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For our Autumn visit to the East Coast this year, we are delighted to be able to offer two days of steam action featuring the classic lines of former Somerset & Dorset Railway '7F' 2-8-0 No.53809 on passenger stock. The loco carries its later livery of unlined black with the later British Railways crest which is how many will remember them in their latter days of BR service.
Today, we are using 53809 at the head of maroon passenger stock. The day will start from Sheringham station at 08.30 and we expect the cafe to be open for those who are not staying at a bed and breakfast - or those who are, and fancy a hot drink and an additional little something to keep them going for the day!
We are visiting as late in the year as we dare to give ourselves the best possible chance of capturing the stunning glints and back-lighting opportunities that are so abundant on the North Norfolk Railway at this time of the year. On this occasion, we will not have an extended lunch break at Weybourne because we wish to make the fullest possible use of the daylight - and hopefully glorious sunlight - available to us in November. As night falls, we will hold a night shoot at Weybourne station, another location which lends itself to evocative steam scenes of days past.
No.53809 is one of only two surviving members of the class in preservation. Only eleven locos were built in two batches, the first six at Derby in 1914 with smaller boilers and the further batch of five by Robert Stephenson & Company at Doncaster in 1925 which entered service sporting larger boilers. The locos were gradually standardised uniformly with smaller boilers, in which condition they lasted until withdrawal which occurred between 1959 and 1964. The last to be withdrawn was 53807 in September 1964. Both surviving locomotives went to Woodham Brothers Scrapyard at Barry in South Wales from where they were rescued and put back into working order. No.53809 steamed first in preservation in March 1980 and returned to the main line to run several excursion trains and to appear at the Rainhill Trials 150 Celebrations. It most recently returned to steam in 2016 and is on an extended hire to the North Norfolk Railway.
For those thinking that there are no connections between the NNR and the SDJR, think again! Both the SDJR and the Midland & Great Northern Railway systems used Whitaker tablet exchange apparatus which allowed handover speeds with moving trains of up to forty miles per hour; an example of this equipment can be seen just beyond the road over-bridge at Weybourne station.
We would like to extend our grateful thanks to the ever-enthusiastic North Norfolk Railway and to the owners of 53809 for facilitating this charter. Those who have been before will know the great potential that the line offers and we hope that you will join us in Norfolk for the first of our two days with this popular locomotive.