Work has been progressing on all fronts on Night Mail over the winter and into the March.
We have been in talks with the British Postal Museum and Archive and can now announce we are taking custodianship of two vehicles. The first of these is a travelling post office, but not of a rail kind! It is in fact a Mobile Post Office (MPO) road vehicle. This Commer Karrier unit and trailer were built in 1971. They will have a garage built around it to protect it from the elements and will be used not only as an exhibit, but also a shop and display. For more information about the vehicle, click here.
The second vehicle is a rail vehicle, but from a railway that most people had never heard of, and even fewer have seen in operation. The 2ft gauge London Post Office Railway ran in tunnels underneath London between Paddington and East London, beyond Liverpool Street. The line operated between 1927 and 2003.The electric railway carried no passengers, had no drivers or gaurds, but at one stage carried 25 million letters a week. The vehicle itself, number 807, was built in 1930 and has recently been in store with the Post Office Museum and Archive. It will be housed in a separate cabin at Ferry Meadows. The vehicle arrived at the NVR in the last week in March and is currently in store whilst an exhibit is built for the vehicle. The unit consists of two power units joined by a non-wheeled centre car. For more information on the London Post Office Railway, click here or here. Photos of the move and a restored sister unit are below.
To facilitate this we will have to move the LMS BG that arrived in 2011 and had been sitting on a separate section of track. The existing siding had the stock cleared, and will shortly be slewed over and the BG moved onto the existing siding.
The rail training school we have on site have been extending the siding that will eventually become the second platform. Because this will eventually become a running line it is being done to a high standard using concrete sleepers.
Site clearance has also been progressing a lot recently. It is only when the undergrowth has been cleared you can fully appreciate how large the site is.
We have been in meetings recently regarding both funding and construction of the running shed. Whilst talks are on-going on both fronts, it is hoped that significant progress can be made this winter and in 2013
Work has recently restarted on the site of Night Mail with a view to starting on the foundations of the running shed in the spring of 2013.
To facilitate this, a lot of site clearance and track work has taken place.
An excavator has been in for the last two weeks clearing and leveling much of the site.
We have taken the decision that the existing siding is in such poor condition that it will have to be removed and replaced. To facilitate this the siding off the double slip which will eventually form platform 2 is being laid (See the diagram). With the help of the rail training school who are based at the site three extra lengths of track were laid in the last week. With the trackwork that has already been laid here, it brings the length of the siding to over 300 feet. Once the whole siding is laid, the stock on the existing siding will be shunted onto the new one and the old siding removed.
Following this, track will be laid up to the start of the running shed over the winter.
2013 should be a big year for Night Mail, The International Story of Mail by Rail!
(Click the plans for more detail)
The first half of this year’s civils’ work week was spent replacing weigh beams on Lynch River Bridge. However the Thursday and Friday were spent starting to lay the double slip for the running shed, headshunt and eventual second platform/run round loop. This, along with the first point for the yard, were constructed by the army in September 2008. It was ‘simply’ a case of disconnecting the existing siding including the catch point, removing the track from here, levelling all the ballast, splitting the slip into five parts, using the steam crane to move each part from down by the level crossing to the far end of the site, lining each piece up into situ, bolting it together and slewing the existing siding to reconnect it. Easier and quicker said than done! The double slip is the largest and most complicated piece of trackwork available. The amount of ballast to be levelled, rails to be lined up, fishplates to be bolted in, and all the fine tuning to make sure the track is level and straight require a huge amount of time, physical effort and knowledge. Despite the size and weight of each piece, it still has to be assembled with only a few mm of tolerance. Each bit had up to 8 rails that needed to be connected, all with two fishplates and four bolts. It’s certainly not as simple as laying pointwork in OO gauge!
The hope for the work week was to get the five parts of the slip in, loosely connected, roughly lined up and the existing siding slewed and reconnected, as well as the other point brought up to that end of the station. To get the slip operational would take about another month, with exact lining up and levelling to be done, ballasting, stretchers and point rodding to be fitted. In the end, the five pieces were moved into situ, and four were connected. However due to technical issues with the crane, reconnecting the siding and moving the point up will have to wait for another day.
We are also welcoming a railway training company onto the site. As well as a financial contribution, there is the possibility of a small amount of track being laid by them. They need a demountable classroom/mess hut to be brought in. So a mini digger was used to shift S&T materials stored in one area and level the ground. A trench has been dug across the site to give power, water and phone lines to this.
Elsewhere, the first vehicle has arrived at Ferry Meadows for the museum! LMS BG 31359 has been bought from the Battlefield Line. This coach is now on a piece of track at Ferry Meadows and will be restored to run with our LMS TPO. It is in much better condition structurally than our current LMS BG and crucially has corridor connections. This will however be a long term project, so don’t expect it to be restored in 6 months!
The site of the new museum has been cleared of any vegetation and objects that were previously in the way. A new double gate has been fabricated, increasing the size of vehicles and machinery that can now access the site and more trackwork has been laid where the railways entrance to the museum site will be.
Always foremost in our mind is to not allow the weather to undo the work that is done to 3916, we therefore intend to concentrate the period from New Year until Easter on getting work in progress on the Night Mail facilities at Ferry Meadows.
Stage one is to lay the track, then build the 6 coach running shed.
During the railway work week just after Easter the steam crane will lift the double slip point work into place. We will by this time have the site prepared and a start made on the track laying.
It will be good to see physical progress being made on the site.