211 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces
From Chasewater News – Spring 1998 – Part 1
Editorial – Chris Chivers
As the old Chinese proverb goes ‘May you live in interesting times’. This is certainly true for the Railway. After many years of the late seventies and early eighties spent in the doldrums, the Chasewater Railway has pulled itself back from the brink of extinction to become a thriving, go-ahead enterprise. 1997 has shown an increase of over 20% in passenger traffic, our biggest increase in many years, and provisionally 1998 looks as though it could be better yet. We are running our longest season to date, which will, I’m sure, bring about a willingness of our ever-increasing number of members to drop in and lend a hand. The Railway is still reliant on a hard core of volunteers turning up most Sundays to do whatever jobs need doing. Even though the numbers have increased substantially, we still need more volunteers. This has been demonstrated in no uncertain terms by the P Way gang, under the direction of Arthur Edwards, and also the diesel maintenance crew with Ken Dyde in charge. The amount of track which has been laid since last year towards Threes junction is staggering. If we can acquire the relevant materials we should be through to the end of our current lease before the end of 1998. Church Street here we come!!
The diesel lads have also done extremely well, not only have they managed to get on top of the routine maintenance, but it is hoped that Simples No.21 will be running in the summer. They are also looking at getting the other ‘combustion engine’ units in working order. The other activities around the Brownhills West site are continuing. Tony Wheeler and several other volunteers are doing their best to keep our wooden-bodied stock in reasonable order, but until we can get the vehicles under covered accommodation it will always be a make do and mend operation. Tony and his crew have done wonders considering the handicap that they are under, also the undeniable talents of Tony’s ‘scrounging’, sorry, acquiring of materials has been fantastic.
The loco shed has also been a hive of activity with work progressing on all the locomotives currently under cover. The axle boxes from S100 have started to be reunited with the frames, even though some problems have occurred, which have required the manufacture of some rather thick shims. Alfred Paget is still being actively worked on, with most of the welding to the boiler now being completed.
Wearing one of my other hats, that of the Membership Secretary, I would like to thank all the members who have renewed their memberships. As of the beginning of March over half of our 1997 members have sent in their annual subs, but if you still have it sitting on the mantelpiece ready to post, please do so as every penny counts. I must apologise to any members who had an incorrect address on their renewal form, this was due to my computerised database having a minor nervous breakdown (or was it the operator?! cws). Computers are wonderful when they work, but just occasionally they can be a real pain (similar comment!! cws).
Arthur Edwards has asked me to let any interested people know that there will be a regular ‘Track Bash’ on the last Sunday of each month, starting at 10.30am from Brownhills West station – please come along.
The Railway has received a visit from an independent company of track consultants, employed by the Highways Commission, to view the Brownhills West site. This is in line with the expected re-development of Brownhills West Station and the associated sidings, due to the works in relation to the BNRR. We are awaiting their report on whether our ideas for the site are feasible or not. It is expected that due to the time scale element, contractors will carry out the re-development of the new Brownhills West complex.
Progress on the Extension – Arthur Edwards
After the autumn and part of the winter continuously track laying there seemed to be no end to the work ahead. But on 10th February in the early evening I received a phone call from the General Manager, Steve organ, asking if I was available on the following Friday afternoon to move (as I thought) the buffer stops at the end of Norton Lakeside station. So I agreed to be there at about 3.00pm.
Funnily enough, it still didn’t dawn on me when I saw the Chairman, David Bathurst, waiting there, I just assumed that he’d been out on business for his job, and dropped in for a cup of tea to see how things were going. Steve told me that he was going to have a run down the line in the DMU and would I like to come along? Several other members were also on site at Brownhills West, so along with Tony Wheeler, Ken Dyde, Albert Dean, Vic, Jan and my old mate DJ we all got on board. With DJ and myself looking out of the window towards Chasewater Lake we approached Norton Lakeside station. At this point, I thought that Steve was still moving at a fair speed instead of slowing down on his approach to the platform.
As we entered the station I realised that the buffer stops had already been moved to one side. I looked at DJ and he looked back at me with a smile like the cat that had the cream. When I looked back out of the window, I saw that the track that we had laid over the past 4½ months had been ballasted, and the overgrown drainage channel between the trackbed and the park had been dredged out, right up to the next pylon, some half-way towards Threes Junction. Steve had hired in a road-rail digger during the week for the purpose of clearing out the drainage channel, and with the help of DJ and a hired JCB, a large quantity of black ash had been transported down the line towards the rail head. The 360º digger had been used to pull off the black ash as it arrived on the flat wagon into the four-foot along the currently laid extension. In between times it was hard at work digging out the ditch to a depth of just over two feet below the trackbed. Even DJ was surprised at what he saw, as he had been working on the ash pit and had not had a chance to see what had been going on. What was going to take us several months of hard labour had been completed in one day.
The only work left to do was to jack and pack the track from Norton Lakeside station to the current end of the line. Over the following two weekends the number of panels lifted to the correct height and packed meant that we could continue with recovering the rest of the trackbed from the undergrowth. If we can finish the jacking and packing before any more sleepers arrive we will be well on top of the job. But if the sleepers do arrive before then, I say grab them while you can!
This has got to be one of the few times that I have been totally gob-smacked, rendered totally speechless, at a loss for words. Within the space of a few days what had looked like a long slog had turned into a dream. Now I could look forward to breaking out of the trees with the track and getting to the end of our current lease. All I can say to the regular lads on the gang is ‘thanks’ and no more downers from now on – they’re too expensive!!