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Full steam ahead! Octavius helps upgrade and maintain Hollycombe Steam 

June 3, 2024

As part of our commitment to community projects, the Octavius Rail Electrification and Plant team have been working hard this year with Hollycombe Steam in Hampshire. Hollycombe is one of Britain’s largest collections of steam-based machinery, offering visitors a nostalgic look at how the Victorians and Edwardians used steam as an instrument of work and play. 

Hollycombe opened to the public in 1971 by John Baldock who purchased it in 1951. It sits on a 60-acre site that is open 66 days a year, with attendance of over 32,000 visitors. The project hit the Octavius radar as we were carrying out a large programme of work as part of Network Rail’s Farncombe to Petersfield Resignalling Scheme. and are currently undertaking works for the CP7 HV feeders renewals project in the area.

As you can imagine, a site as large and as popular as Hollycombe requires constant maintenance to ensure the unique collection of working steam can remain running for the community. With our supply chain partners, Coombes and Sonic Rail Services, Ubique Engineering, and Chaffin Works, the Octavius team have removed vegetation and upgraded the narrow-gauge steam Quarry Railway which runs for 1 ¼ miles through woodland and fields. 

Over 30 metres of track have been renewed including the replacement of 40 sleepers. An adjustment of the bend in the track and a realignment to allow smoother journeys; and the installation of a ballast to stabilise the area. The team have also constructed a new training room; installed a test track to support PTS training for future railway workers; constructed a long-awaited children’s play area; and carried out painting works to restore an old Liphook signal box believed to be more than 100 years old. Once restoration is fully complete, the signal box will be submitted for a heritage award.

Supporting Nature

Since 1865 the railway has overseen stunning views over the South Downs. With our subcontractors, we have removed dead foliage and trees which had started to obscure the view. We added bird boxes and bee hotels to the area’s newly planted wildflower and bluebell meadows to attract wildlife and insects.

The Legacy We Leave

  • Octavius’ enhanced training facility for track training, will not only supply the industry with future talent, but provide Hollycombe with a revenue stream.
  • Our work on the Liphook Signal box, not only brings it back to life, but allows history to be captured by entering the unit for a Heritage award.
  • The Viewpoint enhancement captures the natural beauty for all to enjoy, that was previously masked by debris.
  • Most importantly, our contribution allows the Hollycombe charity to focus their funds into other pressing areas. 

Paul Medcraft, Senior Project Manager and project lead at Octavius said, “Witnessing our team’s dedication to transform a place as special as Hollycombe is incredibly rewarding. We’ve not only supported the vital preservation of these historic steam engines but also ignited a spark of joy in the volunteers and fostered a positive energy through our giving back. That, to me, is what makes it all truly worthwhile.”

The celebration

To celebrate the completion of this remarkable social value project and over one year of hard work, the Octavius team organised a family fun day on Sunday 2 June 2024. It was a celebration of bringing people together to achieve great things for the community. A hog roast and the chance to enjoy scenic train rides on some of the oldest steam engines, were just some of the attractions on offer to attendees.

It’s community projects like this that Octavius feels proud to support. For more information contact:

Picture from the Family Fun Day on the 2nd June 2024:

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