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Permanent Way News Archive : Jan-Mar 2003
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News Report: 4th March 2003

After months of struggling along with one ailing nut-runner, we now have two new ones to play with! Just to make life that little bit more difficult however, fuel for these power tools has been noticeable by its absence, but fortunately Horsted Keynes Fuel Supply Services, formerly known as the S&T department, have been able to help us out there on a number of occasions. Thus despite the lack of news updates over the past few weeks, there has been plenty of p-way activity in the salt yard preparing sleepers for the forthcoming Ardingly 'siding' relaying. This slow, repetitive, heavy and often difficult job needs to be completed before we can begin to lay the new spur, with each sleeper needing to have its flat bottom plates removed before re-drilling to gauge and chairing up. The good news is that we have completed around 300 of the 460 sleepers required for both the new siding and replacement of old ones in the current siding, and these are in the salt yard ready to be loaded onto the sleeper wagon for easy conveyance to the triangle between the Ardingly spur and main running line.

There will be a major attack on the current east siding, which will be moved to the west side of the formation now that John Millham has been working on the formation, over the weekend of the 15th/16th of March, for which any help would be gratefully received. Laying of the new line should take place over the Easter Holiday period, with details to be confirmed nearer the time.

Wickham Trolley, 23/02/03 Working in the salt yard, 23/02/03

Left: The Wickham trolley nearing completion of its overhaul. Right: Working in the salt yard (Photo: Anthony Goff).

Meanwhile, the Wickham trolley has received a thorough overhaul and repaint from the 'Insect Men' and now looks very presentable and is apparently running beautifully. We were hoping we would be able to see this for ourselves in the first Sunday of the month Kingscote gang, but unfortunately Graham was not well enough to lead us and so the original plan of attending to routine maintenance in the Vaux end area had to be abandoned in favour of more mud flinging in the salt yard !

Extension, 02/03/03 Extension, 02/03/03

Left: Looking north from the buffer-stop at Kingscote. Right: Looking back from Turners Hill Road bridge towards Kingscote, just out of sight round the bend.

Before making our way to Horsted however, we made our way a short distance up the extension to view recent clearance as the photos above show. 500 tons of one year old clean ballast is due to start arriving at the Horsted Keynes triangle on Tuesday, which has been obtained free of charge from the Channel Tunnel link scheme. A team led by FOK Chairman Ron Harwood has made inroads into clearing the trackbed north of the buffer-stops at Kingscote, and it is their intention to start laying flat bottom rail from Faversham on concrete sleepers as far as the Turners Hill Road bridge shortly. These efforts are independent of Jim Turtle's extension team who continue to work on improving the drainage around Hazelden farm.

Finally, if any of you were thinking about coming along to see what it is like as a volunteer in the p-way department, I have been sent the following 'confession' by Jon Goff who has recently joined us with his son Anthony. It gives a good idea of the work involved as well as the satisfaction in getting a good days work done. I should point out that it does get a (little!) easier as you get used to it, and like any good Gym we only work to each individuals ability. So why not give it a try ?

Confessions of a Virgin Nut Runner

This was only the second time my son and I had joined Bluebell's outdoor gym for some heavyweight exercise. The first time was the day the sleeper processing started for the Ardingly spur, when we started to remove the flat bottom chairs and discovered the strange torx screws mixed with the spikes on some chairs. Having arrived a little late, due to a late night previous, the team were already busying themselves marking and drilling the first line of sleepers.

We arrived just as Paul had started positioning the bullhead chairs, Julian was some way up the line with the drill, which was the slowest part of the process, Jon was ahead of him with the gauge marking out, while the rest were cleaning up and removing old ferrules. The time came to start tightening down the track screws as many were sitting in position ready. Foolishly I offered to start as no one else had done so yet, after all there was a brand new nut runner which even had some petrol in it! After about 100 screws, one after the other, I realised just how heavy the thing gets and why others were so happy to let me try the experience, especially as one of the two sockets often gets jammed onto the screws, so the helper, my son, could not always get the next socket in place before finishing the last one causing the runner to be lifted twice for each bolt. I gather back ache is a common complaint amongst the gym goers, in addition to vibration white finger, squashed finger, grazed finger and pot of tea deficiency!

After spending a lot of the afternoon doing the drilling on the next line of sleepers in much the same position as operating the nut runner (Julian's fingers had gone numb drilling the first lot) standing up straight was definitely a dream from the past, with my fingers tingling as well. Two days later and the shoulders still ached. Fortunately Mr energy himself arrived (Paul Hailes) and drilled the last (smaller) line while we had a well earned tea break. At the end of the day we had processed 67 sleepers (mostly Jarrah timbers) ready for shunting to the Ardingly spur via the GWR Sleeper wagon.

My son Anthony had prepared (sorted and removed old ferrules etc) in excess of 150 chairs by himself, which I believe is not bad for a small 13 year old and a member of the 9F club. When I think of all the previous work done on the railway, I take my hat off to you lads!! I'll be back for a bit more exercise as soon as I can get another pass-out from her-in-doors.

Jon Goff, new PW member and 9F "helper Dad"


News Update: 10th February 2003
from Paul Norris

A rather wet morning greeted us on Sunday 9th February, so Julian and I decided that the best course of action was to service fishplate nuts and bolts in the Northern P-way hut at Horsted in readiness for the Ardingly track laying. This was not as easy as it had first appeared, especially if one tries to clean up a set of rusted British Standard threads with a Whitworth tap and die! Oh well, we all have to learn the hard way.

Paul Robertson (P Way Manager) popped by lunchtime to enquire about the Ardingly sidings progress. To our surprise/horror, the promised delivery of ash from Sheffield Park Loco for the west formation over the previous week had not materialised, apparently due to a miscommunication. After our disbelief and update, he presented us with a Torx fitting to a standard chuck for the nut runner, this would help us to remove further flat rail plates from the Jarrah timbers.

After Lunch with the rain, now only falling as subtle squally showers we tried out the new fitting on the one just about workable nut-runner. About 65% of screws were removed, 25 % sheered off and 10 % were just stubborn. By mid-afternoon the showers had abated and Scratchers and Mr energy (Hailes) had joined us, so the processed Jarrah timbers were drilled to gauge, S1 chairs fitted and track screws applied with the nut runner until it too failed with the arrival of darkness. It is hoped that at least one of the nut runners will be working in time for our big push next week! We will endeavour to publish some exciting photos of the P way work next week - hopefully the weather will be a lot better to greet an 08.30 start at C&W Horsted with lots of eager volunteers !!!


News Report: 4th February 2003

The first Sunday in February saw further work on preparing sleepers (which are mainly Jarrah Timbers) for use on the new Ardingly 'siding', with the gang being split into three groups. One concentrated on removing sleepers fitted with the flat bottom type plate, one on drilling and chairing up these sleepers once they had been rotated, with the others sourcing sleepers from the piles in the salt yard and removing the flat bottom plates where necessary. Unfortunately it wasn't half as easy as it sounds, with the spiked flat bottom plates being especially difficult to remove - while all this was going on, Graham was performing a shuttle service with the loadall, providing and removing the sleepers, bullhead S1 and S1X chairs, and track screws to the different groups as required. There are still plenty of sleepers with hexagonal Torx screws in for which Julian had purchased a socket, but we have not been able to connect it up to any power tools as yet - any ideas would be most welcome !

Ardingly siding, 02/02/03 Ardingly siding, 02/02/03 Ardingly siding, 02/02/03
Left: The first step in removing the spiked flat bottom chairs was to drive a wedge or two underneath them, and then use bars to lever them off. Middle: Sorting through the sleepers in the salt yard. Right: The sorting was no mean task, since we have already got through four piles the size of the one of the right of the picture.

Our morning tea break was taken early in order to have a meeting with Paul Robertson (P-way manager) and Chris White (Infrastructure director). The topics discussed included the Ardingly siding, especially the clearances involved. The current situation is shown in the diagram below.

Ardingly Siding Plan

John Millham has now made a start on building up the embankment on the west side, using spoil from the overflow car park at Sheffield Park, as seen in the photos and diagram below. Ash should be arriving this week for laying and compacting on the western side, to provide the top surface before the ballast is laid.

Ardingly siding, 02/02/03 Ardingly siding, 02/02/03
The goal! Looking towards Ardingly (left) and back towards Horsted Keynes (right) on Sunday 2nd February.

Ardingly Siding Plan

Once this work is complete, the stock currently in the siding will need to be removed northwards, and the track will be disconnected panel by panel and moved across to the west side of the formation. A major attack on the east side track laying is planned around the Easter holiday period (dates will be confirmed in the diary section nearer the time). Once the stock is returned to the transposed siding, it will be marooned behind the sleeping coaches, the idea being that it will be accessed in only one or two shunts per year. Thus the carriage and wagon department will need to get their thinking caps on to determine the new order of the stock in the siding and we gather that this will also include a thorough sort out of the sidings to the west of the carriage shop at Horsted as well!

Ardingly Siding Plan

Before any action is taken however, clearances have to be determined and a number of options are under discussion. Matters are complicated by the fact that any future extension to Ardingly is likely to require spoil to build up the formation to be conveyed by lorry down the line from Horsted Keynes, and so adequate clearances have to be allowed for this. Once a final decision is made, all that remains is to lay the new running line quality siding to the correct alignment! Chris White has promised to take care of the necessary paperwork to prepare for the Inspection that will ensure the siding is opened to traffic for our mid-May deadline.

Ardingly Siding Plan

The possibility of track acquisition from Bermondsey has not been forgotten about! However, one of the parties involved has not yet signed the contract until a particular issue (not related to the Bluebell) is resolved - once this is completed however, we will be ready to go in and remove the track. In the meantime, with the fact that we will soon have plenty of sleepers but a lack of rails and fittings in mind, Paul Robertson had a encouraging meeting on Saturday regarding the availability of some Bullhead rail and fittings from another source, which he hoped to explore further in the near future.

Finally, John Millham's excavations have uncovered a component of the original Ardingly branch, the following information coming from John Arkell of the Alf Brown gang. We have had recovered the base of the lattice signal that formed the home signal approaching HK from Ardingly. This must have been put in by the Southern to replace a rotten Brighton mast. It has enabled us to find out how lattice masts were erected. The casting is six foot tall and all but six inches was buried in the side of the embankment. The casting is a hollow square section tapering at the same rate as the mast and having a square flange around the base with strengthening webs.


News Update: 28th January 2003
from Paul Norris

Sunday 26th January saw the SR hand crane in use to separate the Milk Tanker from its frame. Normandy arrived as the shunter engine into Horsted C&W yard shortly after 09.30. The assembled volunteers had already dis-assembled most of the bolts and support straps which held the milk tanker body to its wheelset. The SR hand crane and fish van were shunted onto the parallel track level with the Milk tanker. The Low-Mac wagon was shunted to just outside the paintshop, such that it could receive the milk tanker body once removed and rotated such that the underneath could be needle gunned and attended to in the afternoon. Unfortunately Peter Milnes and I only had our 35-mm cameras, so there are no digital images of the lift available.

The strops were centered and positioned for the lift, and this was completed in a couple of hours. Securing the tanker above its frame the entire caboose was slowly shunted South 150 feet by Normandy, until it was parallel with the Low-Mac. The tanker was almost lowered onto its cradle of sleepers and chocs and gradually rotated with a large iron bar by myself, to reveal the underside. The tanker was unloaded, and the low-Mac re-positioned just to the South of the paint shop, for needle gunning.

After lunch two of the chaps pressed on with the tanker, while our one man JCB (Paul Hailes) re-assembled an improved Ardingly crossing. John Millham is preparing the earthworks for another siding of a quarter mile south form Horsted down the Ardingly branch so an improved crossing for heavy loads was required. Other members of the team carried on with the essential job of removing flat rail base plates from Jarrah timbers and sleepers for replacement with bullhead chairs and track screws. We have now processed about 150 sleepers so there are only about another 250 to go.

Hopefully next week a good attendance will allow rapid progress to be made with the remaining sleepers, so that they can be re-drilled and bullhead chairs affixed. Unfortunately most of the flat rail chairs are spiked into the timber, which require the 'Wigley' 4 wedges technique followed by leverage with various iron bars. At least our excellent Load-Haul operator Graham moves around the sleepers at each stage.


News Report: 23rd January 2003

A light dusting of snow greeted the first pway meeting of the year on Sunday 5th January, with an excellent turn out enabling good progress to be made on the Ardingly siding project. The task for the day was to realign the end of the existing siding behind the signal box, and the resident stock had been shunted northwards to allow this work to occur. After a 10ft running surface to running surface gap between this siding and the Ardingly spur had been measured and marked out, the ends of the sleepers were dug out and the siding realigned using the loadall. A wagon of spoil was then brought up from the Ardingly spur so that material could be provided for packing and filling, the entire length being completed by the end of the day. The opportunity was also taken to replace a number of broken chairs, of both the S1 and Brighton variety, as well as a number of rotten sleepers.

Ardingly siding, 05/01/03 Ardingly siding, 05/01/03
Left: With the sleeper ends dug out, the loadall is used to move the end of the siding westwards. Right: The siding in its new position, with jacking and packing about to begin.

After a survey of the site and pway resources on the second Sunday of the month, a list was drawn up of equipment and materials required to complete the siding. Paul Robertson has promised that 500 tons of ballast will be delivered within the next three weeks. The 360 or so sleepers required are in store in the salt yard after being delivered by rail to Three Bridges last year, however most of these have chairs for flat bottom rail attached. Since a large proportion of these are fixed with spikes, it will take quite some time to remove these and re-drill the sleepers ready for their new use. Thus the third Sunday gang was split into two, with five of us wallowing around in the mud dislodging sleepers from the piles in the salt yard. Those that had chairs fixed with bolts were removed immediately using the nut runner, while Graham used the loadall to transfer the remainder to the rest of the gang who concentrated on using iron bars to lever off the base plates attached with spikes. Meanwhile, Martin Skrzetuszewski made a start on re-drilling the 'clean' sleepers. It is planned for these to be chaired-up and transferred, using the loadall, to a sleeper wagon that Graham hopes to have shunted into the engineer's siding, so that they can be easily shunted and offloaded into position.

John Millham has started the earthworks required to reinstate the double track formation towards Ardingly, the irony being that some of the spoil removed from the Ardingly branch years ago went to make up the bottom car park at Sheffield Park, which John is now re-uniting back to its original home. Since the siding is required to be open to traffic by the beginning of June, we have a completion deadline of early May to meet in order to allow sufficient time for packing and slewing and bringing the siding up to our high standards.


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Last updated
12 April, 2003 by Jon Bowers with grateful thanks to Paul Norris, John Arkell and Jon & Anthony Goff.
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