Watercress Line

Miniature Railway Progress and Easter DOWT Report

Since my last report much progress has been made on several fronts.

Firstly we completed two of our three new coaches just in time for the Easter Day Out With Thomas event. It was cutting it rather fine but we managed to finish them in time for loaded test runs the weekend before the event. They look quite splendid in their red (nearly maroon!) livery. Work will recommence on the third coach once DOWT is over. Martin has led the way with this project and he should be justifiably proud of his achievements.

The container roof and lean-to works have seen the entire framework assembled in place and the fascias mounted. The project is now awaiting more materials. Alasdair has taken the reins for this and it is already looking quite impressive. Also the pit in front of container has been concreted with suitable drainage built in and new bridging and container rails have been fabricated from rails we acquired from Southampton.

Over 100 feet of track has been laid to start our extension west towards Four Acre Field. The new alignment does look rather good with some gentle sweeping curves back down the slope. Once again we are indebted to Ben Spraggon using his digger to help with this and also to the preservation society for funding the crushed concrete and ballast.

In addition to the above we had to complete our usual loco and track maintenance activities. Tony kindly did all the fishplate greasing and we have gauge and cross level checked the entire route. The track has stood up to two complete seasons very well with only some ballast packing and tweaking of minor kinks at a couple of track panel joints required.

So with the above complete we were all set for DOWT and planned to use Nevada at the start of each day and let Patricia take over later to even out the workload between both locos. Unfortunately this plan rapidly fell apart as early on we found Patricia had developed a problem with number one cylinder of her 2 cylinder Lister diesel engine. She can run on one cylinder but we thought it wise to use Nevada for the bulk of the work with Patricia acting as stand by at the station sand drag. This initially worked well and cab visits to Patricia proved remarkably popular. However, on Friday morning (21st) during the 3rd run of the day Nevada disgraced herself by breaking an axle on her powered bogie. The few passengers on this early morning service had to be escorted back to the station whilst Nevada was pushed into the yard using a spare coach bogie as support. Patricia was then pressed into service for the rest of the day. The defective axle was removed and the wheels and sprocket transferred to a new axle that Keith machined with Richards and my assistance. An old fan was found and modified to act as transmission cooler as a temporary replacement for the fan damaged when the axle broke. A replacement fan is on order. In a little over 24 hours after the incident we had Nevada back carrying out light engine test runs and at 11:00am on Saturday (22nd) she recommenced hauling our services. I am very proud of the professional way that this incident was handled and how the disruption to our services was minimised and how quickly the repair was effected. A big thank you to all that helped with this.

During the Wednesday of DOWT we had live steam at the Miniature Railway in the form of a half size Tasker Steam Tractor courtesy of Richard who kindly brought it for the day. It proved to be the star attraction for the day and created much interest amongst staff and customers alike.

The trip and passenger numbers for DOWT are tabulated below

Day                             Trips               Passengers Carried

Good Friday                115                  1223

Easter Saturday          104                  1050

Easter Sunday            80                    663

Easter Monday           106                  1041

Tuesday                      99                    679

Wednesday                 94                    629

Thursday                     82                    563

Friday                          89                    651

Saturday                     107                  1026

Sunday                        96                    882

Grand Total               972                  8,407

Each trip is now 150m out and of course the same back making 300m for the round trip. 300m times the 972 trips equals 291.6km or 181.2 miles – a major achievement in itself!

So all in all I think a very fine performance by the Mid Hants Miniature Railway at DOWT. The new coaches performed very well but, we very nearly became exposed on the traction front with the issues encountered on both of our locos. Ideally we would like to have 3 locos then we could have one in operation, second as stand by with the third undergoing maintenance / overhaul as required. However, even if we built or acquired a third loco we currently do not have anywhere secure to accommodate it.

Going forward our number one priority is to get Patricia sorted. We then have the extension works, third coach and container roof works to keep us busy, alongside running our normal Saturday services. We would also like to make a start on the completion of the part built Tinkerbell Steam loco we have and if anybody can help us with this project we would be very glad to hear from them. We feel that this could become a major attraction at the railway.

As always many thanks to the entire team and everyone else that has helped us.

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