service and now wants to grow the business and educational side of the line, as well as introduce more events for visitors.

He wants to expand engineering services so staff can restore and work on locos from other lines, as a way of boosting business in a tough economic climate, do more work with schools and even run trains into new areas.

The 75-year-old, who has previously served as deputy chairman, said: 'We have got some exciting things coming up this year but we have got to think about what we want to do next, like run services to Cromer for example especially our dining services, which are a roaring success.

'And one of the things we'd like to do is expand our engineering services. We have got excellent facilities and staff and we want to develop that.

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'We're not sure what the current climate's going to do to us but you have always got to have as many strings to your bow as possible.'

Another strand Mr Morris wants to build on is the line's successful educational schemes, which runs workshops and events for children of all ages, including 'evacuation' days and Victorian activities. He thought it was important children knew about the history of rail travel as 'they're the volunteers of the future'.

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Mr Morris, from Guildford, Surrey, first became interested in the Poppy Line when he lived in Potters Bar and commuted into London.

The coaches he travelled on were the predecessors of the quad articulated carriages, which now run on the north Norfolk line and after visiting Sheringham to see them in action he began getting involved, and even helped with their restoration.

And his work with the historic line is now coming full circle as he and other volunteers are now restoring the very carriages that transported him to work in the capital every day.

Once the articulated sets are up and running the Poppy Line will be able to transport people on coaches spanning the history of modern rail travel.

Mr Morris said: 'We will be asking the public for their memories of travelling on these as well, not only as commuters but also to go to school; in those days there wasn't the same motorcar usage.'

On top of these plans the line's 2012 calendar is also filling up with new events and attractions, including a visit from a replica of 'Puffing Billy' - one of the world's oldest locomotives - and spooky services over Halloween.

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