Watercress Line

P-Way Report August - October

August started with this writer being awol again!, this time buying ice creams for granddaughters whilst in Spain. Anyway I returned sort of relaxed and refreshed to find Thomas in full swing. We have for a little while now had chair key replacement at Papermill Lane bridge on our "to do” list that Bernie pins on the wall, so for a change instead of studiously ignoring said paper we set off in our Wickam trolley for Alton. Much wielding of hammers resulted in all the rail fixings were duly replaced – well would you believe it?,  we were 1 panloc short of the required number.  A return to Medstead was now required as the days operations were imminent  so whilst the rest of the team carried out test work on the biscuits the writer was sent, complete with hammer and panlocs – now there’s planning ahead!, on the first service train to change the outstanding fixing whilst the loco was turned. Of course it absolutely poured with rain whilst this was being done so a soggy return to base was made only to find the biscuit testing still in progress. The following day had one of our care and maintenance – no laughter please - visits to Holybourne  oil terminal.
 
Thomas had now departed so the next week started with removing all the signage and banners that accompany this event. A start was made on bank clearing on the up approach to Medstead Station whilst another group embarked on a drain rodding task at Ropley in the six foot by the water tower. A combination of a Bank Holiday and the normal weather that accompanies this meant that not a lot happened during the last week of this month.
 
September started as you will remember with a Diesel Gala so we went down to Butts Bridge to put out the temporary speed limit signs. The rest of that day was devoted to shunting operations in our yard in preparation for the transfer of a class 27 from Alresford.  Once the gala had finished the speed limit signs were recovered and replaced in or store, and then a bit of fishplate bolt replacement was carried out just up from Borovere Bridge. The "base commander” at home (wife) then informed me that she hadn’t been away for at least  5 weeks and that my presence was required for driving and porterage tasks in Italy for a week – it’s tough but somebody has to do it. Back after a bit of red wine tasting we then spent a day going around with our polesaw cutting back to improve the signal sightlines for the loco crews – our request to borrow a loco in order to facilitate this task fell on deaf ears. Bank clearing at Medstead continued.The last week of the month had more bank clearing, this time at Mount Pleasant  bridge in Alton and all the off cuts were transported away for disposal.
 
October has seen a continuation of bank clearing together with a move to a new location, this being near Brick Kiln Lane. By way of  change for us Bernie kindly decided that the softwood sleepers at the country end of the points south of Ropley needed to be replaced with hardwood ones so down tools on the cutting front and change to much digging and sleeper moving. All of the preceeding was accomplished in time for the Autumn Gala. As a bi-product of our journeys to and fro a subcontract job of scaffold pole transportation from and to Medstead was fitted in to assist the building group. The wet weather mid month resulted in a minor bank slippage at Boyneswood B.ridge; accordingly a collection of vehicles was assembled at Medstead ready for the clearance task – so with apologies to the likes of Treacy, Boocok, Morrison etc who recorded those line ups of locos ready to depart top shed for "the Cross" in the 1950s and 60s, picture 1 shows our version. 

The steam gala was now imminent so having carefully stored all the speed limit signs in one our sheds post Thomas it was now time to find them and set them up again at Butts Bridge. Meanwhile our trusty Transit truck and its operator Mr "Cruiser” Alderman was scouring the countryside collecting pallets for the use by loco department. The last week of the month being half term had a 2 train service as the Wizard Week fun, nevertheless we had an unexpected bit of entertainment ourselves. Monday started with a trip up to Alton to take down the temporary speed limit signs put up the previous week. We collected the last sign and prepared to return to base and at that point the clutch mechanism on our Wickham threw a wobbly with fluid ejected and a failure of the linkage. Well time pressing as the days train operation was due to start soon however a phone call to Mission Control at Medstead and a rescue Wickam was dispatched to tow the miscreant back. Unfortunately the previously mentioned time constraints meant that no photographic record was taken of this unique 2 Wickham event. Whilst all this was going on the remainder of the Monday gang had litter picked and cleared the car park field at Ropley. We then all reassembled at Alresford to dig out the ballast around No. 7 points, deep joy as more sleeper replacement now beckons. Tuesday by comparison was quite an uneventful day, although a further long distance sub contract job for loco dept was undertaken by the writer and "young Keith” with the Transit truck. 
 
We have had one extra curricular social activity this period when 10 of us visited the Basingstoke train control centre, a most interesting visit hosted by our railways very own Pat Butler. Many thanks to him and I can assure you all that reports of delays the next morning at Reading are merely coincidental!.  
 

Richard Muir

Photo gallery