Greetings from behind a face mask, everyone.
This report comes to you from coach U of the 09:43 Avanti West Coast service to Preston; please feel free to appreciate the dedication to keeping you all informed of 3417’s progress! We hope you’re all well, staying socially distanced and coping with the continuing COVID nonsense. (Is anyone else getting bored with living in a bad apocalyptic science fiction story? I know I am.)
The Minions were on-site on Sunday 13th September for a mixed train/non-train day. As much as we want to crack on with sorting the unit out and getting it back into service, there’s more to running a depot than just “fix train, play with train, lock-up and go home.” Maggie and Lynn, our trim experts, sat down and continued their frankly astonishing work recovering our salvageable seat bases; either re-covering with fresh moquette or fresh calico and then fresh moquette. It’s exacting work and is being carried out to a high standard; 6 months ago we thought this would be a job we would have to send to an outside contractor, but thanks to Maggie & Lynn’s efforts it has become another job we have been able to bring in-house. This is just another facet of the growth of the SETG and of Strawberry Hill; once upon a time this work would be done off-site at either Selhurst or Eastleigh. Now Strawberry Hill is becoming a full works in miniature!
While Maggie was busy, Darren made himself busy with a few small tasks. His first job was fettling a trolley recovered from an anonymous skip (you can never have too many trolleys, especially when you’re lugging seats and various heavy bits around the shed). After that, back to the cab of 76262 which is rapidly becoming a very nice place to sit. The metal cab door fittings having been removed, stripped of 40 years of paint, cleaned and repainted are now back in place. And very nice they look, too!
And after those little bits of train fiddling came the boring depot management stuff – filling out forms and tidying shelves. It’s not glamorous (mind you, neither is stripping old seats bases of rotten moquette) but it is needed – we aren’t just restoring a train, we are running a very small depot to Big Railway standards. So the stores have to be organised, racked and recorded. The invoices have to be filed… It’s all fun stuff, folks!
The stores took some sorting out, and we found a few boxes that we didn’t know we had. They tell the story not of 3417, but of the two 3CIGs 1497 & 1498 refurbished by Wimbledon to provide dedicated stock for service on the Lymington Branch between 2005 to 2010. One of these units, No 1497, survives today at the Spa Valley Railway in Kent in the care of the Southern Preservation Group. The SETG can claim a link to these two units since it was our CM&EE Chris Buckland who co-ordinated the refurbishment of these two units at Wimbledon Park. (1497 still carries at ‘WD’ depot allocation sticker, despite being based at Bournemouth for its Lymington duties. We would like to state categorically that it wasn’t Chris who put this sticker on the unit to wind-up chums at Bournemouth. It wasn’t him at all. It was Potter wot did it.)
Sorting these stickers and racking them up took a good few hours. Some of them will be retained for future use on 3417. The stickers that apply to the two 3CIGs, though, will be made available to buy on the SETG eShop – a small piece of Southern Electric history for you all to buy and keep! Keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook feeds for news of these going on sale.
The last task of the day was a small tour of the estate to check on the state of the building. We have to monitor the state of shed, the fire exits and so on on a monthly basis to ensure that they all remain in serviceable condition. During the walk through the yard we found this builders plate, half buried in the loose ballast next to one of the walking routes. Thanks to some quick investigations conducted on Facebook, we found that this was once fitted to a 22-ton pipe wagon. Why the wagon was at Strawberry Hill, and the eventual fate of the wagon, is something of a mystery but, along with the odd lump of coal nestling here and there in the ballast, it’s a small glimpse back in the depot’s past. Repair and operation of railway vehicles has happened on this site since the late 1800s. We’re proud to be carrying on that tradition.
Away from the shed, we have been busy. Firstly, the SETG has been invited to address the Model Railway Club of Great Britain next year. Whether this event will involve speaking to an audience or will be conducted online has yet to be decided – a live transmission from Strawberry Hill, anyone?! Secondly, and more importantly, we have been having conversations with two potential sponsors for 3417’s restoration. At this stage we can’t go into details but when we have more news, we will tell all. So, that’s all for now.
24th September 2020 Additional Post:
Minion Darren, being a good sort, stopped off at Strawberry Hill with Mrs Darren last week because he wanted to get something done. And then he sent us these two pictures. The cab door is back in!
To quote Darren himself: “It has been refitted but needs some adjustment to get it to close properly.” Regardless, it’s good to see it back in place.
Little breakthroughs at every work day. That’s how we make progress.