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The gallopers at Bressingham

Bressingham Steam & Gardens is a steam museum and gardens located at Bressingham (adjacent to a garden centre), west of Diss in Norfolk, England. The site has several narrow gauge rail lines and a number of types of steam engines and vehicles in its collection and is also the home of a Dad's Army exhibition.

The gardens

Bressingham Steam and Gardens 25
A view of a part of the gardens at Bressingham

The gardens were established by Alan Bloom MBE at Bressingham Hall. He moved to Bressingham in 1946, after selling his previous 36-acre (15 ha) site at Oakington in Cambridgeshire to raise the capital for the 220 acres (89 ha) in Norfolk, where he hoped to be both a farmer and a nurseryman. He was a plant expert of international renown, particularly in the field of hardy perennials. He laid out the Dell Garden at Bressingham, with its well-known island beds. His son, Adrian Bloom, laid out five additional gardens for year-round interest, starting with Foggy Bottom in 1963. He is still largely in charge of the Bressingham Gardens, which are not part of the charity but are privately owned by the Bloom family business. The Dell Garden is curated by Alan Bloom's son-in-law, Jaime Blake.

Much of the site is given over to commercial horticulture. The nurseries are not open to the public, but there is a garden centre on the site, which is independent from the Steam Museum and the Bloom Nurseries and Gardens. Bressingham Steam Museum is an independent charitable trust. Alan Bloom had wanted to create his own trust in 1967, to ensure that the collection would not be dispersed to pay for death duties, but the laws of the time made this difficult and after five years of negotiation, the museum was close to being handed over to the Transport Trust. However, the legislation governing private museums was relaxed just before the proposed handover in 1971. Consequently, Bloom was able to create his own trust and thus retain control of it, because the collection was of historical and educational importance.

The Gallopers

The Gallopers during the "Bressingham at Night" event.

The three-abreast Gallopers, purchased by Alan Bloom in 1967, are the centrepiece of the site. They were built by Frederick Savage in Kings Lynn in 1897 and were owned and operated by the Thurston family of Norfolk until 1934. The Gallopers later operated at Whitley Bay and later in Scotland before finding a home at Bressingham. They are currently powered by electricity, but were previously steam-powered. The engine used, "Victoria", was originally built by Tidmans of Norwich. The organ – a Bruder-built, 48 keyless Chiappa – which was built from two organs in 1954, accompanies the Gallopers.

The narrow gauge lines

There are three railway lines which take visitors around the gardens:

The Garden Railway

This 10 14 in (260 mm) gauge miniature railway runs through the Dell Garden, giving passengers clear views of the beds. The journey begins in a terminus station within the museum grounds before heading into the Dell Garden. At the far end of the garden, the train is turned in a balloon loop, before returning to the station. A turntable is located at the end of the platform road to facilitate the turning of the locomotive with minimal movements required. The points located at the balloon loop and the entrance to the platform road are spring operated so there is no requirement for a signalman. The coloured light aspect signal protecting the platform is interlocked with the lie of the points being set for the platform road and the turntable also being set to the platform road. The railway's passenger trains are operated by steam locomotive Alan Bloom, which was constructed along with the railway in 1995. The design of Alan Bloom was inspired by the design of Large Quarry Hunslet George Sholto, which operates on Bressingham's Fen Railway.

The Fen Railway

The Fen Railway (formerly the Nursery Railway) is a 1 ft 11 12 in (597 mm) narrow gauge railway. It was the second railway to be completed at Bressingham, first opening in 1966. The railway is 2.5 miles (4.0 km) long and crosses the Waveney Valley Railway, running parallel to it for a short distance. It also runs through meadows and passes the now-defunct plant nurseries. The Railway was extended twice following initial completion to become the length it is today.


Number and name Builder Type Livery Notes Image
316 Gwynedd Hunslet 0-4-0ST Penrhyn Quarry Hunslet Lined Penrhyn Quarry Black (Late Penrhyn Livery) Built in 1883. The locomotive spent all of its working life at Penrhyn Quarry - initially working at Port Penrhyn before moving to the quarry. It arrived at Bressingham in 1966 and becoming a regular performer on the Fen Railway. Gwynedd received a new, all-welded boiler in 1984 to replace her life expired riveted boiler. A major overhaul was completed in 2000, where Gwynedd was repainted into Early Penrhyn Livery - the first authentic livery this locomotive has carried in preservation. She operated until 2007 when she was withdrawn from service for overhaul; the work included a new firebox and the locomotive was returned to service in 2017. In 2019, Gwynedd was the primary locomotive in use on the Fen Railway. In June 2018, Gwynedd attended the Penrhyn Theme gala at Bala Lake Railway in North Wales, where she ran alongside Hunslet 364 Winifred of 1885. This was the first time 2 Penrhyn Port Class Hunslets had steamed together in preservation. The following weekend, Gwynedd attended the Ffestiniog Railway's Hunslet 125 event. In addition to operating the Fen Railway at Bressingham, Gwynedd spent much of her time in the 1970s operating on Bressingham's short-lived Woodland Railway which has since been replaced by the 15-inch gauge Waveney Valley Railway.
994 George Sholto Hunslet 0-4-0ST Large Quarry Hunslet Lined Green Built in 1909. Similar to Gwynedd, George Sholto also operated at Penrhyn Quarry. The locomotive was restored at Bressingham and entered service in 1966. This locomotive has been a long serving and reliable performer on the Fen Railway. During the late 1990s, she was renamed Bill Harvey in honour of the former Norwich Shed Master. The locomotive was withdrawn from service in 2003 in need of a major overhaul. The overhaul involved the construction of a new boiler [The 3rd one this locomotive has carried during preservation] and work on the chassis in addition to a replacement saddle tank being constructed. The locomotive was outshopped in 2011 with her original name of George Sholto reinstated. Bizarrely, the locomotive was outshopped with a cab - a feature that this locomotive had never possessed in its entire existence. Ordinarily, this locomotive is the primary locomotive on the regular passenger trains that operate, with occasional use on the slate train using wagons similar to those she hauled at Penrhyn - usually reserved for special events and driver experience courses. As of November 2018, this locomotive has been withdrawn for major overhaul. George Sholto awaiting departure at Bressingham.jpg
2 Bevan Bressingham 0-4-0T Lined Green Bevan arrived at Bressingham as a kit of parts in 2007 as an abandoned project previously being carried out by the Cambridge Welding Institute. When Bressingham acquired her, she was a boiler, with frames and cylinders and nothing else. Bressingham assembled and constructed the rest of the locomotive. This entailed designing the motion from scratch, building water tanks, the cab and tender to name a few. She was test steamed in 2009 with final completion in 2010. Usually reserved for running weekday trains outside of the School Holidays when less carriages are required. She has however become the primary locomotive once she returned to service in summer 2019 following an overhaul; largely owing to George Sholto being withdrawn for a major overhaul. Bevan in the siding with slate wagons.jpg
22120 Motor Rail Simplex 4wdDM Brown Built in 1964 and spend its working life at Anglia Water. During the early 1990s, this was disguised to resemble Toby the Tram Engine. The locomotive was the Fen Railway's main passenger diesel but is now a static exhibit in the Exhibition Hall.
8911 Hunslet 4wDH Hunslet Unlined Blue. Built in 1980. The locomotive is operational and is primarily used to pull passengers on the Fen Railway at quieter times of the year.
9155 Bovis Hunslet 4wBE Lined Black Built in 1971. A rare example of a Hunslet Battery Electric locomotive. Operational and used as the workshop yard shunter.

The Waveney Valley Railway

15 in (381 mm) gauge miniature railway. The line was first opened in 1973 and is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) in length. It crosses the 1 ft 11 12 in (597 mm) Fen Railway and also runs parallel to the 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge line for a time.


Number and name Builder Type Livery Notes Image
1662 Rosenkavalier Krupp 4-6-2 Pacific Lined light Green Built in 1937. Along with Männertreu she was built for use at a trade fair in Düsseldorf. Arrived at Bressingham in 1973 and has been a mainstay of the Waveney Valley Railway. Withdrawn from service in 2011 in need of a major overhaul and is currently on display in the Exhibition Hall. Rosenkavalier stands at the Waveney Valley Railway stop at Bressingham.jpg
1663 Männertreu Krupp 4-6-2 Pacific Lined dark Green Built in 1937. Along with Rosenkavalier she was built for use at a trade fair in Düsseldorf. Arrived at Bressingham in 1973 and has been a mainstay of the Waveney Valley Railway. Withdrawn from service in 2008 and is undergoing a major overhaul. Locomotive's frames are currently on public display – it is anticipated that much of the work will be carried out in the locomotive display sheds so visitors can monitor progress. Bressingham Gardens and Steam Museum - - 435142.jpg
St Christopher Exmoor Steam Railway 2-6-2T Lined Red Constructed by the Exmoor Steam Railway in 2001 and was based on the Windmill Farm Railway. The locomotive moved to Bressingham in 2011 and is operational. It is the main locomotive used on the Waveney Valley Railway. Repainted to a lined red livery in favour over the original lined blue livery during the 2017/2018 mechanical overhaul.
D6353 Beaver J. Brown 4wd-4wdDM Green with full Yellow ends. Built in 1998. Based on a British Rail Class 22 locomotive. Operational and occasionally used on passenger trains.
Ivor Frezne Engineering 4wDH Green Built in 1979. Operational and used as a works locomotive.

During 2013, a circular track of dual 7 14 in (184 mm) gauge and 5 in (127 mm) gauge was under construction. Once completed, there will be a total of seven different gauges at Bressingham.

Standard gauge steam locomotives

Number and name Builder Type Wheel arrangement Year Livery Status Notes Image
662 Martello LB&SCR A1 Class 0-6-0T 1875 SR Lined Green Operational, boiler ticket expires in 2026
102 Granville LSWR B4 class 0-4-0T 1893 Dark green On static display LSWR B4 no. 102 Granville - - 1780642.jpg
490 GER Class T26 2-4-0 1894 GER Ultramarine Blue On static display On loan from the National Railway Museum
25 0-4-0ST 1896 Green On static display worked at Beckton Gas Works Beckton No 25 at Bressingham 1972 - - 2285203.jpg
87 GER Class S56 0-6-0T 1904 GER Ultramarine Blue On static display On loan from the National Railway Museum
80 LT&SR 79 Class 4-4-2T 1909 LT&SR green On static display On loan from the National Railway Museum LTSR Thundersley No. 80 4-4-2T - - 1780648.jpg
1472 Bluebottle Andrew Barclay 0-4-0F 1916 Stored out of use
377 King Haakon VII NSB Class 21c 2-6-0 1919 Last overhauled in 2006. Stored awaiting overhaul. King Haakon at Bressingham.jpg
6841 William Francis 0-4-0+0-4-0 1937 On static display Worked at Baddesley Colliery. This is the last surviving standard gauge Garratt in Britain. Beyer Peacock Works No 6841 'William Francis' - - 3095390.jpg
7070 Millfield Robert Stephenson & Hawthorns 0-4-0CT 1942 Blue Stored out of use Crane tank.JPG
5865 Peer Gynt DB/NSB Class 52/63 2-10-0 1944 black On static display Found in a caved-in tunnel and restored, now on static display Bressingham Steam Museum and Gardens 06.jpg

Broad gauge steam locomotives

  • VR Class Tk3 2-8-0 No. 1144. Plinthed. 1,524 mm (5 ft)

Steam vehicles

A variety of steam vehicles are in the collection.

Steam Engines Portable and others

  • Burrell No. 2363 of 1901 Portable. Operational.
  • Youngs Portable of 1910. Manufactured locally in Diss. On display.
  • Tidman Centre Engine (fairground) No. 1891 Victoria. Usually resides in the centre section of Gallopers. Withdrawn 2015 pending replacement of Boiler Barrel - Expected to re-enter service late 2019
  • Merryweather Fire Engine no. 3702.
  • Merryweather Fire Pump of 1914.

Steam Rollers

  • Burrell No. 3962 Boxer of 1923 reg no. PW 1714. On display.
  • Burrell No. 3993 Buster of 1924 reg no. CF 5646. Operational.
  • Robey 4 ton Tandem Steam Roller No. 42520 Barkis built in 1925 reg No. FE 7632. On display.

Steam Tractors / Traction

  • Garrett 5 ton Steam Tractor No. 34641 Bunty, built in 1924 reg no. CF 5913. On display.
  • Burrell Traction engine No. 3112 Bertha of 1909 reg no. CF 3440. On display.
  • Foster Traction engine No. 2821 Beryl of 1903 reg. no. BE 7448. Undergoing restoration.
  • Fowler Traction engine No. 6188 Beulah of 1890 reg no. MA 8528. On display.


Dad's Army Collection

The museum is the home of the national Dad's Army collection of vintage vehicles. These are located on a reconstruction of the High Street in the fictional Walmington-on-Sea beside the butcher's shop of Lance-Corporal Jones, Private Frazer's undertaker's shop and Captain Mainwaring's bank office.

The vehicles include Jones' van and the dust cart from the 1971 film, Mainwaring's Austin 8 staff car used in the episode The Making of Private Pike, the vintage fire engine used in Brain Versus Brawn and the steamroller 'Boxer' and traction engine 'Bertha' which appeared in other episodes.

See also

  • Index of steam energy articles
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