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31207 at Connington Fen, 5th May 1998 on an engineer's train. (Steve Allen)

31207 at Connington Fen, 5th May 1998 on an engineer's train. (Steve Allen)

After arriving at the NNR, 31207 was repainted into Railfreight livery. Pictured departing Weybourne. (Steve Allen)

After arriving at the NNR, 31207 was repainted into Railfreight livery. Pictured departing Weybourne. (Steve Allen)

Pictured in Weybourne works whilst being reliveried into BR Green. (The Loco Club)

Pictured in Weybourne works whilst being reliveried into BR Green. (The Loco Club)

D5631 ex-works, complete with bufferbeam valances in February 2012. (The Loco Club)

D5631 ex-works, complete with bufferbeam valances in February 2012. (The Loco Club)

Gallery & Technical       History      

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If there is one class of ex-BR mainline diesel motive power that is synonymous with the former M&GN system, then surely it must be the Brush Class 31, or Brush Type B (later Type 2) as it was when it was introduced in the 1950s. Some of the first members of the class started to work on the M&GN even before the 1959 closure. Post closure they became familiar sights on the Melton Goods, through passenger workings to Cromer Beach (The Broadsman), the Norwich Sand trains, the Lenwade Concrete Beam trains, the Rudham Grain trains, the Eye Brick trains from Murrow and so on. Members of the class were also involved in the delivery of much of the railway’s stock to Sheringham in the late '60s and early '70s. Even as late as 1980 one of the class hauled the Gresley Buffet and TK to Cromer.

The class was developed as a result of the British Transport Commission’s famous 1955 Modernization Plan. Brush of Loughborough adopted its A1A- A1A design for Ceylon Railways leading to the prototype D5500, the first of a batch of twenty, being delivered in October 1957. Further locomotives followed and the BTC were obviously impressed with the class and further orders were placed for what became the “production examples”, eventually totalling 243.

The Society’s Class 31 was delivered new from Brush Traction at Loughborough (works no. 231) to Norwich shed 32A on 7th of July 1960 as Class 30 D5631. Here it joined our B12 and J15 which were already allocated there. There is every chance that the diesel worked passenger services over the M&GN line to Melton and freights to Norwich City whilst at 32A. After just four months at Norwich, it moved to Ipswich (32B) in November 1960. Here the locomotive remained until the following June when transferred back to Norwich. D5631 did have a claim to fame whilst at Norwich. On the last day of the 1961 summer timetable in East Anglia, which was also the last day of steam hauled express passenger workings in the area, an early morning Norwich to London service failed near Diss behind Britannia 70006 ‘Robert Burns’ and D5631 was sent to the rescue.

D5631 stayed in Norfolk for slightly longer this time, not moving again until September 1962 when it moved to March depot (31B) where it obviously liked the Fenland air as the locomotive remained there for the next ten and a half years. In November 1966, it was re-engined with its original Mirrlees engine being replaced with an English Electric type - at this point it was reclassified from a Class 30 to Class 31. It was during D5631’s time here that it is actually recorded as working over the remnants of the M&GN mainline. On the 17th of February 1968 it worked the East Rudham grain train that included a Norfolk Railway Society party riding in extra brake vans. Five years later, on the 3rd of May 1973 it is reported to have double-headed a March to Colchester PW train with Class 25 D7614. 

In May 1973 it moved to London  and entered the big time at Finsbury Park on the ECML, home to the legendary Deltics. From here it would have worked over the Metropolitan Widened lines into Moorgate with the Mk1 suburbans now on the NNR. Other duties would have included King’s Cross pilot and ECS duties, and  ‘stoppers’ up the GN mainline to Peterborough. In March 1974 it was renumbered as 31207. In May 1979 the locomotive moved on to York for the summer season before going back home to the Fens at March in the September of that year.

After another five years at March, 31207’s next tour of duty took it north to Immingham on Humberside in January 1984. In November 1984 its steam heating boiler was isolated. From here she took the short trip to Doncaster works in May 1986 for ‘life-extension’ refurbishment, during which its boiler was removed, it was dual-braked, valances were removed, fitted with a headlight and painted in Railfreight Grey. Whilst it was at Immingham, BR underwent sectorisation, and 31207 was allocated to the FPCI (Immingham Petroleum) pool and received Petroleum sector livery.

Having now tired of the East Coast, the next move, in February 1992, took it to Crewe diesel depot to join the LWDC pool (Trainload Freight West) but just over two years later in May 1994 it moved north again, to Wigan Springs Branch depot where it was allocated to the LWNC pool (Nuclear Traffic) from here the locomotive could have worked to almost anywhere in the country on nuclear flask work. At this time it was repainted from Railfreight Grey into the Civil Engineers’ yellow and grey ‘Dutch’ livery that it carried when it arrived at the NNR. In July 1994 it was assigned as part of the fleet of new freight company Transrail. 

In November 1996 it was back to Crewe again in the RCJC pool (North West Infrastructure) but this time owned by EWS who took over Transrail. In July 1997 it moved on again, this time to Bescot as part of the LWNW pool (Class 31s). Put into store at Bescot in February 1999 the locomotive was soon back in action, receiving a new set of bogies in April 2000. After this 31207 moved back to London, being based at Stratford. It lived out its final days working out of Stratford on Civil Engineers duties with its sister locos 31110 (the first class 31 delivered new to Norwich), 31420 and 31466. 31207 received its final exam at Stratford on 8th of February 2001, and was withdrawn from service on 10th having worked the 19.45 0Z31 from Stratford to Old Oak Common with 31110 and 31466. These three locos were the last operational 31s on EWS' books and were withdrawn as surplus to requirements.

The loco then languished at Old Oak Common amongst several other withdrawn classmates. Interestingly, it was left remarkably intact, whilst the other locos in the line were heavily robbed of spares. Having been offered by tender, the loco was purchased by the M&GN Society from EWS on 29th January 2003, leaving EWS metals at 21:45 on Tuesday 10th February, arriving on NNR metals at 11:00 on Thursday 12th February.

31207 required little work to get it working again. All missing items (including a drivers door) had been secured from a scrap class 31 at T.J.Thompson's yard in Stockton, and all bar one item had already been fitted. Following an examination of the power unit, the fitting of the missing AWS relay unit, and charging the batteries, the loco was back in action! Not bad for three years out of use!

It ran for a short time in the tatty Civil Engineer's livery until the Junior Club assisted with its repaint into Railfreight Grey in 2005. Early in 2011 it was withdrawn for major structural repairs to the Holt end cab and the works included the reinstatement of the nose end doors and front skirts added. The loco is now painted in BR Green with white stripes and no yellow panel as it was when first delivered new to Norwich in 1960.

In 2012, the opportunity arose to purchase a large quantity of spare parts for the engine and throughout 2013 a number of projects took place to increase the reliability of the engine. In July of that year a new set of batteries were delivered and fitted to the loco, along with the refurbishment of two destination blinds in August.

Original article by Steve Allen, updated February 2014.

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The Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway Society is the supporting charity of (and major shareholder in) the North Norfolk Railway, which operates a 5¼ mile heritage railway from Sheringham to Holt.

The Society actively works to preserve, display and operate a wide range of historical artefacts which include four steam locomotives and many unique carriages and wagons.

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