Restoration of Iconic Norfolk railway structure wins top national award

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

From left: Richard Turner Head of Asset Management Greater Anglia, Andy Savage Chair National Railway Heritage Awards, Tim Miller Bittern Line Volunteer Station Adopter, Martin Halliday Community Rail Development Officer Community Rail Norfolk, Andrew Haines Managing Director Network Rail Photo Credit: Duncan Phillips Photography/NRHA.

The restoration of a rare Norfolk railway sign, thought to be the only surviving structure of its kind still in existence on the national rail network, has won first place at the National Railway Heritage Awards.

The Bittern Line Community Rail Partnership, train operator, Greater Anglia and Dura Composites received first prize in the Small Projects category at the National Railway Heritage Awards, held last week.

The station name sign, known in the industry as a Running-In Board has been welcoming passengers to West Runton Station in North Norfolk for 100 years, having been manufactured by the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway (M&GNJR) at their engineering works in Melton Constable during 1921.

Earlier this year a collaboration between the Bittern Line Community Rail Partnership, rail operator Greater Anglia and Essex based company Dura Composites, saw the iconic structure restored to its former glory in a project which involved carefully researching the sign’s history and installing new lettering.

Judges at the award praised the project for the “attention and care lavished upon the board, giving it visual appeal”, with its condition “a credit to those who originally manaufactured the board at Melton Constable and the project team which have restored it.”

Martin Halliday, Development Officer for Community Rail Norfolk, added; “We were pleased to work with Greater An-glia and Dura Composites to restore this unique piece of railway infrastructure. “The sign is a familiar landmark for many thousands of rail users and is undoubtably one of the most iconic original station running in boards still to be seen on the UK rail network.

“To be recognised at the National Railway Heritage Awards is a superb accolade for everyone involved in the project.”

Peter Mayne, Chair of the Bittern Line Community Rail Partnership and its parent organisation, Community Rail Nor-folk said; “I am absolutely delighted to see this project to restore a unique and historically significant rail asset recog-nised by this national award.

“The restored station sign looks superb and is a great example of Community Rail at its best: A project identified by the Bittern Line CRP, supported by the community and taken forward in partnership with Greater Anglia through the generosity of Dura Composites Ltd, who supplied and installed the replacement letters at no cost.”

Greater Anglia’s Head of Asset Management, Richard Turner, said, “I would like to thank everyone involved in this fantastic community rail project which has seen West Runton’s station sign restored to its former glory, providing a much more attractive first impression as people arrive by train.”

Tom Bowman, Commercial Director at Dura Composites said; "As we approach the 100th anniversary of the original sign's installation, Dura Composites is proud to have played our part in restoring and preserving this important piece of railway history. By identifying the closest modern-day typographic match to the original 1920s lettering and replacing the degraded timber with a hardwearing composite, our team has helped create a renewed running-in board that will withstand the effects of the coastal climate and continue to be a familiar landmark for future generations of rail users".

In the early 1990s the board underwent restoration using wooden lettering however, thirty years on and following several replacement letters being provided, this latest project has enabled a more permanent solution in materials that can better withstand the coastal climate.

Despite extensive renovations in the early 1990s by leading M&GNJR expert Nigel Digby, the structure had fallen into disrepair in recent years as the wooden lettering suffered from the ravages of weather and the project found a solution which is both authentic to the original structure and made from more sustainable materials.

Essex based company, Dura Composites who specialise in GRP (Glass Reinforced Polymer), undertake numerous projects across the rail network and following a successful scheme for Greater Anglia in Suffolk, were approached to see if they could assist.

Volunteers from the Bittern Line Community Rail Partnership, stripped the sign back to bare concrete and in researching the original font used for the lettering, found another at the former M&GNJR Gedney Station in Lincolnshire which had closed to passengers in 1959. Experts from Dura were able to match the font used for the lettering and manufacture a new set using more robust materials.

In April, the company kindly donated the new lettering and provided two members of their team to install them, following this the volunteers returned to repaint the sign and it was returned to its former glory in time for its 100th year.