July 25, 2021
Iconic East Anglian locomotive comes back to life
An iconic diesel locomotive, a member of a class – the Brush 2 or Class 31 - once a common sight on passenger and freight trains on the main lines and many branch lines which criss-crossed Norfolk and East Anglia pre-Beeching, returned to service on the North Norfolk Railway on July 24 at the Railway’s Mixed Traction Weekend.
The Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway Society, the owners, were delighted to see return following major overhaul of its Class 31 locomotive D5631, meaning that this really useful mixed traffic diesel is now available again for service on the North Norfolk Railway.
Such excitement was once reserved for the return of steam locomotives, but today the first generation diesels which replaced them are old enough to attract enthusiasts and those wishing to relive and share memories of the 1950/60s.
D5631 has been out of service now for 4½ years. Withdrawn from traffic at the close of the 2016 season, it went into the Weybourne workshops of North Norfolk Railway Engineering in early January 2017. The work undertaken by NNRE staff and volunteers has been considerable. Initially seen as focussing on the badly corroded bodywork, something which plagued the class as a whole, it has also seen the replacement of No 4-traction motor and extensive electrical work.
To increase operational usefulness on a railway with steam-heated stock, the trustees decided to re-install a steam boiler with which the Class 31s were equipped when built. These were removed from many in the 1970s/80s during major overhauls following the demise of steam-heated carriages. 5631 lost her boiler in a major overhaul at Doncaster in 1986.
Besides fitting the new water tank, steam generator, associated fittings, removing the concrete stability weight installed when the boiler equipment was removed, the bodyside steps to access the water tank have been reinstated, bringing it very close to its original form.
5631 was outshopped in BR Green with bodyside stripes and small yellow front panels. This was the livery from the 1960s which members indicated in a poll that they wished the locomotive to carry after the overhaul.
Prior to departure of the 13:00 charter train for members, shareholders and the media, , there was a short ceremony to mark the completion of the overhaul project with the locomotive being handed back to its owners. The NNR’s Chief Mechanical Engineer, Keith Ashford, handed over the locomotive to Society Chairman, Neil Sharpe, who presented the keys to the driver, ready for departure on the return trip to Holt
Mr Ashford said that “the overhauled 31 demonstrates the quality of work achieved by NNR Engineering. This is a very special project with much work being undertaken in the Weybourne workshops during the 16 months of Covid restrictions demanded by government.”
“The loco looks superb. It has certainly been worth the wait. Society members are proud, impressed and delighted to see D5631 back in service.” said M&GN Society chairman, Neil Sharpe.
“I should like to thank NNR Engineering for a job well done.”
“The overhaul has been something of a journey of discovery with many surprises en route! The degree of corrosion was greater than we had envisaged, and of course other areas needing attention were identified during the disassembly and overhaul process.”
The Brush 2s have a close association with East Anglia, where the majority began life. D5631 itself was delivered new to Norwich (32A) in July 1960, being the final class 31 allocated new to Norwich.
During a ‘BR service life’ of 41 years D5631 was allocated to nine depots on four of BR’s regions: Norwich, Ipswich, March, Finsbury Park (London) and Immingham [ER], York [NE], Crewe, Springs Branch (Wigan) and Bescot (Walsall) [LMR], and Old Oak Common (London) [WR].
D5631/31207 was initially purchased privately from English, Welsh and Scottish Railways [EWS] on 29th January 2004, arriving at Sheringham on February 12th. It was purchased by the Midland & Great Northern Society in March 2005.
D5631 was undoubtedly the star of the show during the NNR Mixed Traction Weekend, when she hauled special services, including the private charter.
Photographs: [approved to use]
Steve Allen : the formal ‘ex-works’ portrait photograph taken in Weybourne on Wednesday July 21
Martin Bonnington: D5631 at the head of the charter train – comprising 5 “blood and custard” Mark 1s, departing Weybourne on its return to Sheringham.
Peter Mayne: D5631 on train in Sheringham station
Peter Mayne: Neil Sharpe handing over the keys to the driver, Rod Eastman before departure of the 13:00hys Charter.
Peter Mayne: Keith Ashford and members of the Weybourne team responsible for the overhaul in front of D5631.
Note to editors
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. Founded in October 1959 after the extensive closure of the M&GN system, the Society works to preserve, display and operate a wide range of historical artefacts which includes five steam locomotives – LNER B12 8572, GER J15/Y14 564, WD 90775, Hunslet 0-6-0ST Ring Haw and industrial tank loco Wissington– diesel locos Class 08 D3935 and Class 31 diesel D5631, Met Cam diesel multiple unit 51228/56062 and many unique carriages and wagons
and many unique carriages and wagons
Objective, Vision and Mission Statement
The principle objective of the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway Society (the Society) is to advance public education by the acquisition, restoration, preservation and exhibition of locomotives, rolling stock and other railway artefacts and, in particular, those of the former Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway (M&GNJR) and its successor companies. Its continued vision for the foreseeable future is to focus on geographical area of the M&GNJR and other aspects of East Anglian railway history.
Covid support package
In 2020 following the imposition of “lockdown” the Society provided a support package to assist the North Norfolk Railway in managing a route through the period of closure. This comprised purchase of the Class 101 diesel multiple unit, Hunslet steam locomotive Ring Haw and the Grove Allen H404 crane, christened ‘Horace’. The Society also offered the Railway use of its locomotives for reduced fees, once passenger services resumed, brought forward projects involving Society locomotives to be undertaken by NNR Engineering and offered grants for work on NNR owned assets once Weybourne Works and infrastructure teams returned to operation.
The North Norfolk Railway is one of East Anglia’s top tourist attractions, operating a 5¼ mile heritage railway from Sheringham to Holt which normally carries circa 160,000 passengers a year.