Watercress Line

Just modest men

Well into winter now, but that doesn’t stop us. Numerous jobs are underway both inside and outside to keep the chaps busy and to avoid any winter blues. It’s always useful to have a balance of internal and external jobs this time of the year, and the new electric fan heaters in the workshop make things a lot more comfortable to work in there- and also make the paint dry quicker. They also warm the place through quicker than the old coal stove, which took until about lunchtime to make any real difference on frosty days.

At Alresford, a new modesty screen has been erected outside the gentlemen’s lavatory and is in the process of having the gloss paint completed. The screen was made in the workshop and taken to site in sections to replace the original, which on being demolished showed that only paint was holding some of the wood together. Another team that recently re-honed their skills on the paving for the Watercress Belle siding have now laid a slab base on which a shed will be constructed for use by Alresford Traincare. The shed will be constructed, in part, using timber from stock and with limited new timber having to be purchased. A heritage look design will be used to compliment the traditional appearance of that part of the station. Also at Alresford, the team who laid the shed base ( busy lads these) have moved across the tracks to tackle an unsightly area behind the West Country Buffet. This is an area of bare soil, ash and broken slabs that has in the past accommodated a lot of, shall we say, ‘parts’ of train equipment etc. They have started to excavate the site in order to lay a concrete surface, which will be easier to keep tidy and enhance the appearance of that part of the station building as viewed from the cattle dock platform, and will also provide a safer surface for staff to access. Additional external lighting will be installed to provide safer access during the hours of darkness.

On the Old Goods Shed at Alresford, the brass plate outside the main entrance has been give a facelift as it had become rather weather beaten. The building is named after one of the original promoters of the Mid Hants Railway, and also its Chairman during its independent lifetime- Edward Knight. He was also a nephew of Jane Austen and his Chawton estate would have been served, along with many others, by the railway line which opened in 1865.

At Ropley, the first of two signs to direct visitors to the up-graded Boiler and Carriage Shop viewing galleries has been erected. The board was made using hardwood planks from old stock and slot-screwed together to form a board and will thus give long life to this item. The arrow is one that was ‘hanging around’ in the workshop for years and had been cut from a speed restriction sign from somewhere, sometime in the distant past. The second sign, which is slightly larger, is being made in a similar fashion and will be mounted on two posts at the bottom of the path leading to the viewing galleries. In the viewing gallery itself a ‘spare’ scroll that was originally attached to the Handyside Bridge has been mounted on a board and displayed on a wall. The other is attached, as originally, to the bridge itself. Further display items are underway for mounting in the galleries which will give visitors even more interesting features to view and be ‘hands on’ as they explore the Restoration Route around the station- just follow the signs.

On the path alongside the loco yard, as described in a previous blog by the Canpac Interpretation Team, there are some illustrative boards describing various locomotive parts. Some of these parts have been cleaned and painted and are now at the workshop and in the process of having brackets fabricated to match each individual item to secure them onto the sleepers.  These sleepers, cut to appropriate length, have been laid alongside the relevant display boards along the path so that visitors can see the items close up. The turf that was removed when laying in the sleepers was easily re-sited just across the path and used to cover a rough area of ground alongside the existing grass. 

At Medstead, the station maintenance team continue beavering away with improving the infrastructure and appearance of the station. One of the walls alongside the platform access slope on the downside has had the top row of imperial sized bricks replaced, as the original ones laid during the Railway’s renovation back in the 1980’s, had suffered from frost spalling. The railings that have been re-painted will now be put back to give that feature a better appearance for many more years.

Bob Brooks

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