North Norfolk Railway Diesel Gala

10th/11th June 2000

A review of one of the days by Andrew Elms.

For a student, waking for a 9am call isn't easy, especially if it's the day after your exams and you were seriously celebrating down the pub...

As advertised in Traction the gala was to feature classes 03, 04, 08, 25, 27 and 37, as well as a diesel railbus and class 117. Although cloudy in Cambridge, a similar effect to North Wales was noticed- the nearer the coast, the sunnier it was- excellent! Arrival in Sheringham was just in time to see the 27 and 37, D5386 + D6732, depart double headed, and a full carpark. Having acquired gen sheets it was a mad dash by car to Holt for a Rover ticket (6.50, great value, considering the mileage we had) and the diagram back.

The double header eventually arrived and a front compartment was bagged whilst the 27 and then 37 ran round- interesting manoeuvre when the headshunt can only accommodate one loco. After the Tractor ran round, the 27 dropped back on front of it and we were away, slightly askew from schedule, but who cared? Most of the thrash seemed to come from the Tractor, but then it was nearer to my straining eardrums. Worst of all for those present on the train , I put my shorts on >:-O

When we arrived in Sheringham, Big Diesel #3, the Chromatic Blue class 25 dropped on the back, for a non-stop run to Holt and back. As a "young un" (who needs to get out more) this was my first time with such a class- they aren't at all bad. Now was also the time to sample the restored Gresley Buffet coach, the sort that formed the "Beer Trains" to Cambridge in the days of steam with art deco interior design and "Joint Line" beer on tap. Also present were some bashers recounting 37 428 on the North Wales coast- I would have been there, were it not for exams...

Back in Sheringham...for a raid on the buffet and a puzzled gaze at the timetable, as trains were now running around 20-30ish minutes late. The only possible move was Fowler "Half Cab" kettle 41708. I would have preferred the 03 or one of the 04's, but there were plenty of "Normals" on the train, who would probably gone home if there wasn't a steam engine to ride behind. Anyway, the 1F was quite rateable on the five coach rake and the thrash smelt different. One of the 04's seemed to lack a few components anyway (namely an engine...).

At Weybourne the David Brown Editor of Traction magazine, was spotted. I wondered why he was here, given the previous months Traction gave the date of the gala as the next weekend (although didn't tell him this, he's bigger than me!). Things soon turned pear shaped. We "leapt" over the bridge at Weybourne, ready for the 27 back to Sherigham for a DMU drag with the same locomotive. Once settled into a compartment in the 3 coach rake of non- corridor suburban stock, the 27 tried and failed to leave. Could this be the curse of David Brown that struck the "Practical Joker" railtour earlier this year? No, just a failed vacuum cylinder in the centre coach, which gave the 27 an opportunity for some shunting, and more time to spend in the station bookshop, and enjoy the sun glinting around this gorgeous little station.

Over the hills come a deep growling noise and a large green object approached from Sheringham. The quick thinking NNR had altered the roster, so the DMU drag used the 37 instead of the Sulzer, which was still shunting in Weybourne headshunt. David Brown looked delighted and took the front coach of the two car units, while I opted for the rear view, along with a few other 37 bashers. The driver gave D6732 what is politely known as "a right fistful" and us were well away. The conversation soon turned to the Worth Valley diesel gala at the end of July, rumoured to feature electro-diesel 73906, along with some DRS traction. Sounds interesting!!

Several fistfuls later, we all changed ends at Holt, and it was back again, less thrash downhill but enough to stirr the blood. After what seemed like an age waiting outside Sheringham it was another mad run between platforms for one of the highlights- the German diesel railbus. We took one of the few remaining seats in the back- right over the axle. Every rail joint made the unit bounce- much more quirky than a Pacer or 153!

We terminated at Kelling Heath Halt, between Weybourne and Holt, for the driver to change ends and bounced back down to Weybourne. Here I realised the best place for a photo was the road bridge west of the station. As soon as I set up the perfect shot the sun drifted into cloud and the next train (class 25, non-stop) was growling around the hills. A rather bemused pack of horse riders appeared from up the road, so I spent the cloud-ridden minutes chatting up the (rather fit) girl leading them. Luckily enough, the sun came out; click; the 25 entered the station; click; then mad run back down the road, through the station and into the DRB just before it left. Phew.

Back at base in Sheringham it was a mad run between platforms for the 117 with no big green monster at the front or quite as many passengers. Another leap over the bridge at Weybourne produced the 25 back, finally scratching the 3 coach rake (with the failed suburban coach replaced by a Mk1 SO). When not flailing it was time for a game of "guess the renamed station" using an old "Great Northern Suburban" map on the wall. Thus engrossed we let the 27 drop on the back end for Holt and back. Holt station was vaguely reminiscent of the West Highland line- Baby Sulzer running round three marks 1's, single platform and the sun glinting through the pine trees. On the return the driver paused at Kelling Heath again, started off, and stopped again- possibly to let all those who wanted to get off alight from the non-corridor stock? Though I saw no-one get on or off the train.

At Weybourne there was plenty of time for setting up a photo of the 27 and the next diagram (a 25+37 double header) before a scramble for a front seat. These two had no problems getting up the 1 in 60 outside Weybourne and thrashed along nicely. All too soon we arrived in Holt, the sun hiding behind aforementioned pine trees and preventing photographs of the run around.

The finale beckoned on arrival in Sheringham. It was another run to the other platform, this time to photograph the stock release with Sheringham pilot engine, class 08 D3935. I had wanted to stay on for Gronk-scratching (!) but half the coupling rods were missing on one side, so could have been a bit dodgy. The 25 and 37 were released; click, click; the 08 shunted the stock back into the platform; click and the Tractor hooked on ready for departure. On the other platform from us . Time for another run...

A few days later I sampled 37415 on the Llandudno branch, but have to admit D6732 on five coaches was more rateable in the evening sunshine, the NNR driver applying regular fistfuls of thrash to keep speed up nicely yet again . The sea was still blue, there were few clouds in the sky and I had a mixture of sunburn and diesel clag on my face. The last sight of the green monster was as it ran round at Holt. Instead of the EWS "softly softly" technique at Llandudno, twin exhausts erupted into the air as D6732 disappeared from view.

Thanks to the NNR, despite the short line and small line up of locos the day was amazing.

59104 "Great Elms"

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