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LMS Route: Birmingham New Street to Nuneaton

Water Orton Station: mrwo1848

Water Orton Siding's track made up of rails laid on their sides and spiked direct to the sleepers without chairs

This photograph of Water Orton Sidings was obviously taken to show the track being made up of rails laid on their sides and spiked direct to the sleepers without chairs circa early 1950s. Bob Essery recalls as a fireman being told by one driver that it was a way of reducing the 'tax' on the sidings. This explanation has yet to be confirmed but this fanciful explanation might be true because if the railway infrastructure was deemed to be temporary it might not attract any or reduced business rates. On the other hand it may well have been a hangover from a war-time economy measure because of the saving made by not using cast-iron chairs weighing approximately 50 lb each. This method of track laying would only be practicable in circumstances where wagons were to be stored for a considerably period of time without being moved such when storing crippled wagons. The rail fixings are not conventional square in section spikes normally used to secure a chair to a timber sleeper but appear are much more flatter with a distinctive curl at one end in order to grip the rail's flange. What ever the explanation it doesn't appear to be common practice.

Following an appeal across a dozen or so Facebook pages it would seem that whilst no one has been able to quote chapter and verse as to the regulations there appears to sufficient anecdotal evidence that track laid in this manner is treated as temporary rather than permanent track or possibly it may be regarded as a tramway. Peter Lee of Nuneaton Steam Club states 'I've come across this before. The railway built the sidings but did not use them for operational reasons but did not want to pay fully operational railway rates to the local authority. There was a reduction in local rates if the railway was built but unusable, and I guess that the MR followed by the LMS just left them like this in the expectation at some time to reinstate the track, but never did. There was a similar argument when the Stoke Golding-Hinckley branch of the Ashby & Nuneaton Joint line was built and correspondence over the cost of rates went on for some years'.

Other respondents, including Nev Sloper said 'The saving on tax story was told to me by several people when I was at Saltley'. Several people also pointed out that the story was repeated in Terry Essery’s book 'Firing Days at Saltley' (Bob Essery's brother) in which he described them 'stowage sidings'. Several other people quoted this practice being seen elsewhere, David Ford certainly remembers seeing this done in several places many years ago. Wayne Fordham and others quoted the practice of rails on their side was seen inside Eastleigh works. Clive Ericman wrote he got the following explanation from his brother-in-law. 'We used this system of rail laying in our works at Ashford. It cannot be used for heavy traffic but its ok for storing wagons and light vehicles and there would be a strict 10mph speed limit. The rails used were scrapped main line rails which were too worn on the normal top side and no longer fit for purpose.'

Photograph from the JM Dunn collection courtesy of the LNWR Society