AS we did not have a great distance to travel today, we left a little latter as the Mid Norfolk Railway had its first train departing at 1030. We arrived at 0920 to be met by the Station Master as he thought that we, in a large 36-seater coach were the ones who had booked a special tour, and we were early and they were not prepared. However, relief shone all over his face when I said that we were the A Team and the B Team would arrive latter, as they did at 1020, which was causing more angst as all trains must leave on time.
So, being early we were well treated by a very nice group of volunteers and chatted away while drinking our first cuppa of the day. It is an interesting history associated with this railway. Normally, Heritage Lines take over a line that the Govt Railway deems not required, but in this case the Mid Norfolk Railway was pushed aside by the Great Eastern Railway as early as 1869 or so. MNR then was resurrected in 1969 following many railway closures as part of the Beeching Report. This report was intended to be the first stage in the rail network's contraction and as a result, some lines not recommended to remain were closed. 2,363 stations and 8,000 kilometres of railway line was mooted for closure affecting 67, 00 railway jobs. Protests resulted in the saving of some stations and lines and some short lines have been preserved as heritage railways. MNR was one Heritage railway that re acquired what it had lost in the past and has slowly redeveloped 35 kilometres of return track and working to include more.
Stations and sheds and carriages and Locomotives have been refurbished and now in use. Another aspect that allowed the line to continue was the Ministry of Defence that used the line to move its tanks around the country. The work goes on but COVID knocked on the door and caused a major stoppage to their revenue, However, they have been fighting back and the Christmas Train last year, being run over 2 months had over 100,000 travelers. Bookings for next Christmas have already reached 5,000. We had a good run on the line and returned to say goodbye to the staff.
From Dereham Station in Norfolk we set off on the long haul back to London where tomorrow morning the tour comes to an end, and we had dinner together to discuss the tour and the many highlights we shared together. The group were very supportive of each other, and a great camaraderie had established as we covered many Counties across England chasing the Heritage Steam train locations that have survived. In the morning we will all go our own way, some back home, another staying in London and some starting on the Bomber Command Tour where again we will have Michael our driver ensuring that we meet all our aims in time as he always has done.