The Spinney Light Railway

2013 - 2014 The Traverser Winter

The Task

Additional works were to provide point detection at all facing points and to increase the voltage supplied to the sluggish / sticking point at the top of the branch. Bob Thackery continued his work on refurbishing Dingly signal box.

start of ashpit

The picture shows the old layout at the front of the engine shed just as we started the project.

Notice the sharp curvature of the right hand road and its proximity to the Bay Tree that gives the nearby station its name.

Also note how anyone preparing an engine just outside the shed must inevitably kneel on dirty ballast / old ash whilst oiling round.

Finally notice the wet weather. This was a winter of many storms; the year that the main railway line at Dawlish was washed away and when thousands of homes near the Thames in Surrey were flooded and rendered uninhabitable, The sandy soil at the railway drains quickly so we did not flood but almost every workday saw us in wet weather gear battling against the rain.

Late November - Early December

Start of ashpit Moving the materials

The excavation was started on the 23rd of November and continued on the 7th of December. We underestimated the sheer labour involved in shifting such a large (5 cubic metres?) volume of spoil, but by the end of the second day we had our hole.

The second picture shows the delivery site for the 400 bricks, 1.7 tonnes of ballast, 850kg of sand and 16 bags cement. All to be moved to the worksite by the engine shed. Added fun was the delivery lorry punching a hole in the tarmac as it put down feet for its crane.

Much of the spoil was used to build up ground near Old Oak for a future carriage shed.

21st December 2013

The forecast said it would rain and it did. but it was a mild 10 degrees.
The wall for the outside engine shed inspection pit was built.

Wet bricklay from Bay Tree 22 Dec 2013 Wet brick laying starts 22 Dec 2013

We put up a tarpaulin to cover the work. Occasionally it would blow off the roof and dump the bricks holding it down on an unsuspecting bricklayer. Alternatively, rain would overflow at its edge, drenching a labourer standing there. To say it was wet would be an understatement.

January 2014

point indicator at Spinney

The first January session was again beset with rain and little progress was made on the traverser project. However, many sleepers were prepared and storm damage was tidied.

The S & T team unveiled the unique indicator for drivers at Spinney shown on the right. Its purpose is to detect the point ahead and will show red if detection fails and yellow with successful detection.

Traverser construction

On January 18th Alan S, Mick and David G spent the day (in the dry) at Micks garage / workshop constructing the metalwork for the main project.

The dim workshop was lit up by the spectacular blue light of welding and firework like display from angle grinding.

Nick and Robin were also valiant home workers this winter, preparing the point control levers and refurbishing the shed points themselves so the switchblades fitted properly and smoothly when resting against the stock rails.


The first February session found us facing unexpected challenges. The not quite vertical alignment of the shed wall proved critical to the traverser alignment and, on the yard side, the bricks were impossible to drill.

It was a day of some disappointment and we went away just a bit sadder and wiser.

But February 15th saw us re-invigorated and back on track!

Checking Traverser Levels Mixer Down!

Those of us involved in the construction of the traverser will treat these devices with greater respect now we know how critical is their setting up. ALL the axes must be at 90°.

So, rising to the challenge, Dave M carefully laid the new drillable capping exactly horizontally and at exactly the right level while Alan S provided fixings and wedges for the channel on the shed wall to be level in BOTH its horizontal planes.

The right hand picture shows a minor catastrophe when the rumbling cement mixer rumbled itself off its supporting slabs and collapsed still rumbling on the ground.
Once put back in place it appeared no worse for wear but the event will probably become the folk memory of the winter.

March and April

Bob testing signals Testing the points indicator

Two pictures of the S & T at work show Bob fixing a fault in the shed departure signal and Adrian testing the new point indicator at Spinney.

A minor S & T tragedy was water damage to the block instrument at Dingly. Alan A dismantled and repaired the device, but it was an unnecessary task and it might be good to
take these instruments into dry storage for the winter in future, but will we remember?

The approach points take shape Extra day

And above the project takes shape, helped by an extra day - right hand photo - note the rain shelter required again!

Interlude on the full size railway

The loco All of us
June and Alan Annika and Jamie

The 26th of April saw the team in two locations. A sober few carried on with work at the Spinney but most revelled in a trip on the 'Real Ale Train' on the Mid Hants Railway. Many took the opportunity to bring the wives who support us in our hobby - thank you ladies!.
The pictures speak for themselves but anoraks may wish to know the loco number: 45379.
It was an added to bonus to learn that Annika and Jamie (bottom right picture) had 'named the day' and would be married in Sweden in July.

May and nearly there

Final traverser construction

Extra days at the railway are becoming traditional as the prospect of running trains comes closer and we kept to tradition by putting in just such an extra day on the 3rd of May,

The picture on the left shows Alan S and Mike C securing rails to the traverser. Initially Alan S planned to be there with just Mike and his friend Paul, but word spread whilst on the RAT (above) and in the end nine of the team were present to ballast the track in the shed yard and otherwise tidy the railway.

May 10th - still nearly there

Heather in Old Oak Coaling point construction
Shed points nearly there Testing the traverser
Top left: Heather cleaning Old Oak; Heather cleaned all the signal boxes which, as usual were full of the spiders cobwebs and dust which gather over every winter.

Top right : Dave Marsh and Dave Mowatt constructing the future coal store - Doesn't it look clean!

Bottom left :The Smith team progressing the points.

Bottom right :Clan Line testing the completed traverser - the unsupported clean sleepers emphasising the 'nearly' there.

Not photographed but very much appreciated, were the other jobs going on, David D 'gardening' so trains were not impeded by brambles, Bob T making the telephones work, Richard S with the signalling, Alan A tidying the cables revealed at the side of the new traverser pit and, of course, June with the tea.

A bonus to add spice to the day was Clan Line in steam albeit without a cab as Cliff proved the minor adjustments he had made to the loco over the winter.

May 24th - Just about finished

And we ran three locos

Alan A installs steps The new approach to the shed
The pictures show Alan A installing steps so we can get out of the pit we have created and, on the right, the new approach to the shed. Notice the point levers with the long operating rods so that a driver approaching the shed can set his route without dismounting.
There were still odd jobs to do - lights to install in the pit and masonry paint to the walls and floor but we were now ready to play trains.

Team 2014

Team 2014

Left to right

Back row, Bob T, Robin, Dave P, Cliff, Mike C, Dave M, Alan S, David G, Alan A

Front row, Scott, Tim, Jamie, Heather, Nick, Shaun, David D, June, Adrian, Richard and Phoebe making sure we did not move.

Missing: Mike H and Tom