NCS – National Citizen Service to the Rescue

Many young people see the summer holidays as an endless boring series of days with nothing to do!

In this area things are different! An enterprising group of 16 young people from Oakham, Stamford and Uppingham chose to spend 30 hours of their vacation making a significant improvement to our Museum under the National Citizen Service Summer programme.

The young volunteers took part in a range of activities including the transformation of our 1926 Charles Roberts water tanker – which although used operationally to service our steam locomotive fleet, has always remained in its ex-industrial condition, rather unloved and bedraggled.

Spending the earlier part of the week to remove loose paint, rust and debris, the team of April, Claire, Jacob and Lucy working alongside our own volunteers were able to transform the vehicle into a presentable example of rolling stock worthy of display in our museum environment by the end of their project.

Other teams were able to make significant contributions to our community Museum through improving quarry area interpretation, visitor amenities, clearance of line side materials as well as starting to transform our new study centre into a useable facility.

The Trustees and Volunteers of our Charity are indebted to these enterprising young people and hope that the experience was as rewarding for them as it has been for the Museum.

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Our blog updates are usually tales of success and completion of projects at the Museum as the Charity makes progress with its development.

Imagine the disappointment when volunteers arrived at the site to find that intruders had tried to gain access to our main gates, failed and then drove cross country across our boundary before breaking into the main workshops and making off with a substantial haul of heritage items, tools and materials stored for our next restoration projects.

Of major importance was the theft from the workshop of the original brass draincock valves from VIGILANT, dating to the construction of the locomotive in 1883 and refurbished ready for refitting to the machine. Other heritage thefts included the Wakefield lubricator valves from Hudswell Clarke No. 1308 RHOS, a sandbox cover from Ruston Hornsby locomotive ERIC TONKS and a gauge from Hawthorn Leslie SINGAPORE.

The items are all assumed lost but are irreplaceable given their historical and intrinsic importance to the respective locomotive exhibits.

Model items were stolen from our Museum displays but the biggest setback was our tool store where a haul of valuable to replace equipment was removed for resale.

Our local Police have started to make enquiries but the volunteers have now implemented a series of measures to remove any ‘temptation’ in the future as well as reorganising security measures on site. Without giving any information away, the measures include teeth!

If you spot any items which may correspond to the heritage items, please do not hesitate to let us know. We have started to raise funds to replace the equipment lost.

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Newest Exhibit is the Oldest Exhibit!

The Ashbury & Company four wheel passenger coach body ..

The Museum was extremely pleased to receive its latest exhibit yesterday – the Ashbury & Company four wheel passenger coach body, built for the Great Eastern Railway as their No.514 in 1869. The coach will become our dedicated visitor passenger vehicle when its running and brake gear are restored and the coach is restored to its former glory.

The coach is pictured on its temporary accommodation chassis which it will occupy for transit into our workshop.

As described in our blog update on 14th January 2013, the history of the coach is remarkable as it was retired from railway service as long ago as 1910, then being used as a coal order office in Newport, Essex until it was preserved at the South Cambridgeshire Rural Railway Museum in the 1970’s.

Surviving in an extremely good condition under a corrugated steel roof, the coach was lifted from its home onto a lorry and made its furthest journey from the Capital in its 144 year life yesterday, to an accommodation chassis at the Museum in Cottesmore.

The coach will be displayed for a short while but the intention is that it will enter our workshops for assessment and separation of body from chassis in order that reinstatement work can commence. The project will become the central group volunteer project as the coach is stripped and rebuilt over the next few years.

The coach was originally built for Victorian commuter services, primarily from Liverpool Street to Enfield, Hertford and Epping and has five ‘open’ compartments, where the wooden bench seats had little in the way of comfort for third class passengers. In the early days, even lighting was out of reach for third class passengers but we are planning on being a little more accommodating with our visitors!

We would welcome volunteers for this project and donations for materials, in our attempt to return a very historic vehicle to operational service.

The Museum thanks Mr Bob Drage and transport contractors Deeping Direct Deliveries for their support and assistance with this project.


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In the build-up to our forthcoming EXTON PARK REVIVAL event on 27th May 2013 which commemorates the 40th anniversary of the closure of ironstone quarrying in Rutland, the engineering team have undertaken to repaint DE5, the Janus locomotive which once worked over the quarry system.

When the development team began work on the locomotive yard rebuild it was inevitable that many of the large locomotive exhibits would be stranded as the intervening trackwork was removed. Little did they think that the volunteers would further MAROON  the large 440 horse power Yorkshire Engine Company locomotive DE5 with a comprehensive repaint and makeover.

Over the Bank Holiday weekend, a team of ten volunteers cleaned, stripped, sanded and prepared the locomotive which was repainted in its original ORE MINING BRANCH maroon livery, complete with red buffer beams and rods, black rims and frames.

A further session mid-week saw the marker lights removed, cleaned, painted and replaced to bring the locomotive close to its original appearance.

We now intend to complete the cosmetic restoration by replacing its coupling rods, recently refurbished in our workshops, apply lining and lettering and arrange access to the cab for visitors at the event.

The popular and highly relevant locomotive is not in operational condition at the moment but visitors could be excused for being mistaken such is the transformation to the exhibit.

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Development update –

Development at Rocks by Rails

The project to rebuild the loco yard is on the point of starting to replace track onto the site.

This week the last load bearing beam had its shuttering removed to reveal the rows of level and aligned retained bolt studs that will secure the bed rails.

Work to level the inert fill over the site has already used around 200 tons with a further 100 tons of crushed concrete and sub base track ballast due on the site next week. The Charity thanks its kind supporters from the quarry and minerals industry for their kind assistance.

Final preparations for levelling have included re-surveying the site to give the correct gradient profiles across the inspection pit which is level, then graded smoothly down to the coal stage area. This survey has allowed the team to cut back the track to the south of the rebuild area to give a datum from which to relay the track panels using standard lengths with predictable and symmetrical joints through the central area.

Levelling should be complete by the last week in May when track laying will start in earnest. We are still working to the intended development schedule but work is dependent on securing further 8ft by 12” concrete drainage pipes needed to complete the new culvert at the back of the site. Any offers of assistance/donation would be warmly received!

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Visit by the Branch Line Society


The Charity was extremely pleased to welcome a large and enthusiastic group from the Branch Line Society last Saturday 21st May to explore the Cottesmore Branch.

The last visit to the Cottesmore Branch by a rail tour took place in the mid-1960’s when the line was a busy place, serving Exton Park, Burley and Cottesmore Quarry systems. The passenger train was hauled in by an Ivatt 2-6-0 tender loco and the tourists alighted by ladder to inspect the ground frames leading into the United Steel Companies sidings, take photos and stretch their legs.

The visit from the Society had been arranged to allow members to see the rebuilt Museum track layout for the first time since the site was relaunched last year.

The members benefitted from steam and diesel haulage covering as much track mileage as is currently possible – but with a tempting glimpse of future potential visits as the northern end of the site, the yard and the quarry are completed.

Eagle eyed observers will notice SHAUN, the BLS mascot complete with his own Hi-Viz jacket, hiding on the sandbox of SIR THOMAS ROYDEN (AB2088) at the start of the visit. He later transferred to ‘cab’ our own diesel mascot, Sentinel  JEAN (RR10204) which explored the yard area with the visitors.

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2013 Development Blog – Day 17

Despite the weather, progress on construction of our locomotive servicing pit has been rapid with the arrival of our building team.

Out have come the blocks, concrete mixer and Keith our ever hard-working expert, such that not only have we laid the three courses of double skin blocks that will form the walls of the pit, but we have also completed access steps at one end and the oil intercepting drainage chamber at the other.

In the photograph we can see reinforcing bars which have now been installed vertically in the void between the blocks, packed out with concrete. These will form lateral reinforcing for the cap beam which will form the rail bearing top of the construction.

Already shuttering is being installed at the top of the blockwork into which the reinforced concrete beam with rail fixings is being cast.

If all runs to plan, we hope to cast the beams in the next two weeks and we look forward to installing the rails in early May.

The rail levels will be key to final levelling of the yard to allow track rebuilding to calculated track bed profiles.


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Mini-Gala (March ’13)

The long awaited steaming of our two Barclay locomotives in the same shift – SIR THOMAS ROYDEN and 1931 – took place at our March operating day.

Reminiscent of an early morning quarry loco shed scene, the day started with a fantastic sunrise as the two veteran locos gently started to raise steam even before visitors were awake to start their journeys.

As a precursor to the unseasonal weather, we were faced with deteriorating conditions from around ten am with heavy snow falling throughout the middle of the day.

The two locos performed faultlessly with the innovation of a trainload ‘attacking the bank’ at the beginning and end of each shift change.

With two steam locos in operation, we were also able to ring the changes during the day to allow quarry and passenger operation with both locos.

The day was a real treat for enthusiasts and photographers alike as some truly spectacular wintry scenes were experienced.

With some fantastic feedback, we hope to incorporate the innovations into our regular operating days in the future.


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Day 9 – Redevelopment

Day 9 at Rocks by Rails

Last weekend saw more activity in the loco yard as the final clay material was removed from under the track beds and sub-base fill materials were brought in to replace them.

The area was originally laid on a clay base with insufficient fill material suitable for storage and maintenance of locomotives.

Following leading practice, we have excavated to around three feet depth over the whole site, have laid in surface drainage and then have backfilled with limestone rubble. This has been compacted and then a blinding layer has been laid up to track bed and ballast level.

By using modern mechanical equipment it has been possible to complete the job to a standard which we could not have hoped to achieve any other way.

Our latest photo looking north across the loco yard shows the inspection pit base and the track bed formations at sub-base level and before the blinding layers are added.

We hope to complete this phase in the next working day.

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Day 8 – Redevelopment 2013

Day 7 at Rocks by Rails

It seems barely credible but the day saw concrete poured to form the base of the inspection pit.

In a well scripted series of operations, the initial site works included the crucial drainage pipes from the inspection pit to the main drains with provision for an oil interceptor. In addition the team were able to install a large concrete sectional pipe in the drainage stream to the rear of the site to create a safe walking route around all three of the loco roads, never before possible. This area will not be developed but will allow the lighting columns to be installed in the current phase of work.

The main achievement of the day was the pouring of the base slab of the new inspection pit – which will have a depth of around one metre below rail height. The natural falling gradient in the yard at this point is being compensated to give a level and safe working area. The picture reveals the preservation era fill on this part of the site and the natural clay through which the excavations took place.

It is intended to start block laying in a weeks’ time and already our expert mason is ready to make a good start.


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