Since Peckett Scaldwell’s arrival on July 11th, the new visitor centre at Blyth Road, Southwold – to be called “SteamWorks” – moves on a bit more each day. Many tonnes of topsoil, donated by Duncans Builders and other well-wishers, have arrived and been spread thickly over crushed concrete sub-soil (if “sub-soil” is not too fancy a
word). The temporary registered office is set up, and the shop has moved from 27 High Street to the site. Services are all on – we have kept the old telephone number. As an experiment, we open the site to the public at the weekend
between 10 and 4: in August, it’ll be Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 10 and 4 – as far as is possible with staff availability. It’s still very much a construction site, so all visitors are urged to use caution, and not to stray past any barriers, or climb on anything: there is, of course, no charge for entry. You can still buy souvenirs, and enjoy the small temporary café, while looking at our plans for the railway, and admiring the various SR and other artefacts already onsite (there’s a lot more to come).
Anyway – back to Scaldwell (which we are now firmly told is a “she”, as are all other locomotives). Stuart our Project Manager, fresh from his triumph in making her roll along our track, removed all the valuable and highly-stealable fittings from this remarkably-complete loco: they are now safely and securely stored. While Robin donned Darth Vader gear and tackled the inside of the cab (which is a lot better than it looks, although in contrast after an hour or so of paint removal, Robin was not really improved by the thick coat of dust), Stuart tackled the steam dome top plate (having already removed the cover – this is now being polished). Having as usual been told he wouldn’t be able to get it off (the rust looked as if it’d defeat even him), he as usual did just that, producing a heavily over-engineered disc which it took three people to lower to the footplate. The safety valves are quite beautiful (shame no-one will see them): classic high-Edwardian engineering. The loco is looking a bit denuded now – but that’s nothing to what it (she!) will look like when dismantling starts in earnest this autumn.
Meanwhile, the Blyth Valley Light Railway (BVLR) team (who own and run the 7¼” railway) have been laying down the track (bought for us by David, among others) through the buddleia “jungle”, making up embankments with layers of brick, concrete, type 1 and limestone ballast (that last may prove a mistake, as it will eventually dissolve in the rain – we shall see –
after all, Suffolk is almost a desert in meteorological terms), and admiring our first set of points – a 40 foot radius wye bought by Ken from the Miniature Railway Supply Company (who in fact supply almost all our track). There‘s quite a bit of fettling-up to do before we can run our first public trains on this railway, but we are now working three full days each week, and are doing our best! (In fact, perhaps “working full days” is a bit of a misnomer – unless you count tea-drinking and biscuit eating)
The one disappointment among our growing band of volunteers is that we can’t at the moment spare the time to go each workday to the Community Café in Wenhaston (which we highly recommend – it’s open 10 till 1 on Wednesdays and Saturdays, at the Village Hall) – but once high season is over, we hope to return.
In truth there is another disappointment: that there are still some people and groups along the Blyth Valley and in Southwold who are absolutely determined to stop us restoring the railway, and seem to be willing to use any ruse to achieve this. Their argument seems to be “I don’t like railways, so it can’t happen” – which might perhaps be seen as a tad selfish.
On a much more positive note, membership is rising rapidly, and numbers fast approach the 500-mark: at this rate, we’ll be welcoming our 1000’th member in a year or so. Come to the Halesworth Pop-Up Shop at iChameleon in the Thoroughfare – we’ll be there
from Thursday July 27th to Wednesday August 2nd – learn about Scaldwell, SteamWorks, and our plans for the re-instatement of the historic 8-mile railway. Join us, join the “Friends of Scaldwell” – maybe come and help us by volunteering (which is after all proven to be good for you, body, mind and soul!) – or just donate to any of our funds – large or small donations are very welcome indeed, and you will quickly see the results of your generosity in progress towards our restoration aims.