Chairman down the well (probably a nursery rhyme there somewhere…)

Trust volunteers have been very active over the last week or so. While at the workshop Wagon 41‘s underframe approaches completion, the temporary demonstration track on the trackbed continues to be improved, while the Blyth Valley Light Railway’s 7¼” track is extended along the other end of the SR trackbed.

Adzing the central part of the buffer stop

At Bird’s Folly, Halesworth, where we are working courtesy of the very friendly Halesworth Millennium Green, some intrepid volunteers are digging down inside the Edwardian well – this is less than 36” across, so it gets quite dark and claustrophobic as we get deeper (when the Chairman goes down, there is so much of him that, with a “bucket-on-a-rope” for material, and a trowel, there is no room to dig – and the ladder has to be withdrawn – very tempting to leave him there). Each bucketful of earth and rubble is pulled up, and the contents sieved: not much of interest has emerged, except some 100-year-old steam coal and some nice pottery shards.

Trial (temporary) placing of timber, along three-foot-gauge pillars in inspection pit

Over the top of the well, the chain pump platform is taking shape. This is made of sleepers, each six feet long – and a lot of extra work has had to be done to ensure that the original concrete bases are in exactly the right places – inevitably, these had moved over the century since disuse – and two of them were down the well! Part of the work here is disentangling – by practical discovery and hard thought – how things actually worked, a century-or-so ago. Why, for example, was the well (and pump) established so far from the line, inevitably requiring a long (unknown) system for getting the water from pump to loco tanks? We think it is just possible that there was a watering siding here long before the shed itself was built – though there is no record of one, there seems no other logical explanation.

This is (as far as we know) the only photo of the original pump platform

We did find the remains of two buckets down the well – but the idea that you could water a loco with these is – well – ridiculous. Of course the SR was a law unto itself – the Southwold water crane, for example, was rigid, which must have made life hard for the crews, who would have had to position the tank filler very exactly indeed. And we still have no idea why the loco shed at the Folly was built to standard gauge dimensions, and then very crudely altered to three-foot. Mysteries multiply.

Sawing the sleepers for the pump platform – wheelbarrow a temporary workbench

With considerable difficulty, and an adze, we managed to fit the centre-piece of the buffer stop into its (nastily-tapered) hole: next we will add the outer timbers to complete the 8” x 14” stop: these are complicated, as the SR obviously used whatever timber they found lying about – and this was neither rectangular nor symmetrical (and the original concrete means that we have to reproduce the old timber). The longitudinal timbers which supported the rails each side of the pits were the same size – we would like to replace them, but cannot afford the cost just now.

First completed support struts for the platform – they are doweled at the top – three times – and coachbolted at the base (the cross-piece is temporary)

Meanwhile, lots of unsung work goes on behind the scenes. Negotiations with the planning department, and fund-raising for land purchase, go on: we need £50,000 now, to add to our in-hand assets to buy the land for Southwold Station – and a lot more later, for development of the railway (you can donate on this website -“Projects” – “Southwold Station”).

More industrial archaeology – and historic features restored