117 – ChasewaterRailwayMuseum Bits & Pieces
Topham & Austerity No.7 by Mike Wood.
From the Editorial
No Chasewater News for the last twelve months and still no new Editor – but promises of better things to come!
At long last, the fruits of the reorganisation of two years ago are beginning to show. The pace of progress at the Railway, both in administration and in physical terms, has reached a point where real new achievements are evident, as distinct from the earlier ‘marking time’. This can be seen wherever you look; at Brownhills West, the station and yard are at their tidiest ever – the stock in the yard is all visibly presentable – the booking office, station office and shop are all established and contribute to both the appearance and good-working of our business – the trackbed is commendably tidy, and at last growing in length – the Gloucester coach and the Wickham coach are both being refurbished, and we are looking forward to the inclusion of a bar car in trains later this year. Add to that the near completion of our run round loop’s refurbishment, the completion of the revised S & T arrangements, and a record turnover last year, and you can see that in the first complete commercial season of the new Company’s operation of the trains we’ve introduced, the Chasewater Light Railway has become a real hive of industry; projects are planned, materials are at hand, and to maintain the present impetus, we need your help!
Then followed the usual appeal for help on Saturdays, Sundays and train operating days.
Carriage & Wagon Notes
Gloucester DMU driving trailer (BR Class 100)
This vehicle was acquired in 1968 by the Railway Preservation Society (West Midlands) for operation on their Chasewater running line, and was the first of four of this type of vehicle to go for preservation, the other three being, one which resides at the Gwili Railway, and two at the Swanage preservation site, where two driving motor cars of this type are also kept.The Gloucester this year celebrates its 21st anniversary in preservation, it’s been at Chasewater for twice as long as it was in BR service, and the interior still had the same seat coverings as when it rolled out of the Gloucester C & W workshops in 1957. Sadly, these furnishings have inevitably become very worn, some torn and pierced by cigarette burns, and all suffering from old age. Unfortunately, it’s not been possible to obtain the same pattern maquette to replace the old; however, the entire vehicle is being reupholstered, hopefully in time for Easter. Also the floor is receiving attention, and new carpet fitted in the newly reinstated first-class section.
Externally, the vehicle quite recently received a repaint, including the roof, but some attention to the body is being undertaken as a preventative measure against the weather. The lavatory compartment is being used as a store, since the pan is broken and there seems little point in replacing it when the Wickham trailer, complete with a perfect working order loo will shortly be joining it in service fro two-car running in the summer.
Wickham Driving Motor Kitchen Car
This vehicle has been the subject of a winter overhaul internally. Starting in the dining saloon, the ceiling has been repainted, and a thorough cleaning given to al other surfaces. The kitchen area has been completely emptied of all loose items so that the whole interior could be thoroughly scrubbed down, disinfected, etc., and the only items that have been returned there are those which are absolutely essential for daily catering service. By doing this, a drastic reduction in the amount of items to be tidied and kept clean has been achieved, providing whoever works in there with a better environment. Less cluttered workspace, and a little more time to spend on the smaller number of items to be kept clean. This is in line with general Railway policy of making tasks essential to our statutory duties as simple as possible – the smaller the task, the more likely it is to be done, and properly.
A start has been made on the overhaul of the doors, which, being made of a soft wood framing, have become severely warped over the years.
Wickham Driving Trailer
At last! A policy decision backed with cash has been taken to restore this vehicle to operational use. Last year’s traffic levels clearly demanded extra capacity, and the receipts from the 1988 operation have left us with enough money to start to replace windows and seats, as well as to repaint the exterior, all of which are scheduled to commence between the Easter and Whitsun steamings.
Virtually no attention has been given to any other of the rolling stock, due to lack of manpower. This year will see a repeat of the 1987 operation of trying to prevent further deterioration in the historic vehicles, since the provision of much more extensive accommodation is now being actively pursued by the Company, which would allow us to spend time and money much more effectively than we can at present on these vehicles. However, the LNWR West Coast Joint Stock full brake (the ‘James’), which houses part of the small relic collection will certainly have attention to its roof soon – a simple task awaits anyone prepared to play with bituminous coatings – come along to the site suitably attired and ask for ‘Clippie’ and the materials will be provided! P.S. free tea is provided for workers on Saturdays!
THE BIG LEAK – OR, WHO PULLED THE PLUG OUT?
Regular visitors to Chasewater will have observed the dramatic drop in the level of the reservoir in the last few months. Railway members at first thought it was the water board’s response to our request for consideration of the condition of the causeway on which the railway crosses the lake, which had been adversely affected by the very high water level during 1987, in which year the causeway had actually been breached during a storm. (This sounds familiar – low reservoir, breached causeway but this time it was natural causes! For those who may not have been following the recent happenings at Chasewater, the lake has been virtually emptied and a culvert put through the causeway!) However, the British Waterways Board have said that they can only attribute this to a leak and to the very low level of rainfall for the last nine months. They have ‘no idea’ as to the reason for the scale of the water loss, but are ‘investigating’. Meanwhile, they have ceased to abstract water for the Wyrley and Essington Canal from Chasewater, and we have the benefit of being able to see the whole of the causeway embankment down to its base – and a very sobering site it is too! But at least we now have a much better idea of what we need as regards the type of materials to use in our planned repair of this essential link in our future enlarged railway.
Permanent Way Notes
Winter 1988 at last saw the completion of phase one of the Brownhills West station yard relaying. For several years, with the threat of the Birmingham North Orbital Road hanging over the station, we have simply patched up as necessary in the station yard. However, it’s been recognised for some time that if we were to stay at this location at all beyond 1988, we would need to completely relay the point leading to the sidings (No.2 point) and the centre road, since these had been laid in 1970 and largely untouched since. The completion of this task has been greeted by all with a sigh of relief since it demanded a lot of what we are short of – manpower. One really good thing to come out of it, apart of course from the comfort of the demonstration of concern for safety, is that the opportunity of revising the geometry of No.2 point was taken, and where we previously had a point taking up acres of land, with long leads (someone once said that it would make a good 70mph turnout if the sleepers weren’t so knackered and you could trust the brakes on loco No.21, we now have a much shorter point with sharper turnout and therefore a greater length of siding accommodation behind.At the other end of the line, work commenced in earnest in December on the extension towards the causeway. This work consists of removing both the running line and loop (which is to be relocated at the new station site at Norton East) and relaying the running line in plain track with the concrete sleepers we already have in hand. To this end, because of the great weight of the concrete sleepers, and because we have good hard standing access to the land immediately adjacent to the railway on this section, we are trying to find someone who will bring along and operate for a day, a HIAB truck, that is, a truck with a mechanical arm attached to it, to move the sleepers from the storage point near the level-crossing to the work-site – so if anyone out there can help, please get in touch.
The 1988 season saw the greatest number of steaming days so far achieved by our group, and the forthcoming season will require even more loco availability than last. The loco department certainly did the Railway proud as there were no loco failures all season. Asbestos and the Sentinel were the stalwarts of the whole passenger service, tended in the greatest part by Colin Marklew and Nigel Canning respectively. Over the 1988/89 winter, they have been stripped down for boiler examinations and general servicing. Because of the need to completely dismantle the boiler of the Sentinel, work on this commenced soon after the October ‘Gricer’s Day’. This meant that we were totally reliant on Asbestos for the ‘Mince Pie Specials’, and there she was, gleaming in the sunlight on Tuesday the 27th December, in service on one of the nicest and busiest days of the year.The use of Asbestos at Christmas, however, meant that the loco department then needed to strip it down, have the boiler inspected, rectify any defects and re-assemble it by Easter, as the Sentinel will not be ready for a return to service before Whitsun. Will they do it? Come along at Easter and find out.
Work continues on S100, Lion and the little Barclay, and the race to be the first newly restored loco to run on the new extension in 1990. Looks likely to be either Lion or the little Barclay.
On the diesel front, both the Fowler and DL7 are available for services, and the loco dept. are looking towards vacuum fitting one of these (probably the Fowler) during the summer.
The Wickham set has benefited from the attentions of the loco dept also, various refurbishments on the engine and transmission front are being undertaken to complement the C. & W. work on the bodies of these, and both engines have now recently been successfully ‘run-up’.