A Busy Day at the Bure Valley Railway

Mark Timothy at Aylsham

Recently, I joined the Norfolk and Suffolk Narrow Gauge Modellers for a day out on the Bure Valley Railway. It was a busy and enjoyable day.

First, we went for a ride on the railway. In the picture above No. 9 ‘Mark Timothy’ is waiting to leave Aylsham station. We spent the whole journey to Wroxham having a good natter about all aspects of narrow gauge trains, which was great fun.

At Wroxham the driver and fireman turned Mark Timothy on the turntable and we all took photos.


Rebuilt to resemble a Kitson from the Leek and Manifold Railway she’s a really good looking loco. 003

Ready for the return journey.


Following an excellent ‘sausage, chips and beans’ in the Whistlestop Café at Aylsham station we got the chance to tour the workshops. Who could resist…

Andrew Barnes, the Managing Director of the BVR, conducted the tour. Here’s an overall view of the workshops. No. 6 ‘Blickling Hall’, a half size replica of an Indian Railway ‘ZB’ class of locomotive, is currently in the ‘shop undergoing a major overhaul. Work is progressing well and she is due to have her first steam test in November 2016.


Here’s a view of her cab interior.


‘Blickling Hall’ had her last overhaul from 2001 to 2004 when she was given new cylinders, smoke deflectors and a multi jet ‘Lempour exhaust’. The Bure Valley team have put her original cylinders on display in the workshop.


Also in the workshop at the time of our visit were a couple of coach bogies. The railway has adopted this design as the ‘standard’ for all their passenger vehicles. Note the air powered brake system (not vacuum).


There are no CAD operated machines – it’s ‘IT free’ engineering at the Bure Valley :-). Here’s the wheel lathe that is used for turning all wagon, passenger and loco wheels. It’s just big enough for the loco wheels.


It was great to see some of the detail behind the running of the railway. Here are the Carriage and Wagon Reports… a couple of pit inspections pending, I see.


Each loco in the roster has a blackboard with a log of all key maintenance information.


From the workshop we went to the engine shed. Most of the locos were under dust sheets.

Here’s No. 7 ‘Spitfire’. Like her sister ‘Blickling Hall’ she’s loosely based on the Indian Railway ‘ZB’ class of locomotive. These are substantial locos, 28 feet (8.5m) long, 4 feet 3 inches (1.3m) wide and 5 feet 7 inches (1.7m) high with a working weight of 12.5 tons. That is a massive 15 inch (38cm) gauge loco. I’d love to ride on the footplate!


Although she was originally built in 1994, ‘Spitfire’ carries a plate dated 2001.


No. 1 ‘Wroxham Broad’ originally built as a steam-outline petrol-hydraulic she was converted to steam in 1992. She’s finished in the very attractive ‘Caledonian Sky Blue’.  (Unfortunately my photo hasn’t captured the colour very well).


Below is No 8, ‘John of Gaunt’. She is named after a Lord of the Manor of Aylsham who was the son of King Richard III and father of Henry IV. Under the covers she resembles the ‘Vale of Rheidol Railway’ locos and is just over 18 feet (5.5m) long.

The Bure Valley Railway isn’t a place for small locos. They like their locos to be able to pull a train of 12 coaches, with up to 240 passengers, and a generator coach, up a 1 in 100 gradient and have power to spare (!).


Having said that, here’s the smallest loco in the shed, a very well restored Lister.


Originally 2ft gauge she was used on the peat railways in Somerset. When the railway acquired her she was already converted to 15 inch gauge but had a wooden ‘tram’ style body. The BVR team are converting her back to her original appearance.


Nice work.


Also, in the shed coach 31 one of 6 wheelchair accessible coaches undergoing renovation.


This lovely open coach has a classic continental feel. Built in Dusseldorf in 1937, I wonder if the railway use her on regular services. I’d love a ride in this.


Original makers plate.


From the old to the new. The BVR are making a new generator wagon. A work in progress.


The tour continued out in the yard. A nice hopper wagon.


The inspection pit.


The permanent way coach, complete with it’s own toilet.


A very attractive Hunslet. No. 4 is used as the Aylsham Station shunter and to operate the railway’s flail machine. Built in 1954 for a 2 foot gauge line, she has been converted to 15 inch gauge and substantially refurbished. Now, she is powered by a Peugeot 205 car engine and has a hydraulic drive. I do like the colour of this loco.


Inside the cab.


If you are partial to a permanent way ‘scooter’ you will love this. Unfortunately, I know nothing about it. It looks great though.


The Bure Valley Railway track was originally laid with shingle as ballast. This isn’t ideal as it is not particularly stable. The railway has started a program to replace the shingle with granite ballast. The first section to be replaced was at Wroxham station, which was reopened in April 2016. Another quarter of a mile of track will be relaid in February 2017. I will take the railway around 15 years to lift and relay all the track and replace all the shingle ballast.


The final part of the day was the opportunity to discuss and play with model trains. The BVR let us use a meeting room on one of the platforms and the Norfolk and Suffolk Narrow Gauge members brought along locos, stock and layouts for a ‘modelling afternoon’.

Graham Watling brought his latest 009 layout ‘Ellerbank’. It has a river side station and goods yard, with a simple bridge over a stream.  Jolly nice it is too.


Andrew Barnes, MD of the railway, is also a railway modeller. Here’s the Lynton and Barnstable inspired layout he is building. I was impressed by the track plan, design and the build quality. It’s going to be a nice layout.


This is Richard Doe’s ‘Lester Tin Mine Engine House’ layout that he built for the 2016 ExpoNG Challenge. Very nice. I like the simple design, the sense of space, the mill, the curved backscene and the painted sky.


There were lots of other interesting things: a japanese battery operated, snap together mini layout in HO9; a Gn15 Heywood style open coach made from laser cut card; and a 1/16th scale diesel loco.

Many thanks to Richard Doe for suggesting and organising such a great day and to Andrew Barnes for being an excellent host.


  1. Hi Stephen, I have invited Richard and The Norfolk and Suffolk 009 boys back for another visit in 2017 and you are more than welcome. In the blog, you mention a footplate ride would be good. Contact me at the railway and I am more than happy to sort this out when we are back to daily running. Best wishes Andrew (BVR MD)


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