Whilst things are relatively quiet before another season starts, I thought I should answer a question that occasionally crops up, mainly from keen enthusiasts.Why we have such a wide variety of items on display and from such a wide variety of railway companies? The below is the Museum’s Mission Statement and should go some way to explaining why we collect and display what we do:
The role of the museum is to enhance the quality of life for the local community and visitors by promoting understanding of the contribution of the Midland & Great Northern Railway, its predecessors and its successors to the social history of the North Norfolk Coast. This will be achieved by collecting, recording, conserving, interpreting and making accessible, both artifacts and documents relating to the railways of East Anglia, especially that of the M&GN.
If you think about it, the M&GN period covered just 43 years of the history of our 130-year old railway. Yes, it produced some lasting and prized artifacts, but our collections also cover the earliest companies, the M&GN and BR. Obviously the M&GN Society and the NNR then came on the scene, with the Society having a history to date of some 58 years.
That explains the Museum’s eclectic collections, but it also helps us to put on displays that give a fuller picture, which is a great attraction for our visitors. Whilst we do have an excellent collection of M&GN memorabilia, along with our fellow organisation, the M&GN Circle, I fear that much M&GN stuff is in private hands and consequently is rarely seen by the general public - and achieves high prices when anything does come to market. We do not have large amounts of cash to attend auctions and purchase everything M&GN. Suffice it to say we must evaluate each possibility, only bidding when something really suitable appears on the market. Thus it was that we went to an auction and secured the ‘Golden Spike’ (which was driven in to finally link Yarmouth and Lynn on 3rd April 1883). Of items in private hands that have been auctioned recently I must mention a single line alloy tablet for the section between Roughton Road Junction and Overstrand, which realized £1,000 in January 2018! Luckily we have a similar, donated, item so had little interest in that auction item.
Talking of single line tablets brings me to the machinery used to issue them. We have on, loan from the NNR, 2 modified Tyers No.1 instruments. These were used on the Sheringham to Holt section when Weybourne was taken out of use as a block station in the early 1960s. The instruments were recently intended to run the Weybourne to Holt section when the new signalbox was installed at the NNR’s Holt station in the 2000s, but it was decided they would not provide enough flexibility for the new station layout. One was refurbished and a Sheringham to Holt tablet was actually found inside, from the last days of BR passenger running on the line. With the recent donation of the Tyers No. 6 instruments from the Long Sutton to Sutton Bridge Dock Junction section, we have brought the story up to date, as the NNR still uses No 6 instruments to control the Sheringham to Weybourne section.
There you have it. It is rather like the chicken and the egg question, our museum (and collections) exist to demonstrate our history to as wide a variety of visitors as possible – and such visitors continue to ensure that we are capable of carrying on demonstrating that amazing history.