From new trains and paintings to user-friendly compartments, the Mid Norfolk Railway will look almost unrecognizable when passengers return for the grand reopening next month.
The heritage railway announced plans to reopen on June 23, subject to government restrictions.
MNR will hold a grand opening ceremony on June 26-27 which will include the launch of the refurbished Maroon Mk1 and 2 coaches carried by the Standard 4 Tank 80078 steam engine.
The weekend will also see the first use of the older Greater Anglia Mk3 coaches, which will be towed by the newly refurbished Class 47, the 47596 Aldeburgh Festival in its new form of D1933 in a two-tone green BR livery.
Trains are currently expected to depart from Dereham and will run nonstop to Wymondham Abbey Halt, where passengers can exit the train to observe the engine running, but must then rejoin for the return trip to Dereham.
Charlie Robinson, chairman of the Mid Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust which owns and operates the railway, said he was eager to greet passengers after 15 “very frustrating” months.
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He added: “We had several false starts where we were hoping the lockdown would be lifted.
“Obviously with all the social distancing and everything else we’ve been pretty limited in what we can do, but we’ve been able to stay the course and do the maintenance to make sure it’s. always conforms to standards.
“The first difference will be the appearance of a lot of the coaches, four or five coaches have been completely repainted on the outside and now they look great.”
After the railroad reopens, there will be a reduced program of special events, including a tour of the famous Flying Scotsman steam engine, the 1940s festival, the MNR’s Ales by Rails event and the infamous Polar Express, which will have 72 trains running this Christmas.
Customers who booked to board the 2020 train have now received an email asking if they would like their ticket to be transferred to 2021, refunded, or presented as a donation.
But with the coronavirus pandemic, the railroad has had to adapt before hosting events such as the Polar Express.
“At the moment, it looks like we will be selling compartments,” Robinson said. “Families can come and reserve a whole compartment to be in their own social bubble and not have to mix households.
“We are working on the premise that there will be a minimum of social distancing at the time and we will adapt if necessary.
“Everyone at the railway is anxious to resume serving our passengers, it has obviously been a difficult time for everyone, but the railway has survived and we believe our varied program of events will be enjoyed by all. and how best to support the railroad. is to come and enjoy a journey through the beautiful Norfolk countryside. “
MNR will also host a regular program of Cream Tea Trains, Breckland Fryer Fish and Chip Trains and Jazz Nights and the Dereham Station Buffet will also open the first Wednesday of the month for the return of popular Biker Nights. .
Full details of all events and ticketing arrangements as well as seasonal schedules will appear on the Mid Norfolk Railway website soon. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, all tickets for Mid-Norfolk Railway services will initially only be available by pre-booking using the recently updated Mid-Norfolk Railway website.
Hopes for the future
Over the next few years, the Mid-Norfolk Railway hopes to continue to maintain what it has achieved in terms of locomotives, tracks and railway buildings.
Along with this, they are also hoping to establish an East Anglian Railway Heritage Center at Dereham Station to give visitors vital information about the history of the railway line.
MNR also hopes to restore the line to the county school station which serves the villages of North Elmham and Guist.
Finally, they hope to expand the station at Wymondham Abbey to create a permanent facility in the city.
The team hopes to bring a permanent sign box and create a two-sided platform after the crossing.
Places to see on the Mid-Norfolk Railway
1. Traditional Victorian Dereham Station and Wharf
2. Wildlife – Deer and owls are seen throughout the year and the fishing lakes at Whinbugh and Thuxton are ideal habitat for swans and geese.
3. The picturesque Wymondham Abbey
4. The restored stations of Yaxham, Thuxton, Hardingham and Kimberley
5. Train turn at Wymondham