Chasewater Railway Museum
Rail contractor Centrac, Tarmac’s track renewal company, came to the rescue when it heard that Chasewater Railway at Burntwood, Staffordshire, was struggling to extend its line due to a shortage of sleepers.
Birmingham-based Centrac offered to supply 600 sleepers from its main recycling depot at Northampton.
The Donated sleepers mean that Chasewater Railway’s volunteer workforce can extend its line to a planned new station near the proposed Burntwood by-pass entrance to the Chasewater Country Park.
The line currently serves the Brownhills West end of the park, carrying passengers around Chasewater Lake – and across the lake on a recently rebuilt causeway – to a station opened 18 months ago in the Norton wildfowl reserve.
The track represents the only remaining mineral line from the vast Cannock Chase coalfield network, and runs small tank locomotives retrieved from industrial locations, including a steam shunting engine from Pleck gasworks, providing scenic leisure trips for passengers.
Chasewater Railway general manager Steve Organ welcomed the donation of the sleepers saying “We are absolutely delighted with Centrac’s generous help – quite simply we could not have achieved so much without them. This shows the value of recycling materials.”
Lorne Gray, who is in charge of Centrac’s recycling operations, commented: “The particular type of sleeper we have donated would normally be stripped down to the bare components. The baseplates and fixings would be sold off by the tonne to scrap merchants and the sleepers sold for use in heavy industry and agriculture.
“The fact that they will now be used for their intended purpose, albeit on a reduced specification basis, is very satisfying.”
The Duke of Gloucester was in his element as he took control of ‘Asbestos’ – Chasewater Railway’s flagship steam locomotive.
With a blast on the whistle the Duke shifted the regulator and the steam engine edged forward.
For the next ten minutes the Duke indulged one of his greatest passions – steam trains – oblivious to the wired-up security agent positioned half-way along the section of track.
The royal visit to Chasewater Railway was the third stop on the Duke of Gloucester’s tour of the area last Thursday (4-11-2004).
Accompanying the Duke in the engine’s cab were Driver Mark Sealey and Fireman Steve Williams.
Steve said ” He knew exactly where all the controls were, we didn’t really have to help him. I think he would have liked to have gone a bit further down the track.”
Mark added “We talked about the engine and where it had come from and he asked us about the length of the track.”
The Duke also toured the newly constructed Heritage Centre where restoration work on Chasewater’s collection of railway carriages takes place.
And while in the Centre he unveiled a plaque to commemorate the visit.
Restoration engineers Jim Twigge and Don Mitchell chatted with the Duke.
“He is the kind of person you can speak with easily,” said Jim.
Don added ” We knew he was a train enthusiast and former architect.
Architecture and railways are his two passions.”
Before leaving, the Duke took an impromptu trip on a modern engine – the Parry People Mover – and the clockwork coordination of the event suddenly seemed at risk!
Station Master Eric Balaam remarked ” The Duke said it is nice to see people restoring the carriages for future generations to appreciate.”
As the bespectacled Duke in dark grey suit and beige overcoat climbed into his Jaguar, Chasewater Railway’s general manager Steve Organ reflected on the Royal visit.
“I think it has gone really well with this our first Royal visit.
This is a very significant milestone, giving credibility to the railway and enabling members to take a pride in it.”