Watercress Line

P-Way Report April - August

Due to events totally beyond the control of this writer – holidays, granddaughter's christening, Easter and of course Thomas – April has become a non report month. I can’t promise that things will improve but here goes anyway!

May started with a sleeper replacement task at the Holybourne Oil Depot. Our first visit was spent in being indoctrinated, but the tablets are working now and we returned a couple of weeks later. Those that can remember beyond last week may recall that we have spent some time relaying track at Southall – the southern base for Jeremy Hoskings locomotives - well we had a couple of days there again this time doing remedial jacking and packing. Just like being at Ropley; no sooner had we started than a locomotive movement stopped play for a while. However, as it was a Gresley Pacific it made stopping shovelling all the better – picture 1 shows 60007 being shunted. Yet another holiday interrupted proceedings, this time to Venice, however on my return we completed the Holybourne work.

June started with bank clearance in the Shrave cutting. Young Keith has now been fitted – if that is the correct word! - with a harness such that he can be lowered from the top of the cutting and, using our new one-handed chainsaw, can cut the shrubbery back. It seems to be a working solution and now he is disappointed on days that don’t need him to wear his device! We have renewed and repaired the fencing in the upper car park at Ropley and during the course of that have tidied up the foliage there. Those who are let out at midweek may have noticed that we have had a stoneblower machine in operation, well, when I say in operation that is being somewhat economical with the facts. The first day of operation- to use the term very loosely - resulted in us spending all day at Ropley drinking tea whilst we waited for the machine to be declared serviceable. However, things were better the next day and we were able to do ballast tiding. Reballasting has taken place at various locations and in addition we have been using our polesaw to improve signal sighting.

July started with us helping out our friends in S&T by clearing excess track ballast from beneath the rails along from Ropley to the hut at Northside Lane. Evidently the ballast was too close to the rail in places and was affecting something called voltage! Our last Monday task, before 7 day week running stops us doing serious trackwork, started out with " just nip down to Alresford and replace the 2 broken chairs on the concrete sleepers at the London end of Sun Lane bridge", said Bernie. 'Right ho' we said and having finished our tea we set off in our Wickham with the necessary equipment to do this little task. Well of course the nuts were corroded onto the sleeper studs, or the sleeper studs just rotated so we ended up repacing the 2 concrete sleepers with wooden ones – from our storage facility at Medstead. All of this was done with hand tools in a very restricted space with 4 of us lifting the offending concretes – not the best day we have had recently but all was done, the track was levelled and ballast repacked and the track handed back to the operation department in time for the next days running.

As you know, regular weekday train services limit our time to be out and about on the track as we have to be clear of trackwork by 10.00ish. Nevertheless at Medstead our contractors have topped a large number of trees at Bennets siding and of course we spent time clearing up the debris and transporting it away. Picture 2 shows the new vista. Still in forestry mode the overhanging branches have been attended to in the sidings beyond Alresford. An outbreak of unruly cattle later in the month necessitated us rewiring, in the fencing sense of the word, the fence in the field to the north of Signal Cottage. This all took place in that nice hot spell that we enjoyed at the end of the month, and 2 train operation meant that the wire and all our tools had to be carried the entire length of the field – many times it seemed!

We have during the course of the above had a couple of days out. Firstly on that very wet Bank Holiday in late May 3 of us visited Ted Martins Garden Railway at Thame. This is a very impressive GWR themed layout – Bynam had to be kept sedated throughout - with cuttings, embankments and bridges and a tunnel. In addition there is a very nice scale engine shed complete with turntable beyond. I can also attest to a fine standard of cakes provided. The second visit, again in indifferent weather was to the Luggershall Military Railway on Salisbury Plain.

Richard Muir

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