This year has seen a continued increase in volunteers and therefore in the amount of work carried out on the railway. For the first time in a long while a number of major jobs have been carried out simultaneously, such as trackwork, carriage and wagon repairs and loco maintenance, even when trains are running.
A lot still remains to be done, and with a visit from the Railway Inspectorate now promised within the next couple of months, it is even more important that this level of activity continues.
Following the Railway Inspector’s visit we should know exactly what work is required to extend the line, or indeed to continue running the existing section, and will be able to plan accordingly. After all, it would still be nice to run trains into a platform at Willow vale Halt later this year. (Nigel Canning – Editor))
No.4 Asbestos – Having been at a virtual standstill for a number of months, work has now re-commenced in earnest on the firebox repairs and preparation for the major boiler examination of this loco. A number of new tubes are to be purchased and will be fitted to replace those leaking when the loco was taken out of service. Hopefully the loco will re-enter service before No.5’s boiler certificate expires in October.Sentinel pausing at Willow Vale – Nigel Canning
No.5 Sentinel – This loco has so far handled all of this year’s trains. Recently adjustments have been made to the camshaft driven valve gear with, eventually, improved running as a result. Various minor steam leaks still remain to be attended to.
No.2 Lion – The new boiler tubes for this loco have now been fitted and work is progressing towards its first hydraulic examination.
S100 – Work is still progressing with the machining of the hornguides of this loco.
No.11 Alfred Paget – This loco received a very nice paint job and superficial restoration for the Bescot Open Day and has been placed on display at Brownhills West station.
No.7 – Ruston – This loco is still in good running order.
No.9 Fowler – Investigation into the starting problems of this loco which had been thought to be due to a damaged starter ring, revealed that in fact a multi-plate clutch built into the starter motor had become fouled with oil and was slipping under load. This clutch was cleaned and re-tensioned giving perfect first time starting on this loco.
Carriage & Wagon News
Work has recently started on two of our historic coaches, the Midland four-wheel passenger brake, and the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincoln Railway six-wheeler. Both have been in need of extensive renovation for some time, but now look set to receive it.
The Gloucester and Wickham trailer cars are still running coupled together to form the passenger train whilst the Wickham power car remains in use as the station buffet.
Permanent Way News
Brownhills West Loop – Nigel Canning
The new points at Brownhills West are now virtually complete along with their associated trap point set and lever frame. This means that we now have a complete run round loop for the first time in our railway’s history.
Weedkilling of the running line took place, rather belatedly, during May. Bad weather and financial restrictions having prevented this vital job being done earlier in the year. In addition, a number of worn sleepers have been renewed, and on particularly bad joint repaired. It is intended to grease the remaining fish plates on the line and re-pack any dipped joints in the next month or so.
The dramatic increase in members in recent months means that work continues even on event days when trains are running. In the near future the large steel gate at the shed yard entrance is to be moved down to the level crossing to complete the pair of gates there. A replacement for the shed yard has recently been donated in the form of a pair of wooden gates which when in position, will give slightly wider access for the large vehicles such as the coal merchant’s lorry.
Copy of what may have been a locally commercially available postcard depicting a MR Johnson design 3F 0-6-0 of the type introduced in 1885 and rebuilt by Fowler from 1916 with Belpaire boiler.
Looking back through various back numbers of ‘Mercian’, ‘Chasewater News’ and ‘Railway Focus’ it becomes apparent that little has been published to inform members of the history of this branch, part of which trackbed provides us with the base for our own Chasewater Light Railway operations. An even more glaring omission is that we have not made available for publication the few interesting photographs in the museum collection.
On July 1st, 1879 the Midland Railway had opened a line from Castle Bromwich to Walsall with intermediate stations at Penns, Sutton Coldfield, Sutton Park, Streetly and Aldridge. Whilst this line was being constructed, a branch from Aldridge to Walsall Wood was authorised on July 13th, 1876, with further extension to the western shores of Norton Pool being authorised on August 6th, 1880 to give an end-on connection with the Cannock Chase & Wolverhampton Railway, just south of the causeway.
The contractors for this 3¾ mile branch were H.Lovatt & Co.Ltd. I am unable, however, to discover any details of the contractor’s locomotives which would undoubtedly been used on this project.
On April 1st, 1882 the branch opened as far as Brownhills West for goods only, with the connection to the CC & WR being opened on November 1st, 1882.
Just north of the A5 road there was a short lived spur to the Coppice Colliery, Wilkin, owned by J.Owen Ltd. (Later the Coppice Colliery Company. This spur closed when the colliery was shut in 1894.
Passenger services commenced to the newly opened stations at Walsall Wood and Brownhills Midland on July 1st, 1884, but colliery traffic continued to be the mainstay of the branch.
Brownhills Midland was over half a mile out of town just north of the A452 Chester Road, whereas the LNWR station on the South Staffs Walsall line was handily situated at the end of High Street so it was no surprise when the LMS withdrew the passenger service on March 31st, 1930, Brownhills Midland being demolished soon afterwards.One amazing survivor is a wooden ‘finger’ which used to point the way to the platforms. This piece owes its continued existence to the gentleman who fortuitously purchased from the site a pile of wood to build himself a garden shed, the finger surviving long enough to find its way by means of a donation to the RPS collection. However, I digress slightly, goods traffic continued on the branch until the closure of former Cannock Chase Colliery pits by the National Coal Board in the late 1950s, the line being lifted between Aldridge and Brownhills West in 1960, with the CC & WR remnants left around the northern shores, mainly going by 1963. Last day of passenger services at Brownhills Midland. A Johnson 3F, No.3277, with two coaches of compartment stock including a clerestory probably dating from the period 1897 to 1916. The porter seems to be holding up a closure notice or something similar perhaps.
What was left owed its continued existence to the NCB Area Workshops which was then just rail connected to the former LNWR Norton Branch via a circuitous route through the closed Conduit Colliery yard reached by a spur just south of the causeway. A small amount of the original Midland Railway metals had been left as a headshunt, this being part of the former exchange sidings with the CC & WR and it was some nine years after the Railway Preservation Society came to Chasewater before British Railways ‘rediscovered’ the sidings left for NCB use in 1960 when the rest of the branch had been lifted. By then of course the Society had extended their track into the park so the still BR owned piece fell in the middle of the Chasewater Light Railway. How this problem was surmounted will be the subject of a future article, as it is a story in itself.Standard MR platform lamps on hexagonal posts are in evidence, but the sawn paled fence seen in the postcard view has been replaced with the sawn diagonal variety by the time these photos were taken.
These form part of the Museum’s collection of local photographs, some of which will be made available to the Editor to feature in future issues of Chasewater News. With 1990 being some 60 years since Brownhills Midland closed its doors to passengers, it is especially pleasing to be able to provide photos of the last day of services, March 31st, 1930.
The Museum will be open on Sunday, 5th June.11.00am– Entry from the rear of the heritage centre
124 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces
From Chasewater News April 1990
A telephoto view of a Sentinel hauled train passing the shed yard – Dave France
This winter’s mild weather seems to have promoted a lot of activity at Brownhills West station, and with much of the work being carried out by new members. In addition to the trackwork mentioned in ‘PW News’, a hell of a lot of effort has been put in n the platform and buildings to the extent that this very public face of our activities is on the verge of looking even better than it did in 1982 before the old platform was demolished. Work already carried out includes re-levelling of the Booking Office and fitting of an extended canopy, installing an old GPO phone box on the platform, laying a concrete path to the buffet coach and laying of grassed areas at the back of the platform. If only we could keep this level of progress up for the rest of the season!
No.4 Asbestos – This loco has now had all fittings removed and the tank lifted in readiness for its six-yearly boiler examination. A professional boilersmith has been contracted to carry out repairs around the foundation ring where the rivets have become wasted with consequent leakage past the inner wrapper. Work is also progressing on other minor repairs and adjustments and it is hoped that the loco will be back in service before Transport Scene.
No.5 Sentinel – This loco is still in working order, although drained down, having worked the Christmas and New Year trains. The recently re-routed ejector exhaust has proved to be a lot quieter, allowing the driver and fireman to chat politely across the cab when running. Only a few minor adjustments and a crank case oil change remain to be carried out before next season’s running.
No.2 Lion – Progress is still being made re-tubing the boiler and mounting of cab fittings.
S100 – Both crossheads have been separated from their piston rods, another job involving a great deal of heat and force. Preparations are also underway for the machining of the hornguides using a patent homemade machine which grinds as it sweeps as it cleans!
No.7 Ruston – This loco is still in good running order.
Fowler – This loco performs well once running, but due to a number of teeth missing from the starter ring is tricky to start when cold. The only recent minor failure was that of one of the vee belts which drives the air compressor. Looking on the positive side, the dynamo control box has now been rebuilt allowing the batteries to charge correctly.
Other locos – No work has been carried out on any other loco.
Carriage & Wagon News
A number of minor but important jobs have been carried out to the interior of the Gloucester and Wickham trailers which still remain coupled together. Hopefully the bodywork will be tidied up and repainted as soon as weather permits.
No other C & W work has been carried out.
Permanent Way News
Pete,Arthur & Steve ballast new track at Willow Vale – Dave France.
Quite a lot of progress is being made in this area despite the pitiful number of people involved. At last a start has been made on completing the run-round loop at Brownhills West by installing the missing turnout from the end of the platform across to the buffers on No.2 road. This work will be completed mostly using parts already on site, although a few additional timbers will probably have to be bought. In order to ease the construction of the new loop at Norton, a complete turnout has been purchased from the Baddesley Colliery Railway, currently being demolished. In addition to this, a large number of fishplate bolts have also been acquired involving four or five members making repeated trips to the site to unbolt them from the sidings there.
Work has continued to progress on the extension of track through the site of the new Willow Vale Halt towards the causeway. This is now likely to be curtailed slightly during work on Brownhills West loop and on the Willow Vale platform.
Sentinel 59632 eases stock out of (21G) Hednesford Road shed yard. – Dave France
Luckily this winter the weather has again been very mild and so there was no problem with water supplies for the locos, or in attracting passengers. The running of Christmas and New Year trains went smoothly and was financially successful.
Father Christmas was in attendance on 17th December and distributed presents to the children from his grotto in the ‘blue van’. On 31st December the mince pie specials did good business attracting plenty of people to ride on the railway.
On 28th January there was an extra steaming when the ARPS visited us following their meeting in Birmingham. In addition to this there was a car rally in the park so again we had a very profitable day.
The 1990 season proper looks set to start on Easter Sunday, which being a little later this year, will give us valuable extra time to carry out maintenance and repairs.
Any member wishing to volunteer to work on the train or on the station should obtain a roster form from the Booking Office.
Following the arrival of this Fowler 0-4-0 Diesel-Hydraulic locomotive, two problem areas were identified. The first was the reason for its withdrawal from commercial use; the coolant pump had expired and circulated most of the cooling water straight out onto the track. Also the starting batteries (all four of them) had decayed during the loco’s period of inactivity.
Having removed the water pump and taken it to work, it was duly dismantled, in my own time of course, and it was only then that its reason for failing became apparent. The sump had obviously been apart before, probably for the same reason, but unfortunately it had been put back together wrongly. The rotating carbon seal had had its fixed running face installed back to front, and the seal which had been fitted had the wrong diameter lip for the water pump’s shaft. This meant that water could get past the seal into the bearing housing. Now this might not have been so serious as this sort of seal usually tends to allow a very small amount of fluid past as a lubricant for the rubber faces, and the bearing housing has a drain hole in its face to allow this to escape. Unfortunately the bearing housing had been put on upside down so the drain hole was at the top so the bearings had been immersed in water and had also expired.
Fortunately at this time a rep for the carbon-faced seal suppliers paid us a visit at work and was hi-jacked for a while. He supplied a data sheet giving seal/shaft dimension correlations. Armed with this information the seal face was fitted correctly, a collar turned down to fit on the shaft for the seal lip to sit against, and some new bearings found. The water pump was then re-fitted three times before the gasket face with the cylinder block could be persuaded to seal. Two of these occasions were in the rain and, although there is a fair amount of room under the hood, you invariably end up with water running down your neck on various occasions. By this point I had become convinced of the advantage of air-cooled engines!
The loco then served a useful spell of duty requiring only a split air-hose to be removed.
As the months passed, the batteries became more of a problem and a blowing noise started to be heard from under the hood. Investigation revealed the cause to be a blow from No.1 or No.2 cylinder. This engine, in common with many automotive diesel (or more correctly oil) engines has a single piece six-cylinder block with a pair of three cylinder heads fitted. As the blow was from the cylinder to the outside rather than into the oil or water systems, the loco could still be used with care if required. A new set of four six-volt batteries were fitted, courtesy of the kind auspices of the loco’s major owners, Andy Cavelot.
Now the fun really started, as any of you have ever messed around with older cars, through interest or necessity, will know that getting hold of the technical manuals is a major part of the battle. The information that came with the loco appears to have made a successful escape bid (if anyone out there knows where it is please could we have it back, even now) and Halford’s didn’t seem to stock a Haynes manual for a Fowler 0-4-0diesel hydraulic loco, so we had a problem. The engine fitted to ‘Toad’ is a Leyland 900 series vertical lorry engine, so I started by ringing the Leyland dealer who contract services our works vans. He revealed tat the head gasket sets could still be obtained, at a price, but he did not have a manual on these engines, in fact only one of their staff could ever remember seeing one. He did, however, suggest that I try ringing Leyland or B.R.E.L. at Derby. Thinking logically for a change, I decided to start with Leyland.
123 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces
From Chasewater News April 1990
A Tale of Toad – I.Newbold – Part 2
I rang directory enquiries and asked for Leyland/Daf; phone number actually in Leyland, Lancs. No such luck, their computerised system could not find it. Oh well, try a different tack. I rang BREL at Derby and after about four phone calls managed to speak to someone who knew the Leyland 900 engine. Unfortunately, after speaking to him, I was probably more depressed than before. BR had employed the horizontal version on some of their stock and they had not exactly been the most spectacular success story ever. Initially the engines had employed a wet linered cylinder block, there had been a change in piston design, followed by a change in crankshaft design, followed by a change to dry linered cylinder block. The last modification was to cure an inherent problem of blowing head gaskets, not totally successful either, he added. The outcome was that he could not be sure which variant we had, even from the engine number, his only suggestion was to go away and measure the cylinder head stud diameters, find out if washers were incorporated under the head nuts, etc. etc. As a final comment, after giving various gasket fitting tips, he said that in BR use a good engine of this type would run for about a year between blowing gaskets. Our ‘Toad’, it appears, had done so every couple of years, Leyland must have been taking lessons from Crossley.
Parallel to this, I decided to try to find Leyland again, but how? Ring up the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust thinks I, well they only deal with cars but their non-computerised system had a record of Leyland’s phone number. Computers 0, Card Index 1
So, feeling a little perkier I rang Leyland – Daf as it is now, and after a few tries I got through to their technical publications department.
“Have you still got any data on the 900 series?” asks I, “Good grief” say they. After a five minute rummage, I was asked to ring back in a couple of days. A couple of days later I rang back: Bad news and good news, they had disposed of all their old manuals, but most had gone to the British Commercial Vehicle Museum. However, they could not guarantee their having passed a 900 series engine manual on as it really was an Albion engine, built in Scotland. I could try the Albion owners club. This I did, but they didn’t seem to want to answer the phone.
The other parallel course was still grinding onward and after a measuring session of head stud diameters, etc. I rang BREL back: the chap I wanted was on holiday. Ho Hum.
I decided to ask the loco’s previous owners if they knew anything about it. Now I don’t know if you have ever tried to find the phone number of a military establishment, but it’s not quite as straight forward as it could be. Deciding not to bother with Directory Enquiries, I rang the War Office, sorry, Ministry of Defence, in London and eventually got the requisite number. I rang Radway Green, only to be told that I had just missed the Head of Transport, he had just gone home. I rang back the next day – he was not in. The third day I rang I was given a vital piece of information, they were shut down for holiday, could I ring back next week? OK folks, don’t invade us or declare war – we’re on holiday!
Next week I rang back and spoke to the head of the transport department, they certainly remembered ‘Toad’, but did not repair it themselves, some chaps used to come from ‘somewhere near Derby’ to repair it. I was passed on to the fitter, who was uncertain about whether it was wet or dry linered, and did not know the head torques.
Not long afterwards I traced the British Commercial Vehicle Museum phone number, BT’s computer had this one in memory – shock, horror, anyway I gave them a ring.
“The chap you want is out, can you ring back tomorrow?” This sounded familiar, so I rang back the next day and found the relevant person and gave him the by now very well rehearsed patter. He sounded quite hopeful and asked me to ring back in a few days. This I duly did and was rewarded with the information we required. Just for the record, if anyone else wants to fit a Leyland 900 head gasket, the torques are: 200lb/ft on the ⅝” UNF studs, and 100lb/ft on the ½” UNF studs. Eureka! They could even sell us a copy of the engine manual. It is at this point that someone comes up and says ‘I could have told you that’ – if they do I’ll scream!
Now all we’ve got to do is buy a head gasket and fit it….
Then there is the dynamo control box to set up……
Then the exhauster to fit…….
Update 2011 – ‘Toad’ is now owned by R. Fredwoods (not sure about the spelling!) and is awaiting a new engine…..
Looking back, this year has been quite successful for the Railway with relatively few problems to contend with and a number of major advances made. Train operation, although hectic for the staff involved, ran smoothly and every special event seemed to go well to the extent that our period of ‘survival’ of the last few years has begun to progress into a time of modest expansion.
As 1989 draws to a close and we all wait for Santa’s Special to arrive at Brownhills West, we can begin to plan next year’s work on the line. It is all very easy to draw up a long list of jobs, but short of ‘asking Anneka’, they wouldn’t get done.
Realistically, in addition to all the regular maintenance work, we could have a platform built at Willowvale Halt ready for Easter, carry on to complete the run round loop at Brownhills West and relay enough track past Willowvale to run a goods train up and down on Gricers Day. That would be an excellent season’s work, but it is only possible if people put the effort in. Locomotive News
Asbestos – Having worked the majority of this year’s trains, this loco is now due to be taken out of service for its six-yearly major boiler inspection. The work will involve the removal of the saddle tank and boiler lagging as well as all fittings. It is likely that a certain amount of repair work will be necessary around the firebox foundation ring and also renewal of a number of boiler tubes.
Sentinel – This engine finally re-entered service on Sunday 6th August when it took over from Asbestos to work he last two trains of the day. The recent introduction of two-coach trains meant that this little loco has to work really hard against the gradient on the return run to Brownhills West with the regulator wound wide open for most of the distance. The result of this is that coal consumption appears to have increased slightly over last year’s running, so that the bunker needs topping up towards the end of the day. To cure the problem it is planned to fit coal rails to the bunker to increase capacity to around 8cwt.
Lion – The good news is that the Boiler Inspector has done his preliminary examination and has given the go ahead for the loco to be re-tubed and prepared for its hydraulic test. Painting of both the frames and boiler shell has continued, along with work on new fittings and pipework needed before the engine can be steamed.
S100 – The frames of this loco are currently being jacked up in the back of the loco shed so that the wheels can be removed to allow machining of the horn guides.
DL7 – this remains our only working diesel and has continued to run well, although on the morning of the Bonfire Night steaming its contactors had to be quickly cleaned as the traction motor suddenly refused to ‘switch in’.
Fowler – At last the necessary information for the renewal of the blowing cylinder head gasket has been found and the repair work was carried out on Sunday 12th November. With train operations gradually expanding it is becoming more important that at least one of the two diesels be vacuum brake fitted so that it can be used to work passenger trains if required at short notice or on quiet non-steam days. Hopefully the work will be carried out shortly.
Other Locos – No work has been carried out on any other locos.
Carriage & Wagon News
The Gloucester & Wickham trailers have remained coupled together since June to form the operational passenger stock. The bodywork of the Gloucester is now looking positively tatty and will require repairs and a repaint before next season’s running. Again no work has been carried out on any rolling stock other than the three DMUs. Permanent Way News
A few dedicated men are still pushing on with the trackwork and as a result the old turnout which marked the start of the Norton loop has been completely removed and the line is gradually increasing in length towards the causeway. Progress on this work quite honestly is very slow, but when only three or four people on average seem to be prepared to help, and even the shorter rails which have to be moved weigh about a third of a ton, this is to be expected. Just to give the P. Way gang a break from trackwork and to provide variety in their work, the local toe-rags managed to cut every strand of wire between every fence post from the level crossing right down to the bridge. This had to be patched up again before trains could run on Gricers Day when everyone was already pushed to near the limit. Operating
August bank Holiday Monday marked the end of the two months of weekly running allowing a very welcome break for all the operating staff. Gricers Day saw both Asbestos and the Sentinel in steam, with the last two trains of the day being double-headed. Rumours that this was brought about by one case too many of a certain lager in the buffet car causing the gross train weight to exceed the maximum allowable Sentinel loading were untrue, but merely an example of the Midland Railway Company’s small engine policy in action! The Sentinel will now work the remaining trains of this year to allow Asbestos to be stripped for boiler examination.
This magazine sees another change of Editor as I (Nigel Canning) volunteered to take some of the load off Steve Organ. We both spend a lot of time at Chasewater so we have up to date material for the magazine, but perhaps the problem is recognising it. A number of members and visitors who had not been to Chasewater for a while have expressed amazement at the recent improvements and are obviously delighted, whilst those of us who work there every week tend to have on our minds want we haven’t done yet rather than what we have. As you read the various sections of this magazine you will see the usual excuse for jobs not being completed, ‘lack of manpower’, however, if you look back through previous magazines the problem has subtly changed, hopefully for the better.
It used to be: ‘Insufficient manpower to rebuild the railway to allow train operation’.
Then: ‘Insufficient manpower to run trains more often’.
Now: ‘Insufficient manpower to open the bar every week’.
Next perhaps: ‘Insufficient manpower to sell tickets at Willowvale Halt’.
All of this shows that we must be making progress and makes me wonder what we will have insufficient manpower for in, say, ten years time???
Asbestos – This engine has worked all of this year’s trains so far with only various minor leaks having needed attention. The recent introduction of two coach trains has proved to be no problem at all for it, with only apparent minimal increase in coal consumption.
Sentinel – Getting this loco through the various stages of a major (five yearly) boiler examination has proved to be a long drawn out business, however it is now ready for its steam test and should be back in traffic by the time you read this magazine. In addition to the statutory inspection work, an extra water level gauge has been fitted to the boiler, also a new, larger ashpan ready for working the new Norton Expresses.
Lion – Much enthusiastic work has continued on this engine, mainly getting the boiler ready for its initial major examination. In addition to this, various new boiler fittings have been procured and machined, further vacuum brake pipework added and more paint applied to the frames. Hopefully the loco will enter service during 1990.
S100 – Work has concentrated on splitting, cleaning and re-assembling the springs of this loco, a job involving a lot of heat and brute force.
DL7 – This loco has again run well, performing all the shunting and works train movements. The only minor failure was that of a bearing in the small battery charging dynamo which was repaired fairly easily. Following a bout of vandalism by local tow-rags the loco has been repainted in ‘Rail Blue’ complete with yellow and black striped ends to cover the graffiti.
Fowler – This has remained ‘standby diesel’ due to a blowing cylinder head gasket. Attempts at finding the necessary details required for the repair, type of head gasket, torques and torquing sequence, etc. gave been somewhat protracted due to the engine manufacturer’s inability to provide the information even when the block number was quoted. This loco is also in the process of being repainted, but in Longmoor Military style of blue with the motion and other details picked out in red.
Other Locos – Little or no work has been carried out on any other loco since the last magazine.Carriage & Wagon News
The big news is that the Wickham trailer entered service on Saturday 17th June coupled to the Gloucester to form the first regular two-coach train. The following day there was another first when the bar was opened and refreshments were served on the moving train. Although a certain amount of finishing off work is still required to the interior, the coach has run every week since its inaugural day and has been a great success. A finishing touch currently underway is a pub sign ‘The Wickham Bar’ being painted on the large unglazed body panel at the gangway end of the vehicle. A precedent for this was the Southern Region ‘Tavern Cars’ which ran for a while in the fifties in ‘ blood & Custard’ livery with brickwork and a pub sign painted at one end. Other than the three DMUs, no work has been carried out on rolling stock due to lack of manpower.Permanent Way News
One problem with running trains every Sunday is that it doesn’t leave enough people to do much in the was of trackwork. However, the track we are currently running on is in reasonable condition and, by our standards, is remarkably free of weeds. In view of the above situation, all efforts will be concentrated later in the year, starting around September, on a number of projects. These will be; packing rough bits of the existing line, repairing the fencing again, completing the run round loop at Brownhills West, building a platform at Willowvale and then extending the line towards the causeway. Any volunteers for this work will receive a warm welcome and a choice of shovels!
So far this year operating the railway has been even more hectic than usual for a number of reasons. A lot more trains have been scheduled, running every Sunday in July and August, which is another ‘first’ for the railway. In addition to this, steam trains were run on Monday July 3rd, two school specials, and the first ever Birthday Party Special, all of which were very successful and will hopefully be repeated regularly. The recent addition of two-coach trains in itself has been no problem, but when the bar is in use at least one extra person is needed to staff it. For the obvious security reasons the day’s work involves loading every item of stock onto the train and unloading every remaining item at the end of the day. As a result, so far this year the bar has been open only on special days when staff have been available. A similar problem has of course existed for a long time with the Wickham buffet car with all stock having to be transported to and from safe storage. As usual any volunteers will receive a warm welcome and a choice of whatever the apparatus for this work might be!
Well, what a surprise! A magazine on time, as promised in the last issue, and, I hope, some news that will be of interest to all.
A brilliant start to the season’s train operations, which has now been sustained into June, and thus the annual swelling of our coffers, has encouraged the regular volunteers and the Board to look forward with greater confidence to the future plans for the Railway, both long term and short term, and some of those plans are discussed in greater detail elsewhere in this issue. However, the greatest shortage we currently face is a lack of manpower – unless some of the membership come along and help to get our show on the rails we can’t hope to carry on achieving as rapidly as we have during the last twelve months.The Wickham Trailer Car project is almost complete, and the vehicle will shortly be joining the Gloucester carriage on trains, probably in time for the Transport Scene. The station area has been paved and fenced with new fencing in Midland Railway style, and the electrical supply system completely renewed. These tasks have all been carried out by volunteer labour. Now, we are looking at phase two of this year’s portion of the development plan. This will involve the establishment of a halt at Willowvale, which will then become the staging point for progress on the extension towards the Causeway, the said extension being the third planned phase of development for 1989. The latter project can only be achieved if the halt is built, and it all comes down to manpower.I know that many former and present members of the Railway have had their resolution and enthusiasm dampened and in some cases almost destroyed in the past, especially by the events of the six years from 1980 to 1986, but I would appeal especially to those formerly active members to give the Railway a second chance, we’ve proved that we now have the management capability to put together a really professional little project, firstly by clearing the Old Company’s debts, then by transforming the site, and now by establishing the basis for the first real expansion of the Railway’s activities, signified by the imminent operation of two car trains for the first time, and with serious, financially planned and viable extensions to both the running line and to our covered accommodation in order to properly preserve our historic stock. Now is the time to come along to the Railway and see how much we have changed. Former regulars will be welcomed – we need the skills of craftsmen who used to enjoy restoring and maintaining our Railway, and I hope that some of you will come and see the renaissance at Chasewater for yourselves.
BirminghamNorth Orbital Road – M6 Toll
The agony of prolonged waiting to hear the outcome of the enquiry into the proposed route of the road has now been extended even further. A letter received from the Department of Transport indicates that the decision on the road’s route has been ‘temporarily’ shelved, whilst the Government investigates the possibility of construction of the road by private enterprise, which they are going to do by means of a design competition between private contractors, the winner of which will probably be invited to build the road, which will be sponsored by the constructor, who will then recoup the costs, and take a profit, by charging people through tolls for using it. Ultimately, we shall be subjected to considerable further delay and uncertainty about the effects on Chasewater of this new road.
The New Shed
The proposed new shed at Chasewater is coming along apace in terms of estimates and financial proposals. Sadly however, until the matter of the North Orbital Road is finalised, we can’t make a planning proposal to the Local Authority because of planning blight. Broadly, however, the scheme being pursued is the establishment of a two or three road shed of sufficient length to hold all of the wooden bodied stock and the Company’s locomotives, as well as a number of privately-owned locomotives, on a site parallel to the existing shed, with room for three roads between the two, with galvanised steel stockade fencing between the two buildings to provide secure storage for capital stock (the service carriages), these sidings having the additional benefit of being sheltered from the damaging wind-born horizontal rain and snow which howls down from the Chase and across the lake.
Fencing is still a problem. Every time we run trains we have to run a P-Way Special first with a fence repair kit, due to some irresponsible people removing fence wires so that they can cross the line to go fishing, which leads rather neatly into a Company policy statement.
THEFT AND CRIMINAL DANAGE
A POLICY STATEMENT FROM THE CHAIRMAN OR THE CLR&M CO.
Company Policy is now that any person seen damaging fencing, which amounts to Criminal Damage with intent to endanger life, or any person causing other criminal damage or committing theft from the Railway will be prosecuted, and the Company will include in the summons an application for restitution of costs of repairs or replacement as necessary by order of court, and this will include juveniles; so if the police ask the Company to agree to a juvenile caught committing these acts being cautioned, the Company’s representative may not accept that caution and the Company will itself prosecute the individual concerned.
Locomotive Department Notes
The Sentinel, after a major boiler examination, is expected to return to traffic on June 17th or 18th. This follows seven months of hard labour for Nigel Canning, during which the boiler was removed and stripped down to its constituent parts to the satisfaction of the Boiler Inspector.
Asbestos continues to give good service, and has been used on all trains this year.
Lion is now being re-tubed by the redoubtable Mr. Newbold, after a de-tubing exercise which is alleged to have come close to costing him his sanity, since the tubes, being hardened, took far more effort than any others encountered at Chasewater to date. Comment as to whether the loco boiler or its owner should be certified has been voiced, but I’m sure that Mr. Newbold’s gnashing of teeth will be sufficient to work off his frustrations with the ‘damn lump of iron’ out of his system, especially when he drives it across the causeway.
The Hudswell has now passed into the ownership of the ‘Hudswell Group’, and I believe that they still have more shares available at £100 cash or £5 per month with a standing order. One excellent piece of news is that the boiler cladding, having been sampled and analysed has been declared to be not asbestos, as we had feared, but fibre glass. This will provide a welcome reduction in the overall restoration cost.
A major event of the year in the Midlands rally calendar, this year’s Transport Scene doubles up as an official City of Birmingham Centenary event, and includes in its title ‘City of Birmingham Centenary Bus and Vintage Vehicle Run’ It will start from Sheepcote Street, near the City centre, proceed around the City, and then make its way to Chasewater via Perry Barr, Bar Beacon and Aldridge. The dates of this event, Saturday 17th June ( more of a setting up day really, with a social in the Jolly Wazzock Bar of the newly refurbished Wickham Trailer car to which all are duly invited) and the Main Event on Sunday 18th June 1989.
No Chasewater News for the last twelve months and still no new Editor – but promises of better things to come!
At long last, the fruits of the reorganisation of two years ago are beginning to show. The pace of progress at the Railway, both in administration and in physical terms, has reached a point where real new achievements are evident, as distinct from the earlier ‘marking time’. This can be seen wherever you look; at Brownhills West, the station and yard are at their tidiest ever – the stock in the yard is all visibly presentable – the booking office, station office and shop are all established and contribute to both the appearance and good-working of our business – the trackbed is commendably tidy, and at last growing in length – the Gloucester coach and the Wickham coach are both being refurbished, and we are looking forward to the inclusion of a bar car in trains later this year. Add to that the near completion of our run round loop’s refurbishment, the completion of the revised S & T arrangements, and a record turnover last year, and you can see that in the first complete commercial season of the new Company’s operation of the trains we’ve introduced, the Chasewater Light Railway has become a real hive of industry; projects are planned, materials are at hand, and to maintain the present impetus, we need your help!
Then followed the usual appeal for help on Saturdays, Sundays and train operating days.
Carriage & Wagon Notes
Gloucester DMU driving trailer (BR Class 100)
This vehicle was acquired in 1968 by the Railway Preservation Society (West Midlands) for operation on their Chasewater running line, and was the first of four of this type of vehicle to go for preservation, the other three being, one which resides at the Gwili Railway, and two at the Swanage preservation site, where two driving motor cars of this type are also kept.The Gloucester this year celebrates its 21st anniversary in preservation, it’s been at Chasewater for twice as long as it was in BR service, and the interior still had the same seat coverings as when it rolled out of the Gloucester C & W workshops in 1957. Sadly, these furnishings have inevitably become very worn, some torn and pierced by cigarette burns, and all suffering from old age. Unfortunately, it’s not been possible to obtain the same pattern maquette to replace the old; however, the entire vehicle is being reupholstered, hopefully in time for Easter. Also the floor is receiving attention, and new carpet fitted in the newly reinstated first-class section.
Externally, the vehicle quite recently received a repaint, including the roof, but some attention to the body is being undertaken as a preventative measure against the weather. The lavatory compartment is being used as a store, since the pan is broken and there seems little point in replacing it when the Wickham trailer, complete with a perfect working order loo will shortly be joining it in service fro two-car running in the summer.
Wickham Driving Motor Kitchen Car
This vehicle has been the subject of a winter overhaul internally. Starting in the dining saloon, the ceiling has been repainted, and a thorough cleaning given to al other surfaces. The kitchen area has been completely emptied of all loose items so that the whole interior could be thoroughly scrubbed down, disinfected, etc., and the only items that have been returned there are those which are absolutely essential for daily catering service. By doing this, a drastic reduction in the amount of items to be tidied and kept clean has been achieved, providing whoever works in there with a better environment. Less cluttered workspace, and a little more time to spend on the smaller number of items to be kept clean. This is in line with general Railway policy of making tasks essential to our statutory duties as simple as possible – the smaller the task, the more likely it is to be done, and properly.
A start has been made on the overhaul of the doors, which, being made of a soft wood framing, have become severely warped over the years.
Wickham Driving Trailer
At last! A policy decision backed with cash has been taken to restore this vehicle to operational use. Last year’s traffic levels clearly demanded extra capacity, and the receipts from the 1988 operation have left us with enough money to start to replace windows and seats, as well as to repaint the exterior, all of which are scheduled to commence between the Easter and Whitsun steamings.
Virtually no attention has been given to any other of the rolling stock, due to lack of manpower. This year will see a repeat of the 1987 operation of trying to prevent further deterioration in the historic vehicles, since the provision of much more extensive accommodation is now being actively pursued by the Company, which would allow us to spend time and money much more effectively than we can at present on these vehicles. However, the LNWR West Coast Joint Stock full brake (the ‘James’), which houses part of the small relic collection will certainly have attention to its roof soon – a simple task awaits anyone prepared to play with bituminous coatings – come along to the site suitably attired and ask for ‘Clippie’ and the materials will be provided! P.S. free tea is provided for workers on Saturdays!
THE BIG LEAK – OR, WHO PULLED THE PLUG OUT?
Regular visitors to Chasewater will have observed the dramatic drop in the level of the reservoir in the last few months. Railway members at first thought it was the water board’s response to our request for consideration of the condition of the causeway on which the railway crosses the lake, which had been adversely affected by the very high water level during 1987, in which year the causeway had actually been breached during a storm. (This sounds familiar – low reservoir, breached causeway but this time it was natural causes! For those who may not have been following the recent happenings at Chasewater, the lake has been virtually emptied and a culvert put through the causeway!) However, the British Waterways Board have said that they can only attribute this to a leak and to the very low level of rainfall for the last nine months. They have ‘no idea’ as to the reason for the scale of the water loss, but are ‘investigating’. Meanwhile, they have ceased to abstract water for the Wyrley and Essington Canal from Chasewater, and we have the benefit of being able to see the whole of the causeway embankment down to its base – and a very sobering site it is too! But at least we now have a much better idea of what we need as regards the type of materials to use in our planned repair of this essential link in our future enlarged railway.
Permanent Way Notes
Winter 1988 at last saw the completion of phase one of the Brownhills West station yard relaying. For several years, with the threat of the Birmingham North Orbital Road hanging over the station, we have simply patched up as necessary in the station yard. However, it’s been recognised for some time that if we were to stay at this location at all beyond 1988, we would need to completely relay the point leading to the sidings (No.2 point) and the centre road, since these had been laid in 1970 and largely untouched since. The completion of this task has been greeted by all with a sigh of relief since it demanded a lot of what we are short of – manpower. One really good thing to come out of it, apart of course from the comfort of the demonstration of concern for safety, is that the opportunity of revising the geometry of No.2 point was taken, and where we previously had a point taking up acres of land, with long leads (someone once said that it would make a good 70mph turnout if the sleepers weren’t so knackered and you could trust the brakes on loco No.21, we now have a much shorter point with sharper turnout and therefore a greater length of siding accommodation behind.At the other end of the line, work commenced in earnest in December on the extension towards the causeway. This work consists of removing both the running line and loop (which is to be relocated at the new station site at Norton East) and relaying the running line in plain track with the concrete sleepers we already have in hand. To this end, because of the great weight of the concrete sleepers, and because we have good hard standing access to the land immediately adjacent to the railway on this section, we are trying to find someone who will bring along and operate for a day, a HIAB truck, that is, a truck with a mechanical arm attached to it, to move the sleepers from the storage point near the level-crossing to the work-site – so if anyone out there can help, please get in touch.
The 1988 season saw the greatest number of steaming days so far achieved by our group, and the forthcoming season will require even more loco availability than last. The loco department certainly did the Railway proud as there were no loco failures all season. Asbestos and the Sentinel were the stalwarts of the whole passenger service, tended in the greatest part by Colin Marklew and Nigel Canning respectively. Over the 1988/89 winter, they have been stripped down for boiler examinations and general servicing. Because of the need to completely dismantle the boiler of the Sentinel, work on this commenced soon after the October ‘Gricer’s Day’. This meant that we were totally reliant on Asbestos for the ‘Mince Pie Specials’, and there she was, gleaming in the sunlight on Tuesday the 27th December, in service on one of the nicest and busiest days of the year.The use of Asbestos at Christmas, however, meant that the loco department then needed to strip it down, have the boiler inspected, rectify any defects and re-assemble it by Easter, as the Sentinel will not be ready for a return to service before Whitsun. Will they do it? Come along at Easter and find out.
Work continues on S100, Lion and the little Barclay, and the race to be the first newly restored loco to run on the new extension in 1990. Looks likely to be either Lion or the little Barclay.
On the diesel front, both the Fowler and DL7 are available for services, and the loco dept. are looking towards vacuum fitting one of these (probably the Fowler) during the summer. The Wickham set has benefited from the attentions of the loco dept also, various refurbishments on the engine and transmission front are being undertaken to complement the C. & W. work on the bodies of these, and both engines have now recently been successfully ‘run-up’.
It is eleven years since I last prepared an edition of our Railway’s magazine. I do so now following our Publicity Director’s decision not to stand for re-election fro personal reasons. As Company Chairman, however, I intend to act purely as a commissioning editor, so as to avoid any accusation of bias in editorial policy. Rob Curtis has also decided to stand down, as he is about to start a new job and sadly no longer has the time to be as active on the Railway as in the past.
From the first AGM of the Chasewater Light Railway & Museum Company
The new Board for 1988/89 is composed thus:
Chairman – Steve Organ
Engineering Mgr – T.R.Sale
Operations Mgr – N.V.Canning
Commercial Mgr – B.J.Bull
Financial Mgr – L.J.Emery
Ex Officio – I.M.Newbold, A.C.R.Hall
In addition, the vacant posts of General Manager and Publicity Manager will be covered for the time being by Tony Sale and Steve Organ respectively. Further, Adrian Hall has offered to continue as Company Secretary.
The (lost) Causeway
Many of our members have in recent weeks expressed concern about the condition of the causeway which we hope to run passenger trains across to the far side of the lake eventually. The problem is that some years of neglect, and very high levels of water in Chasewater, coupled with long periods of high winds causing severe wave action to erode the sides of the causeway have combined to completely breach the causeway.Our Company is powerless to do any remedial work, since we at present have no ‘Lawful Interest’ in the causeway, i.e. we don’t lease it at the moment.
Representations have been made to the local authority, Walsall Council, and at a recent meeting of the local authority’s recreation and amenities committee, the Engineer’s Department of Walsall Council were invited to make a detailed study of the problems and to investigate ways of restoring the whole of the causeway to an overall width which would allow both a Railway and a footpath to cross it. Further, the Waterways Board have said that they will from now on abstract water from Chasewater before any of their BCN reservoirs, and also that this summer, the water level will be kept at a very low level. This would allow for remedial works to be carried out.
One further point is that a Consulting Civil Engineer has, at our Company’s request, and without charges, examined the causeway, and suggested a relatively low-coast solution to the problem, and as soon as we receive his report, the local authority would like a copy – so perhaps all is not lost. I hope to bring further news in the July edition of Chasewater News, but be assured that the Board are making as strong a representation as possible to Walsall Council about this vital link to Chasetown.Engineering Manager’s Report
Following a late start in 1987, we were able to run a train service for the first time since 1982, for which two locos, Asbestos and the Sentinel, and the Gloucester trailer coach were available. No failures or serious faults occurred, although it has become apparent in this first season of continuous brake operation that improvements to the system can be made by relatively simple alterations to the system. This work, along with annual maintenance, is now being carried out in readiness for the 1988 season, for which initially the same locos and coach will be used.
Work on four privately owned locos is currently being carried out on site, and their owners continue to put in a great deal of work on the Railway as well as their own locos. The most likely of these to be steamed first is No.2 ‘Lion’ probably followed by No.7 ‘Invicta’ or No.3 ‘Colin McAndrew’. Please feel free to come and see work in progress on these on any Sunday.
One priority job for the loco dept in 1988 must be the fitting of vacuum brake gear to one of the diesels to enable trains to be run on non-steaming days, and to provide cover in the event of a steam loco failure. The cost of fitting this equipment, about £250, would be easily covered by the train fares taken on the event of ‘opportunist’ train operations i.e. where lots of people are in the park and we are not scheduled to run trains.
Another project for 1988 is the repair and restoration of the Wickham Trailer car. This will allow us to run two-car trains for the first time, and doing so will allow us to generate extra income through the opening of a bar car, will give us extra braking power on trains, and will allow us the luxury of a spare coach in the event of a failure.
The coach is in basically sound condition, but requires seven new windows, and the doors require stripping and re-building.
On 7th March, I formally applied to British Railways Board for License to operate passenger trains over the section of line from Willowvale Bridge to the Causeway.
The application to BR followed the purchase of the land from BR by Walsall Council, which was completed in November last. Our Company’s predecessors bought the track on the land some years ago, but the Council slowed down the procedure of buying the land when our group ran out of steam in the early eighties, and only revived when our New Company breathed new life into the Chasewater Railway Project in October 1986.
Because we bought the track, BR gave us permission some years ago to maintain the formation of this section of line, so we very recently carried out work on the bridge, so that if BR give us the license we need, we can very rapidly move on to the section: I would feel we should be running trains along this stretch within 9 months of possession, to maintain the impetus of development of the line. Steve Organ
Work in this area has been concentrated in the last year on maintenance and simplification of the trackwork, incorporation of the Railway Inspectorates requirements, such as the installation of trap points, Annets locks, fencing, etc. Whilst this work may seem tiresome, it is part and parcel of the business of running a railway and allows us to operate in confidence and in SAFETY. We are fortunate in the field of trackwork to have over the last year, gained a member, Chris Chivers, with experience and enthusiasm for p-way work (when he’s not setting things on fire).
We have also to thank Mr.J.L.Townsend, M.I.C.E., who has recently undertaken an inspection of Willowvale Bridge, and provided a formal report and detailed specifications for remedial work to it, work which is likely to be largely complete by the time you read this.
In view of the progress made in the last year, we are now making detailed plans for the future.
Our latest picture of my personal favourite Cannock Chase Colliery Loco, Sharp Stewart No. 6, 2643/1876, complete with ‘tender’. Nothing to do with the post but I like it!
115 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces
From Chasewater News January 1988
This Newsletter is issued with the annual membership renewal form. If you do not renew your membership you will not receive the next magazine, due out in time for Easter.
The Chasewater Light Railway Co. Ltd. AGM was held in the expected ten minutes. The accounts for both the Company and the Society are being brought up to date and a Society AGM will be held shortly.
The Chasewater Light Railway & Museum Co. Annual Report is currently being compiled for distribution in early February, with the CLR & M Co. AGM being held at Brownhills West Station on Saturday 5th March at 2.30 pm.
Some progress has been made on the office/shop development though more work is still needed.
On the motorway front, the Public Enquiry is expected to begin in mid-April and will take about eight weeks to hear 1,500 objections to the scheme, 75% of which centre on the proposed development in the Chasewater area!
Anyone interested in joining the Board should contact the Company Secretary.
The renewal form for those whose membership is due on 28th February is enclosed with this Newsletter. Please complete it NOW, not in two months time. We need the membership money now to complete our Winter work programme. Failure to renew will deprive you of the Easter edition of Chasewater News and the opportunity of helping on operating days. All train crews, station staff and other helpers must be members for insurance purposes.
News from the Line
Trackwork – Work on the point connecting 2 & 3 roads is almost complete with 3 road re-connected to the rest of the railway whilst 2 road is at present being relaid. It is hoped to construct the southern end of the run round at Brownhills West during the year – weather, manpower and materials permitting.
Engineering – Work is in hand to finish the equipment demanded by the Railway Inspector’s last report, namely Annetts Key locks on point lever frames, facing point locks and level crossing gates as well as several minor items.
It is hoped to restore and refurbish the Wickham trailer car so that it can be used to form a two coach train set for steam hauled services this season. Extra help for this work would be most appreciated as would finance for the internal refurbishment and re-glazing required. Use of the Wickham trailer with its ‘bar’ facilities will enable on train catering to be attempted and help increase our profit margins on operating days.
Extension of Services
The Railway inspectorate have given us provisional approval to extend services to the bottom of the causeway bank, now that this land is owned by Walsall Council, who are prepared to lease it to us, (i.e. the end of the former BR owned section of line) providing a license is obtained from British Rail. (This license will enable us to extend services whilst a Light railway Order for the whole of the Railway is obtained). The Railway Inspectorate is prepared to let us propel trains over this length of line initially, providing an extra coach is used to increase braking power, hence the urgency in getting the Wickham trailer ready for services. However, run round facilities will have to be installed as a matter of some urgency. Extension of services can only take place when the aforementioned license is granted (work on obtaining this is under way) and when the relevant track is brought up to standard as well as the necessary fencing and ancillary fittings. Hopefully extended services can begin during the 1988 season provided the necessary work is done.
Extension of the running line will give us a chance of running services from somewhere to somewhere (Brownhills West to Norton East/Willow Vale Halt?) for the first time, as well as giving a decent length of line for our engines to show their paces. It is hoped to build a platform at the ‘end of the line’, enabling passengers to walk up to the lakeside and view the increasing variety of wildfowl which reside upon the lake as well as enjoying the chance of using the north side of the lake which is grossly under-used and inaccessible at present.
Since 1971 (when diesel hauled services using Nos. 20 & 21 started) the CLR has patiently awaited the day when services could be extended – at last the opportunity is within our grasp – with your help it will happen this year!
Looking to the future, Walsall Council are planning to undertake a full survey of the causeway with regard to rebuilding it to a suitable width for railway and footpath and are concerned about the ‘massive erosion’ caused by wave action due to British Waterways Board keeping the lake level too high.
Mutual Improvement Classes
A series of classes are to be held during late February and March and all members wishing to take part in train operations in the coming season are urged to attend as only participants will be considered for future footplate and station duties.
The course will consist of the following subjects:
Railway Operations at Chasewater
Although there is of necessity a certain amount of technical content, much of the course is based on common sense and is of a basic nature.
During the season further practical instruction will be given to any members new to the operating side of things.
Bagnall Linda in action – leaving Chasewater Heaths for Chasetown Church Street with Our late friend Mick Doman driving.