HISTORY

It all started with the trainshed - built as a base for operations and further construction. The track in the trainshed was laid first to establish somewhere from which engineering trains could run. All track laying here was completed on 20th August 1996. However the points which were a mixture of home made & Bassett Lowke proved unsuitable for the rolling stock and all six sets were replaced by Tenmille points which have generally been very satisfactory. This work was completed in November 1996.

Meanwhile the trench for the outside track was filled to a depth of 4 inches with pea gravel. The bricks on the inner side of the trench already had holes in them and this with the pea gravel provides the drainage from the track to the lawn. At specific intervals concrete was laid and wooden inserts were placed. Track for the most part rests prototypically on ballast but is pinned at strategic points using the wooden inserts. Well weathered and Cuprinolled wood was used when the inevitable time comes it will not be a difficult job to replace.

Track laying commenced on 26th August 1996. Cherwell was reached via South Junction on 27th August, including the dock siding. The first test train to run was at 17.40 on that day. It comprised of No 10 "Jupiter" - wagons 20 & 28 and brakevan No 11. On 31st August a bridge was built and installed to convey the line from Longmead to North Junction. Pug Halt was reached on 7th September 1996.

The line was finally linked up during the following week. Photographs were taken throughout the stages of construction. Various test trains were then run using the Pullman stock. Track was then fettled over a period from mid September to early November. This allowed for the effects of torrential rain and sharp frosts - and by mid November the track was completely settled. It was found that despite extreme care during construction an incline had appeared between North Junction and Pug Halt. This has the effect of slowing trains down before the sharpest curve on the approach to Pug Halt. The line then drops gently from Pug Halt to Cherwell where it regains the level.

34 miniature conifer trees were planted along the lineside to provide a screen for the trains from the effects of any wind, and to provide scenic breaks. This work was started in autumn 1995 and was completed in the autumn of 1996. The water supply was connected up by Dennis Archer on 29th November 1996 and the first steam locos ran on the line on 30th November. First to run was No1 'Esther' followed by No2, then No5 and finally No11 'Our Sam' - a John Turner 0-4-0.

Following damage by squirrels in the spring of 1997, the section of track between the top of Pug Bank through to the other side of Pug Halt platform was completely relaid - Brandbright track being replaced by Tenmille - which was found to be more robust.

BLACKBIRD TUNNEL

In July 2000 work was completed on Blackbird Tunnel. This tunnel between North Junction at longmead and Pug Halt was constructed firstly to keep the line clear of debris from overhanging trees but more importantly to protect a blackbird's nest in the trees directly over the line. testing was completed and the line recommissioned on the 2nd August 2000.

THE EXTENSTION

Plans for the extension of the line were being considered as early as mid 1998. A lot of deliberation, planning, advice seeking and viewing of other lines took place between 1998 and July 2000. Finally a decision was reached that the line would be extended until it linked up with North Tonbridge once more. The route suggested by Mr Albert Longford was the one chosen by the Company - and in respect of this the line of route crossing the causeway became known as Albert's Curve.

The extension to North Tonbridge was constructed in two stages. In the beginning of August 2000 a new set of points was installed at Pug Halt. Then the extension from Frogmead Junction across the path was laid. This was completed on 12th August 2000. This was the first stage of implementing the extension. Meanwhile, at the other end of the line, the ground was prepared for the new station and the viaduct taking the track from the station approaches was also built - using the trackbed of the original line. Work on preparing the track panels continued slowly but surely. During the Autumn of 2000 the track was laid all the way to North Tonbridge. The track was commissioned at 15.35hrs on 16th December 2000.

The station platform was designed and constructed during the winter of 2000/2001. The North Tonbridge station was commissioned at 20.15 on 30th April 2001. The first passenger train ran on 5th May 2001 between North Tonbridge & Longmead.

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