It seems a long time since the Purbeck Mineral & Mining Museum Project Group received full planning permission on Thursday 29th January 2004, to develop the museum on the Norden Park and Ride site. Since that time it is amazing how much has been achieved by the small band of volunteers in that time. The Planning Board of Purbeck District Council had voted unanimously for approval and now the result of their decision is being appreciated by visitors to Purbeck and residents. Now the recent efforts of the volunteers have brought the construction of the museum to a point where it is open to the public. It has been a long journey with some 30,000 man hours by volunteers to construct this first phase.
However construction will continue to develop and
improve the museum. With continuing volunteer support and further funding the
Museum Complex can continue to grow and grow. A new building to house Secundus
and waggons of over 100 years still has to be funded and built. The Swanage
Railway Trust owns 2 flooded clay pits at Norden and it is planned to develop
these to show the remains of the alternative extraction to mining - quarrying!
The group undertook regular working parties to complete the foundations, drainage and utilities alongside the bank on the north side of Norden Station. The group have relocated the redundant ECC Norden No 7 mine (drift type) complete with original winch gear and a rake of underground tubs, from its original position on the west of the A351 behind Norden Farm. The sides of the ramp have been fully lined with timber allowing the visitor to obtain the false impression that they are going underground. Steelwork has been altered to create a display area. Track laying arond the site is well on the way to completion. This is a central focus for the Mineral Museum. A new "display area" has been created on the old weathering bed and an entrance path to this area has been created through the wood.
Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum Group (PMMMG) received a grant from Dorset-based Chalk & Cheese rural re-generation fund towards the building of the mine and this has enabled the group to bring in outside help to assist and to purchase the expensive wood cladding.
Work has completed on extending the ramp down "underground" and on 1st July 2010 construction of the replica mine began as the clay dried out. Andrews Plant hire have used their experience to efficiently dig out the tunnel floor and supplied the equipment to do so free of charge.
We have completed a long section of the mine showing several styles of construction. In November 2010 the wet weather made the completion of the mine impossible that year. Despite a record very wet Summer of 2012 that delayed landscape work and the construction of the end of the tunnel, both had been completed by the end of that year.
The autumn sun reflects on the newly constructed tunnel 15th November 2010 © B.Langdown
2012 has seen all the temporary wiring system in stalled piece meal during the construction period replaced by a professionally installed one by Martin Barker Electrical Ltd. They have also installed ground lights in the tunnel that can be dimmed to give various light levels - low for the "Brave" and high for the "not so Brave". Throughout the museum there is an emergency lighting system, so even if the power fails those underground will not find themselves in darkness.
The museum is now protected by a CCTV system installed by Central Southern Security Ltd. New post and rail fencing has been installed at the entrance of the Museum by Corbin Fencing
"The "Railway at Work" weekends have enabled members of the Swanage Railway to inspect the progress for themselves and to have their first experience of life underground in Purbeck.
The local clay extraction company Imerys have very kindly supplied, free of charge, a lorry load of Ball Clay to allow volunteers to construct a replica working face at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel floor is coated with ball clay as well. The clay face has now been exposed and left to dry out. The rain that fell in the later part of 2012 and into 2013 has produced a delay in establishing a authentic looking clay face, but it should be ready for opening.
The old Foreman's Office (circa 1920) was rebuilt in 2005 and is now the Curator's temporary office and ticket office and entrance to the Museum
A Furzebrook Wagon which is believed to have been built in Purbeck in 1865 and 3 original Norden V-Skips are in the museum. These are 2 of the four ex Norden skips returned from an North Dorset orchard and one returned from Seaton Tramway. It had been widened to 2ft 9ins gauge and was used on the construction of the extension of the tramway. It has now been modified back to the original 2ft gauge by pupils of the Purbeck School in Wareham.
A short term aim of the group was the creation of a clay mining trailway using the existing footpaths around the outside of the car park. A trailway was successfully installed in 2004. The trail starts at the Purbeck District Councils administration building in the car park. There are information boards along the trail and takes about half an hour to complete. Few people are aware of the past industrial heritage of the Norden Park and Ride before they start the trailway which has proved to be an excellent educational tool and is available to all when the Museum is closed. Plans are in progress to update the trailway and to make it longer and more interesting.
A Ruston 48DL Diesel locomotive has been purchased as the groups first operational locomotive. It is has under gone a thorough overhaul and is now being used during the construction of the track around the site. It has proved invaluable.
A new engine shed has been constructed to house both the Ruston and any visiting locomotives securely. It is hoped that locomotives that once worked at Norden will return for visits.
A working supporter has purchased a Railmotor Simplex Diesel for use at Norden and this is has been refurbished privately away from Purbeck and has performed at the 2013 Swanage Railway Diesel Gala..
An unique waggon has returned to Purbeck. It started of life as an ordinary waggon on the pre war 3' 9" gauge railway that ran from Norden to Goathorn. It was converted after the war to 2' - 0" gauge and turned into a mobile diesel tank carrying fuel for locomotives and other machinery.
When in 1972 all the narrow gauge system was sold off, Alan Keef purchased it. It was sold on in 1976 without the tank. It would lovely to restore it as it was with the tank, but we either need to create a new tank or with a great deal of luck hunt down the original tank.
2ft 6ins track, turnouts and flatbed waggons have also been purchased from the MOD. These were used at RNAD Trecwn of which the main depot can been seen below with a mixture of standard and narrow gauge track. The sleepers, track and points have been laid at Norden.
Many talks and tours for both local and further a field groups have taken place providing much needed income. We have been delighted with the response form ex-clay workers. They have visited the museum complex, advised, donated equipment, told us of their memories and supplied photographs. One ex-miner has even supplied his treasured artwork of mine conditions. Another clay worker said that he had experienced a flash back to his past of walking up the ramp at number 7 addit. Working partnerships with other local museums, local history groups and the National Trust have been established. Surveys on the Quay at Middlebere have been completed and records made.
Towards the end of 2010 a structural Survey and load assessment was undertaken of Bridge 15 - Skew Bridge with a view to running narrow gauge trains over the bridge again. Whilst there is some short term remedial work to be undertaken on the lattice steel work, corbels and beam landings, the main foundations, abutments and wing wall are in good condition. That is pretty good for a temporary bridge built in 1885.