In the period since our last magazine many of the regular working team have been away on their holidays. The end result is that progress slowed just a little without the full complement at all times.
Steve and Bob were on their holidays at the same time, so I put in a burst of energy and fabricated an impressive row of four speartop fence panels ready to 'plant' just as soon as they came back. I think they were impressed, although the reaction may have been horror at the prospect of digging all those post holes into ground that consists mainly of chunks of rock and hard core. The posts are long, so you start off making a small hole and try to work down with vertical sides. Then you hit a rock which has to come out but won't until you have dug round it and increased the width of the hole dramatically. A little deeper and the same happens again. Then the sides fall in. In the end the hole is the right depth but big enough to bury a horse.
We set a completion target date for August. Why we set a target date I do not know. Basically our hobby is for enjoyment rather than hard labour, but perhaps we needed to have a goal to keep the job rolling along and avoid distractions. Well, we have finished it. The job took a whole year and was beginning to get a bit tedious towards the end!
So with that out of the way we can maybe get a few outstanding jobs done. We have completed the tidy-up in the Uffculme Building, so this has given us a fair bit of clear, safe working space. There is no objection to leaving work in progress in there but it is not suitable for long term storage. I will wave the 'health and safety' flag here and insist that clutter equals hazard. We have cleared all the stored timber off the roof beams so we are hopeful that the ceiling and walls will get a coat of paint to encourage good housekeeping and improve the reflected light - just one of many small jobs still to be done.
At last we have completed the long project of reconstructing and installing the speartop fencing along the back of the restaurant car platform. We moved along a little faster towards the end, erecting the last pair of panels at the end of July.
We are pleased with the end result. The panels have gone in on a reasonably straight line, and all the spears and top rails (which were the only parts reused) straightened up fairly well. The last remaining job is a second coat of topcoat black to give full protection to the ironwork. This does not need to be done as a high priority; in fact it would be better to leave it for a few months for the high gloss of the black to dull down a little as an aid to painting the final coat. That way it will be easier to see where the fresh paint has been applied and not miss bits!
On the day that we erected the last of the fencing we also installed the third and final gas lamp top onto the half harp bracket on the lamp post nearest to the museum. This completes the three lamps on the platform and rounds off the whole project very nicely. The lamps are not connected to the gas supply yet; our registered Gas Safe engineer will test and approve the system before connecting it up for us in due course.
The fencing project has been more or less our sole occupation for the last twelve months so its completion was cause for a bit of a celebration. We are all looking forward to doing something else and have some new projects in mind but inevitably they will also involve grinding, sawing, scraping, drilling, welding and painting I suppose.
But just to show we aren't completely fed up with speartop fencing we have made two special little panels to mount on the end screens on platforms one and two. These barriers close off the 2ft wide ledge which runs behind the buffers and links up onto the bay platforms. Sometimes staff use this dangerous path as an short cut and I have seen passengers use it too, as a vantage point for head-on photos of engines in the platform. So before the inevitable accident happens we installed the panels.
The design is based on a similar panel at the north end of the Bridgnorth platform at Arley, where some neat curved spears form a more appropriate shape than straight up-and-down ones. A larger version existed at Stourbridge Junction on the wing wall of the railway bridge there. The design has been modified for our application using these originals as a basis, and suits the location quite neatly.
This really is the last bit of speartop for a while, but we mustn't forget that we have offered to help the museum guys with the repair of some more, alongside the car park path in front of their signal box.
Incidentally, the museum's signal box, originally from Wrangerton in Devon, is now substantially complete and the area all around it levelled and surfaced with hardcore. The result is an absolutely excellent exhibit complete with signals and 'open' telegraph wires on massive poles. This is a credit to the museum team and well worth the thousands of man hours it has taken so far. No doubt it will be a very popular attraction when open to visitors. We mustn't forget; the more there is to see, especially of this quality, the more likely our visitors will come back again and again.