The Branch Line Society


Andover Anchovy
Sunday 21st October 2018

Report by Peter Deacon

Over 30 members assembled eagerly at the site of the Andover Model Engineering Society (AMES), south of the A303, between Andover and Wherwell. Their lease from the estate (of the 6th Marquess Camden, 7th Earl Camden, 6th Earl of Brecknock, 7th Viscount Bayham, 7th Baron Camden - all the same person!) part prohibits any opening to the public, and we considered ourselves very fortunate to have the chance to visit, explore and (most importantly!) ride.


'Humble and hearty thanks' should be extended to Simon Mortimer for arranging the visit and to the host members, who did everything they could to help us achieve our somewhat eccentric aims! They did say that it was far more enjoyable than running empty trains or light engines. has 40 pictures.

The railway is situated in 35 acres, and during WWII in the run up to 'D Day', about 35,000 tons of ammunition was stored under canvas well camouflaged by trees; evidence of associated earthworks and concrete remains. The site is mostly wooded, 'leaves on the line' being a far greater problem for
them than NR because of the difference in scale! To combat this AMES has a homemade rotating leaf brusher seen making its rather eccentric way through Red Rice, the main station, as we arrived. There is an extensive complex ground level layout (now nearly two miles long) of 5" and 7¼" gauges, and (the circuit bottom middle on the plan) a simpler 1,361ft loop of raised 5/3½/2½" gauge track on posts.

The more complex original part of the ground level track, serving the stations, sheds and connections to steaming and loading bays, is dual gauge. However, the very lengthy extensions - several of them, built in different years since - are just 7¼" through and around the extensive wooded hinterland, going right out to the edges of the leased land - delineated by the surrounding estate roads (see plan).

Track Plan

Clatford Halt; 0-4-0 steam loco on a single carriage and the Drajeeling steam loco to the left.
[© Simon Mortimer 2018]

The motive power provided for our trips was varied with 11 locos used. The stars for the steam fans were a model of a Darjeeling & Himalaya, Sharp Stewart 0-4-0 saddle tank (No786), of, I think 3" or 4" to the foot scale and an 0-4-0 saddle tank of a generic industrial design of a similar scale. Both were built by their respective drivers and performed splendidly! In addition, we were treated to a number of diesel outline locos, but most were battery electric powered. One, on the 5", was a scale model of a 'Baby Deltic' No5906; another was a ride-on model of a Ruston industrial loco with a real diesel engine - diesel hydraulic Planet and one was a 'minimal gauge' Bo-Bo with a centre cab (No714).

With the complexities of the layout, and the fact that members swapped 'haulage' and routes at will, it is almost impossible to summarise everyone's itinerary; indeed after the start some participants were hardly seen again for several hours such was the extent and thickly wooded nature of the site! All I can say is that I, and indeed most of our group, covered nearly all the track. This included the station loop at Camden that was difficult to access from the main line and was very rusty on the exit such is the rarity of use, the two sidings off this loop, and at least one of the sidings in the carriage shed if not two including some additional hand pushage for some. The only missed bit was the line leading to the loading/steam bays turntable, which we were told had had several derailments! One link at Red Rice station (bottom left on plan), initially unavailable due to a points failure, was done later after extensive work on the points mechanism. The complexity of my own travels can be judged by the fact that I went through Clatford, the station at the most distant end of line, five times, to cover all the various loops!

Almost every participant or small groups of participants had their own itinerary but 'comparing notes' towards the end it was possible to iron out any omissions and everyone appeared to have scored the track very thoroughly - the friendly drivers were happy to take requests; nothing was too much trouble. Your BLN Editor felt it was the closest he has seen to a 'railway maze' and 'ever decreasing circles' but fortunately all lines eventually lead back to Red Rice station. This just left us the issue of the new '2018' extension.... (arrowed on the diagram) because it wasn't open ... even finished yet!

The rare crossover at Clatford Halt, which we were initially told could not be done, but where there's a will/BLS party there's a way...
[© Simon Mortimer 2018]

The final excursion exceeded expectations - the new loop was under construction at the start of our visit with quite a section of track still to lay and ballast. The organiser received word from our Gen Sec that the three man construction gang had suggested they might finish it 'today' but occasional checks indicated that, despite some remarkably quick progress, the odd panel remained unfixed and much ballasting was needed. With the afternoon ticking away it was suggested by our organiser to this team that they could finish if they had assistance, particularly shifting ballast from the dumper truck bucket to the track... answer...'yes'!

There were plenty of spare shovels which were soon wielded by our members, others tamped the track and brushed ballast to level. The AMES member who had kept well ahead of his ballasters all afternoon was now squeezed by ballast from both sides while cutting, drilling the last panel to size and bolting it. This was completed during our visit, with sterling assistance from 8-10 members including our GS, Editor and organiser, wielding shovels of ballast alongside several of our hosts, as the final panel was bolted into place - although without any 'golden spike'!

Your organiser then had the distinct pleasure of walking back through the woods to Red Rice station where the main AMES contact Godfrey was enjoying a well earned cuppa and clearly thinking our visit was almost over, to be told he had just acquired a new 2018 extension and the engineers had requested a few trains to help bed it all in! After a slightly bemused pause your organiser observed there were still two trains available in the station and plenty of BLS members left to weigh them down (word of the impending very new track had spread, although some wondered what certain members had been up to); so it was all aboard and off we went. In fact there was a very short train already on circuit and a member from Banbury had a surprise when at 16.00 he swung right and found himself the first ever passenger over a section of track that didn't exist when he had set off... Our party's trains were the first to grice the new line! Probably a BLS first helping to complete, then do, an extension! is a video of one of the first trains taking the extension (Simon Mortimer).

Then it was over to the Clubhouse for excellent and much welcome homemade cakes with hot drinks, a great finale to a splendid day which had been remarkably warm and sunny throughout.

A Planet battery loco provided a shuttle between the sidings either end of Lower Wherwel, to the left is the railway's leaf brusher (is it a Brush Type 4 by any chance?).
[© Simon Mortimer 2018]

Form an orderly queue (never otherwise)! Participants await a shuttle in and out of the carriage shed. Meanwhile, elsewhere, others were busy shoveling tamping and levelling ballast...
[© Simon Mortimer 2018]

The elevated railway
[© Andover MES 2018]

The elevated railway.
[© Simon Mortimer 2018]

Another view of the elevated railway.
[© Simon Mortimer 2018]

Track panel drilling and connecting. The railway must have an excellent quantity surveyor as the ballast in the dumper truck was exactly the right amount to complete the extension. Note participants in short sleeves in the background, it was that warm.
[© Simon Mortimer 2018]

The last hole is being drilled and the initial ballasting is almost complete. Far right Peter Deacon is building up his strength and gathering his thoughts to write this report.
[© Simon Mortimer 2018]

Ruston on the VERY recently completed extension; note that the dumper truck is now empty of ballast.
[© Simon Mortimer 2018]

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