Watercress Line

Basingstoke -Medstead Handover

Following the previously recorded saga of the dock crane that has been installed at Medstead a discrete little ceremony has taken place in some pleasant autumn sunshine.

The re furbished Dock crane at Medstead was formerly handed over to the Railway on Sunday the 2nd October by Philip Riley the Chairman of the Basingstoke Canal Society and this was gratefully accepted by Robin Higgs President of the Mid Hants Railway Society. Robin was mainly instrumental in the crane coming to the Railway as he knew we were looking for one to complete the Medstead Dock and that the Basingstoke Canal had one that had been lurking in bits in the very long grass beside the canal at Deepcut for many years. An inspection party was duly despatched in January 2013 to inspect the crane which we gladly accepted and it was delivered to Medstead a few weeks later where restoration began and this proved to be quite a job. A small team duly had it shot blasted by a local contractor then we stripped it and renewed where necessary and restored the complete item and when re assembled worked perfectly. Meanwhile another team set about digging out the 7 foot cube foundations in the dock and with the restored crane pintel duly suspended in the hole it was filled with 8 cubic meters of concrete and the whole area was then surfaced off with stone setts recovered from Kings Cross Goods Yard in London. Just another one of those little jobs that helps to re create the Country Goods Yard scene at Medstead.


Our main project that has been running along for a few weeks now is the conversion of the Goods Shed at Medstead back into a goods shed (back from a scruffy paint shop/store) to replicate and display artefacts to show how such a building looked and operated in the heydays of goods traffic on country branchlines. In the main our mid-week teams have been engaged on this project leaving the Sunday gangs to undertake the other tasks that befall our lot. To date in the roof space new beams have been fixed in place to give the structure more rigidity and the tongued and grooved panelling fixed to the original roof trusses. On the walls we have started to apply breather membrane and insulation boards between studding to provide a warmer/drier environment in which to house the artefacts to be displayed. An information board has been made to explain the on-going work to visitors and give an illustration of what the future attraction will provide as an additional historical interest.


Continuing our sub-contacted work for the S&T Department we have started to extend the pathway to the down starter signal at Medstead station. This is to allow a safe walking route when operations commence from the temporary signal box, currently positioned on the downside. This will enable the signalman to safely walk down to the front of six coach trains to exchange the tokens with the engine crew on down trains. As and when the signalling project is finally completed (quite a way ahead yet) and the original signal box on the up-side comes back into play, the path will also then provide a safer walk for the lampman to reach the signal to replace the lamps with ones re-filled with lamp oil. A good supply of ash from the loco yard has provided the levelling material for the base of the path which is then being laid with paving stones to give a permanent level surface.


Also at Medstead, we have completed the refurbishment of the yard gates and the newly painted mesh panels are fixed in place This gives a much more authentic look to the gates and also provides a little extra security to the yard area. The lamp bracket from the donated crossing gate pieces, thought to be originally from the Alton area, has started to be worked on with a view to re-instating it to a condition whereby it will hold a refurbished crossing gate lamp. The lamp itself was one which had been languishing in the S&T stores, and after dislodging the spiders and webs, we are now starting work on to bring it back to display condition-  a nice little aside job.


We normally have a few smaller workshop jobs always on the go to keep the workflow going and the chaps gainfully employed in between other tasks, and also for wet days- more of those to come no doubt. One of these currently is the refurbishment of a luggage trolley from Alresford that was starting to look a bit sad and wasn’t adding to the smartness of the station scene. It was in quite good physical condition and only need one deck board replacing but the paintwork was very faded and chipped. It is being repainted in the Midland Railway maroon colour that permeated across that region of the network for many decades. After painting the trolley will be re-lettered with the name Ribblehead from whence it originally meandered south. Apparently the trolley got itself on a train by mistake and end up at Alresford, where it is now doing sterling service in the replenishment of catering and dining trains


Bob Brooks

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