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March 2014

Work has been progressing steadily since October on the site at Ferry Meadows.

One of the biggest pushes has been installing a workshop on site. This has involved purchasing another container and we have begun to install the machinery. Whilst the workshops we have at Wansford are primarily focussed on woodwork, the workshop at Ferry Meadows will be focussed towards metalwork. We have been fortunate to have been donated a number of high quality machines. Whilst many of these date from the 1950’s onwards, they are fundamentally of high quality. A number simply require rewiring and additional guards to comply with modern standards. Other items include a shot blasting tank that we have bought as a second hand reconditioned model.

 

workshop 01 workshop 02

 

We have also moved one of the smaller cabins from Wansford to Ferry Meadows. This will be used to store larger items. In due course all three cabins will be painted in the same colour to help them blend in. We have also paved in area between the cabins.

 

cabin 02

 

The biggest change however has been the recent delivery of a mock-up of a class 325 electric multiple unit. This was delivered on 6/3/14 and is now placed in the area between the cabins. Readers may recognise the cab as it has sat in the Great Hall at the NRM in York for many years. As their plans evolve it has been deemed surplus to requirements and has now been donated to ourselves.

These units were built in the mid-1990s and are still in use to this day. They are capable of running from either third rail or overhead power, and also are able to be loco hauled. Rather than the traditional travelling post office, that was able to sort post on the move, these are purely aimed at storage and transportation. The plan will be to construct a roof between the two cabins to house this. We are also planning on installing a colour light we have in store to show a modern railway scene.

 

cab 01 cab 04 cab 03 cab 02

 

Work is progressing on other fronts as well. Our youth group now are on site most Sundays. They have cleared out the brick hut that was on site and are in the process of converting this into a mess room. Step one was to get a fire going! As time and funds allow we will reroof the hut and improve the somewhat barren facilities.

 

hut 01 hut 02

 

Work is also progressing on the shed site and we have recently taken delivery of concrete sleepers for one road. We already have the rail in stock and are looking to combine the laying of this siding with the first stage of laying the foundations in the not too distant future. We have also taken delivery of Alco S1 Switcher 801, which will be restored on site. For more details please see here.

 

trackwork11 sleepers 01 alco 01

 

The photos below show the changes that have taken place over the last 10 months since May 2013. A startling change!

 

difference 01 difference 02

 

10th Anniversary of the final TPO

The 9th of January 2014 marks the ten year anniversary of the final TPO services on the mainline railway, bringing to a close a history that stretched back to the 1830’s. Whilst mail is still transported on the railways using more modern class 325 electric multiple units, the night of 9th January 2004 saw the final runs of traditional travelling post office trains where mail would be sorted on the move. Allan Yeo’s site below has a number of pictures of the final workings. In one swift swoop a way of life was lost in the name of progress.

 

NETPO04 NETPO08 PRDC002

 

The photos above show the TPOs in their final year in service, though not the final trains themselves (From the NVR archive)

The Nene Valley is home to five Mark 1 TPO vehicles that all are still in the livery they were withdrawn following the final services in 2004.

Sorting coach 80337 ‘Brian White’ is due to have the running gear overhauled during this year and we are planning to commemorate the 10th anniversary at our Mail by Rail event in September.

For more information on the final runs please see:
http://www.postalheritage.org.uk/page/tpo-whathappened
http://www.postalheritage.org.uk/page/tpo-goodpostmen
http://www.allanyeo.co.uk/html/last_night.html
http://www.lightstraw.co.uk/gpo/tpo/
http://www.tpo-seapost.org.uk/tpo2/tpointro.html

October 2013

2013 has certainly been an interesting year for everyone in the Night Mail team. A large number of the former Travelling Post Office Group have been unable to commit to regular workings on the coaches so are only available for the drops themselves. This has led to an influx of newer volunteers who had previously been operating under the International Railway Preservation Society (IRPS) banner (IRPS being another department of the NVR, just as the TPO Group is) and as part of the NVR’s youth group, also led by IRPS members. Whilst this new influx of volunteers has breathed new life into some aspects of the TPO events, it has meant we were somewhat playing catch up at times.

Unfortunately this culminated in us having to pull the TPO drops from the Great Train Robbery Weekend in October. The issue around this was the seized brake linkage in the coaches which would result in the brakes dragging on the coaches. In service coaches would be running regularly and have regular maintenance and overhauls, however due to the nature of the volunteer base, this has not been possible. To rectify this, the coaches will have to be lifted and all the brake gear and bogies overhauled.

The railway’s carriage and wagon department have to concentrate on the Railway’s revenue earning coaches, understandably. They are however happy to give us guidance, so this will be a new skill we will have to learn. This therefore takes us onto the slightly more positive news on The Night Mail Museum.

In order to overhaul the running gear of the coaches we have decided to put all our efforts into the Ferry Meadows site so we are able to perform coach lifts on site by next spring. When the concrete foundations for the shed are laid we are planning to install concrete pads suitable for use as jacking points using a set of jacks which have been placed on loan to us. (Using the railway’s steam crane would involve firing it up at least 4 times per coach so this is not a cost effective way to do it.)

Over the autumn a number of track panels have been laid at the west end (furthest from the point) of road 1 of the new shed. This currently has Alco 801 on it. Over the winter/spring, the holes for the foundations will be dug, concreted, and track will be laid to link the two sections up.

2013plan

 

Red sections show track already laid. Green sections show the parts that will link these together and which will be laid next.

On site we now have two cabins with a third being moved from Wansford shortly. This will enable to us to fit out a workshop in one, a museum display in the second and a store in the third. Getting power and water on site so we do not have to rely on generators and the station building opposite will also be a priority. Site levelling and preparation for the running shed have also taken up a lot of time.

 

cabin01

 

Of course we haven’t been standing still in 2013. One of the biggest changes on site is the new 5 inch gauge model railway that we’ve built. It’s amazing how much work has been involved in digging the track bed down, levelling this, laying a layer of limestone, concreting, laying paving slabs, making bridges, fabricating track and laying each section all to within a centimetre! This will be open to the public in 2014. Five points for anyone who can answer why the station on the miniature railway is called ‘Overton’!

 

minature02 minature01 minature03

 

In terms of the events in 2013 we had relatively successful Mail by Rail, Kids TPO and a final Great Train Robbery Weekends. Of particular note was the Great Train Robbery Weekend in October which saw an exhibition on loan from the British Postal Museum & Archive and tours of M30272M, the only surviving coach from the robbery itself, now under restoration at Wansford. Hopefully by the 60th anniversary we’ll have M30272M operational!

 

october01 october02 october03

 

So what does this mean going forward? Early work next year will concentrate on preparing the site for visitors. From Easter to September we plan to have The Night Mail Site open for visitors every Sunday. The Mark 1 TPO coaches will be moved to Ferry Meadows and the vehicles not under restoration will be open for exploration. Our ever expanding road vehicle fleet will also be based on site including the MPO which will have a shop to help fund the museum inside. The miniature railway will be open, complete with a picnic area in the middle.

In relation to the events, we have decided to concentrate our efforts on one Mail by Rail event towards the end of the year. This way we can spend the majority of the year overhauling the coaches. We intend to relaunch the TPO events in a larger fashion in 2015 with a number of different events throughout the year.

We are planning on building a regular volunteer group to work at the site at Ferry Meadows each Sunday. No matter what your skill set or experience is, we would welcome more volunteers. All we ask for is a semi-regular commitment to coming down. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never done it before, already work on the NVR in other departments and want a change or anywhere in between, we would welcome you. There are plenty of jobs to do, both on the restoration and on the public facing fronts. Just drop an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Children's TPO Picture Gallery

Last weekend was our Chilrdren's Travelling Post Office event when lots of the boys and girls met Postie Pete and coloured in some pictures to help cheer Thomas up. The Wansford Controller has picked out some of his favourite and put them online.

One lucky winner each day has been selected for a free family ticket back to the railway and we'll be in touch with them shortly so keep your fingers crossed.

Unfortunately Lewis, aged 19 1/2's drawing of Gordon and Postie Pete's secret admirer were both disqualified!

Mail by Rail 2013 Gallery

July 13th/14th saw our annual mail by rail event attended by a collection of vehicles of the Post Office Vehicle Club as well as our own vehicles.

Star attractions were the TPO drops at Sutton Cross as well as the launch of our Commer Karrier Mobile Post Office which was open for display and housed the Railway Letters Service.

Below are some photos of the event.

 

{gallery}nightmail/2013gallery/{/gallery}