Good grief, it’s May. I’ve become convinced that someone somewhere, for nefarious reasons best known to themselves, is stealing weeks’ worth of time from us, although general opinion seems to disagree with me.

It’s been quite a busy time for the Trust, with many things going on concurrently. The volunteers have of course been back at Steamworks in force, with healthy numbers turning up to help out. There is much to do down here, particularly as we hope to be able to open to visitors once more this summer, all being well. We will of course issue updates nearer the time once our plans have become more concrete, but work is  going on apace to make sure we’re ready when the time comes. Extra hands are always welcome, so if you’d like to come and join the merry band, do get in touch- ring me on the Steamworks number – 01502 725422 – and we can book you in to help out on Wednesday or Saturday volunteer days- we have jobs for (almost) every taste! We will also need people to help out for open days in the summer, so if you’d like to get involved in a public facing role and help us make our 2021 comeback season a memorable one for our visitors, we’d love to hear from you.

The picture above shows Ian Overton and Brian Bailey engaged on the rather overdue task of reballasting the BVLR after a year of disuse. They and John Handley have levelled and ballasted roughly half of the circuit, with further supplies of ballast on order to complete the job.

Work is also continuing in the new workshop to complete the electrical installation, an important part of creating an engineering facility on site, this work being carried out by the contractor Rob Bishop, assisted by our volunteer Richard Stone. Michael Carter has been giving the traditional diamond lattice fencing a much-needed coat of paint, smartening up that part of the site considerably;

whilst  Toby and Whisk are pictured working on the access ramp to the café and shop.

Ian Overton has also been cementing his relationship with the most senior figure down here at Blyth Road, an alliance based largely on how much birdseed Ian has to offer.

Work has also been going on at North Bay Engineering, with the dome featured in the last post being installed in its rightful position on the boiler of Blyth, and the Norwegian ‘chopper’ couplings being installed.

These last two photos are a week or two old, and such is the rate of progress at Darlington that I have no doubt things have moved even further since they were taken.

Of course, a locomotive is of limited utility if you have nothing to run it on, and to that end we welcomed a team of contractors to Blyth Road a couple of weeks ago, yielding our usual Wednesday to give them possession of the site. Their strikingly efficient team had come down from Colchester to install the 3’ permanent way, which they did in a flurry of digging, scraping, lifting and colourful dialogue, installing a remarkable amount of track work in only three and a half days.

This was the situation before their arrival;

Followed by the situation during;

And finally the situation after. They really have done an excellent job, and I think we can now reasonably claim to have a railway, albeit neither a very long nor important one, to paraphrase Ivor the Engine.

A couple of further photographs:

So as you can see, a Great Leap Forward for the Trust, and one we’re pretty pleased with. A few jobs remain for us to complete- the point rodding and levers have yet to be installed- the levers having been despatched for shotblasting and priming off site- and the junctions between the 50lb rail and the 30lb rail in the locomotive shed require some fabrication to accommodate the differing dimensions, but once these tasks are complete, we will be able to move stock freely around the site, something that hitherto has been quite challenging. Furthermore, we are one step further towards providing a suitable habitat for Blyth when she turns up. Work breeds more work, however- we now need to turn our minds to fencing our new track from the public areas of the site, so much more fencing needs to be constructed. Any volunteers?


Making Tracks