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Royal Arsenal Railway - Preservation

Discussion in 'Narrow Gauge Railways' started by Ian Bull, Jun 22, 2011.

  1. Ian Bull

    Ian Bull New Member

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    Hullo everyone,

    The Royal Arsenal Railway System in South East London might be the unsung hero of British railways. It crammed 130 miles of line into just two square miles and 70 of those miles boasted the unusual gauge of 18 inches. At the systems zenith during the First World War some 80 narrow gauge locomotives would be operating at any one time together with 2,500 wagons and 22 carriages for the 24 hour per day passenger service. Today, of the narrow gauge equipment only one complete steam locomotive, a handful of diesels, some bogie underframes, and two complete wagons survive.

    A serious effort is now underway to bring something of the RAR back. Some of the NG equipment escaped scrapping by moving to the Bicton Woodland Railway in the 1960s. In 2000 it was sold on to the Waltham Abbey Royal Gunpowder Mills Trust in Essex. The WARGM have decided to concentrate on their 2 foot 6 inch gauge line and accepted the suggestion of a restoration and operation loan from the Crossness Engines Trust. This will see the Avonside 0-4-0T 1748/1916 'Woolwich' returned to steam within two years. Crossness pumping station is a most appropriate location as it neighbours the former Royal Arsenal and the locomotives would have worked very much within sight of their new home. All the ex RAR equipment at Waltham will transfer to Crossness in the near future.

    Ongoing progress at Crossness can be seen at...

    http://www.therailwayproject.blogspot.com/

    and some photographs of the transfer of 'Woolwich' on 18th May 2011 here...

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ianbullsphotos/sets/72157626767521099/

    This move brought excellent local press reporting and several minutes of coverage on BBC1 TVs London regional news programme.

    Crossness pumping station will be in steam for a rare open day on Sunday June 26th and 'Woolwich' will be on display for the last time prior to dismantling for overhaul. All are most welcome and if your appetite is whetted we'd be delighted to welcome you as a member in this worthwhile project. Visiting details are here, just click the 'visit' tab...

    http://www.crossness.org.uk/

    I should mention that public access to Crossness is strictly limited to open days only.

    The Crossness Engines themselves are arguably the finest examples of Victorian stationary steam plant in the World. They are the four largest rotative beam engines constructed, won the Institute of Mechanical Engineers Heritage Award in 2009 and are grade one listed. Many people, on entering the engine house for the first time emit an audible gasp.

    I hope the above is of interest and we all look forward to seeing you.

    All the best

    Ian Bull
     

    Attached Files:

  2. Rumpole

    Rumpole Well-Known Member

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    Good news, and what an excellent looking little loco!
     
  3. John Webb

    John Webb Member

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    Interesting to hear - as a former Woolwich resident whose parents met in an Arsenal drawing office during WW2 and who has some memories of seeing the Arsenal railway system from near Plumstead station, I'm glad to hear of your efforts - must get down some time.
     
  4. 48DL

    48DL Member

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    That's good, now, all we need is Carnegie to be cared for as well
     
  5. Ian Bull

    Ian Bull New Member

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    Hullo Ian,

    Carnegie' is definitely part of the scheme, without question.

    She does present problems though being in very poor mechanical condition and requiring a low loader to move her. She certainly won't work again until after 'Woolwich' has returned to steam but her importance is clear to all involved.

    I've posted information about the RAR revival on various forums and I've had more replies about the salvation of 'Carnegie' than any other matter. I'm very pleased about this as she's a great favourite of mine.

    All the best

    Ian Bull
     
  6. Steamchest

    Steamchest New Member

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    I often wondered what happened to the BWR stock when it was withdrawn. The little Bicton Woodland Railway brings back fond memories for me, as I grew up about 5 miles from there and we enjoyed many visits to the gardens. I was always fascinated by 'Woolwich' and loved to hear it barking up the grade from the lake. I remember asking my Dad why the locomotive 'growled' as it sat in the station. What I was hearing was the oil burning in the firebox (furnace?), which sounded like a muted rumble when the loco was at rest.
    'Carnegie' was less interesting for me, partly because steam was more appealing. Being a child of the 1950s/60s I lamented the passing of steam from the big railway so every opportunity to see live steam was a great treat. Another reason was that the Hunslet diesel 'Carnegie' seemed (to me as a young boy) to be a pathetically underpowered beast. Its huge bulk, compared to 'Woolwich', seemed to be wasted when it could only manage a speed slightly more than walking pace! Looking back now, I'm sure it could have done far better if not limited by line speed and could easily have hauled a load 20 times as great as the handful of passenger carriages at the BWR.
    I will watch developments with interest.

    John.
     
  7. richards

    richards Part of the furniture

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  8. Ian Bull

    Ian Bull New Member

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    Hullo everyone,

    Thanks to all who visited Crossness pumping station on Sunday 26th. Many enthusiasts including some prominent members of our fraternity attended. The crowds were considerable and there was no chance for myself and colleagues to speak with everyone. My apologies.

    I was literally amazed at the level of interest in the project from the non-enthusiast public, of *all* ages. Dozens and dozens, possibly hundreds, attended primarily to see Avonside 'Woolwich' with the pumping station apparently as a bonus. Many former Royal Arsenal staff met for the first time in decades and there were some joyful scenes. The level of local support appears remarkable and bodes very well.

    Most importantly, several visitors volunteered and there are now definitely enough people to see 'Woolwich' through her two year overhaul period. That overhaul started on Tuesday. Efforts will now begin to arrange for 'Carnegie' and the ex Bicton/RAR rolling stock to be transported back to SE London.

    Photos etc. at...

    <http://www.therailwayproject.blogspot.com/>

    Thanks again to all who attended and please do feel very free to join in. Details on the blog above.

    All the best

    Ian Bull
     
  9. Ian Bull

    Ian Bull New Member

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    Hullo everyone,

    The RAR project's blog has recently been updated with links showing 'Woolwich's' move to Crossness. There's also an radio interview illustrated with some RAR content. See...

    <http://www.therailwayproject.blogspot.com/>

    You'll also notice that there's an open day for volunteers on Sunday 31st. Our very approachable and friendly group offers a very warm welcome irrespective of your experience or abilities. Please do let us know in advance if you'd like to attend. You won't be the first from National Preservation to join in!

    The dismantling of Woolwich is showing her to be in remarkably good condition given her originality and 95 years of age. So far the only components found to need replacement are bottom plates of her tanks. We have superb facilities so she should be running again in 2013.

    All the best

    Ian Bull
    Crossness Engines Trust
     

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  10. Ian Bull

    Ian Bull New Member

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    Hullo everybody,

    The Royal Arsenal Railway's narrow gauge restoration project, based at Crossness pumping station, is having a short open day. The scheme is viable and enjoys remarkable public support in SE London. Much progress has been made since inception in May 2011.


    Anyone who might be interested in volunteering, even from an armchair, is particularly welcome on Sunday 26th February. The site will be open between 11.00 and 15.00. No refreshments will be available (so bring lunch) but there will be illustrated talks about the RAR and its significant contribution to the development of the British narrow gauge locomotive. You'll also be able to see Avonside 1748/1916 'Woolwich' and the Crossness Engines, probably the finest Victorian stationary steam plant in the World.


    Volunteers need no skills, there's a task for absolutely everyone. You'll also find that this is an exceptionally friendly preservation site.


    The Old Works Crossness S.T.W.
    Belvedere Road
    Abbey Wood
    London SE2 9AQ

    The Thames Water gate staff are aware that visitors will be arriving.


    There's a map at The Crossness Pumping Station click the visit tab and scroll to the bottom.


    By Sunday there'll be a significant update to our 'restoration blog' The Railway Project


    All at Crossness very much look forward to meeting you and feel free to contact me personally for further details.


    All the best


    Ian Bull
     
  11. The Saggin' Dragon

    The Saggin' Dragon Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    Have happy memories of Bicton in the 60s, my grandparents lived nearby at the time. Very good to see that the stock is being looked after and has a good future.
     

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