Mick Doman – RIP
A great bloke – a great friend
Summer 1999: Hawthorn Leslie 0-4-0 Saddle Tank, 90 years old, withdrawn from traffic at Brownhills for its ten-yearly refit.
Having spent one third of its 30 years in traffic in preservation, the short-term future for the loco looked bleak. Worn bushes on the brake gear, rotten blast pipes and worn pipe runs were only a small part of the problem. We knew that the foundation ring was in poor condition, but removal of the boiler tubes and an inspection of the boiler and firebox revealed that the whole pressure vessel was virtually beyond economic repair. Everyone seemed a little numb at the thought that our faithful old lady appeared to be facing an uncertain future. Not only are we a small group, but the need to raise £33,000 for a new boiler (quoted by Chatham Steam) seemed to put a new boiler beyond our grasp.
The strip down of the loco had taken about four months, being delayed by the need to give urgent attention to Sentinel, which had failed with stay tube problems. By the time we knew the full extent of Asbestos’ problems, Christmas was drawing near. The omens had been poor from the start, however, and the news had got around the grapevine. Long-standing member Gary Kay had maintained contact with another Chasewater member in the model building world, a retired gentleman living in nearby Streetly. On hearing of the Railway’s predicament, Gary’s friend expressed an interest, and, after a couple of meetings, he came to Chasewater on the occasion of the visit by Chatham Steam to examine the boiler.
On 20th December, Christmas arrived early. Chatham Steam had capacity for the building of a new boiler, which was a better investment than repairing the old – and Asbestos had acquired a benefactor, who had agreed to finance the work with a staggering pledge of the whole of the cost. The agreement was reached during the morning, and the boiler left Chasewater just four hours later, at 3.00pm!
Work began in Chatham immediately after the Christmas break, and the front tubeplate and firebox are nearly complete. Meanwhile at Chasewater, Asbestos’ chassis and running gear are being overhauled. The entire footplate and running boards have been removed and the bearing frames de-rusted and prepared, with the new footplate, ready for fitting. Much work remains, but the future of Asbestos is looking a whole lot brighter than it did six months ago! Come and see how we are getting on…
In my last post a Hudswell Clarke loco was mentioned as possibly being in steam on the next open Day. This was No.431 of 1895, which arrived at Chasewater shortly before ‘Asbestos’. Sadly, this did not happen, and as far as I am aware, this loco still has not steamed at Chasewater Railway, over 40 years later!
‘On Saturday 2nd December, 1967, a long-awaited member of our loco stud arrived – by road – a Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0ST, used until December, 1966, in the Ironstone Quarries at Desborough. This locomotive was steamed by Mr. Civil and Mr. Luker (our expert loco-fitters) before purchase, and ran for some little while before they declared it a good purchase.
It was built by Hudswell Clarke & Co., Leeds in 1895, works number 431 and spent most of its life in the hands of the Sheepbridge Coal & Iron Company in whose fleet she became No.15. It was allocated the name ‘Sheepbridge No.25’, but this was never carried and with the removal of its official number and works plates ran its last years without any identification at all.
It has on two occasions been rebuilt, first in 1928 and secondly in 1944, by the Sheepbridge Company themselves.’
‘The engine was first suggested as a suitable candidate for preservation some two years ago when it was one of several locomotives at work at Desborough Warren Quarry near Kettering. One by one its companions were withdrawn leaving No.15 as the only workable source of motive power. After closure of the quarry it assisted with the lifting of the track, until the early part of 1967 when it too was withdrawn and stored in the engine shed at Desborough in company with an Avonside 0-6-0T.
The RPS then stepped in and after pleasing, successful negotiations with Stewarts and Lloyds Ltd., the locomotive was purchased. The firm kindly allowed us to steam the engine before purchase.’
At the moment, ‘Asbestos ‘ is in the Heritage Centre awaiting a major overhaul, as, indeed, is 431.
Asbestos in the old Brownhills West Station
Hawthorn, Leslie 0-4-0ST, 2780 of 1909. Built at the company’s Forth Bank Works, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
The loco has outside cylinders 14” diameter x 22” stroke, 3’ 6” driving wheels with a fixed wheelbase of 5’ 6”. Weight in working order 27.5 tons.
Delivered when new to Washington Chemical Company, County Durham, which became a subsidiary of the Turner and Newall Company Ltd. in 1920.
A large industrial complex served by sidings and a half mile branch just south of Washington station on the line between Pelaw and Penshaw, the locomotive working here until 1933, when transferred to Turner and Newall, Trafford Park Works, Manchester.
The locomotive came to Chasewater in 1968 from the Turner and Newall factory, Trafford Park, Manchester, where asbestos was produced – hence the name. The company asked for £100 for the loco and was asked if they could wait while the Preservation Society could organize a raffle, being short of funds. Upon realizing the situation, the company generously waived the fee and donated the loco.
Shortly after its arrival at Chasewater, Asbestos became the first locomotive to steam on the railway.
From the ‘Railway Forum’ Summer 1968
Steam open day started at 4.30am on June 29th, 1968 with the lighting of the fire in ‘Asbestos’, the Hawthorn Leslie saddle tank presented to the Railway Preservation Society by Turner and Newall, Trafford Park, Manchester. Steam was raised slowly at first, but soon, with the blower working at full blast, there were 80 lbs on the clock at 7.00am
‘Asbestos’ then moved off to have the tank filled with water, which was drawn from the lake at Chasewater. The train consisted of the Midland full brake and the Great Western 16-ton brake van.
At about 1 o’clock passengers began to arrive and trains were operated continuously until 7 o’clock when the fire was dropped, the smokebox cleaned out and the ash pan raked.
Steam was soon raised on the Sunday and by 1 o’clock the visitors had exceeded Saturday’s figures. During the weekend the locomotive behaved very well, was easy to handle and similar in many ways to the old Great Western locomotives but, of course, much smaller.
For the open day, trains were run with the one engine in steam principle, but for the next open day it is hoped to have a Hudswell Clarke locomotive also in steam and to be able to operate a more elaborate timetable. The Maryport and Carlisle Railway saloon and the Society’s MS&L brake third coach will also be used on one of the trains.
It is hoped to operate again on Sunday and Monday, September 1st and 2nd.
From the Board Room – David Bathurst – Chairman
Norton Lakeside Station Opening
After a couple of false dawns, the Railway has at last achieved its most significant ambition. We now have two ‘proper’ stations.
We can now advertise our operations on an entirely different basis, way beyond that of a mere leisure railway. Furthermore, in taxation terms, we are now recognised as a passenger railway. Our passengers can now be offered the additional option of convenience travel to the NorthShore, where vehicle cannot (or at least should not) interrupt their peaceful enjoyment of the area.
It was heart-stirring to see so many friends and guests at Brownhills West for the official opening ceremony on Saturday 16th December 1995. What was equally gratifying was the sight of ‘Asbestos’ at the front of the train, after a period of remedial works. Well done indeed to the volunteers who ensured that this locomotive was ready in time. The ‘Norton Collier’ headboard, manufactured specially for the occasion, added to the significance of the day.
With the train virtually full, departure was just after the advertised time of 11.00am, with Nigel Canning and Les Emery specially rostered together on the footplate for the event.
A leisurely rate down the line afforded some of our less regular supporters and guests the first view of the substantial works which have been necessary to reinstate the Causeway. Entrance into Norton Lakeside Station was accompanied by the sound of exploding detonators. The modest facilities of the new station belie both the cost and effort which has gone into providing this three coach platform. Despite the intensely cold and windy conditions (to which our members have become accustomed over many months), the Chairman of Lichfield District Council, Councillor John Walker, carried out a short opening ceremony before the photographers were let loose. To enable the photographers travelling on the train to capture the occasion, the train made a second ceremonial entrance across the Causeway into the new station. Some of the resulting pictures duly found their way into the local press.
Following the return journey, the Railway’s working members and official guests, including a number of Lichfield DC Members, enjoyed a buffet lunch, during which further formalities were completed. The return journey saw Councillor John Walker at the controls of ‘Asbestos’, although this fact was kept from his Council colleagues who may have preferred to find other transport back home!
Councillor Walker clearly enjoyed the day, and his letter to me after the event is reproduced for the information of members. To ensure that members do not start wondering whether they have failed to notice a new electrification scheme, it should be mentioned that Councillor Walker’s previous footplate experience involved a diesel-electric, rather than an outright electric locomotive!
To mark the occasion, the Railway commissioned special brass tickets which are capable of adaptation as key fobs. Previous editions of ‘Chasewater News’ have included articles on the causeway and construction of Norton Lakeside Station, and this article does not set out to repeat the story. Nor would it be appropriate to single out any individual members in respect of work undertaken either on the construction work or the official opening arrangements.
The events of 16th December 1995 are a testimony to all the Railway’s working members, whether they be regular or occasional visitors. The achievements celebrated on that important day demonstrate just what can be done by our membership and serve as an incentive for the further expansion of the Railway.
To everyone concerned: Congratulations and Well Done.
Councillor Walker’s Letter
Dear CLR members,
Can I convey my congratulations to all Chasewater Railway members for the excellent morning of 16th December 1995 on the occasion of the official opening of the new station at Norton Lakeside. Despite the bitterly cold weather Sandra and I enjoyed it tremendously and it was a particular highlight for me to undertake the return journey on the footplate. It brought back memories for me when in 1982 I drove an electric express train from Derby to Sheffield but you can’t beat steam, can you?
Here’s hoping that your organisation will go from strength to strength and that we as a Council will have co-operation now and in the future. Please convey my best wishes to all those at Chasewater and here’s wishing you all the best in 1996.
Cllr. John Walker
Chairman of Council
Lichfield District Council
Lichfield District Council Plan
Members will recall from a previous edition of ‘Chasewater News’ that the Railway has objected to the Lichfield District Local Plan, insofar as – unlike the Walsall MBC Unitary Development Plan – it makes no reference to the Railway in context of ChasewaterPark.
The Railway was represented by the General Manager and myself (Steve Organ and David Bathurst) at the Public Local Enquiry on Thursday 25th January 1996, during which we sought to justify our objection during a session lasting some two and a quarter hours. The District Plan is fundamentally concerned with land use issues and we shall see, in due course, whether the Inspector is persuaded that the extent of our operations within ChasewaterPark is sufficient to merit an individual reference in the approved District Plan.
The Lichfield DC representative confirmed that he recognised that the Railway ‘had a place’ on the North Shore (thereby dispelling doubts previously expressed regarding our track relaying to the extent of our lease) and that the Council fully accepted that the Railway enjoys planning permission for its operations on the North Shore. The Council’s argument, based on their view of planning law, was that the Railway’s future development should be controlled by planning advice, and that a separate reference to the Railway in the District Plan is accordingly unnecessary. We do not agree; we are seeking a far more positive commitment from the Council, hence our objection.
Working Members’ Meeting
A further working members’ meeting was held at the Pear Tree public house on Wednesday 10th January 1996, with an encouraging number of working members present. Again, members had the opportunity of raising any matters of interest. Perhaps the item which attracted most discussion was concerned with locomotive restoration, particularly as ‘Asbestos’ loses its boiler certificate during 1996.
In addition to formal meetings, there was a general view that more social events should be held locally, including slide-shows, talks, etc.
Some of our members have a massive bank of photographic and other materials which might be shared with other members ‘over a pint’.
Great British Passenger Timetable
Members who have access to the Great Britain (All Lines) Passenger Timetable will be aware of the section on Private Railways. Although this section includes information on the ‘First Division’ private railways it appears to me that the publishers might be sympathetic to include Chasewater Railway, particularly in view of the opening of Norton Lakeside Station.
I am delighted to be able to report that following appropriate negotiations, Railtrack have agreed to include a short entry in the June 1996 Timetable – and thereafter in future editions. I don’t know how many purchasers actually read and absorb the section on Private Railways, but two things are certain; our status as a passenger railway has been acknowledged by Railtrack, and our existence will come to the notice of an extremely large and diverse number of readers.
P Way News – Arthur Edwards
The start of the New Year has seen some of the regular winter jobs being taken in hand. With several of the Sundays in January being a total washout due to the terrible weather, trying to dig ground frozen solid in winds with a wind-chill factor of minus (i.e. brass monkey weather) is no fun at all. The shed compound has been receiving some attention in the form of a tidy up, with special attention being paid to clearing the overgrowing vegetation from the fence behind the platform. The cab of 917 was moved farther back and all the rubbish, old rotten timber and some split sleepers were burnt. During the tidy up several parts from S100 came to light under the ferns and debris, and also as part of the clearance all loose scrap has been gathered together and a reliable scrap merchant has been asked to collect it. One of the activities which Tom and myself also got round to doing was to tidy up the loose sleepers lying around, which is not an easy job at this time of year. Wet sleepers are at least double the weight of dry ones.
The double-decker bus which has been on site for a while has now been taken to pastures new, so giving us more ground space so that we can ready the site for the future installation of new sidings. The provision of extra space for stock is now becoming as increasing problem as the activities of the Railway continue to grow.
The usual battle with the fence cutters will be joined in earnest within the next few weeks in the run up to the start of the running season. Parts of the hedge planted last year by the Forest of Mercia group are starting to grow, and with a bit of time should start acting as a deterrent to the local idiots who think it is a good idea to chop down fences.
The P. Way gang meet every Sunday at Brownhills West Station from 10.ooam onward. Come and join us!!
When it was announced that the tube works was to be closed, the Freight Charter Group (who organised the Littleton Colliery steam weekend) made arrangements for steam to run once more at Bromford. As a Hawthorn Leslie similar to Asbestos had once worked there, the CLR was approached to provide the loco. This is a brief account of what happened.
Shortly after Christmas the Loco Dept. was asked if Asbestos could be made available fro traffic a couple of weeks before Easter as there was a possibility that it may be needed to run in Birmingham for a special event. Although the loco had been stripped for its annual boiler inspection and various repairs, this was agreed in principle as it would need to be steam tested prior to Easter anyway. As the weeks went by and the work progressed, the special event, which was to be at Bromford Tube Works, became a definite commitment but for various reasons would have to be earlier than planned.
The boiler inspector came and did a visual examination, and then in record time by Chasewater standards returned for the steam test. This was an achievement in itself, as with frozen points and snow drifts across the line, the engine had to be lit up in the shed with only the smokebox and chimney eventually venturing outside.
In addition to the boiler work, the loco was cleaned and repainted (not the sort of work ideally carried out in February) with the result that it looked better than it had for a long time, and still does for that matter. The 20 ton GW brake van which was also required at Bromford was cleaned out and repainted, and even had its roof re-felted for the occasion.
On Thursday March 3rd the brake van was first to be taken by low-loader to Bromford, followed later in the day by Asbestos. Due to problems with the ill-equipped low-loader and a somewhat over-cautious steelworks management, Asbestos was eventually unloaded in the dark. Following this, an attempt to fill the saddle tank with water from their ‘fire main’ had to be aborted when it was noticed, even in the dark, that the water appeared milky. A reassurance from the steelworks engineer that this was ‘only a bit of soluble oil’ resulted in the tank having to be drained, and as the promised indoor accommodation for the loco never materialised, the drain plug was removed on the spot ready for another attempt in the morning.
Next day we arrived back at Bromford for a trundle round to familiarise ourselves with the line before the main event on Saturday and Sunday. The steelworks people had been busily pumping water from a well overnight and had filled their large water tower ready for use in the loco. After raising steam and filling the tank we were given just one loaded bogie bolster to take for a run with the brake van. At first sight the trackwork appeared highly dubious with the sort of tight curves that would look more at home on a Tri-ang train set, but after a bit of running it became apparent that most of it was in excellent condition with the rail joints beautifully aligned allowing quite brisk running as long as the couplings were left well slack.This view shows just how tight the curve between the two bridges was, requiring quite a bit of power just to crawl round! Pic – Ian Buswell
The line itself ran from a works yard down a bit of a gradient, round a tight curve, passed under Bromford Lane Bridge, and into a fan of five exchange sidings next to the site of the former BR (Midland) Bromford Bridge Station. The whole of the exchange sidings, and even some of the not unsubstantial works buildings were overshadowed by the elevated section of the M6 Motorway running overhead. Perhaps only thirty years ago a surreptitious excursion through the trap point onto BR metals followed by a left turn at Castle Bromwich, and right at Aldridge, would have taken us back to Chasewater without the need for a low-loader, but on this occasion we were required to stop about halfway along the sidings where we could watch the main line trains running to and from Birmingham New Street.
On the Saturday and Sunday we performed for the photographers who had apparently paid around £18 each for the privilege. Having raised steam for a 9am start on both days, it was well after ten by the time the security men had let people in and we were required to move.
Rather than spend time shunting wagons around as we would have preferred, we were restricted by the steelworks management to running backwards and forwards over a set route with initially just the one wagon, and it was only after very careful negotiations that this was increased to two on Sunday. These arrangements seemed to suit the photographers quite well as they wanted to photograph a series of ‘stage managed set piece’ movements. Asbestos stands on the curve just short of the Bromford Lane bridge awaiting the signal to accelerate through for the photographers waiting on the other side – Ian Boswell
A typical example of this was to stop on the works side of the Bromford Lane Bridge, then when the photographers had positioned themselves on the other side, we would accelerate through and coast to a stand half way along the exchange sidings. After a brief delay we would then reverse through the bridge ready for a repeat performance. The number of repeat performances, and delay in between, depended apparently on the amount of sunshine (or short term prospects of it) and whether there had been enough smoke and steam from the loco.
In order to make the loco work harder and produce the spectacular results required, we ended up running with the brakes pinned down on the wagons, and wound hard on in the brake van, whilst accelerating briskly past the cameras. In the end this treatment took its toll on the loco resulting in a number of tubes leaking in the firebox by mid-afternoon on Sunday. In view of this, that afternoon’s running was cut short by around an hour, and the hoped for night photography was abandoned. No-one seemed too upset by this failure of the loco, and a number of national magazines have published photos showing that we achieved the desired effect.
On the Sunday another hard day was spent getting Asbestos and the brake van on and off the low-loader. On this occasion we managed to get the job done a little bit quicker, finishing at Chasewater at around 6pm.
As a result of its Bromford trip, Asbestos is now facing the ‘other way round’ with its cab at the Brownhills West end as it had been decided to take advantage of the low-loader journeys to achieve a turn round. This has put the driver on the platform side of the train, and the loco now faces up the causeway bank.
Financially the session at Bromford seems to have been well worth while, and in addition a lot of free publicity was obtained, but the condition of the boiler tubes still remains a problem and is likely to be until they are completely renewed. Whether any similar outings are attempted in the near future remains to be seen, but any loco used will need to be in more reliable condition if similar feats of performance are to be attempted.Thanks to Nigel Canning for his kind permission to use his photographs.
This issue of Chasewater News records our recent visit with ‘Asbestos’ and a brake van to Bromford Tube Works. The majority of the magazine has been taken up by photos taken by members in an attempt to record the layout of the railway system in the works which has now sadly closed.
A great deal has been happening at Chasewater since the last issue. Our coaching stock problem has been solved, although it may have created another one – lack of siding space; and track is being laid to the new station, which now has a name.
No.4 Asbestos – This loco got through its visual examination and steam test without problem, although the Inspector did comment on the condition of some of the boiler tubes, and that if any of them failed the entire set would have to be replaced. As if to emphasise the point, a number of tubes started to leak at Bromford following some energetic running, and have given trouble ever since.
Following renewal of the worst two tubes, the loco ran on Easter Sunday, but failed with further tubes leaking on the Monday. After that, a further dozen tubes were renewed enabling the loco to run on Bank Holiday Sunday, only to fail again on the Monday.
Enough new tubes have been ordered to renew the entire set, some of which must be in excess of fifteen years old. Whilst awaiting delivery of the full set, a further twelve have been renewed to enable trains to run at Spring Bank Holiday.
Apart from the tube problem the loco has continued to run well, and due to its being returned from Bromford facing the other way round, looks better hauling trains chimney first in its freshly painted green livery.
No.5 Sentinel – Very little progress has been made on this loco due mainly to the amount of work needed to try and keep Asbestos running. The boiler has, however, now been re-assembled, and the fittings are being refurbished off-site.
S100 – Work has continued on another of the four big leaf springs, the buckle of which was heated to expand it prior to assembly in Asbestos’s firebox. Various bits and pieces of brake rigging have also been fitted to the frames.
Fowler diesel – This loco has remained in service, used for shunting and works trains.
Ruston DL7 – In a surprise operation just prior to Easter this loco was fitted with an exhauster, valves and pipework to enable it to work vacuum braked passenger trains. Since then it has completed several days of passenger train operation including ’extra’ non-advertised days as well as standing in for Asbestos. Being unaccustomed to such intensive running, one of the axle boxes began to overheat, requiring stripping and cleaning. The drive belt for the low voltage dynamo also caused a problem by disintegrating half way down the line. This was, however, repaired fairly quickly without the train having to be rescued by another loco. The general public appear unaware of the difference between the diesel and Asbestos, although to be fair, they are both painted the same shade of green and produce roughly similar quantities of smoke when running!
L&Y petrol loco – This loco seems to have been abandoned for the time being with various bits scattered around the station yard and loco shed. Hopefully the re-assembly will commence shortly!
No.21 diesel – The engine for this loco is awaiting new cylinder head gaskets, and when fitted an attempt will be made to finally get it running again.
New Fowler – This four-coupled diesel mechanical loco appeared on site recently having been acquired from a preservation society in Redditch. Following an attempt to tow-start the loco, it was found that the fuel injection pump needed repair, and this has since been removed. Various other components have also been removed for attention so it could be some time before the loco is runnable.
Smith Rodley crane – this vehicle has remained out of use and has been pushed out of the way up No.3 road until a buyer can be found for it.
Carriage & Wagon News
New coaching stock – At long last replacements for the 2-car Wickham DMU and the recently departed Gloucester trailer have been found and began to arrive at Chasewater at the end of May. A total of four additional vehicles have been purchased from BR, a centre car and three power cars.
The first of these vehicles, a Pressed Steel Co. motor brake second, W51372, arrived in time to run at Whitsun. The recent history of this vehicle is quite interesting as it is one of several used by the contractors of the Channel Tunnel and has been through to France. A maintenance record book found in the drivers’ cab refers to various faults as being at “the French end” of the train.
Ultimately it is intended to retain two of the four for use as a working DMU in BR green livery, whilst the other two will be used as loco-hauled stock. Hopefully full details of the new stock will be included in the next magazine.
Wickhams E56171 & E50416 – The trailer car remained in service on passenger trains until just before Whitsun, when a vacuum leak in the brake system caused serious problems. In view of the impending arrival of the replacements it was withdrawn from use. The power car has also remained out of use.
Payment for the Wickhams has now been received from Llangollen, although a date has not yet been set for their removal from Chasewater. This is likely to cause a space problem, as with the new arrivals there will be a total of seven DMU cars on site for a while.
Derby centre car W59444 – This coach has remained in service although it has been noticed that the surface of one of its tyres has started to flake away. Advice is being sought as to whether it can be repaired.
20 ton Great Western Toad – This vehicle was ‘done up’ to run at Bromford Tube with Asbestos. If nothing else it has benefited from having the rust worn off its brake blocks, as it covered most of the distance at Bromford with its brake screwed hard on!
CRC 4-plank wagon – Progress on the wagon has continued and it now appears to be back in one piece. Tony Wheeler has started on the paintwork with the intention of finishing it in the livery of the ‘Conduit Colliery Company’.
Great Eastern six-wheel passenger brake – With the coming of better weather Dave Borthwick has started again on painting this vehicle.
Other vintage stock – No work appears to have been carried out on any other vehicles although this situation will hopefully improve during the course of the summer.
Shed Fund – This fund is now well underway so that by the time the route of the motorway is finally settled there may be enough money to make a start on this project. Meanwhile donations will be gratefully received by the Treasurer, Chris Chivers.