The trains themselves may have fallen silent, but the volunteers of the Churnet Valley Railway are being kept busy as winter maintenance gets into its stride ahead of the new season commencing on Sunday February 3rd.
The two biggest projects on the line are concentrating on the Permanent Way, as the maintenance of the track is made a lot easier without any trains running over them! First is the replacement of life expired sleepers on the Cauldon branch to Ipstones, with over 500 sleepers to be replaced in the coming weeks by the line’s volunteers. All done using traditional manual methods, no New Year gym membership is required for the volunteers working up here.
At the other end of the line, the former Froghall Junction has seen a huge improvement in recent weeks as the railways facilities undergo redevelopments for 2019. A new style timetable is being introduced that will make Kinglsey & Froghall station the main starting point for all services on the Churnet Valley Railway, and so the former junction has received a lot of attention in recent weeks as it had become a dumping ground for a number of railway spares for multiple departments.
A concentrated effort by volunteers from all departments has seen the shrubs, nettles and overgrowth removed, storage containers tidied and organised and with the land now clear two new sidings are in the process of being laid to accommodate up to ten coaches. Security, electric and water supplies are being installed that will allow services to be fully prepped at Froghall ahead of a day’s service for passengers, completing the upgrade of the site for its new role.
It's not just Permanent Way volunteers who are being kept busy mind. At Cheddleton within the engineering department volunteers are getting stuck into winter maintenance on the locomotives and the shed itself. A new stores has been built by the team to assist with improving floorspace in the workshop, but also to ease stock checks for all of the spares required that keeps the railway’s fleet running throughout the year. On the locomotives themselves, efforts are concentrating on the line’s iconic American S160s as both undergo winter maintenance. 6046 is being prepared for her annual boiler examination, which whilst this is ongoing the opportunity is being taken to complete repairs to her tender, that will see modifications made to ease locomotive prep duties.
5197 has returned to the line after another successful season operating at Telford for their Polar Express Specials, that sees the locomotive take on the role of hauling children to see Santa at the North Pole in a live-action recreation of Chris Van Allsburg classic family favourite. Due to undergo a boiler washout first, she too is also being prepared for her annual boiler examination. A small jobs list requires attention, primarily a Piston and Valve examination that will see contractors from Riley & Sons assisting us, before both locomotives return to service in time for the line’s traditional season opening event – the Winter Steam Gala over the weekend of February 23/24.
Our Christmas visitor “Whiston” is currently inside the shed, where she too is undergoing some winter maintenance before making her own farewell appearance on the CVR at the Winter Steam Gala ahead of her return to neighbouring Foxfield.
The biggest job in the shed though is the overhaul of former LMS 8F no. 48173, and visitors to the Winter Steam Gala really will see a difference to her. Commenced in the latter half of 2017, the restoration of this Barry hulk from scrapyard condition is gaining pace as she gets brought back to life. Notable achievements in recent weeks include the fitment of running boards to both side of the locomotive (walkways on either side of the locomotive to ease inspections in service),the frames have been painted after completion of repairs to these and the brand new front bufferbeam has been both rivetted into place and painted ahead of public display at the February event. New sections of frame has been manufactured and welded in place and a new drag box is under construction.
The railway is continually on the lookout for new volunteers, with age, ability and experience no restriction on what you can do. If you wish to join one of the many teams at Churnet Valley then feel free to contact the railway’s main offices on 01538 360522 or email on firstname.lastname@example.org.