Tag Archives: The Causeway

160 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces From Chasewater News Summer 1993 –Part 3 The value of a hole in the ground David Bathurst

160 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces

From Chasewater News Summer 1993 –Part 3

The value of a hole in the ground 

David Bathurst

In an edition of ‘Chasewater News’ last year (Bits & Pieces No. 152) I outlined the possible use of derelict land grant (DLG) to enable the railway to achieve one of its most important projects – the restoration of the causeway.  The possibility had arisen for a number of reasons, including the fact that the Staffs County Council was preparing a derelict land scheme to reclaim the Norton Bog area of Chasewater, directly adjacent to the causeway.

The Staffs CC scheme was, however, delayed owing to the need to consult British Coal in respect of the coal stocks which might be recovered from Norton Bog.  If the Staffs CC scheme were to proceed, it was suggested that the causeway restoration could form a later stage of that scheme.  The mechanism to achieve this proposal was itself very complicated, with the causeway mainly falling within Walsall Council’s boundary.

Since the date of my earlier article, many events have taken place, including the decision of the Boundary Commission to transfer much of Chasewater into Lichfield District Council (and thereby under the planning jurisdiction of Staffs CC) from 1st April 1994.  This transfer also includes land ownerships, much to the dismay of Walsall Council.  The proposed transfer has direct implications for the railway, namely the short-term difficulties of having to take account of an additional local authority and the longer-term benefits of having to deal with fewer local authorities!!

Against this backdrop of DLG and the involvement of the various local authorities, members who visit the railway regularly will have some difficulty in reconciling the information which I have so far provided, with the events ‘on the ground’.  Indeed by the time this article appears in print, there is a prospect that most – if natal – of the causeway restoration will have been completed.  Not only has a very substantial access roadway been laid from Hednesford Road (rear of the station area ‘top’ compound), but similarly substantial works will have been completed to prepare the causeway to receive substantial inert fill materials.

‘But how is this possible?’ is the question likely to be asked by many members – especially those members who will have appreciated the massive scale of the restoration project.  It is a valid question, particularly in light of the knowledge gained by the CLR Board regarding just how much fill material (perhaps 10,000 tons) and manual resources are necessary to undertake the work.

One of the earliest lessons which I learned upon joining my current employers was the value of owning a hole in the ground.  As time passes and demands on space increase, coupled with the ever-present vigilance of the environmental lobbyists, local authorities and private organisations are finding it increasingly difficult to dispose of unwanted materials.  Although it is of no concern to the railway, everyone must be aware of the problem of dealing with household waste.  Exactly the same problem arises in respect of disposing of hard waste which is generated through the day-to-day operations of a large local authority.  Most of this material has to be sent to licensed tips – sometimes a great distance away – at a significant cost both in terms of transport and tipping fees.  If you own a hole in the ground, and you can secure the necessary planning and/or other permissions to fill it, then you have a most valuable asset.

I think that few of us involved with the railway fully appreciated that the causeway might be regarded as a ‘hole in the ground; in reverse!  But that is precisely what it is.Causeway December 1992

Even before the previous article appeared in print, representations were being made to the railway to the effect that Walsall Council’s Highways Direct Labour Organisation (DLO) would be prepared to undertake a restoration project, using the causeway as a suitable location for filling with appropriate inert (and environmentally acceptable) materials.  It would be, and continues to be, a finely balanced financial equation.  It was to be based entirely on commercial considerations.  It was not to be regarded as a favour to the railway.  It was to be based on the financial benefit to be obtained by the DLO, but with the railway enjoying a similar benefit, albeit not in directly financial terms.

The proposal can be summarised thus: a proportion of the savings made by the DLO by not incurring tipping charges in the private sector could be allocated to the works necessary to transport materials and employ heavy plant to spread, profile and consolidate the causeway to specifications laid down by the railway.  In addition to its routine programme of road maintenance, the DLO is for ever tendering for major highway projects, including bridge and similar schemes, all of which result in materials having to be disposed of.

I have no wish to expend too much time and space in describing all of the individual aspects of the project which have had to be addressed before work could start.  I can say, however, that many hours of discussions and consultations have been necessary, and dozens of phone calls made, to ensure (so far as is possible) the support and co-operation of the various agencies involved.  The detailed discussions have necessarily been limited to a mere handful of railway personnel, so as to concentrate lines of communication.

These discussions have included such details as how to deal with the rare (or rarish) plant life growing on the causeway.  It has been necessary to remember that the railway’s activities include certain designated areas, including a SSSI and a SINC (abbreviations well known to those of you with wild life interests), which have required close liaison with Walsall Council’s Planning and Leisure Services Departments.  I must place on record the tremendous help, support and co-operation of the Officers who have been involved in this particular aspect, including the Countryside Officer who gave the CLR Chairman (the author of this article at the time) a crash course in rare plant recognition!!Causeway South 1992

There have been a number of false starts to the project.  Initially, it was intended to import the materials from the bridge reconstruction scheme at the High Bridges on the Pelsall to Brownhills road.  I suppose that it was inevitable that something would go wrong, and so it did.  The weather immediately after Christmas reduced Chasewater Park to a bog, making it completely impossible to even consider moving any form of heavy vehicle into or through the park.  Each time the weather seemed to improve, it immediately deteriorated again, resulting in a further deferral of the start date.  I hardly need to remind certain members of the dangers associated with driving vehicles in close proximity of the Chasewater reservoir without taking the precaution of wearing a life-jacket and having flares (as opposed to railway detonators) immediately to hand.  (While working with the dumper truck it got a bit too close and slipped into the water!! Bits & Pieces No. 151)Causeway December 1992

However, an upturn in the weather enabled everyone concerned to agree to an early May start date, and work on laying the access road commenced in earnest on the first Tuesday in May.  Regrettably, the attentions of the local riff-raff were directed to the contractor’s JCB, which attempted to emulate the dumper truck in trying to carry out work within the Chasewater Reservoir itself.  Despite this set-back, the work has continued according to plan.

In terms of a time scale, the DLO have not sought to offer (and nor has the railway demanded) a precise indication of a completion date for the restoration project.  This reflects the fluctuating availability of suitable fill material – which has had to meet exacting criteria laid down by both the railway and the local authority.  Nevertheless, it is in the financial interests of the DLO to undertake the work speedily and effectively, so as to avoid the costs of employing contractors’ plant and equipment, whilst at the same time maximising the capacity possibilities provided by the scheme.

The end product will be a causeway capable of accommodating a railway line; but it will not necessarily be a finished product.  It will still be necessary for the railway to provide for the small bridge at the eastern end of the causeway to be widened to facilitate the provision of a trackside footpath.  Indeed, although there is no formal right of access across the causeway, the railway cannot ignore the real world situation in which the causeway is seen by the public as a convenient route between the two sides of Chasewater Park.  The restoration scheme includes a private footpath alongside the running line, but at a slightly lower level.

In addition, discussions are taking place with the group responsible for the Forest of Mercia, in relation to a scheme of planting suitable species along the causeway, so as to enhance the environmental attractiveness of what might otherwise be a somewhat stark construction.

I apologise for the length of this article, but only in one sense.  The causeway restoration project is of momentous significance to the future of the railway.  It is a focal point in the minds of many of the railway’s working members.  Not only is it important in itself, but it also opens up the real prospect of further expansion into Chasetown.  Already, preliminary discussions have taken place with Staffs CC – who are currently designing their Norton Bog Reclamation Scheme now that British Coal have withdrawn their coal recovery proposals – regarding the clearance of the track-bed adjacent to the Norton Bog site.  Further, Staffs CC Highways Department have been asked to provide details of their design work on the Burntwood by-pass, to enable the railway to assess the implications on the railway’s long-term expansion proposals.

This is a very exciting time for the railway, with so many different projects taking place or being prepared.  The causeway restoration will make it necessary to bring forward thought (and expenditure) on the procurement of sleepers and rail.  It will give an added impetus and an exciting incentive to the working members and the railway’s many supporters.

And it is a fact that the scheme has come about because of the one thing that most of us had not contemplated – our own special version of a “hole in the ground”.Causeway South January 2005


151 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces from Chasewater News Dec 1992 – Part 1

151 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces from Chasewater News Dec 1992 – Part 1

Editorial – Nigel Canning

Many thanks to all the people who have helped with the magazine this year either by providing articles of historical or technical interest, or by helping to create the news on our railway.   Both of these forms of contribution make the magazine easier to produce and as a result it has increased in size slightly.

Towards the end of 1991 certain people predicted that we could be running trains to the causeway by the end of 1992.  As you will see in this magazine they then proceeded to prove their point by relaying all the necessary track which now awaits a visit by the Railway Inspector.  This is a magnificent achievement which shows just what can be done.

Will Santa Specials be running across the causeway to Norton Bog in 1993??  Wait and see, or even better, come and make sure!!

Locomotive News

No.4 Asbestos – Following rectification of a large number of minor faults this loco will now be used on the Santa Specials on December 13th and will hopefully remain in traffic throughout next year.

No.5 Sentinel – Having run all year, this loco has now been taken out of service for its major boiler examination.  All steam fittings have been removed and the firebox separated from the boiler shell.  Over the winter various outstanding repairs and modifications will be carried out, and the loco repainted before re-entering service early next year.

No.2 Lion – Progress on this loco has continued with the casting of a complete new set of firebars.  The saddle tank has been bolted into place, the cast iron chimney cap fitted and new injector steam pipes and fittings made.  It is hoped that the loco will be seam tested early next year.

S100 – Work has continued on machining of the hornguides of this loco!!!!!!

Fowler – This loco has recently had a much needed service carried out and has remained in regular use on the Sunday works train to Norton.

DL7 – The cylinder heads for the main engine and for the donkey engine have now been re-worked, but due to a burned out piston revealed during cleaning of the bores, new pistons, rings and cylinder liners may now be required.  This means that the loco is unlikely to re-enter service very quickly.

No.21 Diesel

The spare engine has been rebuilt ready for re-fitting into the loco as soon as the crane is available.  As the radiator has rotted through beyond repair a complete new core will have to be found and fitted.

Smith Rodley Crane

This vehicle has remained out of use pending its annual inspection by the insurance company.

Permanent Way News – Arthur Edwards

Track laying on the extension has now come to a stop as we have finally got to the top of the causeway bank and are awaiting news of how and when the causeway will be repaired.  That doesn’t stop us from jacking and packing all the rail joints and so forth back towards Brownhills West.

The causeway, Dec 1992. Pic – D.M.Bathurst

During the run up to us finishing the track laying you probably heard that I had a slight accident with the dumper truck.  Since then it has been re-commissioned as ‘Dunk-an’ or ‘General Belgrano’ equipped with rubber ring and outboard propeller.

Well it happened like this.  I had had the bucket filled by the JCB and taken the load to the edge of the causeway for dumping.  When I started the hydraulic lifting mechanism, the load transferred from all four wheels to the front two.  I heard a crack-k-k and it started to slide down the bank.  No way was I going to stop it, the thing had been in neutral but as it went down it went into first gear and the sound was CHUG CHUG CHUG GLUG GLUG.  ‘Oh dear’, or words to that effect were said, and there was I, hands over my head trying to keep my ears warm, screaming at Ian for help, but he couldn’t hear me.  When he came over he did what everyone else did – laugh!  At the time I couldn’t see the funny side of it, but I can now.

There was nothing else for it but to get a hawser to pull it out, and who had to get in the water to attach it?  Yes – yours truly!  I kept looking round for Jeremy Beadle, and I’m sure that if we had a video of it we’d have got £250 for it being shown.

Full gratitude to Ken Dyde for taking time out from doing other things which were probably more important to strip down the dumper and get rid of the water – cheers Ken!

Chasewater News – There’s a hole in our causeway, dear Liza, dear Liza

There’s a hole in our causeway, dear Liza, dear Liza

(With apolgies to Harry Belafonte and Odetta Holmes)

The planned temporary truncation of the line at the site of the Causeway to allow improvements to the reservoir to be carried out has now taken place. Work is expected to take 4 weeks, During this time Chasewater Railway will be operating a push-pull service as far as works safely allow. We apologise for any inconvenience caused whilst the essential works take place.

For further details of the dam improvements please visit the Chasewater Dam website

The water level of Jeffrey’s Pool has been lowered to allow for works to start on the railway causeway. We anticipate getting these works will be completed and the trains back running in time for Easter.Across the Swag from Norton East Road.

The dam repair people are really getting stuck into the work on the causeway.  I’ve been over there this afternoon (Friday 25th) to see how the work is going and to take a few photos.  The thing that really struck me was how low they have taken the level in Jeffrey’s Swag.  I spoke to a lady who had gone with her grandson to feed the birds on the pool – sadly no chance without a good long trudge through thick mud – and then you still have to find the birds!

While over that side of Chasewater, I had a look at Chasewater Heaths – a lot of progress seems to have been made to the trackwork and ballasting around the station.

Looking much better at Chasewater Heaths.