August 2004

The main task for the group over the last few months has been to paint the up-platform side of 'Grace' in chocolate and cream. The sharp-eyed amongst you may have noticed that the cream has been extended along the guard's window, whereas on the other side the cream stops at the middle door. The reason is to maintain a style in keeping with the MPO 'Martha'. Also on 'Grace', the door edging of the guard's and middle doors has been replaced and the hand rails have been refitted. The end gutter and electrical connection box were replaced by the skilful hands of Ron. There were a few delays to the work when rain stopped play or shunting had to be done. Nevertheless, the painting team of Alan, Tim, Ralph and John (joined occasionally by Patrick, Ron and Steve) are justifiably pleased with the first coat of chocolate and cream and their work so far. When 'Grace' is finished, the team hope to be able to start on the Restaurant Car.

Terry and Richard have been working on the fencing - an important area - and, as light relief, Ralph brought along his HO gauge German DB 4-6-2. It's a particularly impressive model, making exactly the right sound for a steam engine.

Medical bulletin. John Pegler is making a return visit to hospital for more attention to his leg - and Ron Conn has had a cataract operation. Best wishes for a speedy recovery to both.

Welcome to two new members of the gang - Alan and Paul - both of whom have already made useful contributions to the workload.

The section of the Gang organised by Dave Burton are Ron, Robin, Patrick and Alasdair. Now that their huge commitment to completing Avon Riverside has ended, with the help of John Payne they have turned their attention to the Kitchen Car, replacing the oven and refitting the kitchen. They have also assembled and anchored a number of picnic tables as well as carrying out general maintenance of the picnic area and the site as a whole. Well done chaps and thanks for all the hard work!

The gardens have received a good deal of intensive work by Richard, John, Olive and Bob - and their combined effort has resulted in an award for the Best Local Garden.

 March 2004

Two of our team – Alan and John – are continuing to work on the leaking windows in the SK coach. We have already replaced two and are hoping to have four new windows in by the start of the running season. New window surrounds have been ordered from Rogers Joinery and we are now putting glass back into the frames. This follows many happy (!!!) hours replacing bolts which had sheared, bolting the skin to the “z” section of the sill where the spot welds had rusted away and, in some cases, bolting in new steel sections. It’s tedious work but well worth it in the end. Two new foot boards have been fitted on the platform side and all the good ones have been painted. The boards not yet treated will be replaced as funds permit.

Ron Conn has been working with us on the last two Mondays as his job at Tyntsfield has ended for the moment. As reported by the Stationmaster, Ralph has finished the new cupboard in the Booking Hall and it looks splendid. Richard has continued working on the gardens and has found some rusty steps. With Patrick’s help they have been brought to the workshop where Tim and Patrick have been painting them.

Sadly we have to report the passing of John Firks. John has been a familiar face at the Railway over many years and will be best remembered for his work on carriage painting – a task he particularly enjoyed until ill health in recent months prevented further involvement. Our condolences go to his wife and family.

Unfortunately the rest of the team have been hit by a few health problems. Ralph and Terry were in hospital a few weeks ago and Terry has had to return again. We think it’s the appeal of nurses because Richard and John Pegler have joined them! We wish them all a speedy recovery.

 February 2004

As reported last month, leaking windows were high on the list of urgent repairs. The first serious culprit in the corridor coach proved to be a bit of a s*d (apparently an old railwayman’s term - Stuart Hobday). The repair took longer than anticipated as the wooden sealing strips had disintegrated and new ones had to be made. On top of this, the steel window surround and studs had to be repaired and even the glass had to be replaced as it was too small. However the new window is now sealed and all that remains is to replace the newly varnished surround, the panelling and, finally, the seats. New sealing strips are now on order, so this should help to speed up work on the next window.

Work has begun on repairs to the near side footboards and one has already been removed ready for a replacement to be fitted. In the meantime, Ralph has concentrated on making a new storage cupboard in the Booking Hall, Terry put on another of his fascinating slide shows detailing the history of preservation at Bitton and other members have been busy gardening and carrying out repairs to the fencing. Although the MPO is not back at Bitton yet, leaking windows and foot board replacement will give everyone enough work for the foreseeable future.

Calls for make up went unheeded when HTV came to film on 23rd January. The mid-week gang were asked to make up a “work gang” to illustrate the work being undertaken at Avon Riverside. The Manchester Ship Canal engine No 70 took a works train down the line where, for the benefit of the camera, everyone set to with a will, shovelling clay which had the consistency of sticky toffee. Two members of the team even allowed themselves to be interviewed. The results finally made the small screen as the last item on the very last HTV news (before it became ITV News) on Sunday 1st February.

Hollywood scouts are apparently on their way.

 January 2004

At the end of November a mini Treasure Hunt finally revealed the whereabouts of the missing toilet and washbasin for the Bicester Coach.  Consequently we were able to clean them ready to be plumbed in. A seat suffering from water damage in one of the corridor coaches was removed and exchanged for the seat which was to be re-upholstered. The roof of the Bear’s coach was scraped and the opportunity was taken to have an end-of-the-year session to tidy the workshop.

Members of the mid-week gang were heavily involved in the Santa Specials during December. Richard and Ralph turned traffic cop in the car park, with Ralph doing extra duties with the mince pies and Richard also showing a neat hand at fire-lighting in the Booking Hall. John Pegler was on platform duty and alan and John Whale handed out mince pies.

We were very pleased to have a visit from John Smith on 15th December, who left with the hint that he may be returning to help out once again in the New Year. A few days later, Terry gave an excellent slide show which revealed the progress made at Bitton since 1972.

As for the current worksheet, one of the corridor coaches has a leaking window which will be resealed as soon as possible and the footboards on the nearside of the coaches will also be replaced this month.

With the MPO Coach returning soon, there will be plenty of work to be done to make it ready for service and, once the DMU trailer car can be prised out of Long Marston, there will be more than enough work to keep the gang occupied.

November 2003

Since early summer, carriage painting has been a priority.  'Ruth' was in the worst condition so occupied much of the time.  Hard work through extreme heat and rain (there was some - honest!) eventually saw the second topcoat finished on 29th September. The SK - No. 25040 - was next, having been left half-painted from last year.  This coach was in better condition but the paint had crazed and had to be sanded back to bare metal.  The weather has certainly been kind and on 24th October the remaining half of the coach received its first top-coat.  This means that we now have a rake of four coaches painted maroon on the up-platform side, presenting a much better face to anyone on the Railway Path.  Confusingly, 'Ruth' is still chocolate and cream on the down-platform side!! Work on 'Grace' has also started and some of the primer has been applied.

During the summer the majority of the woodwork on the station building has been painted and looks much smarter and cleaner. The Telephone Box has also been painted and windows are currently being made and fitted.  Now all we need is an old A and B button coin box and we can connect to the network!!!!!!!!

The gardens have been at their best during the summer months thanks to a good deal of hard work planting and clearing weeds.  A number of Spring-flowering plants have now been planted and should provide a good show for next year.  All the members of the Mid-Week Gang should be thanked for their hard work and dedication.  Probably few of our visitors would consciously appreciate that it was the fact that everywhere looks fresh and inviting which helps to attract them back to the Railway time after time.

Make sure that you let the Gang know what a good job they are doing for the Railway.

Finally, on a sad note, Colin Hyde - who helped out on reorganising the storage and workshop - passed away on 17th October. His death was very sudden and unexpected, and it seems only a few weeks ago that he was asking everyone if they wanted tea or coffee.

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This page last updated by Tony Wray on 14/8/2004.