Firstly we’d like to wish all of our readers a Happy New Year. Looking back, 2015 was one of the busiest years the BRCW Group has had for some time, with several major changes within our preserved fleet.
In February we relocated trailer car M56182 to the North Norfolk Railway where its restoration (in progress since 2014) was to continue. Indeed, components for the vehicle had been under restoration on the line for over 12 months, however until an official agreement had been confirmed we were unable to make our intentions to base a Class 104 on the NNR public. Due to a lack of space in the yard M56182 was stored until November when it finally took its place and restoration of the vehicle itself could begin. Serious bodywork will commence in 2016, however the cab has already been fully stripped out in preparation for this work. All year, members have been working hard on overhauling components which will be refitted to the vehicle over the coming years. Although not exclusively, the main focus has been on panelling and components from the cab area, as this will be the first part of the vehicle to be refitted. Several of the exterior metal doors, and interior sliding wooden doors, have also been stripped down and overhauled, this being possible as the doors were removed from the vehicle whilst it was being held in storage.
A second movement took place in April, with our unique centre trailer M59137 and prototype Mark 1 GUV van W86500 moving to the East Lancashire Railway, joining 2-car set M50455/M50517 which had moved the previous year. Unfortunately it will be some time before we have the resources to re-start M59137’s restoration; however it was good to see he vehicle reunited again with the powercars that M59137 is to operate with when completed.
May saw M50455 withdrawn from traffic at the East Lancashire Railway, as the time had come to tackle the long overdue cab rebuild project, bodywork repairs and repaint. Over the year, a great deal of progress has been made stripping out the cab front and roof dome, cutting out rotten metal (including the entire cab front end) and starting the reconstruction process of welding new metal in and also sanding back the areas of the body not receiving new metal.
Over at the Llangollen Railway, 2-car set M50454/M50528 completed another successful season under the care of the Llangollen Railcar Group. This set was the only place a Class 104 could be enjoyed in service during 2015, with the exception of a handful of trips made by the ELR set in the early part of the year, so it is especially good to have seen M50454/M50528 performing regularly.
The group continue to monitor the four vehicles that are on loan to the Telford Steam Railway. Other than some hauled working of M50479, there has been nothing to report on these vehicles for 2015.
All preservation groups have to be guarded when making predictions of the year ahead. However the group hope that the positive restoration works started in 2015 continue to gather pace with major bodywork reconstruction on the front ends of M50455 & M56182 scheduled for completion. Whilst the restoration journey is still ongoing for M56182, it is hoped for M50455 to return to service during 2016, following which M50517 will be withdrawn for a similar repaint, although the bodywork required will be far less drastic than that on M50455. It is also intended for M50454/M50528 to continue to provide regular services during 2016.