Watercress Line

27th November Right Said Fred

Those of a certain age will remember the Bernard Cribbins song ‘Right said Fred’ and it seems appropriate to a job we were requested to undertake. A new gas cooker was ordered for the kitchen in the West Country Buffet at Alresford. The job being to remove the old one and to install the new one in the kitchen- problem. Apparently the old one was a donation from an Army establishment back in the mists of time and was placed in the kitchen by about 10 or 12  fit ‘beefy’ squaddies lifting it over the counter in the buffet and through the door from the serving area. Now, by no stretch of the imagination are any of us fit or ‘beefy’, so that option was out. The counter itself is a heritage item, being an original railway buffet counter from Oakhampton station, so we could not hack that about as it is constructed in a way that won’t come apart without damaging it quite significantly.


Keep with it. The other door from the kitchen onto the platform is too narrow to fit the old cooker through. The options then were the window- no, ‘beefyness’ would be required again. So, we got down to the option of removing what we could from the old cooker to reduce its dimensions, taking the outside door off the kitchen, cutting out the lower portion of the door frame both sides and possibly chiselling out part of the walls. At this point it’s perhaps worth looking up the lyrics of the original song.


The cooker was duly delivered-damaged, so returned to supplier, deflation in the team but perhaps more time to build up some ‘beefyness’ (I don’t think so). Anyway a replacement new cooker was delivered, all OK this time. So the move goes ahead, well actually better than we thought on the day. It was decided as the old cooker was going for scrap we could attack that to reduce both the size and weight and therefore several panels, pipes and knobs were duly removed. Hey ho! the thing then JUST fitted through the doorway after only taking the door off-phew. New cooker was brought in and put in position, a little smaller by the odd cm so easier, so job done.


We have undertaken yet another sub-contract job, this time for the S&T Department at Alresford. The signal arrangement in the Sun Lane cutting needs to be changed to improve sighting on entering the station and the two signal arms on the bracket are to changed to be at the same level. To do this work scaffold access was needed to create a safe working platform at the right height and to this end we were asked to build a suitable arrangement up the embankment. This was not a straightforward job as we were not building from a level base all the way and also things had to keep to the correct gauge distance from passing trains. On a damp day with a cold wind blowing through the cutting- just to get the sympathy going, but then again probably not- the task was completed. Going up a 60 degree slope proved interesting and we only just has enough poles of various lengths and boards to do the job-a close run thing. It will be a lot simpler job to take the scaffolding down afterwards than it was to build it.


One of those jobs that comes out of the blue at you was a report about a leaking water pipe stop cock. Doesn’t sound too much of a job until you realise that it is the main feed to the yard at Ropley and the valve itself is located in a narrow shaft 3 feet deep and encased in concrete and plastic pipe. Not sure who designed that. We went and did our normal visit to weigh the job up and found the only way to get to the pipework and stop cock would be to excavate down and widen out the shaft. It was also casually mentioned that the supply needed to be fixed in order that the tenders could be filled and the locos fired for the Santa Specials- two weeks away-so no pressure (well there was in the pipe but it was shooting water everywhere). Anyway,  the chamber was excavated and the affected area exposed, and after a bit of a search for the main water supply stop cock- cunningly hidden under years of growth in the hedge by the Bighton Hill bridge, the water feed could be turned off. Replacement parts were ordered and fitted, the water turned on and the job was watertight and complete-success. No. With the water back on the excavated hole then filled up with water duly indicating another leak from beyond the new stop cock. So, on we go, but the feed for the loco water supply was OK it was the side feed to the Boiler Shop this time. At least Santa will have a train to ride on whilst we sort out this other problem.


Bob Brooks

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