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Ashey gets a new name Board

The project to install a replica SR-style cast-concrete running-in board at Ashey started life as a casual conversation between Chris Whiting and I in a Surrey pub about 18 months ago – okay, so it was a slightly heated discussion, but I won’t go into the detail! Suffice to say, with the proverbial gauntlet having been thrown, long-standing member Chris rose to the challenge of casting the various components required for the new sign.

The preparatory work started in May last year when, by prior arrangement, Chris and I visited the occupants of Old Station House, Ashey. The purpose of our visit was to take measurements from an original concrete name board which stands in their garden. At this point, I should correct an inaccuracy which crept into the project report in IRN 69 (page 7) in which it was implied that this sign has remained in place since being installed by the Southern Railway. Having studied photographs of the station it would seem that the sign in the garden of Old Station House was probably the sign formerly located on the 1961-built platform. It is likely that it was relocated at some time between when the line closed in February 1966 and March 1968, possibly by the occupants of the house at the time.

The 1961 platform was only ever provided with one concrete sign and so we decided that one sign would be sufficient for us too. As an aside, when the measurements were taken, we were intrigued to discover that the sign had letters cast into both sides of the board. With its platforms each serving only one line, we would have expected to see raised letters cast only into one side. Conversely, of course, the two boards at Havenstreet have letter cast only onto one side and yet, with its island platform, we might have expected that these should have been doubled-sided. Perhaps someone mixed up the order before the signs were cast at the Southern Railway’s concrete works at Exmouth Junction!     

With sketches drawn and all the necessary details taken Chris returned to his home in Walton-on-Thames to plan the project. Frequent business trips to Tel Aviv and the ongoing construction of a new home meant that progress was intermittent but on 28 December I received an email from Chris which included a photograph of the newly cast name board. We briefly considered whether our contractors Bob and Ollie Mackett might be asked to cast the posts and finials (they had made a good job of the replacement signs at Havenstreet, installed about five years ago) but, ultimately, Chris agreed to prepare these too.

With Chris having also considered the installation methodology to conform to the recent Construction (Design and Management) Regulations, the various components arrived on site on Sunday 6 March.  

The first phase of the installation project was to prepare the holes for the two concrete posts.  These were dug to a depth of 28”, largely through the same sticky clay which caused so many problems for British Railways on the Island and which, in 1961, led to the former Up platform at Ashey being abandoned and construction of the new platform on the site of the former Down platform. Having dug the holes to the required depth, concrete was prepared and shovelled into the holes to a depth of about three inches to provide a sound base. This also provided the first opportunity to ensure that the sign would ultimately be level. A square-on-plan, wooden former was placed in each hole and concrete shovelled in around the outside of each. With a work-force of just six, this preparatory work consumed the whole day.

Robin Tagart makes a start with dismantling the redundant signs
Robin Tagart makes a start with dismantling the redundant signs.
The second post is guided in to the prepared hole.
The second post is guided into the prepared hole.
Six days later, a slightly larger gang convened at Ashey on a bright, sunny Saturday to complete the installation. Quite quickly, the first post was up-ended into its hole, followed by the second. With both posts now upright and broadly vertical, we took our final opportunity to make the necessary adjustment to ensure that the sign would be level (and, to be fair, to achieve this by having to place a small amount of ballast beneath one post did provide something of a challenge)! After ensuring that both posts were vertical and the correct distance apart the first was secured in place with timber wedges, ready to be concreted later (the second post could not be secured at this stage because some tolerance would be required when engaging the board with the posts).

Louisa checks the spirit level
Watched by (from left) Chris Whiting, Graham Deegan and Uncle Robin, Louisa Tagart checks the spirit level to see what final adjustments are required.
In the meantime, preparations were made to lift the name board safely into place. This was achieved by constructing two scaffold towers (one on either side of the platform fence) which supported lifting beams from which were suspended two hoists. This provided a safe means with which to lift and support the board while each end was engaged into the recess cast into the post and also so that a spigot at each end fitted snugly into its respective hole. Cement mastic applied into the recesses and spigot holes gave the assembly additional rigidity.

Scaffold towers
The two scaffold towers and hoists prepared for lifting the sign into place
Gently does it!
Gently does it! The sign is slowly lifted to the correct height, ready for each end to be inserted into the slots cast into the concrete posts.
Weight is now carried by the posts.
The weight is now being carried by the posts.
Chris fixes the finials in place.
With the top rail now in place, Chris fixes the finials in place.
With the posts and board now together, the second post was wedged into place and the necessary cement mixed, the resultant concrete then being shovelled and tamped down into the space between the posts and the inside of the wooden formers. After lifting and fixing the top rail, the installation was ‘topped-out’, with Chris securing the concrete finials in place.

While the new name board was being installed, the two life-expired wooden signs, one located at each end of the platform, were dismantled. These have been made available to the Museum and Archive Department should one or both be required for the collection. With the scaffold towers available, we also took the opportunity of pruning some of the tree branches which overhang the platform in the immediate vicinity of the new name board.

All that remains to be completed onsite is the recovery of the four rail-built posts which supported the previous signs and the disposal of the brash removed from the trees.

The gang can now admire their handiwork
The gang can now admire their handiwork and Chris Whiting (in the yellow hi viz jacket) can be proud of his achivement.
The new sign looks as though it has always been there..
The new sign looks as though it has always been there..
We wish to thank those volunteers who helped with the installation, including a member of our full-time paid staff who volunteered on both days, and Pete Corby and his team, Clive Miller and Steve Castle who all helped behind-the-scenes in respect of supplying tools and ordering and acquiring materials. We also offer to Chris Whiting our warmest thanks and appreciation. He can be justly proud of his work, both in terms of the design and fabrication of the sign and also in respect of the planning and execution of its safe installation.

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