Watercress Line

Into another year

17 January

We hope all readers had a happy Christmas and New Year holiday and best wishes for the coming year. Yes, into another year and we await in anticipation of running into Alton again over the new bridge at The Butts, and with an exciting re-opening of the full length of the line. However, back to the recent past and what we were up to during the last few weeks in the Building Department leading up to Christmas – just getting ourselves fit ready for the Christmas over-indulgence.  Now to work it all off.

Work continued on the area behind the West Country Buffet with the excavation completed and shuttering and reinforcing mesh laid in ready for a concrete pour. As the area is not extensive it was decided that the concrete mix could be done in-house alongside the site. The area to be re-laid was somewhat irregular in shape so it was considered better to lay concrete rather than try and pave it with slabs, which would need a lot of cutting with the disc cutters- noisy and dusty! Sloppy concrete is a lot quieter. We avoided the Christmas Santa running period to undertake a concrete mix, and also the weather conditions were not suitable. A dry day finally appeared sufficient to do the pour and this was completed in the day. Granite chippings will be used to fill in around edges to assist with drainage and to add to the overall appearance and other areas around the store will be tackled later.

Along the path to the viewing galleries at Ropley, the locomotive items for interpretive display have now been mounted on the sleepers installed previously, and adjacent to illustration boards describing their relevance to locomotive construction. The locomotive spring is a heavy awkward old beast, as those that work in the loco shed will confirm, and so we needed the able assistance of the fork lift to get that item in place on its sleeper base. All the items have now been securely fixed to the sleepers so that there isn’t any chance of them coming adrift. This display is part of the Restoration Route which leads visitors around the station site to various points of interest and adds to the experience of their visit to the Railway in between train trips. In other areas of the station some additional signs were placed just to aid visitors during any wet conditions.

The component parts for the Traincare shed for Alresford were put together in the workshop ready to be taken to site for final erection. In view of the uncertain weather at this time of the year it was thought greater progress would be made by doing a lot of the building and painting in the workshop, and such was the case. The external cladding was put on the frames and painted with protective coating and a trial erection of the panels took place at Medstead to ensure that everything fitted together correctly. A few small adjustments had to made to get things right but then all was ready for transportation to site by rail. Erection took place on a dryish day – a rarity recently- and all is now ready for use.

Also in the workshop at Medstead the construction of the new window frames for Medstead signal box has slowly continued with final gluing using clamps taking place. When the frames are complete they will be painted with aluminium primer for extended protection, undercoat x2 and gloss  x2 and then glazed ready for installation. Fitting will not take place until after until the extensive re-modelling of the box is carried out, which is due to start this year. The Building Department will be involved with this, alongside much technical work by S&T colleagues on the signalling equipment itself, and which will see a significant transformation of operating methods and improvement to the box itself at this station.

At Alton, Network Rail have been doing some work on part of the canopy roof leading to, and part of, the MHR platform 3 in preparation of the removal of the original footbridge in the next few weeks. The boarding and felt have been replaced and also repainted and looks very smart. Also at this station, a joint effort between the Building Department and station maintenance team has transformed the appearance of the platform kiosk there. Replica newspaper billboards are to be made in the workshop be added externally to complete the traditional appearance and the interior given new lighting, work surface, shelving and upgraded electrics.

Bob Brooks

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