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In the early morning of Sunday 15th July 2018, our neighbours at Jewson's builder's merchants suffered a major fire. We suffered too, and this page gives explains how, and what we did about it. 

What Happened

Early on the Sunday morning, Jewson's builder's merchants suffered a major fire, as the result of an arson attack. This fire gutted their site, and also forced the evacuation of residents of Lake Terrace, on the other side of their site.

The fire also affected the railway, in various ways.

  • Our pallet van (code name "Palvan") caught fire, and was partly burnt out, along with many of the tools for work on the track that were stored in it.
  • Our ballast wagon (code name "Dogfish") suffered major damage to its paintwork.
  • The side of our Engine House building was scorched, and seemed likely to need repairs.
  • The front of our platform shelter was also scorched, and needed some repair.
  • Some external wiring was damaged, and in particular the PA system which served our platform was destroyed.
  • On police advice, we had to abandon the operation on Sunday of our special event called "Leeds Diesels on Display".

By Monday 16th July we were able to start making plans for repairing the damage, and in particular for rebuilding the Palvan and repainting the Dogfish wagon. To give you an idea of what would be involved, the two photographs below show the Palvan running on the Saturday as part of the gala event, and as it was on Sunday morning.

Palvan crossing Moor Road

The Palvan in a train crossing Moor Road

fire damage to wagons

Fire damage to the Palvan and the Dogfish

Fortunately we found that the chassis and the steel framework of the Palvan had suffered very little damage, so that the main work in repairing it would be replacement of the wooden panelling, including the floor, the doors and the roof. This would, though, involve significant costs, which were estimated at about £15,000, of which only £4,000 would be covered by the insurance.

By contrast, the only real damage to the Dogfish was the scorching of the paintwork on the body, and the insurance would cover the work of repainting it.

We therefore set up an appeal for donations towards the cost of repairing the fire damage, and in particular the cost of rebuilding the Palvan. That appeal raised several thousand pounds, but now that the recovery work has been completed it has been closed.

Repairing the Damage

We contacted our insurers, who appointed a loss adjuster, and with his help we were able to put together a claim for the damage. In particular, we were quickly able to start the process of replacing the tools that had been damaged in the Palvan.

To repaint the Dogfish wagon we had to decide on a livery, and since we were preparing for our "Last Coals to Leeds" event the obvious choice was to paint it in NCB livery, and give it the (fictitious) running number MB 150, as shown in the picture below.

the repainted Dogfish

The Dogfish repainted in NCB livery

We replaced the PA system for the platform and repaired the major damage to the buildings, and this just left as the main item the restoration of the Palvan. After negotiations with various firms that can do this kind of repair, we appointed Stanegate Restorations of Haltwhistle to do the work, and the picture below shows the van leaving our site at the beginning of June 2019.

Palvan leaving Moor Road

The Palvan leaving for Stanegate Restorations

They made good progress with the work, and the two pictures below, taken at the end of July, show the van with some of the new panelling in place.

Palvan partly rebuilt

Work in progress on rebuilding the Palvan

new panelling on the Palvan

New panelling on the Palvan

Other work that was having to be done on the van was to refurbish the floor plating, and to construct new wooden roof sticks to support the metal ones that are still in place. The two pictures below show the progress with these components, also at the end of July.

A refurbished floor plate

A refurbished floor plate

new roof sticks

New wooden roof sticks

By early December most of this work was finished, apart from the external lettering and some internal painting. During December it was agreed that it would suit both parties for the van to return to Middleton and for the final bits of painting to be done here, and so the van was actually transported back here early in January 2020. It was accommodated in the display hall, and the picture below shows it soon after it had arrived.

Palvan in display hall

The Palvan in the display hall, soon after its return

In February a team from Stanegate Restorations travelled down here for two days to do the lettering, after which we did the internal painting. The picture below shows the van outside the main workshop, soon after all of this work had been completed.

Palvan restored

The Palvan outside the workshop, with the restoration complete

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