The track gang held two very successful working weekends in February, the first was held on the 10th & 11th February and the second on the 17th & 18th. The weather wasn’t particular kind on the first of these with rain all day on the Saturday, followed by a cold but dry day on the Sunday with even a few flakes of snow in the afternoon.
More track laid by volunteers at Midsomer Norton Station has increased the length of running line by 50%. This means that visitors will soon be able to travel almost up to the Chilcompton tunnel by train. The Spring Gala event in March will be an opportunity to ride behind a Jinty tank engine from the Great Central Railway.
Jintys used to be the workhorses on the old Somerset and Dorset Railway.Shunting the yard at Radstock and then bringing empty coal wagons up to Norton Hill pit, shunting the yard here and then returning to Radstock with full coal wagons would be a typical day's work for such a locomotive. Five locos were built specifically for the S&DJR by Bagnalls of Stafford in 1929 but paid- for by the Midland Railway and numbered in the S&D listing 19 -24.
Volunteers are busy making sure that visitors have an all round experience when they visit the station for special events like the Spring Gala. As well as the special events the station is open on Sundays and Mondays for volunteers to work but with the shop, buffet car, and Museum also open to the public. The Railway welcomes men and women of all ages from teens to eighties to join their volunteers, especially if they are local.
Posing for our photo from the left are John and Tony and Kirsteen who work in the garden. Linda in the front is found in the gift and railwayana shop, Doug with the wheelbarrow is a gardener then at the back is Keith, a painter and carpenter, then Barry and Rich on the back right are helping to renovate the Midland coach in which they are standing.
For more details about Midsomer Norton Station volunteers call 01761 411221, drop in on a Sunday or Monday
After two very successful working weekends, members of the track gang were back on site on Sunday and with no slackening of pace were able to lay another three track panels - approximately 180 feet of track on the Sunday.
Building on the excellent preparation work from the previous weekend when the majority of the F27 concrete sleepers had been laid out, correctly spaced and aligned, the 10-12 members on site were able to position the rail, cut and drill where required and clip into place three more panels. A dry but slightly chilly day provided excellent working conditions. The estimate now is that another three panels should bring the line very close to the wooden electricity pole in the photograph and then another five panels will bring the extension within feet of the infill fence.
The track gang will be continuing laying rail throughout December with the target of having all the rail in place by late December / early January. A great deal of work will then be required to level and ballast the running line and install fencing with an Easter opening as the planned target opening day for the extension.
Good progress over the last few months with the track laying together with some tree clearance has resulted in an opening out of the formation and there are now fabulous views over the Somerset countryside which in a few months time passengers will be able to enjoy from the train.
There is still a great deal to do to prepare the extension for an Easter opening. A third working weekend is being proposed for January with the focus on jacking and packing the line to ensure its suitable for the operation of passenger trains. A date and further details will be posted on the website once a date is confirmed. If you'd like to get involved and return another small part of this iconic line to operational use, please watch for an update and further details in the coming weeks.
From an operating perspective, the Board and Trust are still discussing various proposals for the operations of trains up to the infill. A number of options including a run round loop and a small halt allowing passengers to alight have been suggested. However at this time no final decision has been made.
The second working weekend came to a close on Sunday evening with good progress made on the extension. Those regular volunteers on site also made some new friends and introduced them to the railway's aims and future aspirations and hopefully we will see them here again in the very near future.
The first of the two working weekends planned by the Track Gang got off to a great start with excellent progress made despite some variable weather over the two days. The intention behind the two working weekends was to try and make some rapid progress on completing the track laying for the extension.