It has always been a long term aim of Levisham Station Group to erect a replica North Eastern Railway weighbridge building in our Station Yard but lack of a suitable edifice, time and resources have kept this on the ‘back burner’. In recent years the idea has formed that a small building would be ideal as a catering outlet serving tea, coffee and other refreshments to our passengers and passing trade, bringing in much needed additional income.
Earlier this year, Dave Fenney (our New Works Manager) rang to say he had had a letter saying there was a weighbridge coming up for disposal in Sheffield and was he interested? We replied, cautiously, to say ‘we might be, but…’. The ‘but’ was a series of questions: was it appropriate for use at Levisham; was it the building, the weigh-table or both; how easy were they to dismantle; and finally, when did it need recovering by? We left Dave with these thoughts whilst we got on with running our station and manning the special events during the summer months.
By early autumn a decision was made to undertake an initial site visit to confirm what was available, what condition it was in, how it could be dismantled and, most importantly, when.
The visit to Wadsley Bridge coal yard, alongside the closed Wadsley Bridge station on the old Great Central railway line, revealed a brick built building with a large cast steel weigh table in front of it. Although the building was in too poor condition to be worth recovering, it did have a slate roof that was. The table itself was still in working order.
A quick look under the table via an inspection hatch revealed a pit full of black water with a mass of steelwork suspended over it. Discussions with the owners confirmed it was in use until fairly recently and had undergone a full overhaul 20 years ago. They confirmed that the two top plates of the table would lift off and they would be willing to help us with this via the use of their loadall machine. This aid was necessary as we estimated each plate weighed 2.5 tonnes! A date was agreed for us to commence the dismantling, so it was all systems ‘go’.
We arranged to borrow the C&W van to transport some of us and our tools to and from Sheffield, loading our gear up on a Friday evening before staying in York overnight. As with all these type of jobs, good planning reaps wonders and we had previously written a list and put to one side a wide variety of tools which we may possibly need to aid in the dismantling of the table (it’s a bit late when you arrive on site to find you have forgotten a vital piece of kit due to poor planning). The overnight stop in York allowed an early start and arrival in Sheffield at 8.15 ready to commence the dismantling.
The first priority was to find a good café which served breakfast. Fortunately one was found virtually opposite the site which did a very good full English breakfast with toast and tea. On site, the first task was to pump out the pit sufficiently, using our submersible pump, to allow us to get in it. Whilst the water was going down, we cleared the building of its stores and began taking apart the weighing scale apparatus inside it. Digital photos and drawings were taken throughout the whole process to aid the reconstruction of all the parts. In all, over 200 photos were taken of the process which should make the rebuilding guesswork free.
With enough water removed from the pit to get in, it was possible to clamber underneath (in wellies!), fit the lifting bolts to the pair of road plates and have them lifted clear. Once these had been removed we could then dismantle the support structure and weigh beams.
A weigh table is a clever set of beams and levers which carry the load, transferring most into the walls but allowing a certain amount to be passed onto the next lever and so on until you reach the scales. In this way, 20 tonnes outside can be easily and accurately measured on the scales inside. Each beam, or set of beams, had to be carefully lifted out in turn, taking care not to damage the balance points or the small ‘knives’ which transfer the load. These ‘knives’ are all replaceable and care had to be taken not to damage or loose them, or to confuse the sets when it comes to reassembly. These were all marked and photographed before removal. The nature of the beams, with their unusual design and weight distribution (one end being heavier than the other), led to some interesting challenges in lifting them safely out and into store. Sometimes more than one lift was required to remove them from the pit safely.
Once the weigh table components were removed (2 days work and over 20 pieces of cast iron of various weights and sizes!) we could dig out and free the 4 main side girders. These big steel castings are over 2’ tall and had also been surrounded by bricks and concrete which had to be carefully broken away. They had been topped off by stone setts which were held together with pitch (which acts like concrete). The main girders were also bolted together top, middle and bottom and one side girder was also bolted to the brick support wall underneath. Fortunately one of their chaps also had oxyacetylene and he was able to burn off the seized bolts, again making our life much easier and saving us the time involved in grinding the bolts off.
After 4 Saturdays of work (9hrs on site each day) the weigh bridge was just a kit of parts awaiting delivery to Levisham. This happened a month later when their new hiab truck (and recently hiab tested driver) turned up one Saturday morning with 10½ tonnes of metal for us. He claimed he hadn’t been warned about the hills down to the station and we hadn’t been warned that he was coming! After a quick rush around we found somewhere to store all that metal. All the parts are now stored in our yard awaiting a blast clean and a repaint before installation in front of a new weigh bridge building of an appropriate NER design.
Thanks must be expressed to Wesley Nicholls Coal and Coke Merchants for making the table available to us and their staff, Andy, Beth, Eric, Stephen and Colin from the Station Group, C&W for the loan of their van and Dave Fenney for sorting out the paperwork and price. Colin, our latest addition (or is that victim) to the Group, was wholly to blame for all this work as he was responsible for bringing the weighbridge to Dave Fenneys attention!