200 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces
From Chasewater News – Spring 1997– Part 1
Editorial – Chris Chivers
With the start of the 1997 running season fast approaching, the number of tasks to be done during the Railway’s close down period seems to be getting larger by the week. I must congratulate Arthur Edwards and his bunch who have, in the space of a few weeks, taken out part of the track which leads into Elsley’s Sidings and relayed it with the point work for the new head shunt and sidings area. The speed at which this has been accomplished, despite some appalling weather and frozen ground, must be an all-time Chasewater record. Hopefully with the growing membership, more working volunteers will come forward so allowing the pace of tasks such as track laying to be speeded up.
This year will be the longest running season that Chasewater Has ever seen, with Easter coming at the end of March and continuing through to the end of October. This should hopefully bring in enough funds to finally clear the few debts that the Railway still owes to external creditors. Once this is accomplished we can turn to the matter of paying back the members who have helped to fund the works which have been carried out on site over the past few years. The Railway is well on its way to being back in the position of ‘paying its way’ as well as building up a cash reserve for future expansion plans. This does not mean that the current financial restraints can be totally relaxed, but some easing of the position will, I’m sure, be welcomed by the working members.
It is with great regret that I received the news that John Elsley passed away several weeks ago after being ill for some time. Newer members might remember having seen John on the few occasions that he came to the site to do some work on the MSLR coach several years ago, a task which has been continued by Tony Wheeler and Alwyn Marsden. John also attended the opening of Norton Lakeside Station, which was the last occasion that I personally met him. As john was one of the original members of the Railway Preservation Society (West Midlands Branch), later Chasewater Railway, sadly another living link with our Railway’s past has gone.
On an altogether lighter note I would like to congratulate Andy Mould on winning a cheque for £500 from the Transport Trust towards completing the work on L & Y No. 1. I hope Andy that we will see more of you in the engine shed finishing off parts of the dismantled engine?
By the time that this issue is read by members a working party should have dis-assembled the first batch of track at IMI for transport to Chasewater. Primarily the material being recovered is rail and the associated metal work, as very few, if any of the sleepers are worth digging up. Once again this shows that we are in a position to recover track and other railway items when offered to us which was not the case some years ago, when we would not have been able to take advantage of such an offer.
One of the other jobs to be completed before the start of the running season is, of course, the never ending work of replacing and repairing the fences along the running line. As usual over the winter months the one or two moronic brain-dead idiots have had a busy time cutting the fences down with I’m sure their preferred Christmas presents – wire cutters. I can only hope that if they fall in front of a train that the locomotive will not be too badly damaged. I fail to see the pleasure that these few mindless idiots can get from putting their own lives in danger as well as other members of the general public.
General Manager’s Report – Steve Organ
I was very sorry to learn, in February, of the death of John Elsley, and active member for over 35 years. My favourite anecdote concerns the time John took a short train along ‘the branch’, crow barred it across the tar that had been sprayed across the level crossing at Norton East Road, trundled up the LNWR disused branch nearly to the sidings at Pelsall, to be chased back by the signal man, three miles from the end of our own line!
Rest in peace, John.
On a more cheerful note, Paul Whitaker, who has been leading the Neilson project, has agreed to being nominated to join the management board. This is largely in recognition of his demonstrated fund-raising skills and tenacity at the Neilson project, and we hope to broaden the scope of his application for the good of the Railway as a whole. I hope he will receive your support at the AGM. Like Dracula, we need fresh blood!
Looking back over the years since the causeway rebuild began, it is important that we consider how much we have achieved with so little. At times, it seems we are making little headway, but then we find that a project is nearly complete.
A case in point is the station at Brownhills West. With facilities totally inadequate for our anticipated growth in visitors, we began enlarging the station some three years ago. It was two years before the jigsaw of portable cabins became cohesive, but suddenly last year it happened. Only a few areas wait to be completed, and this year will see the disabled toilet finished, and a new shop opened. A new roof will be fitted to the buffet and its frontage finished. All of these are essential to persuading the public to come and part with their cash. Without the cash these facilities bring in, there would be no money for any of our activities. Except that at last, groups within our group are flourishing with the success of their own efforts to raise funds, look for instance at the Neilson group, running raffles and a lottery. This kind of effort benefits the Railway as a whole, helping to free up some of the business income to pay for essential infrastructure. Our efforts were fully vindicated last year with an astonishing 40% growth in traffic and record membership levels.
Long term planning helps infrastructure to mature gradually. Last year, planning for a headshunt and two sidings off the loco shed meant that when plant was available in the spring, Mick Webb and I were able to carry a point to a position adjacent to where it was to be eventually installed. This was rewarded when, in the first weekend of the New Year, despite truly bitter weather, the P-Way team led by Arthur Edwards started chiselling frozen lumps of ash ballast out of the ground ready for the new point. Some eight weeks later, the point is complete, and the shed road reconnected, a feat worthy of the highest recognition for this small band of men. As a comparison, the last point we laid was in the station yard, 11 years ago, and took 11 months!
Gary Kay, a very long standing member, has recently been in close liaison with IMI at Witton. For many years, we at Chasewater have looked speculatively at the track remaining there, and at last Gary’s unique talents have resulted in an offer of the rails on the site. These will be a significant help when it comes to extending the line towards Chasetown. Unfortunately, the sleepers at Witton are completely rotten and unusable. We now have to identify a storage site at Chasewater for the rails, a difficult problem in view of our continuing encounters with scrapmen.
More volunteers are of course always welcome. As well as the existing projects, such as track work and loco restoration, 1997 sees a plan to finish painting the DMU cars in the spring, and anyone who could help with preparation work, i.e. filling and rubbing down, masking, etc., is welcome to call me.
The Maryport coach should be re-panelled this year. The panels are on site, and a workshop in which they will be painted before fixing is available – would anyone like to help? Weekday working parties for both these projects are anticipated, so bear that in mind if you have a little spare time in the week.
Volunteers are of course still needed to help run the shop, buffet, station, trains and so on. Please get in touch or turn up on site any Sunday. Trains are of course running every Sunday from Easter to October, so we need all the help we can get.
With your help, 1997 could be our best year ever!