Watercress Line

P-Way Report July - September

These three months have almost exclusively been devoted to either sleeper replacement or fishplate oiling – both high up on our list of favourite jobs!.

July started off with us working at Alton replacing a large number of sleepers in the station area and then moving to the headshunt area near to the signal box. Sleeper replacement requires much digging out of all the ballast so as to expose the track bed. The chair screws are then undone using our Bance impact wrenches and the track is then jacked up so that the old sleepers can be slid out. Simple really, but oh that life followed the theory! Generally after much heaving the sleepers move, although one or two enter into the spirit of things by disintegrating, and the track bed can then be prepared for the new ones. These are slid into position and the track is lowered onto them. Now comes the noisy bit as the holes for the chair screws have to be drilled and the chairs screwed back down. Finally, and it always seems to be after lunch, the ballast is shoveled back.

We have had some unexpected assistance from other departments during this work and it would be remiss of us not to thank the loco department for their help in sleeper removal – they set fire to one or two. Picture 1 shows the result of such help.

As a rest from the above we spent a day filling in the large hole by the cattle dock at Alresford. Our trusty Transit was used to transport the chalk waste from Ropley and then it was duly tipped in nearly the right place. One bonus of working at Alresford is that we get a lot of "helpful advice" from those that attend the station.

The last week of July we started off fishplate oiling but fortunately heavy rain on the Tuesday stopped play.

August started with the usual prep work for Thomas – temporary speed limit signs trackside, and signage and banners at Ropley. Keith H and this writer were ordered to "proceed with all dispatch" to Toddington – home of Gloucs and Warks railway - there to rescue the Miss Daisy face for use on the Hampshire unit. This was duly accomplished although a certain amount of merriment was observed on the faces of other vehicle operators as we passed. Picture 2 show Daisy at work during Thomas week. For us this year our focus for Thomas was on fire marshalling – you will remember that lineside fires were a problem for a lot other railways – Big Railway included. For each day of Thomas we had a pair of "volunteers" positioned by Wanders curve equipped with beaters etc. All passed uneventfully although of course on the following Tuesday a lineside fire did occur, by then, and by good fortune the farmer had harvested in the crops. Nevertheless as is our way we were sent to assist the Fire service.

September has been largely devoted to fishplate oiling with the odd bit of jacking and packing thrown in – good to have you back with us Norman!. Fishplate oiling involves undoing the 4 nuts on the fishplate, with our Bance wrench but quite often by manually spannering, and then separating the plates from the rail and liberally - and boy do I mean liberally - pouring oil between plate and rail. The plates are then refitted and rebolted. Then we move onto the next plate roughly 2 plates every 60 feet. By the end of the day everything and everybody is oil coated. Picture 3 shows the chief oil pourer in action. This reporter has been away during September, this time boating and drinking red wine in the Adriatic or was it drinking and boating? No matter for upon returning to Medstead more oil had arrived for distribution. One unusual task – as always just as going home time arrives – was to round up a few cattle that had broken through the fence on the downside from Ropley. I don’t think that the professional cowboys need have any fear of a take over after our experience of this task.

Richard M

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