Since 1982 the Locomotive Department has struggled with just one pit in the Loco Yard, just long enough for a large tank engine or a small tender engine, although it can accommodate two Terriers. Before then there was only the pit in the pumphouse siding (now the washout pit), so things were worse in the past, but with between three and five locos operating on many days time on the pit was at a premium. (The washout pit itself is fully occupied by engines on washout, so no help there.)
Plans for a new pit had been made in the early 1990s, but it did not proceed owing to funding difficulties. In 2001 it became possible to schedule funding of the new pit for the Spring of 2002. The plans were reviewed and the pit lengthened to the maximum which would fit in the space available in 3-road between the point and the shed-end walkway, making it 43m long overall. It was designed to be shallower than the 2-road pit for easier access into the motion of locomotives.
After a competitive tender process the contract was awarded to Drivepoint Construction of Hassocks, whose site manager Mike Hawkins is a locomotive fireman (and so has a vested interest in getting it right). Construction started on 1 April, using the digger to remove the rails,
Work started by looking for the large water pipe feeding the Stirling water crane, which was thought to run across the new pit. Eventually it was found to be buried so deep that it went clear beneath the depth of excavation needed.
Spoil from the excavation was taken by train to Horsted Keynes for disposal. The floor of the excavated hole was covered with a layer of blinding to provide a permeable base beneath the concrete.
The concrete was cast in two phases, floor first then the walls. Here the floor shuttering and reinforcing steel are in position.
With the floor concrete laid, Mike Hawkins is removing the shuttering forming the base of the side walls. Drainage is provided by a side channel at each end (for which the slot visible was left open), with a 1-in-90 slope in the floor each way down from the centre.
Views with the walls completed. At each end there are steps paved with blue brick tiles.
The new pit completed and safety chains in place.
The yard water crane has not been put into use so far because of its poor location. Now that 3-road is used by working engines, investigations under way as to how a water crane can usefully be made available for use in the yard.
More pictures taken during the construction, including the large-size originals of those shown here, can be found here.