There’s an old episode of Hancock’s Half Hour I was reminded of this week. Hancock, as impecunious as ever, is consulting the paper in search of a job, and British Railways are advertising for platelayers. When reminded, by Miss Pugh, that he knows nothing about railways, he answers irritably ‘Platelayers, Platelayers- it’s setting out the knives and forks in the restaurant cars’.
Platelaying- of a miniature kind- is one of the tasks that has been keeping me busy during the lockdown period. The BVLR permanent way has needed a bit of attention, not just through normal wear and tear, but also thanks to what I believe to be a badger digging up a certain section of the line side in search of something edible- Shades of another sitcom, this time Reginald Perrin, twenty-two minutes late due to a badger eating a junction box at New Malden. Our badger simply contents itself with throwing soil into the ballast, meaning I had to lift a section of track to dig out the compacted soil and replace it with fresh ballast. Fortunately I covered the re-ballasted track with plastic, as he’s dug it all up again subsequently.
Obviously, it doesn’t end there. This particular section had been developing a bit of a list to one side, or ‘super elevation’ as the more optimistic might call it. This, I discovered, was down to another unidentified mammal burrowing directly underneath, following the line almost perfectly. I filled the hole in, but no doubt whatever it is will burrow through again.
Another job has been to install the passing loop in the station. This has been on the cards for a while, and work had started, but then been curtailed by lockdown. A few evenings of assembly followed by a weekend of carting ballast means that the BVLR station is now shipshape once more, complete with white-painted platform edge.
Just to make extra work for myself, I arranged for the iron box used for BVLR storage to be moved to the ‘yard’ outside the miniature stock shed. With a certain amount of dressing up, this has proved quite an attractive solution, but required a new siding to be put in, which in turn involved the manufacture of a new point from stock rail. This was something of a learning curve, but I’m quite pleased with the result. Being of a generally perverse nature, I watched a YouTube video on how to make a point after I’d done it. Apparently you need various special jigs and gauges, plus an engineering shop to cut the frog, point blades and so on. It certainly looked less exhausting than doing it with hacksaw, file, tape measure and 12” steel rule..