News and Views from the Issue Rother 50 Valley Railway Issue 57 ÂŁ1 Autumn 2011
Journal of the Rother Valley Railway Supporters’ Association Issue 57 Autumn 2011
Rother Valley Railway Supporters’ Association Committee for 2011/12: Helen Brett (Chairman) David Felton (Treasurer) Peter Brown Paul King Geoff Wyatt Steve Griffiths (Secretary & editor of the Phoenix) email@example.com
The Rother Valley Railway Station, Station Road, Robertsbridge, East Sussex, TN32 5DG telephone: 01580 881833 RVR e-mail:
Membership secretary Trevor Streeter
Rother Valley Railway Ltd Directors: David Felton (Chairman & Co. Secretary) Roy Seabourne John Snell Mike Hart OBE David Slack
Reg. Office: 3-4 Bower Terrace, Maidstone, Kent, ME16 8RY
Managers: Helen Brett Peter Brown Steve Griffiths Paul King Simon Relf
Trevor Streeter (Environmental Compliance mgr; webmaster)
(Shop mgr) (acting Loco mgr) (Safety mgr) (Forestry and Conservation mgr) (acting P/Way mgr)
(e-mail etc as above)
Geoff Wyatt Mark Yonge
(Carriage & Wagon mgr) (Press Officer)
Rother Valley Railway Heritage Trust Rother Valley Railway Heritage Trust Trustees: Gardner Crawley (Chairman), Peter Davis, David Felton Crawley Davis, David Felton, Mike Hart OBE, Trustees: Gardner Mike Hart(Chairman), (OBE), RoyPeter Seabourne, John Snell RoyAddress Seabourne, John Snell etc as above Phoenix copyright: The Rother Valley Railway Supporters’ Association & contributors as named.
Editorial Summer is done, and the rain is still with us. I mention this because so often recently attempts to get on with the exterior of the Association’s handsome mess van have been thwarted by rain or the ominous skies. Let’s look forward to a warm dry autumn so that work can catch up! Fortunately, rather better progress has been made by our latest line extension, which is going like the clappers, as detailed within. Crystallising a bit more now are the Trust’s plans for the Robertsbridge site. Track layout details are not yet to hand, but it seems that a key aim will be to provide overnight accommodation for a full length train plus loco alongside on the land to the east of the existing track beyond the loading pad area. Planning work continues to see if more siding space could be squeezed in. Work should begin next year, as well as the planned start on the new station area layout and platform. We have now been assured that volunteers will be able to carry on working on the historic vehicles at Robertsbridge, at least until the eventual join‐up with K&ESR, which currently remains somewhere over the horizon at 5‐10 years. Clearly a great deal of effort next year will go into relocating ourselves away from the southern end of the site to somewhere in the middle so that development can begin. Sadly, it’s now clear that the Trust have concluded there is no room for the Hastings Tramways club and its two historic tram bodies under the new vision for Robertsbridge. The club run by Roy and Derek have been asked to seek alternative premises. We wish them all good luck in this quest, and want to offer any help we can. If you have any contacts or ideas that might be of help to them, I will certainly pass these on. Steve Griffiths (editor)
cover – Bridge No. 1, concrete placement (photo by SG) Any uncredited articles and text have been produced by the Editor
People It is with great sadness that we report the death of Dennis Hassall. Many of you will have seen him in action at our model railway exhibition in May, running the bric‐a‐brac marquee with his wife Kathleen. Soon after he was taken poorly and he died in early August. RVR was well represented at his funeral, which was packed with many friends and relatives reflecting his wide interests and popularity. We will all miss Dennis, his friendly greetings, woolly hat and banter. Our condolences go to Kathleen, his widow. In this issue is an article about his railway career, by way of a tribute. Latest news The five bridges When the last Phoenix went to press, bridge nos. 3, 4 and 5 had been demolished and the western side of bridge no. 1 dug out. A lot has happened since to progress our Northbridge Street extension.
Bridge no. 1 showing new concrete mass nearing completion (SG)
As the photo opposite shows, at bridge no.1 a new mass concrete structure has been virtually finished behind the western abutment, which has now been pinned to it. The old steel beams forming the bridge will be replaced. The topmost tier of concrete awaits finalisation of engineering details. Once this work has been completed, the void behind the abutment will be brought fully up to track level. Meanwhile, the slow‐moving stream under bridge no.1 has been dammed temporarily with giant bags of sand, and several tons of spoil removed from the river bed beneath to allow for strengthening. In effect, a new concrete U‐shaped culvert is being created between the abutments to strengthen the whole bridge structure. The support piles which hold up the ‘flying buttresses’ will be better protected from the river, which will be prevented from continuing to cut away the banks on each side. The work has been approved by the Environment Agency.
Bridge no.1 looking north, showing new concrete base slab and dam (AS).
Bridge no.3 is now built, with the completion of both abutments and wing walls which look excellent. To complete this job, one of the ex‐ Staplehurst bridge sections will be lowered on top (see below). Work on bridge no.4 has also commenced. At the time of writing, the site is fully excavated and blinding has been laid ready for work on the new base slab, using the same shuttering and formwork as bridge no.3. Bridge no. 5 will follow on in October. The best of the four Staplehurst bridge sections being used on this project (at bridge nos. 2 to 5) have been selected and work is in progress by the volunteers to clean off the existing rail bearer fixings so that these can be shot‐blasted, repaired and painted. It’s expected that this work will be done offsite by a specialist firm shortly.
Bridge no.3’s complex ‘ironwork’ taking shape in July (SG)
and later as the shuttering comes down (western abutment) (AS)
All four of the bridge spans should be placed around the end of this year or early next. It will be interesting to see how these can be moved along the narrow embankment and dropped into place! River edge piling is also due to take place shortly to combat erosion near bridge 5. Looking to the future, two longer modern bridge spans have been purchased for use on the route to the east of Northbridge Street. The first will be used to cross the tributary just beyond The Clappers, and the second at a similar water course just the other side of the A21 Robertsbridge by‐pass. These are a stunningly successful discovery as the two spans are in excellent condition and were in use until recently at the railway yard at Reading West, bridging Cow Lane. They had been very well looked after by Network Rail, and were successfully delivered to Robertsbridge during one August weekend and unloaded by hire‐crane in the Oak Tree triangle. So the work goes on and despite autumnal weather, particularly rain blowing in, progress is running to time.
The exCow Lane bridge spans freshly arrived (JE)
Prize draw news – by Geoff Wyatt Our regular monthly draw continues. With odds of about 10 to 1 on winning something, you are rather more likely to come up trumps than with the National Lottery, where the odds are reputed to be 14 million to 1 on the main prize. While we can’t offer quite such a large prize, a direct debit to enter our draw seems bound to win you something pretty soon. The money we raise will go towards refurbishing our two supporters’ association‐owned vehicles. Forms are available from me at Robertsbridge or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Latest RVRSA prize draw winners: July 1st prize August - 1st prize
T Streeter (ball 10) S Griffiths (ball 21)
2nd T Long (ball 13) 2nd T Long (ball 7)
Plant and loco news Dougal is now running much better following its replacement fuel filter, and drivers are having to adjust to its new friskiness! We have had some interest from other railways for our Thomas Smith & Sons 5 tonne railway crane (the Smith‐Rodley). However, as this interest has not led to any actual offers, the crane has been sold for scrap and – sadly – will be cut up shortly. Carriage and wagon news The RVRSA’s mess van kitchen is now finally complete. New roof vents have been fitted and work continues on the exterior, while the rest of the interior is now being improved to make it more comfortable and draught proof. The van has been moved into the platform once again, mainly so that we can cater for Robertsbridge Bonfire night, if all goes to plan. It’s proposed that it will function like a burger van that night, serving customers on the platform via the doors at the southern end. We have often made some useful money as the revellers gather outside. The kitchen walls and ceiling are finished in white melamine sheeting to make cleaning easy. All we need now is a volunteer to look after the catering side of the railway! Oh and a new upright freezer as the old one is the wrong shape and on its last legs after years of faithful service (not unlike some of us). Anyone know of one going spare? Please remember to ‘Gift Aid’ any donations, if you pay UK tax. RVR then gets another 25% from the Government on top. Donations should be made to the Rother Valley Railway Heritage Trust A gift‐aid form will be provided so that we can claim from HMG.
GBLV mess van kitchen (photo by TEDS)
Work on the BP tank wagon is underway, with the massive oak timbers to form the new chassis recently removed to the specialist contractor’s yard for fabrication. If you’d like to help please send a cheque or postal order etc to Mark Yonge, here at Robertsbridge RVR. A gift aid form will be supplied so that the Government in effect contributes a further 25%. We are still looking to find a partner to help us with restoring the historic LNER van, which also has a wooden chassis. P/Way update Simon Relf our p/way manager is organising a track weekend on the Junction Road extension on 15 & 16 October. If you have valid PTS and want to help, please let someone know at Robertsbridge. The task is to remove and grease all the fishplates towards Bodiam, which is quite a challenge given that we haven’t had much practice at this in recent times. If anyone has a primus and kettle, that will help enormously.
Otherwise, there hasn’t been much we can usefully do on the trackwork at Robertsbridge. The stretch beyond the lorry crossing has been lifted during construction work on the bridges, and the remainder working right back to Robertsbridge is due to be entirely relaid under the Trust’s plans for a new station and trackwork capable of handling seriously heavyweight trains in anticipation of the eventual link up through to K&ESR. It’s hoped that tracklaying west of Bridge no.1 right back to the station approaches will commence early in the New Year, all being well. Once the rolling stock has been transferred onto the newly laid rails, work is then expected to begin on tracklaying to Northbridge Street, followed by big layout changes on the approach to and within the station area.
Other news A reminder that RVR grade‐card holders are now entitled to a discount on membership of K&ESR, if they wish to belong to both organisations. RVR grade cards are given to regular RVRSA volunteers and can be obtained from David Felton. Secondly, RVRSA members wishing to train at K&ESR for railway skills such as fireman or signalman can apply to RVR Ltd for sponsorship to cover the cost. Sponsorship is at the discretion of RVR Ltd. Given that the plan is for K&ESR to be the operators of the eventual joined‐up railway, it makes sense to think about training up now as some roles take several years to get the necessary qualifications. We hope to bring you more about the training opportunities available in future issues, but there’s no need to wait for that – you can look at the K&ESR website or pay them a visit and get started as soon as you like. The future at Robertsbridge The most significant meeting held since the last Phoenix was one between the RVRSA Committee and the Chairman of the Trust, Gardner Crawley, and Mike Hart on 4 September. This was looking beyond the 11
completion of the extension to Northbridge Street at the sorts of issues covered in the correspondence between the SA and the Trust earlier in the year (see annexes to the minutes of the AGM). Of concern to the Committee was the range of volunteering activities envisaged at Robertsbridge and how these would be accommodated. In this respect, the main points to emerge from the discussions were that tracklaying is expected to begin early in the New Year, and a revamp of the station site would follow once the rolling stock had been moved up the line. A new train shed and small adjacent loco shed is desired, with staff ablutions and storage. Difficulty in fitting this onto the site east of the running line meant that it is proving extremely hard to provide any additional siding space. That means that once the railways eventually join up, there would probably be little space for stock to be stored for the purposes of restoration, desirable though this is, not least to add railway interest for visitors. However, until join‐up, restoration could continue during and after construction. The new sidings etc could be used until required by K&ESR services through to Tenterden. Detailed plans are still in preparation. A new station building would also follow at a later date. By the next issue we should have full details. The Phoenix You may have noticed that the Phoenix appeared in A4 format last time around. This was an error by the printer and caused us a bit of a headache as the postage costs were correspondingly larger as well. After discussion of the various options and associated costs, the RVRSA committee decided to continue to the usual A5 format for this and future editions. However, you may notice that the print size is slightly bigger, which I hope helps anyone whose eyesight is not what it was. Please consider delivery by email only, if you would like enjoy larger scale photos and also save your association the costs of printing and posting out paper copies. Contact our membership secretary Trevor Streeter if you are interested in switching to the electronic format. 12
Concrete stops play....while being placed at Bridge no 3. (AS)
A visit to Tenterden & Rolvenden I was fortunate to be with a group of RVRSA committee members who paid a visit to the K&ESR at the beginning of September, organised by Mike Hart and Gardner Crawley, together with Geoff Crouch the chairman of KE&SR. This proved to be a fascinating look behind the scenes, where the public and most members rarely get to see. At Tenterden we saw the main mess room (surprisingly small) and had a poke around the back where several vehicles are concealed from the public gaze including the very elderly ex‐Barry Railway ‘Iron Mink’ with its distinctive rounded corners. We had a good look around the carriage and wagon shop, recently extended to almost double its previous size and the new section still
being progressively clad in traditional overlapping wood to match the older section. Lurking inside was a variety of coaching stock including Petros the ex‐BR Mk1 Brake Second Open, dating from 1956 and adapted for wheelchair access, and one of the gorgeous vintage coaches (from the London Chatham and Dover Railway) which had recently received its eleventh coat of fresh SE&CR crimson lake paint plus two of varnish. To our surprise there were also two locos in the shed, the Class 08 ‘gronk’ Dover Castle minus its engine block and bonnet, and the Class 14 ‘teddy bear’. In addition we saw the famous GWR railcar, bodywork stripped down to its bare wooden bones, apart from one of the ends where the state of the sheet steel cladding made clear why such a fundamental restoration job was needed. We envied the equipment and stores, all so conveniently co‐located within an enclosed working area where staff could ignore the weather. They don’t presumably need to spend ages locking stuff away daily or walking around the site looking for basic tools and bits for each and every job. After a tour of the excellent Col. Stephens museum, which now sports two wheel sets from Robertsbridge, we took a short trip to Rolvenden to see the engine shed. Apparently K&ESR locos have to live out of doors unless being worked on, like most other rolling stock for the time being. Outside was RVR’s very own Charwelton, fresh from some work on its rear sander to improve sand flow; and a variety of other steam and diesel locos, and large components in various states of repair. We admired the dismantled loco water tank which it is hoped will one day be re‐erected at Robertsbridge. At the back we found the recently arrived GWR 2‐8‐0 No 4253, stripped of its boiler cladding and cab. The copious rust from several decades of being left out in the rain at Woodhams Yard, Barry, and elsewhere, was being vigorously attacked by two young engineers with hammers. Some sections of footplate had already been treated, primed and painted, perhaps to prevent further deterioration. Restoration is expected to take 10 years, but the massive tank loco should then have no trouble hauling the heaviest of trains all the way to Robertsbridge 14
and back unaided, unlike smaller tank engines on the stocklist. Inside the surprisingly (to me) small shed were four or five locos undergoing various jobs. It must be said that a steam loco shed is considerably dirtier than a carriage and wagon shop! I have to apologise for the lack of photographs to illustrate this visit. Somewhere between Robertsbridge and Hither Green recently my camera went awol and has not yet reappeared. But some good photos of K&ESR and all its stock and infrastructure can of course be found on their website www.kesr.org.uk, and also on YouTube, Flickr, Picasa and other photo sites. All thanks to K&ESR for their warm welcome. Diary dates Robertsbridge Bonfire Society’s bonfire night –Nov 19th. RVRSA Model Railway exhibition – SAMREX May 19th and 20th, 2012 at Robertsbridge village hall.
RVRSA attended the annual K&ESR hoppickers event (TEDS)
Dennis, who died in August, was one of our longest‐serving volunteers at Robertsbridge. A railwayman himself, from a railway family, he retired in 1994 after a varied career with British Railways and its successors. Earlier this summer, he kindly let me look through his extensive journal about life on the railway, after I had pressed him for an article for the Phoenix. Dennis in his characteristic headgear. This photo was taken several years ago at Robertsbridge during the early stages of work to refurbish Dougal. This is just one of many projects in which he was actively involved.
He was born at No 1 Culver Junction Cottage, a railway cottage on the Lewes to Uckfield line, in 1935, the son of a Porter Signalman at Barcombe Mills. In 1938, the family moved to Barcombe when his father became stationmaster. The station house was handily located for returning Nazi bombers following the lines southwards through the dark and seeking to offload any remaining bombload, and as a child
Dennis spent many nights under the stairs, experiencing at least one hit on the station by incendiaries. His career began in 1952 when he started out as a railway clerk at Uckfield, where his early duties included pasting the parcel labels onto crates of day‐old chicks despatched around the country. At Haywards Heath his duties included the thankless job of extracting ‘demurrage’ money from the coal traders based there. This was a penalty for failing to empty wagons within the time allowed and traders ran up large bills by using the wagons as storage instead of unloading them promptly, whenever space was short. They rarely paid up it seems, as the trade steadily declined. Later he was put in charge of the fleet of lorries that collected and delivered for the SR locally, two of which somehow collided with each other head‐on near Ardingly. Dennis became a stationmaster (class 3) in 1960, at Ashurst, married Kathleen, and moved into the station house. By 1963 he had secured another promotion, taking over as stationmaster at Effingham Junction on the south western side of the old Southern region which included responsibility for the shed housing eight electric multiple units (64 carriages of pre‐war Sub and post‐war EPB types). He occasionally had to shunt these himself when early‐turn shunters failed to turn up, placing London morning rush hour services in jeopardy. Derailments and signalling failures made life exciting. In 1968 he moved up the line to Surbiton and covered the ‘outstations’ including the local signalboxes, dealing with a major flood event in 1968 that washed away the ballast and nearly caused a major accident. His long service included a couple of spells at Tunbridge Wells Central (as it was then) as station manager. He got this job in 1970 and moved to Etchingham so that he could travel easily. Dennis became responsible for most of the Hastings branch but Tunbridge Wells station itself provided plenty of incidents ranging from tunnel lining collapses to slam‐doors pulled off in the tunnels when opened by passengers, plus suicides and even a robbery of railway cash.
One day in spring 1990, while he was visiting Robertsbridge station, a vehicle was heard sounding its horn as it came down the long hill from Brightling. The crossing barriers were down. Dennis rushed out and saw a lorry filled with gas‐bottles approaching, with its driver frantically trying to warn that he was unable to stop. Dennis and his colleague jumped the barriers and somehow the lorry was stopped just 10 feet from the crossing, just before the train came through. He spent time as an area movements inspector based at Dover Western Docks, which included supervising nuclear flask unloading at Dungeness (the ‘nuclear train’ was often hours late), and sorting out problems with wagons ferried over from the continent where the loads shifted during bad weather. Towards the end of his career he was extensively involved in practical health and safety work and staff training, acting on a consultancy basis in the final two years. Dennis joined the RVR many years ago as member No 70 and was a regular volunteer.
Letters to the Editor ....message from Simon Terry I was so sorry to hear the news of Dennis, a true friend, he will be missed. My regards, Simon
Take a look at our volunteer blog in the members’ area of the RVR website. To subscribe to the blog, just click where shown – it’s free of course. You will then be automatically updated by email on what we have been doing week by week. Contact Trevor if you have any difficulty accessing the members’ area. 18
The Rother Valley was one of a fascinating empire of light railways built under the direction of Holman F. Stephens. Join us, and help preserve the history and artefacts of his many lines. You will also receive our quarterly newsletter ‘The Colonel’, packed with news, articles and scale drawings. For a membership form, write to: David Powell (CSS Mem.Sec.) Gateways, Bledlow Road, Saunderton, Princes Risborough, Bucks., HP27 9NG
telephone 01844 343377 e-mail email@example.com website www.colonelstephenssociety.co.uk
Books Something we haven’t covered for a while are the various books which might be of interests for fans of the various south‐eastern sector lines. To mark the 50th anniversary of the line in preservation, K&ESR have published Rails Across the Rother, put together by Terrier editor Nick Pallant. This focusses mainly on the preservation effort, but includes useful history too. With 130 illustrations it’s an absolute snip at £3.
By contrast, the most expensive book around on the K&ESR/RVR and its history is The Kent and East Sussex Railway by Brian Hart, published by Wild Swan publications in 2009. But at getting on for 300 glossy pages with copious photographs and drawings this extremely comprehensive and readable book is a treat and well worth the £35 generally being asked by retailers. Currently out of print I think, but widely available, is the much smaller and far cheaper but nonetheless excellent The Kent and East Sussex Railway by Stephen Garrett, published by Oakwood Press. Finally, and looking further afield, over to West Sussex in fact, a new book called Sussex Signalman: The Ted Cook Story may be of interest. This is described by publisher Buggleskelly as a first‐hand account of life in rural Sussex stations and manual signalboxes by the author, who joined BR in 1965 as a junior porter. This book is available to SA members at the special price of £10.95 (plus £1.50 p&p), a saving of £1 on the RRP of £11.95.
Bridge No 1 eastern abutment. Girders & sheet piling below are due to be removed (SG)
Bridge no. 4 site excavation, early Sept (SG)
A puzzle: For any of you not familiar with Robertsbridge village, “The Clappers” is the curious road name at the point where our line will one day once again cross the main village street, close to the old Hodson’s Mill. Out of curiosity I looked up the origins of the expression “going like the clappers” (see editorial). There does not seem to be a definitive line on where this quaint phrase comes from. Let me know if you know more, or how the village road comes to carry this name.
Railway quiz question: where is this structure and what is it? (photo SG)
Planning Rother Valley District Council has been consulting on its new ‘Core Strategy’ document, which will guide future development in its area. There are several helpful references to the railway and our chairman has written to members with known email addresses to suggest that they support the Council. As the deadline is 30 September, it’s probably a bit late for other SA members to respond, but details of the document and how to comment to the Council can be found at www.rother.gov.uk/corestrategy. The Phoenix needs you! Send me your letters, articles, photographs, forthcoming event details, book reviews – anything with a RVR or wider railway theme. Contributions by 5 December please. 22
RVR Christmas cards Once again we are pleased to offer the RVR Christmas card to members at a very reasonable price. This shows a snowy scene at Robertsbridge station yard (below), which will very soon become history as we embark next year upon yet another new track layout – hopefully the last! Please place your order by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or telephone Helen at 01580 881833, or write to RVR at our Robertsbridge address (see inside front cover), or call into the RVR shop any Sunday before Christmas. Cheques and postal orders should be made out to the Rother Valley Railway Supporters’ Association. Please add something for postage ‐ enquire from the shop. The card is shown below, and professionally printed. They cost 60p each or £3 for six. The greeting inside is ‘Best wishes for a Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year’.
The RVR shop is open every Sunday, from 9 – 5pm (4pm once the clocks go back in October). Now with ice-creams, hot and cold drinks, biscuits, sweets, crisps Please e-mail stock enquiries to Helen Brett at email@example.com SELL VIA RVR We are happy to have your unwanted railway items to sell for railway funds. Items can also be sold for you on commission (15%). PRICING POLICY Pricing second-hand items is an art not a science, so all sensible offers are considered for most goods in the shop! BACK NUMBERS OF RAILWAY MAGAZINES We have what is probably the best collection in the south-east of England. Try us for that issue you’re missing. RAILWAY BOOKS From historic to modern, biography to photo collections, we have a wide range of second-hand books at bargain prices. MODEL RAILWAY ITEMS We have a large collection of used models and trackwork, mainly 0, OO, and N gauges. We also have some road vehicles and one large N gauge layout for sale (as featured in past issues). FULL–SIZE RAILWAY ITEMS 3rd rail insulators. Railchairs from pre-1923 companies and later, plain or lightly painted.