Watercress Line

A Bridge Not Too Far

15 Feb


One of the Departments’ major schemes for this year is the re-boarding and re-painting of the footbridge at Ropley. This bridge was originally brought to the Railway from North Tawton (not Taunton) in Devon when the station there was closed in the early 1970’s. Old photos of the station from then show the bridge in situ and in a rather unkempt condition. We are endeavouring to keep the bridge in a ‘kempt’ condition by replacing the boarding, much of which has been in place for over 30 years or so, and also undertaking an external re-paint. Over the years repairs have been undertaken to replace the odd board and laying of non-slip suface but the time has come to do a complete replacement. When you see the huge number of visitors crossing and standing on the bridge during the various events the need for the renewal job to keep things up to the mark is apparent. This time we used a proprietory boarding with the non-slip coating already applied which will give a better appearance than the old surface.

To facilitate this job it was agreed with Operations and Pway that we could erect scaffolding across the line and effectively have a possession until the job was completed. This would also include re-painting of the supporting steelwork and the outside of the steel side panels from the scaffolding. Access to these parts of the bridge can only effectively be achieved from scaffolding, so it was thought a good idea to take up this opportunity. The two tier platforms meant that we could have seberal teams working concurrently on different aspects of the job.The inside of the side panels were re-painted by the Ropley Service Crew fairly recently and were looking quite good. The steel supports of the boarding were coated with a bitumen paint whilst the boards were off to give added proctection to those normally inaccessible parts.

In order to complete this job within the time frame that we had to get the line clear of scaffolding it was arranged that small teams would attend on three consecutive days during the weeks planned, with possible added time being made up by the Sunday gang. We undertook this method of work when building the Waiting Shelter at Ropley and it proved successful in completing the job on time. Some days we had teams well into double figures tackling various aspects of work. We had some most welcome support from other Railway teams- operations, loco department, Alresford ASSET and last but not least PWay, thanks to all who came along and we hope they enjoyed the change of scene. The job had to be tackled during a non-running period, which unfortunately for us also generally falls in the bad weather periods of the year, and a constant battle with the elements was fought. It was no surprise that there was quite a bit of ‘toasted’ soot on the supports and smoke deflectors from locos stopped under the bridge and passing through under power up the gradient. The chipping off of this soot and rust sounded like a peal of bells with different notes coming from different bits of steel.

The main parts of the job were completed just as the scaffolding had to come down, which left a few finishing jopbs and a little painting that could quite easily be completed from steps. The bridge looked very smart when the scaffolding was removed, althoght the lack of sun did nothing for photography to get the full benefit. No doubt a coating of soot will follow soon.

A dry job also undertaken whilst things on the Railway were quieter was the removal of the redundant fireplace in the General Managers office in Alresford station. This was to create a less confined workspace and easy access to desks.The job proved fairly straightforward for once, and also achieved without any dust settling over the office but we gave the carpet a good hoovering (there are other makes available) anyway. When removed the wall will be re-plastered and painted to tidy up the chimney breast. Whilst doing the job we also got a good view –from the dry-of the Class 27 being loaded onto the transporter- in pouring rain- to be taken for renovation somewhere.


Bob Brooks

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