A unique piece of European transport history has been preserved for future generations. For the first time in 20 years, King Haakon 7 is back in steam at Bressingham. The 70 ton steam locomotive, no. 377, is reputed to have carried King Haakon VII and his Government to safety, when the Nazis invaded Norway in 1940.
Having ensured that Princess Märtha and their children were safe in Sweden, King Haakon and his eldest son Crown Prince Olav remained in Norway, to play a pivotal role in leading the resistance during the German invasion.
In the early hours of April 9th 1940, The Norwegian Monarch was forced to lead his Government to freedom, reportedly climbing aboard the steam locomotive no. 377, a Mogul two-cylinder mixed traffic engine 2-6-0, built in Sweden by NYDQVIST and HOLM of Trollhattan in 1919.
The great locomotive carried King Haakon and his Ministers northward to safety, and from there they travelled to London, where from June 1940 they would continue to lead Norway’s resistance under German occupation.
King Haakon returned to Norway five years later, enjoying great popularity for the remainder of his reign and presiding over Norway’s entry to NATO in 1949. He withdrew from public life in 1955, and died two years later at the age of 85.
Locomotive No. 377 was originally operated by the Norwegian State Railway, serving in steam for more than 50 years before being scheduled for decommissioning in 1969. Mr. Gerald Pagano of the Norwegian Locomotive Preservation Group brought the steam engine to Great Britain, where it arrived in June 1970, going into service for Great Central Railway (GCR) on March 27th 1973.
Since being purchased by Bressingham Steam Preservation Trust in 1986, where the Locomotive was named for its intriguing history, King Haakon 7 has undergone an extensive programme of renovation and refurbishment, to return it as closely as possible to its original condition.
The 47’ long engine has been renovated mostly at Bressingham’s own workshops, with work including boiler restoration, the building of a new tank for the tender, a complete overhaul of all minor components and repainting.
“We are fortunate to have a highly skilled and resourceful team here at Bressingham,” explains Howard Stephens, general manager, “Philip Gray, our workshop manager, leads our renovation projects with the amazing support of our volunteers, to tackle any job from a major engine overhaul or bodywork, to internal restoration, painting and of course ultimately, driving.”
King Haakon 7 is in steam at Bressingham on Thursdays and Sundays throughout August, then every Sunday until the end of October.
Full details of opening times and ticket prices can be found on the Bressingham website, or by calling 01379 686900.
The Steam Museum and Gardens are located at Bressingham near Diss in Norfolk, just 2.5 miles west of Diss and 14 miles east of Thetford on the A1066.