Let’s start again at the beginning shall we?

Tomorrow the 8th January marks the first running day of 2022 for the railway.

Let us hope that it’s not as difficult and unpredictable as the last few years when many things have happened that nobody could predict. They led to closedowns, disrupted & limited services and cancelled events.

To all those who have supported the railway through the difficult time and continue to do so. Thank You!

The railways biggest asset are it’s working members and paid staff. This has often been said. So if you plan to visit the railway then just remember that without the people working around you there may have been nowhere to visit.

Enjoy visiting us in 2022, you will be very welcome.

The rebuild of Derek Crouch No 1539.

The Small Loco Group

Hudswell Clarke no.1539 ‘Derek Crouch’ – Nathan Wilson

Hudswell Clarke no.1539 is an 0-6-0 saddle tank locomotive of the ‘Countess of Warwick’ class locomotive. The locomotive was delivered new to McAlpine & Sons on the 23rd July 1924, and worked for them on a variety of different contracts across the country including Tilbury and Southampton dock extensions and at Cheddar reservoir. 

The loco then passed to John Mowlem & Co. and was named ‘Hayle’ and worked at ROF Swynnerton and Workington breakwater.

 In 1944 the loco passed ownership again, this time to the Ministry of Agriculture and moved to the Wissington Light Railway, supplying the link from Wissington sugar beet factory and the surrounding farms to the mainline at Stoke Ferry. Here the loco would travel along the 18 miles of line collecting produce to take to the factory and then outwards to the exchange sidings for collection by a mainline locomotive for distribution around the country. In 1947 no.1539 was sent to Doncaster works of the LNER for overhaul, and for a short period after was used as works shunter before returning to Wissington.

In 1957, the loco along with other parts of the Wissington Light Railway were sold to TW Ward & Co, but was soon sold on to Derek Crouch Contractors and was located at their opencast site in Widdrington, Northumberland in 1958. It was here the loco gained the name ‘Derek Crouch’ after the company’s owner.  By 1969 the loco was out of use and was moved to Derek Crouch’s headquarters at Eye, just outside of Peterborough, and in April 1972 was given to the Peterborough Railway Society, which would soon become the Nene Valley Railway.

The first train

On Sunday the 7th April 1974, at the head of one BR Mk1 carriage, ‘Derek Crouch’ hauled the first train in preservation along the new Nene Valley Railway, filled with members of the railway, leaving the society HQ at Peterborough sugar beet factory and up to the soon to be new main base of Wansford. Here the loco ran round, collected a wagon that had been delivered for the society and after a short while headed back to the factory, a return journey of approximately 10 miles. A couple of days later the train was repeated, this time for local dignitaries and officials to examine the newly preserved line.

Hauling the coach and the wagon.

‘Derek Crouch’ ran at the Wansford open days, but as bigger locomotives arrived, the engine was laid up out of use. It became the Wansford gate guardian and was plinthed at the entrance to the station until the new station building was built, where it was moved and positioned in a siding with the other out of traffic locos until the 2000s where it was moved undercover for the first time in almost 40 years.

In 2012, and looking for a project, I began a cosmetic restoration on the loco, which very quickly became evident it needed much more than just a needle gun and repaint. The restoration took two years, and I was joined with two other members, Jake (17) and Joe (19), and myself being 22 when the project started. We formed The Small Loco Group, and learnt a variety of skills, such as machining, welding, plate forming, power tools amongst other things, as well as taking two other locos under our umbrella, a 16” Hunslet ‘Jacks Green’ that used to work at Nassington Ironstone Quarry which we have also undertaken a cosmetic restoration, and a Danish F class tank engine no.656 which is coming to the end of an overhaul led by a team of volunteers we have assisted with.

Before and after cosmetic restoration.

Myself and Joe have both trained and qualified as boilersmiths through the BESTT (Boiler Engineering Skills Training Trust) and Jake is a qualified machinist, so between us we have acquired the skills and knowledge over time to be able to bring skills in house to the group to be able to restore the engines to operational condition. The group has since expanded and now as around 15 members, all predominantly aged between 18-30, which is brilliant for keeping the heritage skills alive in the younger generation for the future.

‘Derek Crouch’ was picked as our first full overhaul to undertake for a variety of reasons – it is a small loco, so is manageable for a group of new volunteers learning skills to work on, and isn’t something that through size alone becomes daunting, 2024 sees the locomotive turn 100 and also sees the 50th anniversary of the first train in preservation pulled along the Nene Valley by ‘Derek Crouch’ – which the 7th April also falling on a Sunday just like it did 50 years ago. The locomotive also has a place in many of the hearts of our older members and is one of the railways first locomotives. It has a rich history and heritage behind it, and is also one of only three of the class preserved.

The strip down for the locomotive began in August 2020, with the boiler removed after just two weeks of work.

The chassis then went into our running shed for further dismantling over a pit to give better access, while the boiler was de-tubed ready for inspection.

The boiler de-tubed

With the motion removed the frames were taken back outside to be pressure washed. It was at this point a crack was discovered on the back of the left hand cylinder casting. The back cover was removed, and as the nuts were loosened the casting started to move slightly. With the cover removed, it soon became evident it was a fairly serious crack running from the top of the back face, down to9 the bore and then approximately 2/3s the length of the bore itself. At this point a repair procedure was thought up, with metal stitching and cylinder liners a good option. However as the block was cleaned up it soon became evident it was at the end of its life, the structural webs showing severe corrosion, and the top of the block thinning in places, so much so a hole appeared behind the steam inlet flange. The plan changed at this point from repair to replace.

We have been extremely lucky to have been awarded a grant for £20,000 by the AIA (Association for Industrial Archaeology towards the overhaul of the loco. This has been a massive award for the project, as this will see the cost of the replacement block cast and machined ready for the loco to re-enter service. It is also able to support the cost of other works needed, such as tyre turning and journal work on the wheelsets, making of new parts for the new chimney, material for replacement sections of the back of the frames and doubling plates, and will also go towards the cost of new material for new bearings. Without the awarding of the grant the project would definitely not be in such a good position as it is now, and has played a massive part in providing a bright future for ‘Derek Crouch’. The locomotive is currently in the Heavy Overhaul Workshop at Wansford, and is able to be viewed from our public viewing gallery.

We are looking to raise a total of £35,000 which should see the locomotives overhaul complete. We currently have raised approximately £30,000 but we still need to raise more to see the job through. If you would like to support us, please consider donating to our project, either by sending donations into the railway FAO Nathan Wilson, or via our JustGiving page on the link below. A contribution to JustGiving is voluntary, and can be removed by selecting ‘other’ and entering £0.00 if you would only like to contribute to our appeal. Any donation, no matter how great or small is always greatly appreciated by our team and will go to supporting heritage skills in the younger generation as well as returning a near centurion to steam, for the first time in almost 50 years!

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/derekcrouchoverhaulappeal?utm_term=3RVr34Kgv

Here are some more pictures of the work in progress and those undertaking it.

Newspaper article from 1972.
Joe at work.
Lewis, handy with a paint brush.
Nathan happily at work.
Derek Crouch at Wansford beside platform 3

The Old Station Building

I am sure that every volunteer and visitor knows the Old Station Building at Wansford.

But we rarely get a good look at it, as often there are carriages in either or both of the main platforms.

So here is an old picture I came across in my misc collection. It shows the building some years ago.

The Old Station Building Wansford © Unknown

I hope that at some stage the railway will be able to restore this fine victorian building to its original state. It’s an asset to the railway.

Should you wish to donate to it’s renovation then please contact the office.

Award fromThe Arts Council

Today, I am really proud to announce, that Nene Valley Railway has been awarded £479,675 by Arts Council England in its second round of Awards.

This massive boost to our railway will help restore our reserves that we have had to use during 2020, and sustain us for the next few months as we continue to move towards ‘the light at the end of tunnel’

Mike Kerfoot, our Chairman, reminded me in his statement, that NVR has one of the longest tunnels on any preserved railway, and our journey to that light at the end has often been a hard one. But, today, with such fabulous news to share, that light has become brighter and together we can get to the end of the tunnel feeling a huge sense of achievement.

I would personally like to thank all the staff, volunteers and supporter of our railway for all they have given in the past 12 mths – without that support I do not know how we would have managed.

Please hop over to our News section on the web site for further information https://nvr.org.uk/product.php/215/latest-nene-valley-railway-news and please share the good news #hereforculture.

Kim Shaw – Acting General Manager.

Miniature Railway – Prize Draw 2021

Kick start our Locomotive Shed appeal with a once in a lifetime, Railwayman for a day prize draw. We need to raise over £4000 to wooden clad our metal container to protect and secure it and create a traditional looking Locomotive shed. 

The winner will spend a day on the NVR

Take breakfast with our Steam Locomotive Crew and see the locomotive up and close in the yard. 
Guided tour of the Locomotive sheds
Tour of the Wansford Signalbox
Take to the footplate for 15 miles of steam action on our duty steam locomotive 
Tour of the miniature railway 
Finish the day off with a full round trip in the carriages 
Souvenir Certificate to remember your day. 

To enter our prize draw make a contribution of £10 or more via the prize draw button below, you can enter as many times as you like. and or add further donations, Draw will take place on 31st March 2021. The winner will be contacted and a date arranged subject to Covid conditions, the winner must be 18 years of age or over.

To enter the Prize Draw click on the Prize Draw button below or make a donation via https://nvr.org.uk/product.php/205/

Well here we go again……

Today is New Years day and the start of the new year.

Many will be wondering what it will hold for the railway.

The answer is of course, nobody knows. I mean who on this day in 2020 would have been able to forecast how the year would turn out?

It was a year like no other for the railway, and the staff and working members/volunteers came through it.

Our sympathies must go to those who had to be made redundant, it was necessary to enable the railway to survive a very difficult period, they will be missed.

History will no doubt show that we owe a debt of gratitude to those on the railway both paid and volunteer who time after time went far beyond what was required or even expected to ensure that the trains we were able to run were as safe as they could be for the visitors and that the site was as safe as possible.

So please remember when things become more normal and you visit railway that your visit is only possible because of those people. The people who remained pleasant and smiling wether face to face or answering the telephone.

If you are a member of the public who travelled on either the Santas or other trains we were able to run. Thank you for your support of the railway, it is without exception appreciated and we look forward to welcoming you back in better times.

Another way to donate.

We have registered ourselves with Amazon at their Smile Amazon site.

Where shoppers, shop through Smile Amazon they can then opt to make donations to us – added to their purchase.

More details can be found here Just click on the link – Amazon Smile Site