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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 33 - Winter 1977 / 8
It's all Part of the Job - Neville Royce
It was Easter Sunday morning and I had just finished walking round the yard and up and down our "main line". On my tour of inspection I had noticed many places which required minor attention with either a shovel or hammer (or both). One of our loco drivers had complained to me about rough riding over the point where the long and short sidings diverge. I therefore presented myself to Driver Uphill on No. 0314 complete with duly signed footplate pass and requested that I might ride on the locomotive myself in order to feel the bumps personally.
As soon as one mounts a loco (and anyone who has cabbed the Beattie will surely agree that in this instance "mounts" is the appropriate word) one tends to forget the outside world and bask in the unique atmosphere of oil and steam into which you have been cast. However, following the "right away" from the guard, we set off with much rolling and shaking and as we proceeded I made mental notes of where the offending lurches occurred. Sure, enough, as we travelled over the former "Quainton South Junction", my wooden seat gave me a very physical reminder that the switch needed attention promptly. I decided that this must be given priority treatment on the following Sunday. During open weekends at Quainton it is not practical to perform operations such as proved to be required on this occasion because of the heavy track usage. So, once I had satisfied myself that there was no danger of derailments, all I could do was to measure up and cut a new timber ready and ensure that all the necessary replacement parts were on hand on the site.
The following Sunday when I woke, the sun was shining and I had a feeling "in my bones" that it was going to be a good day. Those of you who get these feelings will know that they often are completely unjustified but nevertheless I was surrounded by an aura of optimism as I drove to Quainton Road that morning. When I arrived, two members of my gang were already on site and greeted me with the usual "where have you been all mornin?" Since the time now was about ten o'clock, a certain amount of self-control was required to prevent me issuing the answer that sprang to mind. First job was to get all the necessary tools out of the shed and take them to the place of work for the day. This lot included four Duff jacks, shovels, crow-bars, T-spanner, key hammer, spanners (various) and the ever useful axe. We began work by attempting to remove the timber which supported the nose of the switch since this had obviously been in the ground for many years and I had found it to be in a very decayed state. As regular attenders at Quainton will appreciate, the track work is made up of pieces of equipment from many of the former railway companies and this switch proved to be no exception. Every bolt and key lifted out beautifully except one. Somehow on this predominantly LNER switch, one GWR pattern bolt and retaining plate had found its way onto the point rail nose. As is usual with this type they had become well and truly rusted together and they resisted all efforts to part them. So, instead of lifting out the old timber in one piece, we had to set to with the axe and remove the timber in sections until we could get the necessary spanner beneath the nose and into a position where it could be used successfully.
For about an hour Roger, Nick and myself had been toiling alone with this stubbornly piece of soggy wood and my afore mentioned air of optimism was rapidly diminishing. Then Bob arrived, closely followed by Frank and my spirits gradually rose once more. It takes at least six people to carry in the replacement timber which was sixteen feet and seven inches long and therefore very heavy. At this point in the story (please forgive the pun) I must ask you to bear with me if I appear to be name dropping but I believe that is the best way in which I can say thank you to the regular members of P-way gang for their efforts on behalf of the QRS. In the next few minutes Don, Bill and Alan reported for duty and then Miles arrived making nine of us. With such a good turnout of staff, work proceeded and soon the job was nearing completion ahead of schedule and I started thinking of other jobs that required attention. Let me at this point qualify the previous sentence. There are always plenty of jobs that need doing on the P-way department. My part is to allocate these jobs their due priority and ensure that the staff can proceed with the jobs without undue supervision and without getting in the way of anybody else. By this time it seemed like a long time since breakfast so I decided to call a halt for lunch. It is amazing each week when I announce dinner time how you cannot see the track for dust and sandwich boxes and flasks appear from car boots and duffle bags before you can say J C Robinson.
After a certain amount of discussion along with our food and beverage, tasks were allocated and we all went our separate ways. Mick and Reg and Bob commenced work on the previously planned extension to the "Grotto". Perhaps here I might give special credit to Mick because ever since I was knee-high to a grasshopper I have loved digging holes and so appreciate the problems of sides which fall in and of clay that sticks to the spade when you try to jettison it upon the heap of spoil. When I saw the two holes Mick had dug for the roof supports for the shed extension I was filled with admiration for his efforts. I am sure that if he tried he could dig a foot square hole with a two foot wide shovel. But I am getting sidetracked. (Sorry, I have done it again haven't I?) .
Next I nominated four "volunteers" to carry a pile of sleepers which had recently fallen off the back of a lorry that needed to be placed on the sleeper pile. I do not wish to imply that they had been acquired by dubious means, merely that they had been delivered by a "tip-up" lorry. One more worker was delegated to perform with a paint brush in a few places that required attention about the shed and the remainder of us returned to the morning's place of work to complete the maintenance on the switch. This involved drilling thirteen holes beneath the chairs and screwing down the chair screws, tightening the surrounding fishplates and then replacing all the keys. When the whole switch was reassembled it was jacked up and packed wherever a void presented itself. Once this was done we collected up the tools and returned to the shed. All the other jobs were progressing well except that I found one of the "sleeper carriers" on the shed roof attacking a sheet of corrugated iron with a hammer and nails but the matter was soon ironed out. (Sorry). By this time most of the sleepers had been stacked, the painting was almost finished and the new shed was well under way. It is amazing on occasions such as this what one can find in the way of raw materials about the site. Sheets of roofing iron and assorted pieces of wood had by this time appeared from all corners and were now taking on a definite shape. The hidden talents of people often reveal themselves at Quainton. For instance, during the work on the shed a carpenter revealed himself for the first time and Miles, who I had despatched to dig some turfs for the bank behind the shed had returned with a great armful of grass. This subsequently proved to fit together as well as any jig-saw puzzle.
Gradually as things were cleared up members of the gang decided on their various times to leave. Everyone had a dip in the communal pot of Swarfega since there is no way you can work hard at Quainton for a day without getting dirty and the warm water in our bucket became rapidly dirtier also. The gang gradually dispersed after each advising me whether they would return the following Sunday and eventually I was left on my own to sweep out the shed and lock up behind me. As I looked round, a feeling of pride came over me at seeing jobs well done and I also knew that we had all enjoyed ourselves that day. Why these lads had chosen to come to Quainton for the day to carry heavy pieces of wood and metal or get dirty and covered in oil or sawdust still however remains something of a mystery to me. Are we intent on forming a museum or do we just like playing with trains? Ask any of the gang and I doubt if they could explain either. I have plenty of work for everybody who cares to turn up each Sunday so why don't you come along and see if you can find out why people become addicted to Quainton Road. I will be pleased to hear your explanations.
Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
Page Updated: 14 November 2017