Watercress Line

P-Way Report October - December

Regular readers of these ramblings will remember that fish plate oiling featured heavily in the last quarter, and so October started. We have a new member of our Monday gang, Tony Lawrence and in spite of being indoctrinated into the "world of pway" during oiling operations he is still reporting for duty, we must be mellowing in Bynams old age!. Fishplates have been attended to from Alresford to Bishops Sutton bridge, and from Hampshire Hunt to Chawton Woods with the promise of more to come.

Fence mending has featured again, initially at the area to the south of milepost 58 and more recently alongside the long field between mile markers 51 and 52. Whilst the initial fencing work was going on this writer was specially selected to spend 2 days in a cherry picker attending to the gutters at Ropley – some drivel along the lines of "well as a pilot you’re used to heights" was the excuse for this. Anyway one gets a different view of things from a bucket, the cherry picker operator said that roof height was as high as he had been with the machine so of course an order to max height was immediately given and from 53 feet picture 1 was taken.

There has been much activity in respect of tree management along the linesides with on one occasion 3 chainsaws in use at the same time and our much used Wickham trolley running to and fro removing the cut wood. There has also been a concentrated effort to remove much of the scrap metal around Alton. Whilst in the vicinity of Alton the fence that runs down to Papermill Lane has been attended to as it had been "attacked" in places and on the way back to Medstead the temporary speed limit signs were put out at Butts Bridge in preparation for the Steam Gala. The Sunday night of the gala was the night of the big blow so the following day was spent in tree and debris removal, the 3 visiting locos had been positioned to Alton on Sunday afternoon but nevertheless were unable to access Network Rail lines due trees down around Bentley. The next day, Tuesday, had track patrolling in the morning followed by sleeper sorting. Our next task was to be resleepering at Alresford, so planning ahead by management had us sorting and selecting in our yard at Medstead. Well, the sleepers had been measured and marked up but it seemed that each new sleeper required us to move at least 3 more in order to obtain access – there were comments, it must be said, about this planning and measuring.

November started with a social Saturday out to visit our counterparts at the Bluebell railway, we walked the extension from East Grinstead to Kingscote – picture 2 shows the team at the summit of the line, and then spent time at Horstead Keynes and at Sheffield Park. Back to normal after our awayday and more prep work had bags being filled with ballast and then loaded onto the Atlas wagon for transporting to Alresford. Phase 1 had us replacing the sleepers under the foot crossing at the London end of the platforms, the roadrailer vehicle was used to lift out the rails and then the digger bucket was used to lift out and relevel the trackbed. New sleepers were lifted into place and the track refitted, screwed down and reballasted leaving the building group to remake the footcrossing.

The middle of the month saw a burst of fence mending, initially along the footpath that runs behind Alton signal box towards Papermill Lane roadbridge and then because on one of our track patrols it was thought by Dave Jones that he had seen a sheep beside the line at around mile marker 51. I know – his private habits are no concern of ours!, but we had to go and investigate and indeed the fence alongside the edge of the long sheep field was a bit iffy in places so a day was spent rectifying the damage.

Those regular train travelers amongst the one or two that read this may have noticed an addition to the lineside furniture near to Northside Lane. A continuation of a lineside beautification project by our Saturday colleagues – no rude comments please!, has resulted in the building of a lineside hut on the downside of the trackside as picture 3 shows, and work has started on another one close to Bishops Sutton road bridge with some of the sleepers removed from Alresford in our phase 1 work being delivered for use there.

December has seen a major effort in more and more resleepering at Alresford with the turnout from the cattle dock being a focus of our activity. This was duly completed and as a reward we were allowed Tuesday off so that we could attend our annual lunch. A very pleasant and strangely social day was enjoyed by all with many thanks to Christine and her staff for feeding us, and to Bernie for his hospitality. I think that we all made it home safely utilizing free bus passes and senior railcards although the train journey from Alton to Farnham was a bit of a hazy memory.

The final week of our year had payback for our Tuesday day of leisure and it was back to sleeper work again, more panloc fitting, and more tree management and the associated fencing repairs that are required when trees fall across them, the latter mainly alongside the motocross tack to the north of Hampshire Hunt.

Richard M

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