Brothers' restoration of 'Shreddie' wins prestigious national award

Shreddie at Brockford

Driver Nigel Pulham with brothers Neal and Nigel Davis who restored Shreddie at the Mid Suffolk Light Railway's Brockford station. - Credit: Paul Geater

Brothers Neal and Nigel Davis normally spend their time restoring vintage cars - but their work to bring back to life an antique diesel shunting engine has won the top award in the world of British heritage railways.

'Shreddie', which was built in 1934 for the Shredded Wheat factory in Welwyn Garden City, was transformed from a rusting hulk into the star turn at the Mid Suffolk Light Railway at Brockford by the brothers.

The full restored Shreddie

The fully-restored Shreddie is in regular use at the Middy. - Credit: Brian Scott

On Saturday they were presented with the Morgan Award by the Heritage Railway Association - it's the top prize awarded by the group that represents heritage railways, museums, and owners of steam and other heritage locomotives across the country. 

Both brothers have an engineering background. Neal spent his career in the RAF keeping its planes airworthy and Nigel ran a garage in Clacton.

When they retired they sold their homes and bought a farmhouse and outbuildings in south Norfolk where they could indulge their passion for restoring old cars and lorries,

But Neal is also passionate about railways - he has built working models of locomotives - and has done work at the Middy for many years. When the railway was offered the rusting shunter to add to its collection, it said it could only do so if it was in working order.

So Shreddie was offered to the brothers and its transformation from a hulk that hadn't moved under its own power for decades into the gleaming workhorse was completed in only six months - and almost unheard-of achievement in the world of rail restoration where projects can take years or even decades to complete.

Shreddie Middy

Shreddie before it was restored by the Davis brothers. - Credit: Tony Goff

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Neal said: "We're lucky. We were able to work on this almost around the clock. We're retired. We have our own workshop - and it's not a massive engine like some.

"But a lot of these restoration projects are done by small teams of people who can spend half a day here and half a day there on them - we were doing this full-time."

Regular driver Nigel Pulham said Shreddie was a pleasure to drive on the Middy - and always attracted admiring glances from visitors. 

Nigel Davis pointed out that was a comparatively simple piece of machinery to operate: "It's just like driving a lorry - except you don't have to steer and you don't have to change gears very often!"