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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 32 - Summer 1977
Activities of the VAMES - By D J Andrew
Down among the bushes beyond the Down Yard, things have been stirring for the past eighteen months. For anyone who is not aware of the activities going on in this area of the QRS site, let me now inform you that the VAMES are busy burrowing their way through the undergrowth. The Vale of Aylesbury Model Engineering Society is hard at work attempting to build a complete small scale railway for the purposes of running members locomotives and carrying passengers on QRS Open Days.
After the preliminary work of surveying and planning the proposed line it was pegged out on the site ready for the hard graft to begin in January '76. A ground level track was planned in the shape of a large oval which provides facilities for running locomotives built for 3⅜", 5" and 7¼" gauges.
The long straight which runs parallel to the down headshunt, but at the top of the bank has an up gradient of 1:100. It is planned to site the station complex about midway along this part of the track. The straight begins to the south on an embankment approximately 3ft high, and runs into a cutting about 1½ft deep as it enters the north curve of about 45ft radius.
Halfway round this curve the line passes under first a footbridge, and secondly another branch line which runs from the station complex to the steaming bays. At this point the cutting is at its deepest at about 2½ft.
Coming out of the curve the cutting diminishes and the line falls at a gradient of 1:200. At ground level it skirts a large oak tree and enters a second cutting which although short is deep, at 3ft in the deepest point.
Here begins the south curve again of 45ft radius. Round this curve the line runs level but because the ground falls away quite rapidly at this point the embankment soon reaches its maximum height of 3ft.
During 1976 work has gone along well and stayed reasonably close to schedule, although as with many clubs the work has been done largely by the few stalwart members while the remainder look on from a safe distance offering words of approval and little else.
With the aid of a JCB on two occasions and a great deal of pick and shovel work the line of the permanent way has been cut through the Quainton clay and its route can now clearly be seen. The majority of the embankment has been built up with the soil excavated from the cuttings. Where the line runs above ground level it is supported on upright sleepers set in the ground with cross-pieces between in the style of Stonehenge, as anyone who saw the south curve before earthing up will bear witness.
During the summer of '76 the clay became so hard it could well have been mistaken for solid bedrock and digging became almost impossible. The Quainton clay is quite remarkable in its ability to change its consistency from a sticky mess to concrete and back again to slurry.
By February 1977 the problem was too much water and the cracks in the path up to the site had closed up. The ground was again unworkable! Time was not wasted because about 200ft of track was prepared off site and with better weather it was laid in time for the Easter Open Days when passenger carrying was possible on a short section of this permanent way using the well known Pannier tank, Pansy, as motive power.
Since Easter one engine, a Simplex has been available because Pansy needs overhaul, but there are four 5" gauge locomotives being built by VAMES regulars which should be coming into service quite soon.
Last winter's heavy rain showed that drainage would be necessary and a covered land drain is being laid from the cutting to the south end, under the railway, and towards the stream. The area will then be reseeded and rolled. About ⅔ of the earthworks are done including the deep cuttings and the bed of 8" of granite chips for the wooden sleepers will follow. A working party is in action on the first Sunday of each month and Douglas Todd of Waddesdon, the VAMES Chairman, will be pleased to hear from interested members as will Wing Commander Brian North of Aylesbury. The present 210ft of running track is temporarily fitted to sleepers and will be realigned following distortion from clay movement. The next passenger carrying stock will be the straddle-seat type with cast aluminium diamond frame bogies. There's plenty to do with VAMES and the narrow gauges certainly are proving an attraction to visitors to Quainton.
Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
Page Updated: 12 November 2017