Sunday, 9 January 2011

A Warm Winter?

King Haakon arrives at Wansford, 2 January.

It’s been quite some time since I posted anything here, which has been due to an array of difficulties that arose in the traditional manner all at the same time and which are taking some considerable time to sort out.  On top of this, December was an extremely hectic month both on and off the railway, so something had to give.  And that something was me.  But new year, new start and all that – so what’s new?

Well, in the run up to Christmas I worked on the Santa Specials on the NVR.  I was sent to First Class in the Wagon-Lits, renowned as the hardest task on the Santa’s.  It is an extremely hectic job, as five trains run each day and on each service, passengers are served with food and drink, sweets, presents, a visit from Santa, mince pies, coffee and tea – it’s more like working on the Gatwick – Paris shuttle.  When the train returns to Wansford, there is a window of 25 minutes to turn the train round ready for the next load, so it really is something of a production line.  So why volunteer?  Simple – working in first class means that there is unlimited access to mince pies and coffee.  No contest.

The trains finish on Christmas Eve, allowing us all to go and enjoy the traditional falling-outs and skirmishes of the festive season, which this year put Apocalypse Now into the shade, so I was pleased when New Year’s Day came round and I could return to the railway for a bit of sanity as passenger services resumed on the Winter Warmers.

Most of the home fleet is currently out of action with swine flu or whatever illness is in vogue at the moment, so the NVR has hired in the Norwegian 2-6-0 King Haakon from Bressingham to fill the gap.  This unusual loco is required as the braking system is compatible with the Wagon-Lits coaches currently in operation on the line for the next couple of weeks.  Whilst it is willing, and has cracking steam heat, it struggles to haul anything much over three coaches so for New Year the train was top and tailed with one of our trusty class 14 diesels. 

Behind every successful NVR steaming is a ...?

The Christmas break had done King Haakon about as much good as it had done me, and the loco failed before the first service train departed from Wansford.  Eventually the class 14 departed alone, with a very chilly Winter Warmer service!  By the time I got back to Wansford I was looking very much like Scott of The Antarctic and dived straight into the café for several coffees.  Still, the engineering bods had been busy during our Siberian adventure and repaired King Haakon so that the rest of the day was much more to my liking.  I even removed one or two jumpers and a scarf at one point.  It’s good to be back.

Edited to try and create a photo that looks as 
though it could have been taken in 1919 when the loco was first built.

This weekend I was back at the railway to help out on private charter on Saturday.  The event was a surprise 70th birthday party with around 60 guests who hired out a whole train for the day.  The Wagon-Lits rake was booked, as it offers luxurious accommodation for the at-seat meal service that would be served on board during the two full-length non-stop trips up and down the line.  

The day began with shed tours that were very popular if a tad on the cold side before everyone boarded the train.  The atmosphere on board was excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed the day.  At the run-rounds I was able to nip out for photos of the rostered loco, the Polish tank 5485, in glorious winter sunshine – my favourite lighting condition.

Next weekend is Haakon’s last one at the NVR, so all being well I’m hoping to pop down and get some photos.

By the way, if anyone out there saw the Christmas Day showing of Murder on The Orient Express on ITV; well much of the exterior shots were filmed at the NVR and superimposed onto various backgrounds.  Personally, I thought that this remake was totally pointless even though it was pleasing to see our Wagon-Lit coaches in action behind the BR Standard 5 loco - how this loco came to be in Istanbul is a bigger mystery than the actual murder!

More playing around to create a moody 
Orient Express scene on New Year's Day.


  1. Good to see you back! Interesting post...oh, how I hate christmas, so glad all the crap is over. Sorry yours was more than usually stressful.
    That King Haakon is a delightful little loco! I have some distant memory having a boiler explosion back in the eighties?? If so, and I could well be wrong, it's looking very chipper now.
    Hope the NVR steam fleet recovers soon and here's to another good year of blogging!

  2. I had no idea about the accident but my findings prompted a whole new article! Thanks for mentioning it, made an absorbing exercise. Glad to be back at the blogging and hoping for plenty of NVR and related stories to tell over the coming year!


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