The Branch Line Society


Chasewater Track Chaser
Sunday 8th March 2015

Fifty six participants reported to Chasewater (Country) Park, now a far cry from the 'glory days' when the reservoir was the centre of a network of grimy colliery railways, pits and spoil tips. It was built in 1797 to supply the Wyrley & Essington Canal and subsequently the 160 mile Birmingham area canal network. Most present enjoyed a (rather too) leisurely full English breakfast at Brownhills West included in the fare. Eventually our railtour set off behind North British Locomotive 27876 'D2911' with Shark brakevan 993736, Riding Van 544440 and WD brakevan 11022 masquerading as 'NCB Littleton No2.' The Riding Van was a grey former Engineers' tool van with a centre table, good visibility, plenty of room and most importantly a hot stove! Departing at midday from line 4, with involvement of blue HE6678 (ex-NCB Staffordshire) from the end loading dock (0m 00ch), the tour ran through Brownhills West loop, then took the new 2014 alignment at the station throat. The double curve here has very recently been straightened to make it easier and safer to shunt whilst allowing for a possible future headshunt and loop there. A fast run was made through Norton Lakeside to Chasetown (Church Street) taking the station run round loop to the end of line at 1m 66ch. The platform line was then traversed as far as the spring points at the end of the run round loop would allow (these have an extremely strong spring and, last time it was clipped, took three days to repair!). Then back to Chasewater Heaths station, where the party was delighted to find that the three sidings normally completely blocked by motley rolling stock, that looked when we had passed earlier as if they hadn't moved for many years, had been cleared onto the running line back towards Brownhills by 08202. All three sidings were cautiously and thoroughly traversed and then the tour returned to Chasewater Heaths platform ( for a very welcome hot drink in the café, whilst the cleared rolling stock was returned to its home.

Back at Brownhills West, the 2'0" Chasewater Narrow Gauge Railway ran especially for the party (a relatively rare event). Multiple trips were made 10 at a time in ex-NCB colliery manrider 003 with a 4- wheeled 1960 built Ruston Hornsby (441424). These started from Hawthorn Halt; included the end of line there, the steeply graded high level line to Pen Y Bryn, see and the pièce de résistance low level line, not used by public trains, into the loco shed. During this time (and for most of the day), participants were able to visit the interesting museum which focuses on local railway artefacts, the Heritage Centre, workshops, loco shed and signal box. Of particular interest was a plan kindly produced by our member and former Chasewater Chairman, David Bathurst. This was the former Brownhills layout and showed how it relates to the current one after it was moved, much extended and rebuilt to a higher standard for construction of the M6 Toll Road. Complimentary refreshments were available at the station. Resuming on the standard gauge at Brownhills West, it was the increasingly familiar and successful BLS-style pattern of a second locomotive (08202) clearing out a line, the tour traversing it and then the stock being replaced. In this way, the tour covered the yard headshunt to the buffers, back to the loco shed door, the four lines to the Heritage Centre Doors (other than the very end of line 4 where the top of Brereton signal box was sitting on a well wagon. It was visited in its previous location by a Society party on 24 July 2013.) Then the two workshop sidings (lines 9 & 10) were similarly covered. Our train also completed the station platform (line 3); of particular interest was its connection from there to the run round headshunt not normally used by passenger carrying trains. Another superb day, the components all came together nicely at this very friendly railway notable for unusually having so many young volunteers; always good to see.