Sunday 27 March 2016

By White Horse to Merstone

From Abingdon to the Isle of Wight
Just over a week ago, fbb took his younger grandson to the superb White Hose Leisure Centre in Abingdon. Was it for Swimming, Tennis or Indoor Football?

For fbb, you must be joking! No; it was Abrail, the annual show of Abingdon Model Railway Club.
25 layouts of high quality, plus some trade stands were located in a large sports hall. One of the first layouts that fbb spotted bore a familiar name, Merstone.
Merstone Station was the third stop on the Isle of Wight Central Railway's line from Newport, after Shide and Blackwater. The line then split with one branch going to Verntor West via Godshill, Whitwell and St Lawrence, and the other following the plain of the River Yar to Sandown All lines were single track.

Ther line was opened in 1875 and closed well before Beeching had been though of in 1956. Merstone Station did not generate much traffic but occasionally sprang into life when a few passengers changed from the Ventnor West Branch to go to Sandown and vice versa.

Here, in 1950, is a train taking the Ventnor line.
And here is a view from the level crossing.
Note the boarded walkway between the two sets of railings. The railings are there because access to the platforms was, at one time, by a subway; obviously needed to cater for the busy train frequency NOT! The subway was prone to flooding and the successor Southern Railway filled it in. It was probably never used.

Amazingly the station platform is still there ...
... but the double deck house, seen in the top pictures, has been replaced by a small development of single deck residences.
And so to the model.

The Merstone layout was started by one of the Group’s former Chairmen Rod Lerew who very sadly died in 2015. Alton Model Railway Group member Mark Pretious took on the completion of the layout and this year's February exhibition was its first outing. Coincidentally the Saturday of the exhibition was also exactly the 60th anniversary of the closure of the real Merstone station.

At the exhibition on the Saturday morning there was a short re-opening ceremony which was attended by Rod’s widow and two daughters.

fbb's pictures are largely taken from the AMRG web site.  Here is the station looking west towards Newport.
And a close-up of the signabox clearly showing the wooden walkway. The ditch in front and beyond the boardwalk represents the flooded subway!
We also have a reminder of the now demolished cottages ...
... almost certainly built in this remote spot for railway staff.

From a practical point of view the layout is "end to end" which means trains run to and from hidden sidings.

This one is called a "sector plate" and allows you to slide the set of siding to link any stored train with the layout's track. A clever plan which means you don't need points and you can have lots of different trains trundling along the line in turn.

Merstone is still served by public transport and there is a bus stop at the station for those that may wish to enjoy the platform edging.
If Merstone Station is to join your bucket list, here is a timetable extract. The half hourly frequency runs seven days a week in the summer timetable period.
As well as service the whole village, the bus frequency is far, far better that the train ever was. In fact the present-day bus service to Merstone is far better than the bus service ever was. Historically, Merstone never enjoyed more than an hourly service 17.
A reminder : Easter weekend blogs (Friday to Tuesday) have been posted in advance as fbb would have been bereft of wifi and phone signal for most of his sojourn in Beddgelert, North Wales. But the trip was cancelled and fbb decided not to waste the blogs; using the saved time for other productive purposes. Of which more in due course.
 Next Abingdon blog : Monday 28th March 
Easter Lamb - All Gone?
The events of "Good" Friday were not very "Good" for Jesus and not very good for his followers who all ran away! By Friday sundown the whole Jesus thing had become a dismal failure. But one of those tapestry threads, woven by holy men of old, went a bit further with the idea.

Here, for example,  is Isaiah, writing about 500 years before Jesus arrived in the narrative.

But because of our sins he was wounded,
beaten because of the evil we did.
We are healed by the punishment he suffered,
made whole by the blows he received.

He was treated harshly, but endured it humbly;
he never said a word.
Like a lamb about to be slaughtered,
like a sheep about to be sheared,
he never said a word

After a life of suffering, he will again have joy;
he will know that he did not suffer in vain.

and through him my purpose will succeed

That empty tomb, however hard it is to accept. remains, in the 21st century, a real challenge which cannot easily be avoided.

 Some Easter Lamb, eh?


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