163 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces
From Chasewater News Autumn 1993 – Part 2
Some time ago Steve Organ, in conversation with us over a cup of tea in the Great Eastern tea room, intimated that a lot of railways were giving themselves pretty names, titles like ‘The Poppy Line’, or ‘The Watercress Line’. What could we call ours? Cynics shouted names like ‘Toe Rag Valley’, or ‘Rotten (Sleeper) Row’, ‘Fisherman’s Barrier Railway’, or even the ‘Beacon Walk Railway’ on the basis of the pedestrians and dogs who walk down the middle of the track daily.
Sometime later while talking to Adrian he told me of the local scene a hundred years ago, and that if you looked in the direction of the lake you would see a number of pits littering the hillsides. Not knowing the area, I was surprised to learn of the rich history. How many more visitors must come to us and just see spoil heaps, a little railway and a small lake, and not know the reason why we exist?
The map shows the extensive railway system and the local pits around Chasewater
During my time off work with my leg in plaster, I took the opportunity (with thanks to Rob Duffill and Tony Wheeler, who supplied the photographs and local history books) to build a low-cost exhibition showing the colliery history of the area incorporating the industrial railway scene. This is housed temporarily in the Southern brake van. Up to yet it seems to have been a success, the crowning glory being the installation of a pot-bellied wood burning stove designed and built by Paul Whittaker from a defective gas cylinder. The stove was first put to use to dry out the soaking timbers to prevent damp on the exhibits, but with a safety fire-guard, and ‘Do not touch – HOT’ signs this item has pleasantly provided visitors with a warm refuge away from the Chase breeze and seats on which to sit peacefully.
Recently a visitor’s book has been installed, in which the public can write their name and address and any comments about the railway in general against a box number. At the end of the season the numbers will be put into a hat and the visitor whose number is picked will win a small prize. This idea may encourage feedback from our passengers for future changes.
Recently our visitors have written:
· ‘Excellent’ and he especially likes the smell of the stove as it brings back memories of the good old days.
· ‘Very interesting’
· ‘Mega good’
· Whilst one gentleman has commented he ‘has seen better’
Personally I think that the last person is a railway enthusiast, and we should try to cater for his needs. The rest of the comments I think can be judged as being from:
· Visitors to the Park who stumble across us and are pleasantly surprised.
· Mums and Dads who are happy to show junior how life used to be when we owned the world.
· If they write a nice comment they stand a better chance of winning a bottle of wine.
A rough census of visitors revealed the following:
· 15% came from Birmingham
· 15% came from Lichfield
· 30% came from Walsall
· 30% are locals
· 10% are others
In conjunction with this annex to our main museum, Dave Whittle has publicised us in the railway press on a ‘Colliery Line’ theme and has successfully collected, delivered and exhibited two coal tubs complete with track and a colliery winding wheel for which Paul Whittaker is now building a support frame.
This truly has become ‘The Colliery Line’.
PS – Over £10 has been collected from donation boxes in the brake van over a single Bank Holiday!
Bass Community Awards – Keith Day
For the second year in succession the Chasewater Railway has won a Bass Community Award. The presentation took place at 7.00pm on Wednesday 7th July when Bass representatives Janice Clark and Leslie Barrett arrived carrying a rather oversized cheque for £250. The gift is to be used to purchase sleepers for use on the causeway.
Our two guests, and around thirty of our working members, family and friends were transported down to the end of the line in the GW brake van, where a photo session was called for, with no damage to the camera, although no pictures have yet been received.
After returning to Brownhills West, a small buffet and drinks had been arranged and was enthusiastically consumed. A jolly good time was had by all. Thanks Bass!
But not all had gone to plan – five minutes before Janice and Leslie arrived it had been discovered that the Fowler diesel would not start. The problem was diagnosed as either flat batteries or a faulty starter motor and it looked as though the night was set to become a disaster.
Now DL7 has been out of service for quite some time, although in recent weeks Ken, Chris and Andy have spent a lot of time working on it and, although the engine had been run up, the loco had not moved very far under its own power.
It was decided to run the train with the Fowler hooked on just in case.
DL7 performed impeccably, and at the railhead they also managed to start the Fowler. What initially appeared to be a disaster turned out to be somewhat of an historical event – double-headed diesels to the causeway. Well done Andy & Co. and yet again, thanks Les!