194 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces
From Chasewater News – Autumn 1996 – Part 2
From the Board Room
David Bathurst – Chairman
More Health & Safety Matters
Issues concerning health and safety in its wider context continue to give rise for anxiety for the Board. In my article in the previous edition of ‘Chasewater News’, I devoted much attention to the work undertaken on the Railway’s Risk Assessment. The production of such an assessment is in itself a form of self-audit, but its importance lies equally in its acceptance by the working members and their commitment to follow the procedures prescribed for each aspect of the Railway’s activities.
It is important that our working members know, rather than assume they know, the approved procedures. The majority are, of course, straightforward common sense. The underlying theme is to ensure, as far as is possible, that the Company operates its trains (and all ancillary activities) safely for the public visiting the Railway, our passengers and – especially – our working members. In pursuance of these objectives, relevant extracts from the approved Risk Assessment are shortly to be distributed to working members. Our practices and procedures need to be kept under review; the Risk Assessment is not merely a document to be kept under wraps in the office.
The Risk Assessment also requires the Company to improve its record-keeping, particularly in relation to those areas governed by legislation or regulation. Responsibility for maintenance of such records will rest with the Company Secretary, although he will have the power to delegate such responsibility where appropriate. In the first instance, the opportunity has been taken to produce a fully updated and comprehensive list of working members.
1996 Rule Book
By the time this edition if ‘Chasewater News’ is published, all regular working members will have received their personal copy of the much-awaited 1996 Rule Book. The Company’s Rules and Regulations complement and form part of the Risk Assessment (and vice versa) and considerable emphasis is being placed on the need for working members to know and understand them.
For far too long, the Railway has had to rely on the availability of just two steam locomotive drivers, whose dedication to duty has exceeded all reasonableness. Under the umbrella of the approved training programme, action is being taken to increase the number of ‘qualified’ footplate personnel so as to spread the load somewhat. Not only have a significant number of members been ‘authorised’ by the Company as footplate and train crew, but also arrangements are now in hand for examination of footplate personnel by external qualified assessors.
The Rail Regulator
It may come as a complete surprise to learn that the extension into Norton Lakeside Station and the station itself currently have to meet (in theory at least) the requirements of the Railways Act 1993. The Act comprises no less than 154 sections and 14 schedules!! This is a consequence of the station having opened subsequent to the 1st April 1994. However, the Company has made a formal application to the Office of the Rail Regulator for exemption from the provisions of the 1883 Act and a response (hopefully favourable) is now awaited.
Policy Statement 1996
The Board has approved a document which effectively represents the Company’s non-financial business plan for 1996 and onwards. Members may find it to be of interest and it is accordingly intended to publish the entire document in a forthcoming edition of ’Chasewater News’.
Running and Restoration Agreements.
Again by the time this edition of ‘Chasewater news’ is published, the first formal Running Agreement will have been entered into between the Company and a private owner of an item of rolling stock. Much work has been undertaken ‘behind the scenes’ in finalising both Running and Restoration Agreements, which are based on the document kindly provided by PeakRail. These will be mandatory in relation to all items new to the Railway, but it is also intended for them to be offered to existing private owners of stock at Chasewater so as to establish a clear understanding between the parties.
Lichfield District Council
It is some little time since I set out in ‘Chasewater News’ a note of the wide range of issues outstanding between the Railway and Lichfield District Council (LDC). I explained then that certain issues could not be resolved until a decision is forthcoming on the BNRR (M6 Toll).
What I could not have anticipated was that the non-BNRR issues have moved no further forward since the date of the previous article. Despite letters to and meetings with the LDC, some very important (to the Railway) matters appear to be languishing in the Council’s offices. These include (as examples only) our application to extend beyond the current lease and the prospect of resurrecting the LRO application.
Such is the Board’s concern over this wall of silence, that Steve Organ, Les Emery and myself held a private meeting in June with the LDC’s Chairman of Development to describe the Railway’s ‘disappointment ‘ at the Council’s apparent disinterest in our future – or at least disinterest in responding to letters regarding our future. The meeting was followed by an exchange of correspondence. It remains to be seen how the Council will react but it has to be said that an increasing number of Chasewater Railway members are beginning to wonder whether the Council and the Railway are following the same agenda.
So far, these ‘From the Boardroom’ notes have dealt with some rather dry and dusty matters. To redress the balance somewhat, it is pleasing to say the least to report a significant improvement in all aspects of our core business so far this year. The number of passengers has increased steadily. In consequence, revenue from fares is up, the buffet is attracting far more customers, and shop sales have increased accordingly. There are some (although they would not wish to be identified publicly) who have actually detected a slight smile on the face of the Financial Controller.
It is difficult to identify, let alone understand the reasons for fluctuations in traffic. Comparisons between relevant dates year-on-year can lead to much head scratching. We must be doing something right, however, if the figures to date are anything to go by. Of course, our income compared with the first division preserved railways is insignificant, but improved revenue will at least enable us to discharge our ever-reducing external debts and modest bank overdraft.
P Way News – Arthur Edwards
Since the last news letter maintenance has continued at a steady pace on the current running line. Fencing is a perennial problem especially around Norton Lakeside Station with a number of sections being continuously cut down by the general public so that they do not have to use the designated route across the trackbed. They feel it is easier to use the railway bridge instead of the footbridge alongside, and further means will have to be implemented to discourage them from this practice. It might be possible to utilise some of the metal fence panels which are behind the buffet to strengthen the platform fence.
The first batch of weedkilling went well, but it will require another go at it later this year to really get on top of the problem. A different mix is to be tried out in an attempt to kill back the blackberry runners which keep on invading the cleared trackbed, also the problem of bracken on the embankments to Willow Vale bridge has to be addressed. It could be possible to instigate a regular policy of firing off the banks in order to allow grass to grow through and so reduce the risk of fire hazard.
Some work has commenced on the extension to Three Ways Junction (the end of our current lease) to get it ready for the expected ‘track bash’ over the winter. This work has included trimming back some of the overgrowing hedgerow and generally tidying up the site. Some elements of the track fittings have arrived from the aborted site in Wolverhampton and we are now awaiting the sleepers and track from an alternative site in Wales.
Brownhills West Notes – Kim Wilkes
Regular visitors to the Railway cannot fail to notice that the dining area of the buffet was transformed over last winter. The new curtains, menus and flowers on the tables add to the effect. This year’s success in the buffet has only been marred by some break-ins, but work done on the shutters, etc. should help. A rota of catering assistants to cook and serve the excellent food would ease the load of the current ladies who staff the buffet at present. Also required are more home-made cakes which have proved popular this year.
Can you help?
Again, regular visitors to the Chasewater Railway cannot fail to notice that the flower beds and planted areas are looking much tidier, thanks to the hard work of one of our newer members, Joyce.
Museum and Shop
Due to a large amount of vandalism and theft over a period of time, the museum has remained closed to the public. Repair work to the LNWR 50ft brake (museum coach) is under way courtesy of Gary Kay, and as work progresses it is hoped that the small relics collection can be displayed to the public in the not-too-distant future. The shop is still housed in the booking office at the present time, but as the steel roller shutters have now been installed on the new block it is hoped that what was going to be the general office can now be converted into a new shop area over the winter period, so allowing more space for a wider selection of items to be sold.