Watercress Line

Tanks for the memory

8 May

A large job that has been on the work schedule for some time- along with a few others- is the refurbishment of the balloon water tank at Alton. Although the interior has had a couple clean outs of debris that builds up as sludge, from memory it seems the structure has not had a full external and internal  re-paint since erection in the 1980’s. See the articles in the last two Mid Hants News magazines about the provision of water for the locomotives on the Railway in heritage days. The temporary line closure from Medstead to Alton, due to the bridge works at Butts Junction, was thought the perfect time to tackle this job as the scaffolding required for access extends onto the track. The scaffolding has been erected by a contractor to facilitate safe working access to the whole structure and works programme drawn up to ensure  regular work gangs could progress the job as quickly as possible. Photos show the condition of the tank interior before work started when the tank was drained of the remaining water following the temporary closure of the line to Alton. The build up of limescale, weed and sludge ( real sloppy stuff) was removed by a small stalwart team ready for preparing the internal surfaces for painting. They scrubbed up well afterwards.

Teams from the Building Department and Alton station staff then took advantage took advantage of some good weather, although a little on the chilly side, to give the interior a good scraping and de-scaling to get a clean surface for treatment. Rust preventer was applied as necessary and red oxide paint applied to match how the interior was originally finished. The attached photos show the condition of the external surface of the structure before and after scraping and rubbing down, and also some more unusual views of the station. It can be seen that the tank and column were somewhat unsightly and generally distracted from the excellent appearance of the rest of the station and this restoration will remedy that for some time to come. Work continues.

Further west, at Medstead, the contractors have completed the re-roofing of the station building. Very impressive this now looks, and with a little weathering over the next year or so, this will blend in nicely with the aged (in the nicest possible way) appearance of the station. Some internal re-decoration can now take place where ceiling boards were replaced which were passed their best.

Also,  several noticeboards have been refurbished recently for a number of stations as they were starting to show signs of rot and look somewhat scruffy. An example at Medstead is shown, just awaiting the poster to be stuck on. Some boards just needed a strip back to bare wood and re-paint whilst other needed to be taken apart and new back boards or frame pieces inserted. This is a regular winter programme to be carried out inside the workshop when the weather precludes outside operations on some days. They are used to display not only reproductions of original posters but also posters advertising events and attractions on the Railway. It is important that the events are able to be displayed attractively, and well in advance, as they form a major source of valuable funding to maintain the Railway’s infrastructure and rolling stock for the future. It is also often observed that they are a popular subject for photos to be taken by visitors.

Bob Brooks

Photo gallery