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Quainton News Archive - No. 58 - Autumn / Winter 1985 / 86
A Pumping Type Tale - Bruce Murray
It all started with that phrase "Is there anything I can do to help?" Unfortunately, I had said this to Dusty Miller one day when I was in a helpful mood. Without any hesitation Dusty screamed YES and promptly handed me a letter from the Luton March Farm Toc H Group, suggesting a novel form of fund-raising. So it came to pass that a Pump Trolley Marathon had to be arranged. Toc H had in previous years held successful Marathons of a similar nature on both the Nene Valley and Dean Forest railways and this year Quainton was to be the target of their pain-inducing idea!
The idea they said was to (a) find a pump trolley; (b) collect together a reasonable supply of man / woman power; and (c) using a combination of (a) and (b), complete as many miles as possible in 24 hours. Easy!
It was decided to hold the event over the August Bank Holiday Weekend, but, because of the need to run our passenger trains, it was agreed that the most suitable time would be from noon on Saturday to noon on Sunday, thereby only losing one hour of running time for the train. The original intention was to use the new up yard running line to run the trolley on, because this would give us maximum publicity for our second demonstration line. The fact that being newly-laid would mean a smoother ride may also have had a slight bearing on this decision. However, because the QRS boundary fence is on the yard side of our line, it was decided to use the down yard, as this has the fence between us and BR.
Finding a trolley was not so difficult, as Dave Alexander keeps his Velocipede on site. Finding the man power proved slightly more difficult, but, in the end, enough bodies 'volunteered'. The quarter mile of track was measured out exactly, starting from a position opposite the signal box and finishing just after the end of the short siding. The method for continuous operation of the trolley was to have one team of eight people from either Quainton or Toc H on the go at any one time. Four people would be stationed at each end of the line, person one would pump the trolley to the end, it would then be turned and person two would then pump it back. This pattern was then to be repeated until the next relieve team arrived. Unfortunately, teams of eight could not be mustered, because of other commitments on the part of some people (sleeping, drinking, etc.), but this really only meant that those who were pumping just had a little more work to do.
After the dates and times had been sorted out, our Marketing Manager, Mark Toynbee, was brought onto the scene, so that a good publicity coverage could be arranged. Mark thought that the whole idea was mad, but excellent, and he was hopeful that the Marathon would greatly interest the media. The only disappointment that I had was when I asked Mark to join our team he mumbled something about getting married and being on honeymoon - and wasn't it a shame that he could not help! Mark arranged all the press releases and also arranged for the new Miss Aylesbury lovely Paula Mitchell, to come along and start the whole thing off on the Saturday.
The great day arrived and I appeared on site at 9 am to get everything ready. The trolley was placed in its starting position and I stood back and stared at it, wondering if the machine could last the distance without falling apart. The Toc H gang arrived at about 10.30 am and made themselves at home in the Terrapin building. Miss Aylesbury arrived at 11.30 am and was greeted by Dusty and myself. Paula was shown the trolley, but as it was explained to her how it worked a strange and worried expression inched its way across her face. The press soon appeared and Paula posed for photos on the trolley. Soon the dreaded hour arrived and Paula started to trundle off down the line, with myself running along side just in case anything went wrong. A smile soon replaced the frown on Paula's face as she found out just how easy the trolley was to operate and soon she was quite enjoying herself. At the far end of the line the team turned the trolley round and then Paula announced that she would like to take the trolley back again. This was bad news for me, as the run had just about killed me, but whilst I thought about this Paula set off back towards the station and so I set off in hot pursuit gasping for breath. When we arrived back at the start, Paula, along with the rest of her party from the Aylesbury Junior Chamber of Commerce was taken on a tour of the site by Dusty. The teams then settled down to the hard but slightly boring task of pumping the trolley up and down the line.
Everything was fine until 2.57 pm, when disaster struck. Whilst running over the Wembley point, there was a crashing noise - and I looked up just in time to see Mark Cook dismounting with a pained look on his face. The front axle had sheared. A barrage of naughty words rent the air as the trolley was dismantled to enable the wheel and broken axle pieces to be removed. Was it repairable? In the end it was, but it took 2½ hours to effect a sound repair and reassemble the trolley. Many thanks and much beer is owed to Mark Cook (recovered), Dave Morphew and Trevor Page for the splendid job that they did in getting the trolley rail borne again.
The action then resumed, with the teams taking it in turns to run the trolley. As night closed in floodlights were set up, along with a long line of Tilley lamps, so that we could continue to see where we were going (thanks to Bob Smith and Miles Taylor). Toc H had to bear the brunt of the night time sessions, because QRS people had to open the site on Sunday and, therefore, had to rest! However, at around midnight, I was joined by a few Quainton lads, who had decided that the QRS flag should be kept flying throughout the hours of darkness (was it the effect of a visit to The Bell, I wonder?). These fine but slightly swaying fellows who kept my by now slighting flagging morale up were Adrian Aylward, John Booker, Simon Field and Jim Teague. We put in a couple of hours while Toc H had a rest, but when they returned at 3 am we did not really have much to do, so we kept going by conning Bob and Miles out of their weekend supply of beer! Thanks chaps. At about 4 am we started to feel the cold, so decided to build a bonfire. Apparently the sound of breaking up wood travels far and wide in the still of the night.
Dawn broke at about 5.30 am and, amazingly, the trolley was still going. Some Quainton people arrived to relieve Toc H and still the trolley kept going. At around 9 am tile trolley must have decided that it had taken all the punishment it was going to, because it started to derail every time it went round the curve near the ground frame, but only in the up direction. All sorts of remedies were tried, but all failed, so the only thing to do was to impose a speed restriction on the offending section of track. By 11 am as many of the lads and lasses as possible who had taken part were gathered for the exciting (?) climax to the whole affair.
Jane Wark, a reporter with Radio Oxford, arrived at about 11.30 am and conducted interviews with some of us. She asked for some sound effects of the trolley on the move, so there was a unanimous vote that, to obtain these, she would have to pump the trolley for a quarter of a mile herself. Jane accepted the challenge and enjoyed the experience, although I had to walk along side the trolley holding onto the tape recorder! Jane then walked back to the signal box to cover the final length of the Marathon for her radio report. The honour of the final quarter mile of torture fell to myself.
As soon as the Marathon had finished, we cleared everyone off the line, took the trolley off the rails and gave the single line token to Trevor, who was patiently waiting with Met No. 1 to go and fetch the vintage train. By now I was feeling pretty tired, but, because of the need to tidy up and clear away tools, lamps, etc, I did not manage to get away from the site until about 1.45 pm. In the end we had managed to cover 131½ miles - not bad considering the problems that we encountered. Some bright spark suggested that we could do it all again next year. Any volunteers?
I would like to thank all the people who took part. It was fun wasn't it? The Aylesbury Junior Chamber of Commerce must also be thanked for allowing Miss Aylesbury to attend free of charge. Special thanks are due to Dave Alexander for loaning us the trolley - it really worked well, although I am sure that Dave was glad to hear the clock strike noon on Sunday. Lastly, thanks must go to Ron Kennedy of Toc H for organising his side, because without them the event would never have come about in the first place.
Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
Page Updated: 18 November 2017