218 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces
From Chasewater News – Summer 1998 – Part 3
General Manager’s Report – Part 1
In my last report, I concluded by asking for more track; the speed of the response was staggering; and the events of the last few months have been nothing short of amazing.
Soon after the last magazine appeared in print, I was working with Keith Poynter and Tony Wheeler preparing the Company red and cream push-pull car for a repaint on a warm and sunny April day. The radio had been switched on in the Bric-a-Brac shop so that we could listen to the morning Malcolm Boyden show, but that had concluded and Ed Doolan had started his programme.
Now, painting is a very therapeutic sort of task, giving you a lot of time to think, especially when you are painting what is in effect a wall seven feet high and sixty-four feet long with eighteen windows and eight doors to cut around, i.e. a carriage side. I was thinking about the trackbed we had cleared through the woods towards Chasewater Heath and how we could resource materials and machinery to prepare the bed and lay the line. Tony was no doubt thinking about Industrial Railway sites or the Great Way Round that is his favourite railway. What Keith thinks about no one knows, but still, we were enjoying a nice bit of English spring, out in the fresh air and sunshine when I realised that Radio WM was now carrying the show which is famous for giving air time to poorly served consumers, people who want to say ‘thank you’ in public and…. People who are out on the scrounge. So I did it. Without telling the others, I telephoned the Ed Doolan show, told them of our charitable status and predicament, and was told to hold on; I would be next on the show! A few minutes later and I was telling Ed and the people of the West Midlands about our Railway and our need for track. In the distance I could hear Keith calling me, telling me that I was on the radio. He seemed not to realise that I already, somehow, knew!
Well, as soon as I put the phone down, it began to ring. People called to tell me where Railtrack contractors had piled sleepers following relaying, the names of timber merchants with sleepers, and one chap suggested he could ‘find’ sleepers for the right incentive (nudge, nudge). One kind widow even called to offer the six sleepers forming the base of her deceased spouse’s pigeon loft. One caller suggested calling Kurt Calder in the press office of Wolverhampton-based construction giant Tarmac.
One call to Kurt started a snowball rolling, and we are still struggling to keep it under control. It seems that Tarmac own two track maintenance companies, Centrac and GTRM. Centrac are primarily a ‘large projects’ track relaying company, and own the former BR Central Materials Depot in Northampton, where they strip down track panels and recycle the rails, sleepers and fastenings. Within a few days, I had been invited to visit the depot and meet the manager there, Lorne Gray.
Meanwhile, another call had come in from a company which has insisted on anonymity. They had some rail which was surplus to requirements – were we interested? A rapid response visit was arranged only to learn that the site had to be cleared within five days for redevelopment! A quick assessment revealed some 43 tons of rails in a huge heap, and so a team was assembled to prepare it for loading on two lorries for dispatch. Our friends at Hewden Hire once more gave us free hire of an all-terrain fork truck to load the rail. Three days later we had a vast pile of almost unworn GWR ‘OO’ rail in 45’ lengths at the trackside at Chasewater ready to be hauled up the line to the railhead.
Now here’s a funny thing. GWR ‘OO’ rail is 97.5 pounds per yard section which doesn’t fit very well in standard S1 chairs, although BS 95 lb rail fits fine in GWR ‘OO’ chairs. What an amazing thing, then, when I visited the CMD in Northampton, to find that we were to be offered 600 GWR style chaired sleepers with ‘OO’chairs! I was speechless for a while when I saw a stack of 300 sleepers already put aside for us. I would speculate that they had come from a diesel depot or similar site, they were completely soaked in oil and in first-class condition and I’m sure that they will last for many years. A collection date – the Thursday prior to the Bank Holiday Monday – was arranged, and a further call to Hewden Hire secured yet another gift of a five-day hire of an all-terrain fork truck. Tarmac/Centrac would load the sleepers to our hired lorries (3 loads) and the haulage company would leave the trailers at Chasewater for unloading. The big question now was – at which end of the line do we unload? If we piled the sleepers at Brownhills, they would later need to be re-loaded on to a flat wagon and then hand-unloaded on to the extension and hand-mauled for laying. If only we could access our line across the LCP Chasewater industrial estate. . . . .
More to come…