History of the Society
With all efforts focused on opening the NNR, the Society’s two flagship locomotives took rather a back seat. Both were non-operational but following surveys it was decided to overhaul the J15 first as a smaller, simpler and (the Society hoped) a less expensive task. In this the Society were aided by the former Norwich Shedmaster DW “Bill” Harvey whose expertise and guidance were instrumental in securing the return to traffic of the J15 in 1977.
The Society is not just about locomotives though. As British Rail modernised and gradually the last vestiges of the steam railway era disappeared, various items of historic rolling stock were acquired. Typically these may not have been items that the North Norfolk Railway needed to run its public service but were essential ingredients to the railway story such as goods wagons and wooden bodied coaches.
Over the years a great number of historical records and artefacts were acquired both about the M&GN but also East Anglian railways in general. These were displayed initially in Sheringham station buildings and subsequently a coach but neither were entirely satisfactory. Armed with such a reservoir of historical material, the Society was keen to find a permanent exhibition site which would not only house the collection but also tell the story of the M&GN and the important role it played in the economic development of the area it operated in.
During the 1980s the NNR grew and expanded culminating in the opening in 1989 of the Kelling extension which took the line to the outskirts of Holt providing a journey of just over five miles from Sheringham. Beyond this achievement however it is fair to say that during the 1980s both the NNR and the M&GN Society progressed at a somewhat more pedestrian pace than either would have wished. Later arrivals on the railway preservation scene became quickly established, expanded and matured at a rate of knots that neither the NNR or the Society could match.