31/01/21 – Not just for demonstration

Without a doubt our vehicles are most visible when they are either static in sidings or operating at Galas or during Photocharters.

But recreating bygone sites and sounds is not the sole purpose of our fleet.
The first group of vehicles continuing to do the work they were built for are the Ballast hoppers. Centre line Catfish and Sholder and Centre line Dogfish. There purpose to transport and dispense ballast were required.

The most notable case being the recent laying of the Mountsorrel branch, after the hard work by the volunteers to remove the vegetation, prepare the ground, lay the first layers of ballast and of course the track, the ballast wagons were brought into stabilise the permanent way.

We extend our thanks to Steve Cramp and the volunteers of the Mountsorrel Railway for providing these images as well as capturing the videos below which also include a Ballast Plough in operation, although not a member of our fleet it is also vital to the work being carried out.

Above I mentioned the rail being laid but how did this get moved to site? Well that’s were our next group of vehicles comes in to it, the flats, as the rail head moved forward, wagons carrying rail would drop it of, this would then be moved by hand a length at a time and the Mountsorrels Wickham trolley would follow keeping the rail no more that a length behind the rail head. Then another bulk load would be dropped off and the process continue.

Keeping with the flats we look at bridge repairs, the most recent replacement of Bridge 341 and repairs to Bridge 350. With flats being used to carry brick work for the bridge in the case of 341 and the floating pontoons for Bridge 350.

As well as Bridges, Canopies also require flat wagons. Specifically the repairs to Loughborough’s Canopy. The Tank flat was used to carry the main canopy structures from and to the work site as well as the single bolster used not only to remove materials but as a means to reduce the amount of scaffolding required to conduct the task.

With the wheel base of our examples reducing we turn to the ballast opens namely the Grampus and Rudd wagons. These are basically the railways general utility vehicles used to fetch and carry anything and everything. Ranging from ash to sleepers, spoil to vegetation.

Another popular vehicle is the Caledonian Weltrol, at one point labelled the single most active vehicle on the railway. With a long spell of use with the S&T department running out cable the full length of the railway. At this present moment it stands in Quorn yard with the tender tank from a certain GWR Castle class locomotive upon it, stored awaiting fitment to its chassis.

Staying with locomotives, both of the road and rail variety we have two vehicles used to store water. 1408 being the primary water source for filling locomotives at Swithland and A4513 having been used for traction engines at Quorn.

The list of work carried out by these vehicles can continue and this can of course include Film and TV work which would create its own long list of appearances.
But I hope this gives a little insight in to those aging departmental vehicles that don’t really appear to do anything but occupy sidings. As we get closer to the completion of the gap these wagons will once again be called upon to carry out there vital work and once that and any possible doubling of the track to Leicester is carried out they will still be ready for the next set of bridge repairs or bank slip or major civil project the GCR wish to use them for.

But wait I have forgotten 4 vital vehicles in our fleet, every time they move they are conducting the work they were built for and appear in a few of our images. They are used for there original purpose even when part of a demonstration train. I am talking none other than the focus of our last feature.

We do have plans to work on our departmental fleet and return them to their Black and Straw lettered livery but after we have completed the more vulnerable freight vehicles, They will however continue there work and be available for any engineering needs, after all there is a sense of authenticity in a rake of rusty and battered wagons going about there business.

We also wish to thank the GCR for supplying images for this feature and credit to those photographers who captured our vehicles at work.
David Howdle for the vehicles atop bridge 350 unloading pontoons
Graham Wignall for Rails being unloaded behind 47406 & Track ballasting from a Grampus at Swithland Sidings
Tony Sparks for Loughborough Canopy work images.

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