210 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces From Chasewater News – Winter 1997– Part 3 General Manager’s Report

210 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces

From Chasewater News – Winter 1997– Part 3

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General Manager’s Report

Steve Organ

Chasewater park is perceived by members and the public to be a public park, yet only now, thirty + years after first proposals, the joint strategy being developed between Staffordshire County Council and Lichfield District Council, envisages Chasewater as an embryonic Country Park.  The incorporation of land owned by Staffs CC to the north-east of Chasewater with lands controlled by Lichfield DC to form a larger leisure area at last gives the Chasewater Railway a potentially viable purpose, that of offering a true public transport role, within the park.  Such a role should enable us to expand the scale of our activities by providing a stronger revenue stream.  We are already in discussion with Lichfield and Staffs Councils about a possible extension along the new Burntwood Bypass to Church Street in Chasetown.

The Forest of Mercia has announced plans, in association with Lichfield DC, to develop a £1.5 million visitor centre as a centrepiece to ‘Chasewater Gateway to the Forest of Mercia’.  The centre will be located near the present main gate to Chasewater on Pool Road.

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 Now here’s the funny bit. The Chairman and I have been greeted with a stone wall whenever (over the last three years) we have tried to present a case for serving the park better by extending the main gate car park.  The constant damage done to the park by vehicles, and the new presence of the motorway along whose flank we could so easily be accommodated to the main gate are arguments which we have long tried to offer to the planners of Lichfield.

A breath of fresh air seems to be blowing our way, now that the Burntwood Bypass and the Motorway plans have firmed up and meaningful discussions pursuing real time dates are now taking place.  By the time this is in print, a meeting with the Chasewater committee of Lichfield DC may at last have taken place.  There is nothing wrong with you writing to your Councillor if you are one of our many Lichfield members in support of our scheme.

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The Chase Terrace Extension (to Threes Junction) (Chasewater Heaths)

These works have got off to a terrific start, and since the buffers were removed from Norton Bog (sorry, I’m supposed to call it Lakeside aren’t I?) station, works using the materials so kindly donated by BOC have proceeded apace.  The BOC materials were exhausted by mid-November, having been laid out on the 1994-prepared bed, but without the benefit of packing ballast.  Since the rails on this section were keyed and coupled, the last two weeks in November saw the commencement of ballast workings, with jacking and packing commencing, providing warm work on cold winter days.  This section of the extension takes works trains way out of sight of Lakeside Station, and onto line not travelled upon for many years since the old, scrap rail was taken up.

The second weekend of December saw a small team collecting a new supply of donated sleepers, and so of course, anyone wishing to join in the fun should come and see us on any Sunday at about 10 o’clock.  The new sleepers are already at the end of the extension and will take the track at last into the woods near the old ‘Threes’ pit workings.  The end of the present extension will be in sight soon if the present rate of progress is continued, and this exciting phase of our project could soon bear fruit in terms of extending passenger operations.

Sponsors

In 1997 I have been keen to develop relationships with contractors as well as donors so that if we are offered materials we can respond quickly and professionally.

TORRENT TRACKSIDE, now part of Vibroplant, are a nation-wide hirer of permanent way plant to Railtrack contractors.  Their head office is at Rugeley, a short drive across the Chase.  When offered track at BOC in Wolverhampton, I needed to dismantle the components for transport, and Torrent kindly responded with the free of charge hire of certain tools, including most significantly, a petrol driven ‘Bance’ wrench, which was to prove invaluable not only in dismantling track, but of course in the reconstruction on our extension works.  The advantage is, for instance, that a sleeper can have a chair removed and replaced in about 3 minutes instead of 30 minutes if the work was done manually.  Further tools such as railsaw and rail drills allow one or two people to carry our rail cutting and preparation on a weekday ready for assembly by the P way gang at the weekend.  What is more, Torrent has provided a training course in the use of these tools!

Further loans of generators and lighting equipment helped the success of our rallies this year.

Torrent

We continue to enjoy the association with Torrent, and in return for tool hire, offer them a facility to train staff in Railtrack accredited look-out courses on our Railway from time to time, adding a further, very interesting aspect to our sphere of activities.

THE BRITISH OXYGEN COMPANY at Wolverhampton were kind enough to offer their last remaining sidings to us this year, providing a very useful amount of track – unworn rails and excellent hardwood sleepers – which a band of just six of us collected in only two weekends.  Although we worked hard – very hard – until 9.00pm on the four days when we dismantled and stacked the track, the speed of our collection was partly possible thanks to Torrent and also to the help of BOC fork truck drivers who loaded the materials onto the trucks.

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HEWDENHIRE provided a JCB all terrain fork truck for us at Wolverhampton.  This has a great psychological effect on us as it made the scale of the job seem achievable.  The track was stripped down, all components placed on pallets at the trackside, and the rails were then dragged into a pile near the loading point using the JCB.  The pallets of chairs and other components were then collected with the JCB and tipped into a skip for transport.  Finally, the sleepers were scooped up with the forks; a job made harder since the sleepers need to be stacked on top of each other on the forks manually; the weight of the hardwood sleepers was enormous.  Once stacked near the rails, the sleepers were ready for collection.  The sleepers from Wolverhampton were finally exhausted on our extension in November and the search for more was on.

A potential supply of a similar number of sleepers to those at BOC was identified in October, and efforts made to collect these as soon as possible.  Our continued accumulation of experience led to these being recovered in just one day, by just four members!  What is more, after the sleepers arrived at Chasewater on the second Saturday in December, the Sunday saw the entire consignment removed to the end of the extension works!

MILLER PLANT of Highgate Road in Dudley were on this occasion able to lend us another 4-wheel drive fork truck, without which it would have been near impossible for us to collect these sleepers.

IMI at WITTON have recently offered a quantity of rails which we are in the process of collecting, again I am presently trying to find an amenable local plant hire company.

HSS TOOL HIRE in Erdington have also helped us this year with free hire of a water pump, which was used to pressurise weed-spraying equipment mounted on the 20-ton Great Western Toad brake van.  An angle grinder was also borrowed, and the offer made of a post-hole borer for the fence on our extension, which I expect we shall be taking up early in the New Year.

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The Chasewater Railway sincerely thanks all of you for helping us so much.

All in all, 1997 has been a very interesting year and as the New Year approaches, discussions are taking place which will shape our future.  If we are invited to extend to Church Street, or even the main gate, our experience in building track and handling materials will be a key factor in meeting the inevitably tight timescales.  1998 will see work commence on a new headquarters and yard, and perhaps a new station opening at Threes Junction.

Our sponsors will I am sure continue to be a great help, but of course, the greatest asset we have is you, the members.

PS

DEAR FATHER CHRISTMAS

Please can I have some bits for the train set?

I would like an all-terrain fork truck, 750 sleepers, and 40 rails.

I have tried to be good and I promise to behave.

Steven.

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