204 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces
From Chasewater News – Summer 1997– Part 3
Railcars on the Chase Pt 3
DMUs in Preservation
A well-known carriage and loco haulier booked to move the Gloucester arrived at Chasewater to start loading 12 hours behind schedule. A lovely, dry, sunny day had turned into a horrible evening. There was torrential rain, high winds and a truly brassed off Charlie (the park ranger) who insisted that it was his duty to walk the lorry through the park; he had waited all day by the gate for the lorry, only for his directions and protestations to be ignored as, soaked to the skin, he tried in vain to stop the lorry driver from reversing into a road sign at the park entrance. The road sign was beyond salvation, so was Charlie’s composure, so he went home, head down, fists clenched at his side, uttering the sort of oaths my mum would have flattened him for. The youth assisting, who had been sitting on the tail of the lorry, steering the rear bogie, now crawled out of the ditch into which he had fallen when the pantechnicon juddered through the road sign. Limping, and covered in what I thought (and he probably hoped) was mud, he offered much the same phrases as Charlie had, but with even greater vehemence. The storm soon spread the mud on him into an even brown, with vertical fluorescent stripes, each with a little stream; quite a change from his suit’s earlier orange glow. Worse was to come. I travelled the lorry to the loading site. The last 100 yards of the route involved crossing a grassy field. Now I knew that a hard route existed under the grass, and I got out and walked in front of the lorry to the loading point. No problem. The lorry arrived at the ‘Farmer’s Crossing’ where we had loaded and unloaded stock since 1968.
The Gloucester, chocked and braked, sat adjacent, a dazzling reflection of the lorry’s lights in the sheets of storm water falling down its side, projecting water from the gutter spouts at the carriage end more vigorously than the stone boys in a Roman fountain, defying the thunder and lightning, seeming somehow determined to ignore everything and everyone.
It was 9.00pm. The lorry driver and his mate were experienced men, and agreed that loading should wait until morning. He insisted that he could load and move away without my assistance the following day, so I walked with him along the course of the hard road that lay beneath the green sward, showing him the sighting points. I clearly remember, after warning him of the dangers he faced if he left the roadway, how he parted his long, soaked hair so that I could see him, smiled pityingly, and said ‘I’m a professional driver, son’. With that, he turned back towards his lorry, where the youth was assisting him in trying to warm a sandwich on the cab heater. Then I smiled, too. I had already seen how this ‘professional’ responded to directions and advice.
The following morning. 10.00am. Snug in bed, with the first cup of tea of the day. The telephone rings. It is, of course, the haulier. ‘What do you think you’re playing at, sending our driver through a swamp?’ ‘Is there a problem?’ I enquire, spilling tea on the cat as I tried to suppress a chortle.
‘Our wagon’s up to its axles in s**t with a carriage loaded on it, we sent another tractor unit to pull them out – that’s gone in the same and stuck too, this is going to cost you a lot of money to recover them from your site’,
I explained the events of the night before, and described the driver’s smugness. The caller must have recognised the driver’s style, for no further action was taken for damages. The lorry was stuck for two days before recovery was achieved, and when removed, having sunk deeper into the bog whilst awaiting recovery, left behind a length of canal 100 feet long and 9 feet wide, The Gloucester went away with muddy tyres…..
At BNFL, Eric Bond and his men successfully has asbestos stripped from the Gloucester, and restored the interior, a remarkable achievement in a very short time. Sadly the BNFL scheme became beset by beaurocracy and was eventually closed down. Sheridan Payne and the national Railcar Museum are the present custodians of the Gloucester (1997).
Next to go was the Wickham set.
The Llangollen Railway boasts a large collection of DMUs, with a support group led by Evan Green-Hughes. Dave Whittle, a Chasewater director at the time (he now organises our two huge vintage rallies) became the broker in a deal in which Evan and his supporters became the owners of the Wickham set, with the condition that it remained at Chasewater until suitable replacement stock was obtained.
At this time, the causeway rebuilding project at the north end of the lake was gathering pace. One of my ambitions in that project was to shave enough off the plant hire budget to pay for some of the rolling stock replacement, and in the end, sufficient was saved to pay for two vehicles, together with movement costs. Since this money came from an outside source, effectively brought in by providing the daily management of the causeway project in my capacity as General Manager, the cash – and the carriages – were a major side benefit of that scheme.
By 1990, BR were making mass cuts in what had by now become the Heritage fleet. Some Class 117 units were being used to transport workers in the Channel Tunnel, and these were amongst the first to become redundant, since Tyseley had needed to hang on to the asbestos-free units in their fleet until very late because of delayed deliveries of the new electrical units for the Birmingham area. In the event, a huge clearout of redundant rolling stock led to the issue of a 200 vehicle-long tender list which offered all that we could hope or wish for. The day that dropped through the letterbox was the day I bought my first bottle of Pro-Plus caffeine tablets, to try and extend my daily period of consciousness.
The problems now were that the carriages were all over Britain, only four weeks were available to view them, the causeway project was still, after two years, demanding my daily supervision, and no-one else was available to inspect the cars on the weekdays BR were willing to take us round.