216 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces
From Chasewater News – Summer 1998 – Part 1
Editorial – Chris Chivers
In the spring edition of the Chasewater News I made reference to an old Chinese proverb – ‘May you live in interesting times’ – oh brother! How I should have kept my mouth shut!
Returning to Chasewater the week after a fortnight’s holiday in France I met our ‘esteemed’ Chairman in Walsall for the trip to the Railway to be on duty for 11o’clock. On the trip to Chasewater, David said that I should see the track materials which had arrived on the weekend I went away, and also look at some other things donated by Centrack over the following fortnight. We diverted to Three’s Junction, the end of our current lease, and drove to within a few yards of the gap in the hedge. With the rain coming down we walked onto the trackbed and I had a look around. I could see that the trackbed had been scraped clear of any remaining vegetation but as it was somewhat muddy we decided to walk up the dead end branch towards Five Ways. After managing to find a path through the trees towards our own line, I was looking down onto a line of laid-out sleepers. Moving further along behind some trees and bushes I finally caught sight of the railhead. When David and myself worked our way onto the laid track I thought that Arthur and the lads had been able to get a few panels laid past the pylon and were getting ready to carry on. Then I thought ‘where the b—- hell is the pylon? Arthur and the gang had laid something within the region of 400 yards of track in a fortnight. I was gob-smacked! When I managed to pick my jaw up, I was told to hang on as the works train was on its way. When it arrived it was bearing even more loads of plunder in the shape of the first delivery of 7 foot concrete fence posts. I know that I made an optimistic forecast that we could be at Threes Junction by the end of the years for works trains, but at this rate we could be open to passengers for the start of the 1999 season. The siding for the temporary platform at the new station is now under construction with Arthur and his merry men intending to lay the point for the deviation in 11 days.
In the thirteen years that I have been associated with the Chasewater Railway, I have seen many changes to the Society. When I first joined Chasewater was picking itself up out of the mud from a period of almost total stagnation. What a difference the past thirteen years have made. This year has seen the largest number of members ever, with a larger number of volunteers offering their services to the Railway (but we still need more!).
1998 has been so far the best ever for the Railway in that the number of passengers carried is up by 15% on our record-breaking 1997 season. When I get home and do the figures on a Sunday night after a day’s running, I realise that what was an exceptionally good Sunday’s running several years ago now seems to be a normal Sunday’s trading. Within the ranks of heritage railways Chasewater has come a long way and we are now classed as a small but rapidly expanding railway and definitely worth visiting. Gone are the knowing grins and sniggers from members of other Societies when the name Chasewater Railway is mentioned. Both past and present members can look back with pride at what has been achieved by a small railway with limited resources, and can look forward to a future which will see Chasewater go from strength to strength. Also, unlike a lot of our much larger associates, we are reasonably financially sound with no major financial millstones around our necks. The policy of obtaining materials in whatever form only when we can afford it seems to have paid off handsomely. It was heartbreaking some years ago when we had to turn down the offer of track and other items simply because we could not afford the cost of the transport or plant hire.
With the Railway looking to the future we are well on our way to securing the trackbed to Church Street where our fourth station will have to be built. This will be the first time the Railway has extended beyond our leasehold in the entire time that the Railway has been situated within the bounds of Chasewater. Whether or not we can extend any further remains to be seen. At the Brownhills West end of the line, some basic ideas have been committed to paper as to the new layout for the rebuilding of our current site when we are moved, these are for the moment only basic proposals and subject to revision as things progress. No firm dates have yet been put forward as to when the station site will be due for re-development in conjunction with the BNRR so we are expecting things to stay as they are for the 1999 season.
It is hoped that when Brownhills West is re-developed that more room can be given to our shop sales area. The cramped conditions that we now have are not conducive to increasing turnover and therefore shop sales have lacked the increase in performance that other sections of the Railway have enjoyed. This has been born out by the amount of business that the Bric-a-Brac stand has enjoyed since they moved into the portacabin, which was installed instead of the ‘blue van’ wagon body when it finally gave up the ghost. The bulk of the money raised so far this season is going towards carriage and wagon restoration. Keith Poynter asks if anyone is clearing out any items which are of no further use to them then the Bric-a-Brac would be most grateful for them, with one exception – we are currently overflowing with old railway magazines that we cannot shift! Even though we are grateful for any donations towards our fund raising efforts, we are finding that magazines take up a lot of space. If anyone knows somewhere which will accept the type of glossy paper used in the mags for recycling so we could raise some extra money for the Railway, could they please let me know.
With the advent of the new ‘temporary platform’ being erected during the winter, the problem of booking office staff and booking office equipment for the new station is coming to the fore. I’m currently looking for another three Edmondson ticket machines complete with type slugs to be used at the two new stations when they are built, and to replace the one in use at Brownhills West, as it is showing its age through general wear and tear. Initially, the station booking office at Threes Junction will be a temporary affair, possibly in one of the brake vans which can be moved into position at the start of each running day.
It has been proposed that a staff re-training session should be carried out in the closed season, due to the number of operating staff we now have and are likely to gain in the future. The re-training should be for all staff who works on the trains, P Way and station staff and anyone else working on or around the running line. Dates and the format of the course have yet to be decided.
On a different note, it was pointed out at the last Annual General Meeting by one of our longest serving members, Dave Ives, that the Railway is approaching its 40th birthday and it would be a good idea to celebrate it in some suitable fashion. A meal was held at the Wilkin for the Railway’s 30th in 1989, but I feel that it might be a bit small for our current membership. If anyone has any suitable ideas could they please drop me a line. We still have twelve months to go but there is no harm in a little forward planning.
Down in the loco shed things are moving at a steady pace. The centre set of axle boxes for S100 has now been fitted into the frames and work is commencing on the front set. When all six are finished the frames are to be repainted and the wheels re-united with the frames. Work on Alfred Paget is continuing as described in the article further in the magazine. Both the Sentinel and Asbestos still continue to perform well in traffic with minor maintenance on a week-to-week basis. 917 still remains stabled on the shed road awaiting restoration, and as progress continues on the overall locomotive restoration programme I feel that it will not be too long before work is started on bringing 917 back into service. The Hudswell Clarke and Invicta await the decision of the various parties as to when work will commence on bringing the locomotives back to full working order.
In a slightly lighter vein, any regular visitors to the Railway over the past couple of months will have noticed that we have ‘acquired’ a pair of horses. We are helping out a local gentleman by stabling his horses for a short period. Tony Wheeler has saved a fortune in strimmer wire and effort as the horses are great at keeping the grass in the top compound under control. As a bonus, the gardens are getting a great source of free fertiliser! The appearance of the top compound has been greatly improved and it looks much tidier all round. The bottom compound is also undergoing an amount of work. The fence line is being expanded and the steel sheds which we have acquired from Centrac have been erected, so increasing the amount of secure accommodation for all the materials that we have been receiving. The JCB has received attention to the gearbox, which necessitated a visit to the scrapyard, and the Railway also purchased a second dumper truck from the same source. A proposal has been made that this could be fitted with rail wheels so helping in the ballasting of the extension.