202 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces
From Chasewater News – Summer 1997– Part 1
Editorial – Chris Chivers
The weather certainly turned in a few surprises for the start of our running season this year, as Easter and the next few weekends produced some beautiful spring days. This resulted in the best start to the season that we have ever had with Easter producing ticket receipts pushing towards the £1,000 mark for the first time, and the following weekends toping the same weekends in 1996. By the May Day Bank Holiday we had done just over 25% of last year’s traffic receipts. The ladies in the buffet also reported similar increases on last year and on one or two Sundays they had difficulty getting rid of the last customers so that they could close up for the day. I must give Doreen Edwards and her helpers in the buffet a big thank you for all their hard work in achieving this fantastic start to their season.
Shop and gift sales have also continued the trend of higher sales for the start of the year, and this can only improve when the new shop unit is completed and opened giving more room for customers and increased display space. Continuing with the good news, the receipts from memberships have nearly reached last year’s figures with renewals and new memberships and also a number of old members have rejoined the Railway. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome all the new members to the Society and I hope that they will visit the Railway regularly.
One reason for our higher profile to the general public has been the introduction of two new signs on the A5, courtesy of Les Emery, and these have been more noticeable to passers-by than the old ones. Also our new Publicity Officer, Kim Wilkins has been getting some more editorial in the local and not-so-local press. The marketing of the Railway has been gathering pace now that most of the facilities on offer to the general public and the rail enthusiast have been upgraded. There is still some work to be done to finish off the buildings, with a new roof to go onto the buffet/shop block, and then with a bit of luck, the booking office will receive some attention with new guttering and a new office door being re-hung so that when a cold wind blows down Chasewater I won’t freeze while trying to sell tickets. (Wimp!!)
We suffered the usual spate of mindless vandalism over the half-term break with a number of coach windows being broken on the DMU set. This was coupled by a break-in to the shed compound and most of the P Way shovels were taken. The break-in occurred with the simultaneous timing of an encampment of itinerant travellers who set up camp just outside the park. Due to the problems still faced with security to the compounds, Tony Wheeler and his small team have reluctantly decided to cease restoration to the vintage stock until secure accommodation can be provided.
The Railway has had its first visit by the new Railway Inspector, Mr. Keay, and we are still awaiting his report, but first impressions seem that he was reasonably happy with the Railway and the re-laying of the sidings received no objection.
With the first of the rallies completed, the overall turnout was better than expected given the miserable weather on the Saturday, and, as usual at Chasewater, the sun came through at 5.00pm on the Sunday just as things were coming to a close. With the overall responsibility for the event being taken over by Dave Whittle, the rally was a smoother affair than usual, without people trying to do half-a-dozen jobs at the same time. Hopefully this is a foretaste of things to come at our annual events.
From the Board Room
David Bathurst, Chairman
“A Glimpse into the Future”
I am sure that it is hardly necessary to describe the Railway’s achievements in recent years, because most of them are self-evident. However, the extension of the running line into Norton Lakeside Station must certainly represent the most significant success. Indeed, it is highly encouraging to see an increasing number of passengers wandering off into the distance at Norton Lakeside, returning on a later service, giving credence to our claim to provide something more than just a short pleasure ride behind heritage motive power.
But the most frequently asked question is ‘are you intending to extend further?’ The answer, of course, is a very emphatic ‘yes’, albeit on the basis of an undefined timescale.
The delaying factor has been one of bureaucracy, associated with the footpath which crosses the railway at Norton Lakeside Station. The view held – entirely properly – by HMRI was, and still is, that the Railway requires the necessary ‘authority’ to cross the footpath, despite the fact that the railway line may well have pre-dated the footpath. Indeed, it has been necessary to contemplate some quite expensive options to resolve the problem, including the possible provision of a footbridge, and applying for the modern-day equivalent of a Light Railway Order.
Although it will not have been apparent to the majority of our Members, there has in fact been much activity behind the scenes to make progress. An approach to Staffordshire County Council (which has responsibility for the footpaths in and around the area) has resulted in the Council co0nfirming that subject to appropriate safeguards and operating procedures, that would have no objection to our proposal to re-lay the line beyond our current terminus. In consequence, HMRI have also indicated an acceptance that the problem associated with the footpath appears to have been resolved. The next stage is to secure a ‘no objection in principle’ letter from the New Works Section HMRI in London, and an application to that effect has been made. Although some of our members may regard our proposed extension as a simple re-laying exercise and not ‘New Works’ as such, this is not the view held by HMRI. However, it must also be said that HMRI both locally and in London are attempting to assist the Railway in keeping on the procedural straight and narrow, and their advice and support to date has been extremely positive.
If HMRI London are prepared to issue this letter, then it means quite simply that we can proceed with our proposed track laying to the end of our lease, at Threes Junction. This would give the Railway a further 890 yards or thereabouts of running line. Of course, we would in due course need HMRI’s formal approval before we could bring the extension into use for the conveyance of passengers.
Just as an aside, I believe that ‘Threes Junction’ has entered the Railway’s vocabulary by default, rather than on the basis of something actual. Despite extensive enquiries. No one has yet been able to provide the official name (if there ever was one) for this junction; if anyone has any information, preferably supported by documentary evidence, then we shall be delighted to hear from them.
From a construction viewpoint, the extension offers no particular challenges, especially as there are no structures to be provided or maintained. The one significant shortfall, however, is a lack of sleepers, of which a great number – whether wood or concrete – will be required. If any of our members or supporters would like to make themselves immensely popular in overcoming this shortfall, then I shall be delighted to hear from them. If we do receive HMRI approval to proceed, then this may signal the most opportune time to approach Lichfield District Council with a view to a further extension to (at least) Chasetown (Church Street). It will not have escaped the attention of members that if we extend the running line, we shall also need to provide a further passenger station. The location of such a station would have to take into account of exactly where we could operate to. To extend to Chasetown (Church Street) would give us yet a further 600 yards of thereabouts of running line, an inviting prospect indeed.
The Railway has been offered a substantial quantity of rail (but not sleepers) by a local company and arrangements are in hand for its delivery to Chasewater. In view of past disappointments, I prefer to report on this further and in greater detail when the rail is actually in our possession.
The Board is ever mindful of the need to promote the Railway’s credibility, both to the public and the railway restoration movement. Increased passenger numbers already this year, coupled with regular applications from new members, are indicators that we are achieving such credibility. An early aim must be to persuade Lichfield District Council members and officers that our claims to credibility are well-founded and entirely justified.
Finally, we were sorry to learn of the retirement of our Inspecting Officer Mr. Colin Law. Over a number of years, Colin has offered much sound advice and has always been very supportive in his relationship with the Railway. We wish him a lengthy, enjoyable and well-earned retirement.
On Sunday 8th June we had the pleasure of meeting our new Inspecting Officer Mr. David Keay, BSc, CEng, MIEE, MIMechE. Although Mr. Keay was visiting the Railway primarily in connection with the application for the ‘no objection in principle’ letter mentioned earlier, he took the opportunity to inspect many aspects of our operations and infrastructure, including the locomotive shed. Interestingly, Mr. Keay is a local man, now living in Penkridge, who has a clearer recollection than many of the former mineral railway operations in the area, including our own line!
A number of extremely helpful comments and words of advice emerged from the 3-hour inspection, all of which yet again confirms the view which I have expressed many times, namely that the role of HMRI is to offer guidance and support and not, as may have once been the perception of some older members, to find any excuse to ‘close us down’ on any pretext.