Permanent Way News Archive : Sep-Oct 2003
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News Report: 29th October 2003
On Sunday 21st September, in the first part of an 'exchange' visit between the P-way departments of the Bluebell and Mid Hants railways, we had the pleasure of giving a small group of their volunteers a tour of the Bluebell. The Wickham was pressed into service for the second time in the day (we had already been out in it first thing to attend to some routine maintenance on the Fireslip) to take us all up to Kingscote. Since they don't have a tunnel on their line, and we have the longest - and quite possibly the wettest! - in preservation at Sharpthorne, the opportunity was taken to stop en-route so that photographs could be taken and stories told about the varying local microclimates on the north and south sides!
Above: Two views of the visiting Mid Hants p-way gang with some our of own volunteers at Sharpthorne tunnel.
With time pressing on and the Wickham needing to be clear of the single line so as not to delay the service trains, we continued on to Kingscote. We then made our way up the northern extension, where further work was in evidence, track laying only having started three weeks previously. After walking to just north of Imberhorn Lane bridge, where the vast size of the tip first starts to become apparent, it was very sensibly decided to turn around again so as not to arrive back too late to get lunch from Horsted buffet! The return trip gave the Mid Hants volunteers a chance to experience some of our vintage carriages, with the O1 hauling the Mets and Observation car.
The Mid Hants and Bluebell p-way volunteers enjoy their walk up the northern extension. Left: just north of Kingscote, Centre: near Hazelden farm, Right: on Imberhorn tip.
After lunch, the visiting party received a tour of the Carriage Works from George Jones, to whom many thanks are due, while we resumed the task of preparing sleepers for the northern extension. A number of engineers trains have been loaded with sleepers, rails and other supplies over the last few weeks, more of which later. I am assured that they greatly enjoyed themselves, and they went away in the knowledge that they would have to find a larger teapot for our visit to Hampshire the following week!
And so the following Sunday, the 28th September, we arrived at Medstead and Four Marks station eager to see what they had in store for us - and we were not disappointed! There was a chance to 'cab' a shiny yellow Network Rail rail grinder in the station yard, and some of our party jumped at it, in some cases even before having a cup of tea!
Left: The Network Rail grinder in Medstead and Four Marks yard. Right: The combined MHR and Bluebell volunteer teams pose for a photo just west of Medstead and Four Marks station - and yes, we did have a rear lookout just out of sight of the camera at the back of the group!
The visit had been carefully arranged to coincide with the visit of a certain No.473 for their steam gala, and so we didn't have to wait long before trains were heard approaching up the gradient from Ropley. After the first set of service trains had passed, we set off down the line towards Ropley, features of interest being pointed out by their gang on the way. Once we had all safely arrived, a demonstration of the ex. Exmouth Junction steam crane and tour of the works was quickly arranged and executed. Meanwhile, other members of the party had stumbled across various diesels, and, being deprived of such unusual motive power back in Sussex, didn't need to be asked twice if they wanted to climb aboard!
After lunch, we continued our walk down to Alresford, the western terminus of the line, and a tour of some of the carriages in the yard was followed by a visit to the superbly re-developed goods shed, which now serves as a shop and meeting room. There was time to complete the round trip, by train to Alton and back to Medstead behind the Ivatt and J94 conversion before calling it a day. An excellent day was rounded off in the best possible way when, around 6.15pm and with the sun starting to set, Birch Grove arrived from Ropley with the goods set and shunted it into the yard.
All in all, it was a most enjoyable day out, and made a very pleasant change to see some track not floating around on a bed of clay! Our sincere thanks go to Keith and the rest of the Mid Hants p-way gang, along with all the other Mid Hants staff and volunteers who we met and who were all extremely friendly and accommodating, making our visit a real pleasure. It was enjoyed so much by all concerned that it is intended to organise a similar return visit next year.
Above: The two photos on the left show work underway repairing the dip in 3 road south of the platform at Horsted Keynes (see text). Above right: An overall view of the southern approach to Horsted Keynes from 'Mount Ballast' shows the gang making way for service trains to pass, while the Wickham trolley, loaded with ballast, can be seen on the right entering the dock siding from the down-yard (Dave Bowles).
And now back to matters Bluebell. The first Sunday in October was a glorious autumn day, the main job undertaken being the lifting and packing of 3 road just south of the platform at Horsted Keynes. With clay located almost immediately below the sleepers, it was no surprise this section had sunk again, despite our tackling it twice in the past year. Thanks to the co-operation of Signalman Chris Majer, and the skill of our in-house loadall driver helping to ensure a constant supply of ballast was shuttled to the worksite using the Wickham trolley, the section was levelled out again by mid afternoon. The opportunity was also taken to ballast the remainder of the dock siding, which was one of those little jobs no one had quite got around to doing since it was opened to traffic last December!
Above left: O1 No.65 carefully draws rails over Poleay bridge ready for loading (Dave Bowles). Centre: The view looking north with the new rails installed on Thursday the 9th October (Dave Bowles). Right: Jacking and packing the section on Sunday 12th October after the first full day of running over the new rails (Jon Bowers).
The first engineering week for some time was held between Monday 6th and Friday 10th October, the following report coming from Pat Acock.
One of the first tasks was to deliver 4 rails to the Northern extension worksite, with the O1 hauling the engineering train onto the recently laid track. While other preparations got underway on the Monday, the assembled workforce jumped at the chance to carrying on processing sleepers for the Northern extension. On Tuesday the real work got underway with the main task of rail replacement north of the Ouse bridge. John Millham provided assistance with his JCB, but since this could not venture south of Poleay bridge, some of the rails had to be man-handled towards Sheffield Park. By Thursday, this work was virtually complete, and the track-circuit insulating fishplates could be replaced. The afternoon was spent loading tools and tidying up the worksite, while John Millham and JCB spent the afternoon working near Sloop Bridge.
On Sunday 12th October, the volunteer gang followed up the engineering week work by jacking and packing the bridge run-offs, and performed a general tidy up of the area. Then it was back to Horsted Keynes to prepare more sleepers, a task that was continued the following week, in addition to a little jacking and packing just north of Horsted. Some rails were also delivered to the Alf Brown gang (photo left, from Nick Beck) so that they can press on with constructing more signal posts for the HK re-signalling project. In addition, we have been visited by a tamper this past week, and it has seen use on the usual problem areas.
It has been nice to welcome a few new faces to the p-way gang over the past few weeks - and there is plenty more exciting work planned for the winter, so if you fancy some fresh air and exercise, please do not hesitate to get in touch, or see our volunteering page.
A lot has been going on in recent weeks, with the first new panels of track being laid north of Kingscote for 9 years, more of which later. Going back to where the last report left off in mid-August takes us to that record breaking hot spell. With a few problem areas being monitored, and the placing of two temporary speed restrictions in the Vaux End and Tremains to Rock Cutting areas at the height of the heatwave, it was inevitable that a few delays would result, the situation not being helped by a stray horse on the line.
The heat also restricted the normal maintenance work that was planned, since rails can't be lifted in a jacking and packing exercise once a critical temperature is exceeded. Once the temperatures cooled down a bit though, things soon got back to normal, with jacking, packing and slewing being undertaken over the past few weeks between New Coombe bridge and Birch Farm (mid-way round Ingwersons' curve).
Left: Working on Ingwerson's curve on the 7th September. Right: Production line! Later in the day some of the gang are busy in the Salt Yard, preparing sleepers for future use on the Northern Extension.
One of our tasks during August was to remove a redundant switch from Horsted Keynes down-yard. This used to lead into C-road of the Carriage Works before the layout was revised, and was to be removed and transported to Kingscote to act as a trap point for the northern extension. The removal work was carried out and normal rails cut to length and installed on Sunday 24th August. The pointwork was loaded onto the Bulleid Well wagon for onward transport to Kingscote, forming part of an engineers train including sleepers, chairs and other fittings, loaded by the volunteer gang during various Sunday sessions.
Above: Now you see it, now you don't. The view on the left was taken before work began and right, at the end of the day with the switch removed (Tony Frost).
Work to lay the point at its new location north of Kingscote run-round loop was started on Wednesday 3rd September by a team led by the Friends Of Kingscote chairman Ron Harwood, working in co-operation with P-way manger Paul Robertson and Infrastructure Director Chris White. Since this work involved removal of the current buffer-stops, re-ballasting and lowering of the track level on the run-round loop, the run-round facility was not available and so a layover engine had to be provided at Kingscote for the duration of the work. All was completed in time for the FOK open day on Saturday 6th September.
The photos above illustrate the progress made, with the former buffer stops isolated on the east side of the formation, replaced by the trap point. A few panels have been installed north of the trap-point, with Railway Inspectorate permission having been obtained for what is effectively an engineers siding north of Kingscote while work gets underway on the northern extension. Please note that the line north of Kingscote station site is strictly out of bounds as it is a working area.
In the middle of all this, another working evening in the tunnel was arranged for Thursday 28th August. Sure enough, this was the day that the long spell of dry weather ended with heavy rain falling for most of the afternoon, resulting in the unusual occurrence of the inside of the tunnel being much drier than out! We followed the usual format of splitting into two working teams, one jacking and packing the worst of the joints and the other servicing the fishplates and their accompanying nuts and bolts.
Left: Some of the tunnel working team of the 28th August pose for a photograph or three! From left to right are James Redford, Graham Ward, Tom Waghorn, John Beaumont, Julian Plows, Paul Norris, Nick Beck, Mark Hailes and Dave Izzard.
Next month sees the autumn Engineering Week. This will occur between Monday 6th and Friday 10th of October. The main project will be rail replacement from the Ouse Bridge northwards, meeting each day at Sheffield Park from 8.30 for 9.00. Hot lunches will be provided. If you could spare one (or more!) days in the week it would be greatly appreciated - please let us know either by emailing us, or adding your name to one of the Engineering Week Notices that will be appearing at signing on points soon.
There is a significant amount of work to be carried out over the next three months, with sleepers and track supplies for the northern extension needing to be prepared and loaded onto the engineering trains, in addition to the regular maintenance of the main line. Anyone interested in joining in as a volunteer to help with these tasks will be made most welcome - there will be volunteer P-way work every Sunday for the foreseeable future except Sunday 28 September.
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