219 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces
From Chasewater News – Summer 1998 – Part 4
General Manager’s Report – Part 2
To continue, now here’s another funny thing. I visited the Manager of LCP Estates, a gentleman by the name of Bryan Sargeant, whose lands extend to a border with our leased line near Chasetown, the other end of the extension. I asked if we could take our lorries with sleepers across their land so that they could be unloaded where we would use them, in order to avoid double or treble handling of the sleepers. This was especially important since the sleepers, being in such good condition, were very heavy. I outlined our plans to Mr. Sargeant, who took a keen interest. By the end of the conversation, he had agreed to our request. He then offered the use of the estate’s bulldozer to prepare the trackbed. Once again I was staggered, but I did manage to say ‘yes please’!
The Bank Holiday drew near, the trailers arrived. In the intervening weeks, all of the rail had been stockpiled at the railhead. With a hired JCB, the drainage ditch along the next phase of the extension was cleared; we were ready to go – only the weather could stop us!
Three weeks without rain meant that the new trackbed was dry, although very undulating. As soon as the forklift arrived, it dragged the rails from the railhead along the trackbed where it was deposited alongside the new alignment. The sleepers were then collected in bundles of twenty and deposited high on the side of the cutting adjacent to where they would be used. It took until 5.30pm on the Bank Holiday Monday – five days – to deliver all the materials along the site, a quite remarkable achievement by five men.
The following Saturday, LCP Estate’s D6 Bulldozer came along and began levelling the trackbed. The transformation was startling (I’m almost out of superlatives now), and on the Sunday, enough sleepers – 200+ – were laid ready for the first ten lengths of track; by the following Saturday, evening working parties had the rails in! Finally, at the end of June, the tracklaying team burst out of the northern end of what had become known as the ‘Windy Woods’ – the end of the lease was in sight!
In the meantime, negotiations, which we had begun with Staffs County Council late in 1997, had come to fruition. The north end of our lease is truncated by the Burntwood Bypass, and Compulsory Purchase powers are sought by Staffs CC to acquire the last 100 yards or so of our line. More significantly, this loss will result in any future extension of the line toward Chasetown being obstructed by a huge spoil tip in the way of a possible alignment alongside the bypass. Looking on the bright side, however, the same location will see a road junction leading to a car park for what will become the main entrance to the Country Park, adjacent to our station! The potential for our development here is huge. Negotiations with Staffs CC included a deal whereby they would carry out significant earthworks and prepare plans for the Railway to not only pass the bypass island which our alignment presently terminates on, but also extend the planning to a further terminus at Chasetown. The final parts of the deal are that Staffs CC will pay for the planning application to Lichfield District Council, and prepare two-thirds of the trackbed. This is the most significant progress that we have ever made with local authorities, and, having entered into a binding agreement with Staffs CC, we have withdrawn our objection to their CPO proposals. As soon as the bypass is in funds, these works will be carried out, although the planning application will be made probably in September! Now, this means that the location of our station and line at Chasewater Heath will be slightly altered, and for this reason, the extension tracklaying, having reached the point of deviation, has temporarily stopped. The point we retrieved from BOC last year is nearly completed at the end of the relaid line, ready for the siding which is to be built as part of Chasewater Heath station, and we have started the task of ballasting and fencing the line we have so quickly laid. For this work, we of course need the help of anyone who would like to turn up and help any Sunday around 10.00am at Brownhills West!
Amongst the other tasks with which I am deeply personally associated are the negotiations with regard to the BNRR motorway. We are at last in detailed talks with the Highways Agency, MEL and the District Valuer about relocation proposals at Brownhills West. A timetable aiming at going forward to formal planning application as soon as October has been tabled and design work is now being undertaken. Proposals are on my desk at Brownhills West, and the working members have already given a lot of ideas to the project. I shall be delighted to discuss the plans and hear suggestions from any member who wishes to contact me.
We have now been told that the earliest possible date for our existing site by MEL is March 2000. We have therefore embarked upon a number of ‘housekeeping’ projects requiring expenditure previously put on hold, and which are needed to keep the site safe, operational and tidy until then. These include repainting most of the toilet and amenity block, also the waiting room and Booking Office; replacing the ‘Gentlemen’s’ lavatory floor; replacing and re-routing some of the electricity supply and altering the loco watering facility. In the bottom yard, a new fence enclosing more of our land has been erected, and the whole of this compound is being revised and tidied. Your assistance is of course always welcome!
Recently arrived at Chasewater are two Southern Railway Parcels and Miscellaneous Vans (PMVs). They are ex-Southern Railway Nos. 1385 and 2202, both built at Ashford, in 1934 and 1939 respectively as coaching stock. Both have been in departmental stock for many years (since 1957 and 1949!), and recently were in use as staff and tool vans with cranes.
These have been acquired to provide mobile spares store and workshop for the diesel fitters (1385) and a mess and tool van for the permanent way train (2205). 2205 now has a roof water tank and a sink, as well as gas heating and a gas stove. Both were fitted by BR with an inward opening door on each side for use when parked adjacent to running lines, as well as messing facilities. Since arriving at Chasewater, both have had some planks replaced and 1385 has been fitted with a new canvas roof. 2202 has already been painted into SR ‘sunshine’ bright green with black ends, and 1385 is currently being repaired and repainted into BR plain maroon. Both are likely to occasionally appear in passenger trains, since their vacuum brake systems are fully working and they were commonly added for their designed purpose. Four replacement doors of the original pattern are being sought for 1385 to restore it to its original appearance. It is hoped that both will be ready to form part of a demonstration freight train for the October Rally.
After Albert & Co.’s work! (in 2011)