Watercress Line

S&T and BD become PWay

7 August,  S&T and BD become PWay
The other Sunday there we were settling down to a regular day of workshop jobs, and some tasks that were on the days agenda at a couple of stations, when the cry went up ‘Volunteers needed’. The first up light engine steamed into Medstead and obtained the token and puffed on its way to Alton, only to be seen coming back into the station a short time later. Apparently- nay actually- there had been a landslip overnight during a heavy rainfall in the Shrave cutting on the upside and the track was obstructed by a fall of mud and undergrowth.
A small team of ‘volunteers’ (one pace forward) was assembled from the Building Department and the Signal and Telephone Department to head off to remove the offending material. The new RRV was needed to shift the bulk of the slip and the large trench bucket needed to be attached to the jib for this task, but such is life in such circumstances the bucket was laying on the far side of wagons in the last track in the sidings. A fairly smart operation was put together to remove the flail from the RRV then a lifting strop hung on  the hook and the bucket was lifted over the wagons and then attached to the jib. Thank goodness for the new vehicle with a longer jib.
The ‘volunteer’ team equipped with shovels set off up the track followed by the RRV, the weather was quite warm but it was cool in the cutting. On arrival the task was assessed and work commence with the RRV to scrape off the bulk of top level with the bucket, with the team to then clear the railhead and sleepers in the awkward places. Well, the consistency of the clay was something to behold. It was bad enough getting the shovels to go into the stuff but then you couldn’t get it to slide off the shovel. Mississippi mud pie and sticky toffee pudding had nothing on this stuff. Anyway, we persevered and finally we got the area clear enough the allow trains to pass safely and then it was an up-hill trek back to Medstead to give the signalman the nod that operations could commence. Although the timetable was delayed, and unfortunately the Freight Train runs had to be cancelled, the passenger service got back to time fairly quickly. We left the slip site to be professionally dealt with by the proper PWay chaps on the following Monday. Work for the day was then limited to the less energetic jobs to recover from the digging.
More restored cast iron signs have been fixed in place on the spiked fencing on the downside platform at Medstead. These were originally fixed to rail posts but were displaced when the temporary signal box was located on the downside embankment. The rail posts are currently undergoing a makeover, being repainted and moved to the footpath crossing between Ropley and Alresford to support warning signs to walkers crossing the line at that point out in the country. However,one of the posts we discovered had some lettering on it , under all the layers of paint, and on closer inspection it read LSWR 82 lbs. This indicates that this piece of rail was probably one of the original rails that were around when the line was first in existence. It is now considered to be of historical interest, so the post will be sacrificed to allow the lettered section to be cut out for display and another post made from old rail we have stored.
At Ropley we have made a little progress on the first phase of laying the setts around the area outside the Education Room, although the deterioration in the weather pattern has not always helped. This at least demonstrates  that the project has actually started and gives a little flavour to how things will look eventually. A little further up the site we have taken delivery of the slabs to complete the exit path from the Boiler Shop viewing gallery and will fit this job around others on the list.
Bob Brooks 

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