Watercress Line

Miniature Railway progress and Day Out With Thomas report

Since my last Blog we have been very busy. Firstly there was the problem with Patricia to resolve. She was only running on one of her two cylinders. We stripped both of them down and got the injectors professionally serviced. After reassembly she was once again running on both cylinders but one was now running very hot. At this point Ian Arnott, who had brought his Royal Scott down to us, got in touch to offer us a replacement Lister Engine. With time running short to the August Day Out With Thomas event we purchased this from him and fitted it. The engine change was completed in one day but far more time was required to get the variable speed and in particular the slow speed running set up. The engine was a constant speed variant but we finally managed to get it set up using some of the throttle parts from our original engine. Pleased to report she is now running fine and we are grateful to Ian for the replacement engine. Ian also mentioned that their railway at Ingfield had some redundant points and these were duly donated to us. We have collected these (thanks to Brian Lawes for the use of his trailer) and made a cash donation to the Ingfield Railway. They are not suitable for use on the main line due to the type of rail used but will come in handy for sidings and as a template for building more. Many thanks to Ian Arnott and the guys at Ingfield for them.

Alasdair has procured a sit on lawn mower powered by a Kubota 3 cylinder diesel engine with a hydraulic transmission. The idea is to use the engine and transmission as the basis of a new loco. However, at the moment it is proving very useful in its current role as a mower.

Alasdair together with Martin, Richard and Cameron have also made great progress with the container roof and lean-to. The north side is almost complete and looks quite impressive.

Our new centre coach is nearing completion with painting now underway, once again Martin can be very proud of his handiwork. We have left one seating bay out as we would like to reserve this for disabled passenger wheelchair access. We are now looking at installing a braking system and a visit to the South Downs Light Railway to view their system has proven most informative. The two coaches we are currently running have been named “Jane” after my wife and “Jacqui” after Daves girlfriend. BR Lion and Wheel emblems have also been applied. The centre coach will be named “Diane” (Martins wife) on completion.

The extension is progressing and we have now acquired all the rails, sleepers and fixings we need. The track bed is well underway and thanks are due to all the guys who have worked so hard on this. Particular mention needs to be made of Ben Spraggon (plus his friend John) and his Digger, Brian Lawes and his dumper, Martin Champion for his surveying of the route, Richard for drilling and treating the sleepers plus Cameron and Callum who did a lot of backfilling with crushed concrete during Day Out With Thomas. The route is now starting to take shape and we have it all marked out to Four Acre Field. I believe there is a good chance we can have most of the track laid ready for next season that certainly gives us something to aim for.

The main news to report is the very successful August Day Out With Thomas event. We were kept exceptionally busy throughout with just one very poor day, Wednesday, which was a virtual wash out due to the rain. We generally used Nevada until around 1:00pm and then let Patricia complete the day and this worked quite well. Many visitors came back time and time again for rides. One particular family, who were staying at the Watercress Lodges, visited us nearly every day and even treated us to biscuits and some gingerbread men that they had hand decorated for us. Really was a touching gesture and needless to say all the goodies disappeared very quickly! The daily trip and passenger numbers are summarised below:

Summer 2017 Day Out With Thomas saw a grand total of 874 trips and 8676 passengers.

The highest daily number of trips was 123 on the first day of the event, this beat our previous best of 121 made on Wednesday 12th August 2015. Our highest daily passenger numbers record of 1463 set on the last day of the event easily beat our previous best of 1368 recorded on Good Friday of the Easter 2016 DOWT event. Finally we also recorded our best total number of passengers carried during an entire event namely 8676 which beat our previous best of 8407 set during this Easters DOWT which, incidentally, was one day longer. If we ignore “wash out Wednesday” then we averaged over a hundred trips and over a 1000 passengers per day for the other 8 days. The total number of trips (874) multiplied by the round trip length of approximately 300m equates to 262km or around 162 miles that our little train completed. That’s roughly 8 round trips on the “big” railway!

As always a very big thank you to all who have helped at the Miniature Railway. We now have a significant and very capable group of people who regularly turn up in all weathers and I’m very proud of what we have achieved thus far.

Photo gallery