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Counter encounter


With the end of running trains after the half-term holiday week, the Building Department descended on the West Country Buffet at Alresford to install the new serving counter. The new counter units, screen and worktop had been taken to site earlier for storage, and also to provide more room in the workshop to progress other projects being worked on – space being at a premium when things are busy.

All the necessary tools and materials were taken from Medstead to the buffet on a Sunday afternoon, after food service was finished, ready to make a quick start the following morning. The catering staff cleared the buffet area of all loose equipment and stock so that we could then move the machines and furniture to gain access to the old counter area. The kitchen and store access doors were sealed with plywood so that any dirt and dust would not penetrate into food preparation areas. The drinks machines were disconnected and work started on removing the old counter, the front panel of which originally came from Oakhampton station refreshment room.  Following that removal and the area cleared, a channel had to be cut by disc cutter to accommodate trunking to feed water, telephone and electric power from one side of the buffet to the other to where the new counter was to be positioned. This was a very dusty and noisy operation, so only one or two chaps were in on that day to do the cut and following clean up. When the trunking was positioned and fixed services were laid in the channel ready for the surface to be made good for a contract floor company to lay new laminate to cover the old counter area. New water pipes, electric cables to feed the beverage machines and telephone cables to supply the payment equipment have been drawn through the trunking and installed into the counter cabinets. Alongside the counter work the railway artefacts that are normally displayed on the walls were taken down, new dado rail installed and the walls replastered to repair areas disturbed by repositioning services. The new counter was then sheeted over ready for the whole room to be redecorated from top to bottom and will be unveiled at the end of the exercise.

Also, but by no means least, back in the workshop the Building Department have lately been constructing screens for the West Country Buffet to provide Covid compliance for when re-opening of catering facilities takes place together with the Steam Illuminations  trains. These wood and perspex screens are along similar ( well sort of) lines to those  that the carriage shop have prepared for installation into the open carriages. They will provide suitable social distancing arrangements for the dining area of the buffet but maintaining a clear view through the room for food service and also for visual purposes. The frames will be painted white with black base plates to hopefully blend into the room’s appearance following the redecoration. I think we all hope they will not be required for too long and things get back to some normality in the not too distant future.

Apart from the counter scheme, another team have continued with the enhancements to the foot crossing at Northside Lane with the installation of further fencing and ash covering on the downside part. This was done during a forecast of good weather earlier in the work schedule and was achieved over a two day operation; the panels, posts, tools etc being taken to site previously by Wickham trolley. This work brings this crossing up to a safer and more appropriate condition, and also makes a further lineside feature to be seen from passing trains.

Photo gallery

  • Buffet counter removed

  • Counter services

  • Counter units

  • Screens 1

  • Screens 2

  • Buffet

  • Northside Lane foot-crossing - downside progress

  • Northside Lane foot-crossing - fencing installation and ash surfacing