Friday 20 December 2013

A Volunteer's Story - Jo Roesen

Jo  Roesen (Rozen )is one of our unique volunteers. He exudes enthusiasm for everything " Heritage Railway".  There is no job that Jo will not  take a turn at!  Jo has taken on the  role of Broadway Area Group photographer,  the picture qualities of which we have all enjoyed on the Blog over the past 18 months. I personally depend on Jo to keep me on the straight and narrow, authenticity wise, and keep focus on returning Broadway Station to its former glory.  He has spent long hours searching for  photos of Broadway  Station and the Honeybourne Line, many of which have been stored on the Website.
 He also holds the record for the most words spoken without taking a breath! Above all, like so many of our volunteers, he is a thoroughly decent bloke.

Here is Jo's story:-

At the KESR during my student days, while relaying track near Pope’s Cottage

I first became aware of a preserved railway when my father paused the car on a disused level crossing near Wittersham in Kent. I could see rails in the road, but looking left and right, the line disappeared in a wild thicket of bushes. What was this? I must have been 16 at the time, and this view of a completely overgrown railway line eventually led me to the fledging K&ESR, where I became a member of the Pway gang extending the line.
On the Bodiam extension, near Northiam, pouring tea during a high wind.

On the KESR Bodiam extension, in 2000

After passing through university in London, I secured an international job for a major clearing bank in 1975, landing in a rainy Rotterdam three months later. This coincided with the arrival of two former DB main line locomotives there, which were put into a newly created main line steam trust – Stoom Stichting Nederland (SSN). I was one of the first members to join, and helped to repaint their first working main line loco – former DB 2-6-2 tender engine 23 023. Although I was later posted to Brussels, I managed to carry on volunteering with the SSN throughout, and only stopped when I returned to the UK in 2011.

Driving a Polish Ol49 2-6-2 loco, in normal service from Wolsztyn to Poznan.

I saw the SSN grow from two locos parked on a short bit of track on a public road to becoming the major Dutch main line steam organisation, with 5 locos and a fleet of 10 carriages kept in two large sheds in Rotterdam north. We organised excursions not only throughout Holland, but also into Germany, Luxemburg, Belgium and even to Prague in the Czech Republic. Back home in the depot, I became interested in preserving artefacts in support of their brand new greenfield site depot, in order to give it a more authentic atmosphere. The first and largest of these was the recovery and rebuilding of a 75 foot articulated turntable, which a small team re-erected on twenty two 25m piles at Rotterdam North. It is now fully operational, and frequently turns the SSN’s prize  loco, DB pacific 01 1075, one of only two operational 2400HP express locomotives built by the Reichsbahn in 1939, originally with full streamlining. She is now equipped with both Dutch and German ATP and is a frequent visitor to the main line network in both countries.

At the SSN depot in Rotterdam, with the 3 signal bells I rebuilt.

Finding and securing the old turntable gave me a taste for rooting out other heritage railway objects and returning them to operation. After the Berlin wall came down in 1989, East Germany became a fertile hunting ground, as it seemed to be frozen in time under the communist regime. I retrieved two 130 year old station clocks, a yard clock on a 20 foot mast – all three now operational at the SSN depot - as well as a 10ft high signal bell, with an interior mechanism akin to a church turret clock. It took me 3 years to rebuild this, as the mechanism was missing and was made from scratch from an old drawing by a friendly SSN fitter. A few months after it was ceremoniously unveiled, it came crashing to the ground – knocked over by a class 66 that overshot the pit road as it ran into the SSN depot !
Hilary at the SSN depot, with a Dutch ‘Klaas’, or class 66.

At the end of 2009 my Brussels bank branch closed, a casualty of the financial crisis. I retired early, after 34 years abroad with the same bank and jobs in Holland, France, Hong Kong  and Belgium. At first I spent two years volunteering mid week with the Chemin de Fer du Bocq in Belgium, but plans to return to the UK were accelerated when my pension fund became payable and I looked for a place to settle that was half way between my two sons in Oxford and Bristol. I remembered visiting a very bare Broadway site in 1985, and having followed the Blog for a while, saw that the station reconstruction was now under way. I bought a house in the area, and joined up. Here I’m not only learning new skills, but having a wonderful time with a great bunch of guys!

I’ve thought that a few YouTube links relating to me might be interesting. They show stuff that I’ve restored: - the big signal bell, dating from 1880, that I rebuilt. It was sawn in half, and the mechanism removed. One of these stood at every level crossing or station in Holland and Germany.

A few months after I got it working again, it was knocked over by the class 66. I got it working a second time, after having a new bell cast for it, to replace the one that was smashed. - the smaller signal bell, from about 1900. As the photograph shows, I ended up with 3 of them. The red indicator shows how far it is wound up. a 1927 level crossing. I got this from the middle of a forest, on a disused railway line.

The original designers worked out the length of the ringing time by imagining a slow horse & cart proceeding under the barrier, before it started to come down.

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