Watercress Line

P-Way Report April - June

April started with our usual duties during Thomas week and the subsequent taking down of all the signage and banners at Ropley – all put away again until the summer. Our next activity, at Ropley again, was to effect some drainage work at the London end of the station. Out trusty Transit truck was dispatched to Havant to collect the necessary hardware whilst the remainder of the team carried out some exploratory digging in order to locate the offending pipe – all done in heavy rain of course. The following week excavating commenced in earnest and a mechanical digger was employed to do the trenching. The drain pits and pipework were installed and connected up and the trench was filled in, all to good effect under the watchful eye of Shaun our water expert. Picture 1 shows the digging activity in progress.
 
The final week of the month had us out putting up the temporary speed limit signs at Butts bridge for the diesel gala and breaking down some stored track panels to allow the concrete sleepers to be transported back to our yard at Medstead for processing, those of you that are familiar with the line will know the track panels are stored between Butts and Alton so the operating needs use of our Wickham trolley and the roadrailer crane together with a flatbed wagon. To see April out we removed the speed limit signs and returned them to our storage facility before carrying on to Alresford in order to clear some shrubbery from the fence boundary. Our instructions for this clearance from our manager Bernie were " it’ll be obvious when you get there and the lady who has written in says you will see where it needs doing.” Well of course when we identified the area in question and had taken the cutting tools down the bank in order to start the owner of the garden came out to say that it was very kind of us to care but could we leave the boundary as it was. We were at the wrong place! However cups of tea provided by the lady lessened our chagrin – we were at no. 11 instead of 31! All ok in the end with boundary cleared where required.
 
Those of us who are the Monday/Tuesday gang have become used to being photographed by our resident film camera operator Keith B who is regularly to be found on signal gantries, well he had rung in sick for the last Tuesday so this writer was forced to snap the diesels passing through Medstead on their way back via big railway to Bury – picture 2.
 
May having 2 Bank Holidays has given us a couple of Mondays off  which has been received with varying degrees of enthusiasm by our other halves! Regular travelers on the railway will have noticed activity around Boyneswood bridge and its brickwork, and also spotted the temporary speed limits there. The first Tuesday had us taking pallets of bricks and bags of sand up to the bridge from our yard at Medstead using our Wickham trolley and trailer, the scaffolding had gone up using a flatbed trailer. All of this had to take place before 11 o’clock as now on Tuesdays there is a steam service. We then went on to Alton – on the service train – and dug out 17 of the 24 sleeper beds at the London end of the station that require resleepering, returning by train. Ropley was next to receive attention and a couple of days were spent replacing chair keys with panlocs and in addition replacing a few broken chairs and realigning a few sleepers. This reporter was then detailed by higher authority – the wife- to undertake suitcase carrying and rental car driving duties in Florida, oh and of course to  pay for said activity! so that completed May, although I did manage to do a bit of vintage aircraft flying whilst there.
 
June started out with more panic activity this time completing key replacement in Ropley station whilst the other half of the gang commenced bank and trackside clearing at Alton. The observant among the readership of these ramblings will have noticed changes to the fencing around the station at Medstead, in particular on the footpath on the downside of the line – further work in this area is on our task list. We have had the pleasure of welcoming back Norman, formerly our ganger and mentor, who has been away at Eastleigh for a while so no doubt we will be reacquainting ourselves with the joy that is 'jacking and packing'. Our regular track inspection and point oiling visit to Southall has been carried out in the usual rainy weather that seems to accompany this activity.   


Richard Muir.

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