Station Maintenance Team

Photographer: Paul Martin, John Caesar, John Caesar, Paul Martin

The Station Maintenance Team is responsible for the three Dartmoor Railway stations at Okehampton, Meldon Viaduct and Sampford Courtenay, though in practice most of our time is spent at Okehampton. There is a work session most Saturdays apart from the depths of winter, though not everyone comes to every session. We have 7 regular members, and would welcome more. The SMT is a friendly group and the pace of work is usually pretty relaxed.

Many of the jobs are straightforward buildings repair and maintenance tasks, to which we bring nothing more sophisticated than the usual DIY skills and a bit of ingenuity. We also do some vegetation clearance, and are gradually re-painting the railway vehicles which reside permanently at Okehampton.

For variety, we turn out to help when the railway has events like railtour visits or classic car rallies. One of the SMT members (John Caesar) has taken on the role of museum curator, and several of us wrote the various information sheets to be found around the railway (also available in PDF form from here).

For more details about the SMT, have a chat with one of us when we're in action, send an email to or contact the DRSA Volunteer Coordinator Geoffrey Horner (01363 82383). Volunteers are required to be members of DRSA which also brings entitlement to a number of benefits including discounts and a regular magazine.

Simon Jeffery

As well as the regular members of the team, there is also a 'secret' member, Simon Jeffery, who works from home restoring items of station equipment. Simon doesn't get enough credit for his efforts, so we've provided a small photo gallery to display his work.

The following reports give a flavour of the SMT's activities and should calm any fears about the technical ability required:

Station Maintenance November 22nd 2014

The Station Maintenance team's annual migration to Meldon for the Polar Express season took place today. We took some Okehampton station signs with us for painting, and also did some work on blue and grey 4-CEP DMSO no. 61743, which is currently in the workshop for a refresh. We're grateful to John Coxon and Geoff Horner from the C&W team who turned out to sort out the access and show us the ropes, as well as ensuring we didn't muck anything up.

Station Maintenance September 27th 2014

On the final weekend of operations in 2014, the SMT team, supplemented by a couple of C&W members, gave 1132 a bit of a wash in between services, so that it looked its best for the Not the Last Thump celebration. 1132 now won't be seen in service again until some urgent mechanical and bodywork repairs have been carried out.

Mark Williams sprucing up 1132 for its grand finale, watched by the rest of the team.
Photographer: Paul Martin
Date taken: 27/09/2014

Station Maintenance August 2014

Given the unavailability of some team members for a selection of reasons, the Station Maintenance team achieved a lot in August.

The main job has been the footbridge and we have taken the first tentative steps to replacing rotting timber. John Coxon has made a very convincing replica of the original window frame surround using the router which was donated many years ago from the late Mike Wroe's tool collection. Until now none of us was brave enough or had the confidence to use it. As part of the job he also cut and fitted a replacement section to the main framework timber. This is in a quite heavy section but vital to the integrity of the wooden upper framework.

Geoff Brooks has also been busy repainting the footbridge (and occasionally some of its users). So far the repaint has been mainly the green inner areas and some of the outside that can be accessed relatively easily. We have been trying to source suitable fittings to fix the handrails. The footbridge is our Forth Bridge, and will take some time.

Dan Roche is gradually repainting the vegetation clearance train! 08937/D4167 is largely finished, and three sides are done on DB390133, the ZKV Zander open ballast wagon. This is really a C&W/Traction project, but as the initiative came from SMT we're claiming the credit.

Otherwise we've been fitting door locks on the station flat door, trying to resolve sundry station electrical problems that appear at random, diagnosing broken gas boilers, dealing with the slipping ticket office skylight glass and cutting back vegetation to find and reveal track components and pointwork for the trackwork extension of the platform 2 road.

Station Maintenance July 12th 2014

The drizzle more or less stayed away long enough for Geoff Brooks, John Caesar and Dan Roche to get some painting done. John and Geoff made progress with footbridge, running in board and a station bench, whilst Dan pushed on with the 08937 repaint. Apart from the image below, there are some of Dan's photos of the current state of 08937 in the 08937 repaint gallery. It's nearly finished.

Geoff Brooks painting the bench and Dan Roche painting 08937
Photographer: John Caesar
Date taken: 12/07/2014

Station Maintenance June 21st 2014

Dan Roche and Tom Baxter carried on the 08937 repaint, including fitting a 72A shed plate. Well, Okehampton shed was an outpost of Exmouth Junction.

We've also received a number of replica bridge plates from Simon Jeffery. See latest photo in Simon's own photo gallery. Photo caption identifies bridge numbers.

Station Maintenance June 7th 2014

Geoff Brooks, John Caesar, Dan Roche and Paul Martin turned out, and carried on with the Okehampton footbridge paintwork, and 08937's bodywork.

Station Maintenance May 3rd/4th 2014

Dan, Tom and John Coxon turned out on the Saturday, and did the usual miscellany of jobs around Okehampton station. JC made a new notice board for Meldon. The presence of 08 937 in platform 2 was a red rag to a bull, and some panel beating and painting ensued. Tom is ordering striped paint for the ends. Some photos in the 08937 repaint gallery.

On the Sunday Geoff Horner, Tom and Jon manned the Meldon 'Information Centre', with slightly disappointing results, probably a consequence of a quiet day on the railway. We're hoping it will get busier when the Sunday Rover starts on May 25th. It's looking fairly presentable now, with plenty of DRSA and Meldon display material, some interesting railway bits, several of the information handouts, Pony magazines for sale, and secondhand books and magazines. (The secondhand books include quite a lot of bus books).

Meldon Information Centre
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
Date taken: 04/05/2014

Meldon display room April 21st 2014

Simon Jeffery delivered his most recent restoration job, a ground disc shunting signal and lever. We have put them on view in the temporary DRSA display at Meldon. At some point in the near future we will install them more permanently with the signal and lever connected, so the whole assembly can be seen working. We may even light up the signal lamp once we have assessed the fire safety issues. Photos of the signal can be seen in Simon's own photo gallery. A couple of general shots of the display room are shown below.

The temporary DRSA display in the Meldon compressor house being vacated by the model railway group.
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
Date taken: 21/04/2014

Mike Ellis's model of Meldon viaduct
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
Date taken: 21/04/2014

Okehampton station maintenance February 1st 2014

An unfavourable weather forecast didn't deter Mark Williams, Geoff Brooks, Dan Roche and Tom Baxter from turning out for a typical Saturday of SMT miscellany. Part of the old iron guttering on the platform 2 stairway of the footbridge had become corroded, and needed to be replaced with modern plastic, with silicon assistance. The buckeye couplers on the GUV were freed up, and a new lifting technique developed using gorilla bars, in preparation for use as a training aid for DR guards. We repatriated some of the station luggage which had been evacuated to the concrete building during the PE period for its own protection. And the resourceful Mr Williams shifted 'something' to unbung the blocked drain for the canopy downpipe at the Exeter end of platform 3. Who says station maintenance isn't exciting? Eat your heart out, Bluebell Railway..

The corroded old piece of footbridge guttering (left), and its replacement in place (right).
Photographer: Tom Baxter (both)
Date taken: 01/02/2014

Okehampton station maintenance October 12th 2013

Most of the team turned out today to work on the less than pristine concrete building on the Meldon side of the bridge at Okehampton station. As a result it's now a bit more weatherproof and secure, and vegetation clearance has made it more visible.

Okehampton station maintenance September 14th 2013

Life in the station maintenance team is nothing if not varied, and today was spent in support of this year's Polar Express initiative, shifting the contents of the Ferry Van to a secret location, so that the van can be used as a store for PE equipment.

Okehampton station maintenance August 31st 2013

Back to more typical duties this weekend as we attacked the vegetation at both ends of Okehampton station, in preparation for the visit of Braunton later in September. Brooks, Roche, Baxter and Kelsey were joined by Andrew Turner slumming it for the day. Dan Roche was the youngest in the group by a number of decades, and it showed.

Dan Roche, Geoff Brooks and Andrew Turner attacking the undergrowth south of Okehampton station.
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
Date taken: 31/08/2013

Okehampton station maintenance August 17th 2013

'Station Maintenance' seems increasingly to be a misnomer. These days we're just the 'Saturday' group, which turns up and does whatever is necessary. Following reports from the previous weekend of rain leaking into the 08 cab, the team (Brooks, Roche, Baxter and Kelsey) sealed up the suspect areas then gave the worst part of the cab ceiling a quick coat of grey. (Yes, grey, this isn't a typo for green. We've got another colour). Dan Roche also made further progress welding up the end panel frame of the LMS brake van, while Geoff Brooks and Jon Kelsey prepared the Mike Wroe bench on platform 2 for repainting.

Okehampton station maintenance August 3rd 2013

Once again we didn't do too much station maintenance, apart from a little gardening around the car park. Most of the day was taken up with the LMS brake van. Geoff Brookes, John Caesar and Jon Kelsey put a coat of grey undercoat on all the timber which isn't due for replacement, to make it look a bit more respectable for the August Sunday charters. Meanwhile Dan Roche welded in new metal to replace corroded sections of the endplate frame.

The rusty side of 08937 was a rather forlorn sight for visitors arriving at the platform 2 gate, so to fill the last half an hour we scraped off the worst of the rust and loose paint. The heavens opened just as we put a coat of primer on the bare metal, but it's now green and grey rather than green and brown, and it looks as if someone cares. Pictures of this in the 08937 repaint gallery.

Okehampton station maintenance July 13th 2013

Only Dan Roche and Tom Baxter were prepared to brave the hottest day of the heatwave, continuing to prepare the brakevan for painting. Unfortunately they discovered that some of the rotting wood was attached to rotting metal.

Okehampton station maintenance July 6th 2013

After a couple of recent Saturdays with small groups doing odds and ends, the whole team turned out for something a bit different, the repaint of the DRSA's 1944-built LMS 20ton brake van 731411. Currently it lives at platform 2 following its use on the PLEG charter in June. The plan was to give the van a quick makeover, but we had to revise our ideas when we had a close look at the condition of some of the woodwork.

A break to cool off during the work on the brake van.
Photographer: John Caesar
Date taken: 06/07/2013

Okehampton station maintenance June 1st 2013

Thanks to Tom Baxter for the following in JK's absence:

Five SMT members spent the day doing an assortment of jobs around the station. John Coxon and Geoff Brooks continued with their 'Planter Production Line' turning out a further two large planters.

John Caesar made further progress with the Museum and we discussed options to house the uniform display. He also relocated an outside heritage photo sign showing the turntable and loco shed view from the end of the up platform. This is now on the platform fence in almost the same position from which it must have been taken in 1964.

Mark Williams took on the tedious but necessary chore of weeding Platform 2 and cleaning the fence. He adopted the somewhat unique technique of using a paint roller handle as his 'weeding tool'. Amazingly, it appeared to work rather well and the platform is weed free for the moment.

Tom Baxter plumbed the depths, removing the gulley drain covers on platform 3 and cleaning out a length at the far end.

During the day we were also very pleased to meet up and chat with Joe and Jenn who are keen to volunteer and came along to see what we do. Hopefully they were not too horrified and we'll see them back on a future working party.

During the day we actually saw a moving train as 47375 came back from Meldon after stabling the Polar Express stock. It will be leaving us on Monday to return to its owners in Burton upon Trent.

Tom Baxter attaching a photo of the old turntable and loco shed to the fence at the end of the up platform. This must be very close to where the photo was originally taken from.
Photographer: John Caesar
Date taken: 01/06/2013

Okehampton station maintenance April 27th 2013

We found yet another day's worth of odds and ends to do around the station. Mark Williams did more brickwork, John Caesar had lots to do around the museum, Geoff Brooks, Paul Martin and Jon Kelsey found plenty of green paintwork to refurbish, and Tom Baxter did more of whatever it is he usually does.

Tom Baxter trying to build a big hose from lots of little ones, while Mark Williams does something with a bucket. What does it all mean?
Photographer: Paul Martin
Date taken: 27/04/2013

Okehampton station maintenance April 13th 2013

Paul Martin and John Caesar finished the museum refurbishment, so at last we can get on with updating the displays. Meanwhile, Geoff Brooks and John Coxon built the first of a batch of new planters for the station horticultural display. Producing the first one took the whole day and an entire box of screws. Just another 10 to go...

Geoff Brooks and John Coxon hard at it building the prototype planter.
Photographer: Paul Martin
Date taken: 13/04/2013

Entertainment was provided by Thumper and the class 47 running in order for the sound to be recorded for use with models. If you acquire a Bachmann class 47 model, listen carefully and you'll hear John Coxon's electric saw.

With no barbecue, sausages had to be cooked on the class 47 exhaust.
Photographer: John Caesar
Date taken: 13/04/2013

Okehampton station maintenance April 6th 2013

The sun shone on a variety of activities today. Geoff Brooks refreshed most of the green paintwork on Platform 2. Mark Williams and Dan Roche finished repointing the paintstore brickwork, and then (gulp) made a start on the Platform 3 end of the footbridge. The rest of us pushed on with the museum, finishing off the paintwork and putting up some temporary exhibits.

Daniel Roche (l) and Mark Williams re-pointing the brickwork of Okehampton footbridge
Photographer: Paul Martin
Date taken: 06/04/2013

2 views of the refurbished Okehampton museum nearing completion
Photographer: Paul Martin
Date taken: 06/04/2013

Okehampton station maintenance March 23rd 2013

Mark Williams continued replacing daylight with mortar between the bricks of the paintstore, while the rest of us pressed on with the museum. The display boards sourced by Geoff Brooks have started to arrive, and with 3 of them hung and the new paintwork the museum room is starting to look quite smart. John Caesar's efforts have resulted in a grant from the council which is funding the refurbishment and the acquisition of new exhibits.

We all got a boost in the afternoon seeing and hearing Thumper arrive at Okehampton after a winter languishing at Meldon with electrical problems, and we piled in to clean it in readiness for services the following day.

Thumper returns!
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
Date taken: 23/03/2013

Okehampton station maintenance March 9th 2013

A smaller team this week. Tom Baxter and Geoff Brooks put a top coat on the platform 2 canopy which was undercoated last week, then attended to various incoming and outgoing water leaks. Meanwhile Mark Williams repointed the platform 3 paintstore, clearly getting in practice for tackling the footbridge. Horticultural supremo Sue Baxter did essential maintenance on Okehampton station's floral display.

Tom Baxter (l) and Geoff Brooks paint the Okehampton platform 2 canopy.
Photographer: Sue Baxter
Date taken: 09/03/2013

Mark Williams at work on the brickwork of the paintstore on Okehampton platform 3.
Photographer: Tom Baxter
Date taken: 09/03/2013

Sue Baxter preparing compost for the planters and hanging baskets on Okehampton station.
Photographer: Tom Baxter
Date taken: 09/03/2013

Sampford Courtenay station maintenance March 2nd 2013

Members of the Station Maintenance Team gave Sampford Courtenay station a freshen up ready for the start of the operating season. Weeds, brambles and, as always, buddleias have been cut down and the flower boxes weeded. The signs, fence posts and gates were given a thorough clean to rid them of the mould which had formed after all the wet of last summer and winter. When the weather takes a turn for the better all the woodwork will be given a fresh coat of paint but meanwhile the station now has a more welcoming look about it. As can be seen from the photos all the work was carried out under the supervision of Rosie!

Keeping brambles at bay on the up platform at Sampford Courtenay.
Photographer: Sue Baxter
Date taken: 02/03/2013

Sue Baxter prepares the platform gate for painting.
Photographer: Geoff Horner
Date taken: 02/03/2013

The up platform at has been strimmed and the gate is nearly clean ready for painting. The remains of the down platform shelter are visible beyond.
Photographer: Sue Baxter
Date taken: 02/03/2013

Rosie puts on a 'hang dog' expression to get George Ware's lunch, having already blagged Geoff Horner's.
Photographer: Sue Baxter
Date taken: 02/03/2013

Okehampton station maintenance March 2nd 2013

The new policy of weekly work parties appears to be to everyone's advantage, as we'd hoped. Most volunteers seem to want to work at least 2 weeks in every 3, so the railway is getting more work done, whilst the volunteers are able to pick and choose the days which are most convenient to them. All but one of the team turned out to do yet another session of odds and ends. The museum room walls and floor were repainted and a new door lock fitted, improvements were made to the visibility of trip hazards at the front of the station, and the platform 2 canopy got a coat of paint (taking advantage of the presence of the Polar Express stock to stand on).

The intrepid Geoff Brooks painting the Okehampton Platform 2 canopy.
Photographer: Paul Martin
Date taken: 02/03/2013

Work in progress Feb 23rd 2013

With a group of 7 now, plus frequent help from C&W team members, we've started working every Saturday, to provide more flexibility both to the railway and to team members. Today's plan was going to be helping C&W put a coat of paint on the Rocket generator coach whilst it's stabled at Okehampton, but the bitter cold put paid to that plan; we were OK but the paint wasn't. Instead we continued yet more mundane but essential pre-season and post-Polar Express tasks. Dan and Geoff finished refurbishing the outdoor buffet tables, and we made more progress on the Museum room. Tom provided an authoritative briefing on Mk2 coach plumbing, which we won't forget in a hurry.

Work in progress Feb 16th 2013

Another day of essential but unexciting odds and ends of jobs, including more work on the Museum room, and some Polar Express and Valentine train aftermath. The best news was the appearance of a new team member, the suitably initialled Dan Roche from Ilfracombe, who seemed to survive the experience unscathed and hopefully will become a regular.

Dan Roche (l) and John Caesar painting the museum room.
Photographer: Paul Martin
Date taken: 16/02/2013

Work in progress Feb 9th 2013

This session was additional to the usual SMG fortnightly schedule. The purpose was to help prepare the stock for next week's Valentines Day dining train (February seems to be very early this year!). We spent the day sprucing up and doing minor repairs to 2 FOs, the BSO and the RFB from the Polar Express rake. Let's hope this new initiative is a success.

Work in progress Feb 2nd 2013

A hard day's work by the full team minus 1 got some useful pre-season tasks done though there seemed to be frustratingly little to show for it, and certainly nothing worth photographing. At least the sun was shining. Progress was made on the museum refurbishment, a start was made on sprucing up the outdoor buffet tables, and various things which had fallen off / come undone / become blocked were sorted. Five non-bricklayers had a serious discussion about the complexities of repairing the Okehampton footbridge brickwork.

Work in progress January 5th 2013

Still unable to do anything useful at Okehampton, we had another day at Meldon helping out Geoff Horner and John Coxon. We almost finished undercoating the roof of Lab 11.

Messrs Martin, Baxter, Williams and Brooks undercoating the roof of Lab 11.
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
Date taken: 05/01/2013

Work in progress December 22nd 2012

With both Polar Express and the appalling weather continuing we had what is probably our last session at Meldon, aiding and abetting the C&W team (represented by Geoff Horner and John Coxon) working on Lab 11, which is now close to its first coat of primer.

Work in progress December 8th 2012

Polar Express currently precludes any serious station maintenance work at Okehampton, so we had another day out at Meldon, continuing the preparation of Lab 11 for painting. We're grateful to Dave Clegg from the C&W team for trekking up from Dawlish, bad back and all, to make sure we didn't do too much damage.

Lab 11 in the Meldon workshop, showing the current state of preparation and some of the many colours it has carried in service.
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
Date taken: 08/12/2012

Work in progress November 24th 2012

In view of the appalling weather which prevented any outdoor work, the SMT had a day out at Meldon working on the DRSA's Lab 11 Mk 1 brake generator coach. It made a welcome change. John Coxon and Dave Clegg from the C&W team were on hand to ensure we didn't muck anything up.

l to r: Kelsey, Williams, Baxter and Caesar hard at work sanding Lab 11
Photographer: Paul Martin
Date taken: 26/11/2012

Work in progress November 10th 2012

After a flatout effort, not to mention one or two shortcuts, we broke the back of the buffet repaint, leaving poor Tom and Sue Baxter to come back on Sunday to do the last odds and ends then tidy up and put all the stuff back in place. Everyone was working too hard to take any pictures - has anyone got an 'after' picture we can use?

A much larger job than first anticipated, we finished it on schedule to a decent standard, and Buffet Manageress Mary Trant and General Manager Roger Webster expressed their praise and gratitude to everyone involved.

Work in progress November 3rd 2012

It was all hands to the pumps to redecorate the buffet whilst it is closed for 2 weekends. It looks like being a tall order. The full Station Maintenance team of 6 turned out, augmented by Dave Clegg and John Coxon slumming it from C&W. Photos can't begin to do justice to the chaos, but here are a few:

Judy Proctor offers moral support to (l to r) Dave Clegg, Tom Baxter and John Caesar
Photographer: Paul Martin
Date taken: 03/11/2012

(Left) Dave Clegg and Mark Williams and (centre) Geoff Brooks and John Caesar get stuck into the painting, whilst (right) Jon Kelsey removes the first of a worrying amount of loose plaster from the chimney breast.
Photographer: Paul Martin (all)
Date taken: 03/11/2012

Work in progress October 13th 2012

Indifferent weather meant that the team of 4 did mostly indoor jobs, including some planning and measuring for the winter museum revamp. We also started to clear out the GUV in preparation for the electricity supply arriving, and Geoff Brooks became the latest SMT member to have a go at sealing its leaking windows. Sunny spells provided an opportunity to admire the Polar Express stock parked in Platform 2.

GUV clearout. In case it isn't obvious, this is the 'after' picture.
Photographer: Paul Martin
Date taken: 13/10/2012

Geoff Brooks attempting to weatherproof the GUV.
Photographer: Paul Martin
Date taken: 13/10/2012

Work in progress September 29th 2012

A good solid day's work for a team of 5, though nothing very photogenic happened. The odd jobs needed to finish the Ferryvan repaint were completed, and more progress was made renovating the rather tired wooden fencing around the disabled ramp. Exciting plans were laid to get an electricity supply into the GUV and Ferryvan. Tom Baxter murdered a few buddleja bushes. The party which went to Meldon to recover the old quarry and geology display boards which had been dumped in the cave came back disappointed, having discovered they are now ruined as moisture has made the ink run.

Work in progress September 15th 2012

We welcomed new member Mark Williams, who still wants to come back for more after a day of vegetation clearance and paint scraping. Mark's presence meant we had a team of 6 for the day, and we made decent progress on several fronts. The Ferry Van repaint is now all over bar the shouting (see its page below), a lot of the undergrowth around the bay siding and far car park was cleared, and thanks to John Coxon a lot of work was done on the seemingly endless job of maintaining the fence around the disabled access ramp.

John Coxon (l) and John Caesar (r) hard at work on fencing repairs.
Photographer: Paul Martin
Date taken: 15/09/2012

Work in progress September 1st 2012

With decent weather and a team of 4 of us available we made rapid progress on the Ferry Van - see its own page below. Even the boss Tom Baxter got in on the act, repairing the station irrigation system, then later being spotted with a paintbrush and tin of (the wrong colour) paint.

So this is what a paintbrush is for.
Photographer: Paul Martin
Date taken: 01/09/2012

Ferry Van Repaint

The major project for summer 2012 is repainting the BR Motor Car Ferry Van (DB889022) which sits in the bay platform at Okehampton and is currently in use as a general store. It was repainted in 2010, but was deteriorating rapidly, presumably due to inadequate preparation, so we're having another go. Hacking away at it with scrapers has revealed the multitude of colours and lettering it has worn in its varied life, along with rather a lot of filler. It will be painted in bauxite, which, though not necessarily authentic for this vehicle, was a common early BR freight colour,

Ferry Van Repaint picture diary (last update 15/09/2012)

April 2012 - The Shed

One of the SMT's more bizarre recent jobs was constructing this shed. It took five of us over two days to complete it, largely because of the huge number of self tapping screws which (sort of) hold it together.

l to r: John Coxon (on loan from the Carriage and Wagon team), Paul Martin, Geoff Brooks and John Caesar. John Caesar was in charge of translating the instructions, while the rest of us hammered the screws in ...
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
Date taken: 01/04/2012

March 2012 - GUV Lettering

2011's most satisfying job was repainting the BR General Utility Van (86443) which resides permanently in the bay platform and is used as the SMT's workshop. To add a touch of authenticity, Paul Martin generously purchased adhesive characters to apply its running number. As time allows we'll line it as well.

Paul Martin (r) and John Coxon figuring out how to stick the letters on.
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
Date taken: 03/03/2012

September 2011 - Signalbox Repaint

In September 2011 the SMT repainted the Okehampton signalbox, at least the parts of it which are accessible without scaffolding.

Geoff Brooks (r) and Jon Kelsey
Photographer: Phil Shute
Date taken: 24/09/2011