Watercress Line

Due to the COVID-19 emergency the Watercress Line Mid Hants Railway is temporarily closed to the public. The safety of our staff, volunteers and visitors is our most important consideration. You will know that the Watercress Line relies on ticket revenue to cover its operational costs, which currently work out more than £75,000 a month. Without money coming in from running services, the railway is eating into its financial reserves to survive. If you can help, please click on the Virgin Money Giving link below which allows you to donate a single amount or pay monthly if you're able to. You can also text WATERCRESS to 70085 to donate £10, texts cost £10 plus one standard rate message. Thank you for continuing to support us during this unprecedented situation. We hope to be able to welcome you back to the Watercress Line soon.

Ropley Loco Wednesday Gang - 13th February 2019

My last blog was written in mid-December, and showing the Wednesday Gang boarding the Hammy Unit for our Christmas Dinner. The Brussells Sprouts are a dim memory now, and as we start running trains again this weekend, it’s time for another blog.

The line is now closed between Medstead & Four Marks and Alton, but we now have our second siding in Ropley Top Yard, giving us the capacity to store essential vehicles rescued from the Alton loop.  The station yard has become a temporary ballast store as spent ballast from Network Rail is delivered by lorry, loaded onto Dogfish hopper wagons, and shunted up to the new sidings.  Evidently theres more coming, to be used on our main line.

The big news is that the Urie S15 30506 is making good progress, and is being assembled. The superheater, some of the motion and a lot of pipework has been installed, and the tender tank has been mounted on it’s re-conditioned bogies, So, it won’t be long before this loco is back in steam, ready to celebrate it’s 100th birthday next year.

The Bogie-men have been quietly (and sometimes not-so-quietly) working away at CanPacs bogie and trailing truck. The bogie is now looking better-than-new with everything fitted, including a newly-designed grease-lubrication system for the sliding parts of the side-control mechanism. Hopefully this will avoid it deteriorating back into the state we found it in.

Meanwhile, the news regarding CanPacs tender (actually ex 35006) is not quite so encouraging.  Some of the wasted inner frames has been removed, together with the wasted dragbox, and many of the rivets that secured the cracked horn-blocks.  There’s still more to remove before this tender starts coming back together, but it’s now been moved into the shed which will keep the rivet-drilling team dry, if not warm.

As the wheels come off CanPacs tender they will be temporarily installed under Swanage’s tender so that Swanage’s wheels can be re-tyred. Once that is done, we can get under way with re-fitting Swanage’s brake gear.

We have made a start on making the 89 bushes needed for CanPacs tender brake gear and with a production rate ramping up to 2 per week, it’s going to take some time.  I haven’t yet told Alan and Dave that when they’ve finished the 89 bushes, there are 45 pins to make, ranging from the 14” whoppers that go through the top of the brake hangers down to some more manageable ones that go in the pull-rods.  And while they’re doing that they will have to make a few replacements for Swanage’s tender – which is also a MN chassis.  Never mind, I’m sure we’ll have it done long before CanPacs tender is ready to run again.

We’ve not done a lot on Swanage recently, but Steve had been working with a supplier to get a pattern made for a new inside cylinder, and the fitted bolts securing the old one have been removed.

While all this has been going on, I’ve also been upgrading various aspects of the IT network infrastructure. This has been spurred-on a little by the increasing use of CAD and the possibility of installing CNC equipment in the machine shop.  To make it more resilient, we’re thinking of installing a wi-fi bridge between the workshop building and the station house so that we have a back-up for the underground network cables.  We could buy kit to do this, but it would cost money that might be better spent elsewhere, so we’re looking at re-using kit that might otherwise wind up in landfill.  If you have a cupboard full of redundant wi-fi routers, would you consider donating them for this purpose please. The ones that might work are the kind you spent serious money on, rather than  the freebies given out by the ISPs. 

Under Assistant Ropley Scribe

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