The COVID-19 pandemic has brought difficult times for heritage railways across the UK, with lines closed and no fare income likely for some months. The North Norfolk Railway (NNR) – which announced its closure last week – is no different.
But, this week a support package by the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway Society’s trustees has given the railway a much-needed lifeline.
Chairman Neil Sharpe, speaking early last week, said: “The Society Trustees have spent a lot of time over the past few days thinking how we can assist the Railway in the current emergency and have devised a programme of support which we have discussed with senior managers of the railway and which the NNR Board have now taken.”
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The package aims to provide the NNR with much needed cash during the closure period and thereafter in the form of new business through projects and grants to assist with the recovery process.
The most significant element of this is the purchase of popular Hunslet 0-6-0ST locomotive No. 1982, Ring Haw, which has been a long time resident on the line and is soon due for overhaul.
By purchasing the locomotive the society is not only offering a substantial lifeline to the railway’s cashflow but also taking over responsibility for the cost of the locomotive’s next overhaul which it hopes to bring forward to provide new business for NNR.
What is Ring Haw?
Ring Haw was built by the Hunslet Engine Company in 1940 to work at the Nassington Ironstone Quarries near Peterborough which opened that year. The locomotive was used to haul iron ore tipplers out of the quarries, usually three to four at a time, to the dispatch sidings to make up longer trains ready to be picked up and taken away on the mainline.
Here it worked with fellow preserved Hunslet locomotive (Works No 1953 Jacks Green). Both locomotives continued to work at the quarry until 1970 when it closed and were therefore the last steam locomotives to work in ironstone quarries in England. Ring Haw was gifted to the Railway in 1970. The locomotive returned to steam after its last overhaul in September 2014
Ring Haw has enjoyed great popularity both on the NNR and during visits to other heritage lines including the Nene Valley in 2015, where it was reunited with ‘Jacks Green’, and most recently, until January 2020, to the Spa Valley Railway.
Mr Sharpe says: “The purchase of Ring Haw fits squarely with the Society’s mission to advance public education on East Anglian railways through the acquisition, restoration, preservation and exhibition of locomotives, rolling stock and other railway artefacts, and the injection of cash from the sale will undoubtedly provide a source of income to the railway at this time of emergency.”
As a second element, the Society has also agreed to buy the Grove Allen H404 crane, christened ‘Horace’, dating from around 1971, which came to the Railway when it acquired the steam boiler business, Chatham Steam Ltd, in 2013.
The crane, with a lifting capacity of up to 40 tons, is an invaluable piece of equipment for the Railway, and saves a considerable amount of money for each lift it undertakes compared with the cost of hiring in a crane. It is currently in need of repair and overhaul which the Society has agreed to finance once Weybourne works recommences operation.
The society has also offered NNR the use of its locomotives for reduced steaming fees, once passenger services resume later this year, bringing forward projects involving Society locomotives and grants for work on NNR owned assets once Weybourne Works and infrastructure teams are back in operation.
“We feel confident that members will be behind us in offering this package to help secure the future of the North Norfolk Railway during and beyond the emergency and we have asked for their ongoing support in continuing membership and donations to the Society for us to put to such good use.”
“We look forward to the end of the restrictions, a return to normality and to the reopening of the North Norfolk Railway we all love.”
North Norfolk Railway Chairman, Steve Allen, says: “I would like to thank the society for this speedy assistance at our time of need. Not only will this help the NNR get through the current crisis it also means that ‘Ring Haw’ is assured a safe future and secured for future use on the NNR. This will also see ‘Ring Haw’ overhauled more speedily than had been planned.”Enjoy more Heritage Railway reading in the four-weekly magazine. Click here to subscribe.