Wednesday, 20 March 2019

The last post

No, not of this blog (although a short jolly to Scotland on the Statesman is planned for this weekend) but it's a reference to the last gatepost used at Broadway. For the time being anyway, until we buy some more for P2.

Friday saw a joint effort between the canopy team, and the regular gang from Broadway. We planted the last 2 posts, and a start was made on slabbing underneath the steps.

A start is being made on the end nearest to the building, so as to cover the area underneath the bottom steps, before the scaffolders come in 10 days or so.

A lot of time was spent on grading the ground, and removing high spots, such as those in the concrete around the newel posts.

Rod was plugging away manfully but making only slow progress, until Keith jumped in and doubled the chipping speed.

Getting the second post perfectly vertical.
'I will hold this ball for you'

Four volunteers then walked the two posts from their storage area by the footbridge tower, and tipped them into the two holes with the concrete poured into the bottom the previous time.

When both posts were more or less vertical, they were checked for level.
Half an inch difference! Oh-oh.

The lower post on the left was packed with pieces of slate until the level gauge said 'yes'.

A distant toot told us that the train free Monday wasn't train free after all.

The class 73 rumbled in with the ballasting train. This was followed by much shunting, and running to and fro between the levers in the signal box, and the northern siding.

The ballast train was parked, and the bogie flat with the rail on it came out of hiding.

John here spent half the day on P2 building the supports under the bottom of the stringers with more bricks, and then concrete blocks.

Back on P1 Minnie the Mixer coughed up a barrow load of concrete for the two gate posts placed earlier in the day.

Neal then shoveled the concrete around the bottoms of the posts, and after some last minute adjustments they were well and truly in.

Now to wait for the concrete to go off, and then the measurement for that short piece of spearhead fence can be taken.

Mid afternoon the two posts were in, and looking good. Neal stepped back to check that they were right. You can see quite an arrangement of string, bits of wood and a rail end holding them perfectly in place.

Wednesday at Gotherington

We're having a last blast at fishplate greasing, to get as much done as possible before trains start running again on Wednesdays.

We need to do the whole line every 4 years, and it's not a fun job. Today we were lucky with 12 volunteers, although on a non-fishplate greasing day we can be as many as 22. Mysterious, that.

We had our PWay train with mess coach stabled at Gotherington.

This meant that we had access to everything we need right on site, which was just as well, as we found a cracked fishplate, which we were able to replace on the spot.

We parked our cars at Skew Bridge and walked through the station to the train, where the early arrivers made the tea. A couple of packets of Jaffa cakes went down well, but gosh, aren't they small nowadays. Very disappointing.

Next week we are going to double the doughnut ration if we hit Bishops Cleeve.

After most people had arrived, Clive gave us a brief lowdown of the At The Races trains.

These, with an extra train from Broadway this time, were a great success, both for the race goers and for the railway. We earned good income from the charter fees, as well as on board refreshment sales. All in the low season too.

We're going to pull this trolley, so you'd better get off it.
Then it was time to unload the tools. It was a bit special today - the vans stood high up on the track, and we had to use doors we don't usually open. Getting in without a ladder was a challenge, our usual ladder was out of reach on the other side.

Luckily the hoist for the heavy stuff works both ways, so we were able to drop down the TB2s straight on to their trolleys on the loop.

Today's starting point was right by the last wagon. We did the main line earlier, and today it was the turn of the loop.

This little snapshot shows Peter and John half way along. The brambles on the right were throwing out long tentacles and burying their heads in the ballast, and we tried to thwart their efforts by yanking out the ends of the tentacles that had sprouted roots.

The day was overcast to start with, and while we heard several large, heavy aircraft passing overhead, we could not see them. Two gang members at Winchcombe, where they unloaded another shipment of s/h BH concrete sleepers, reported that they were indeed B52s as we suspected.

And here is that cracked fishplate that we discovered. You can see the crack travelling upwards from below, the classic pattern in a dipped joint.

We changed this side for a new one but not without difficulty as the gap was a large one, and the bolts in place were already 'S' shaped.

Later the cracked fishplate was off and here you can make out left and right what it was intended to do - marry a worn 109lb flat bottom rail to a new 109lb flat bottom rail, with a 1/8th inch lift.

The combinations of 'lifter' fishplates are almost endless, and some of the rarer ones (as used at Broadway) are so unusual they have to be specially made for us, at great cost. It's one of the drawbacks of using mostly second hand materials, it doesn't match.

This set of fishplates is trouble, as it sits by the crossing of a turnout and the nuts are on the inside, so the TB2s cannot be used to undo or tighten the nuts. We got there in the end.

By about lunch time the team had made it to the end of the loop, with the do-er uppers just rejoining the single line. Behind the camera, the greasers and the undo-ers. Gotherington signal box can be made out in the background.

For lunch we trudged back to the train several hundred yards away.

When we returned, we were wowed by the sight of this low flying Hercules. It had a large Union Jack covering the rudder, which made us feel very patriotic.

The Hercules roared overhead and then banked steeply, to fly down the valley of the Severn.

Our time on site was limited by the appointed hour for removing the train back to base, to avoid any risk of burglary or vandalism. Here we are coming off the curve from Gotherington, with our Manor Lane access point on the rear left. The lawned area on the right is being kept beautifully short by the drainage team, we believe to see what effect this has on weed growth. Certainly none of those awful brambles in there now.

Is that a B52 I hear?
Given that the train pickup was arranged for 15.30, we stopped at the end of the curve by the Gotherington fixed distant signal. From here it is a straight line down to Bishops Cleeve, about half a mile away. We intend to address this section in a week's time.

Wearily the whole gang pushed their respective machines all the way back to the start of the loop. The countryside is very beautiful here, but for how much longer? Huge housing development at Bishops Cleeve is moving northwards and has arrived just behind the camera, two fields from Gotherington.

Gotherington station has a large green area...

At three o'clock we arrived back at the train and started loading the compressor and TB2s back into the wagons.

Strange cries came from the other side of a field below the embankment on which the train stood. Not unlike seagulls, which have been seen here since the storms, or even sheep. But they also sounded like cries for help.

Your blogger made his way down the embankment through the brambles, through a barbed wire fence, a stream and two more barbed wire fences to the far side of the field below. There was nothing there, however. Strange. After a long silence came another cry for help, this time quite near by, and there was the source, a damsel in distress. It was a lady walker stuck in the mud, the deep, glutinous variety that builds up in gateways where cattle congregate. She was covered in mud right up to her waist.

Relieved to see us, she took our offered hand and we led her to firmer ground, from which she was able to continue her journey.

On the photograph you can see a tiny line of orange dots in front of the train in the distance. It's the rest of the gang, observing the progress of your blogger on his apparently fruitless mission through the brambles and mud.

Hail the conquering hero, but mind that barbed fire fence!
Plenty of shouted advice was offered, although little physical assistance as such. There was plenty of banter on arrival though.

We assembled back in the car park at Skew Bridge, just as the 03 trundled by to pick up the train, perfectly on time.

Soon afterwards the shunter had brought the PWay train back to Winchcombe. Here we noted the arrival of sand and concrete blocks for the construction of the little goods platform by the Usk hut-to-be-built. A 60ton crane had also come to disassemble the bramble covered pile of turnout components in the yard for removal, but due to circumstances part B of the plan was not carried out and the lorry to take away the materials (belonging to a third party) did not arrive.

Better luck next time, it's beyond our control.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

At the races

Friday at Broadway

Such an interesting day, one which saw the first ever race train leave from the station.

Just look at these passengers flood up the newly tarmacced drive! They have come from London on a special excursion, alighted at Evesham, bused down to Broadway GWSR and boarded the 'At The Races' charter there for CRC.
It was windy and a bit rainy today, and this pattern highlighted the shortcomings of the postage stamp canopy over the front door. Look where you had to stand in order to stay dry. The canopy team have a longer term plan to widen the canopy, to include the stone corbels in the facade, which so far have not been used. A 'WAY IN & Booking Office' V board is in production for it.

And here is the first ever 'At The Races' charter from Broadway, headed by Dinmore Manor, about to leave, and filled with happy race goers.

Here is Dinmore manor with the first ever At The Races charter just leaving Broadway station, this day of 15th March 2019.

May there be many more.

Meanwhile, the car park saw about 20 customers, and once again there was confusion over the one way system.  What is so difficult about 'No Entry' and 'No Exit' , both signs 15yds from each other?

Meanwhile, back at the footbridge....

We carried on with the foundations for the two gate posts that will support the spearhead fencing in this area.

We had the holes deep enough, but this morning they were full of water and we decided to link them, which made for easier baling.

Then a barrow full of mix, with two thirds of the team on the shovels.

End of the morning saw the foundations of the two posts in place, one post in each hole.

That'll be for Monday then.

What to do in the afternoon? (still waiting for the scaffolding, but we now have an accepted offer)

We had a look at the bottom of the steps on P2. here the stringers were still attached to temporary angles. These will be replaced by square upright canopy extension supports in due course.

As it stand the stringers are not actually resting on anything, so we decided to give them supports of brick and concrete blocks.

Here is John laying the first bricks.

When these have gone off, we will build towers of concrete blocks until the stringers are supported.

Saturday at Winchcombe

A quiet day, with no maintenance going on.

Instead, we prepared the yard for the arrival of a crane and lorry next week to remove some trackwork that is stored in the middle of it.

The trackwork, including this fully timbered turnout in the brambles here, belongs to a third party and is due for removal to an alternative storage site.

There were 11 of us scattered about the yard, clearing brambles, throughbolter chairs for Toddington and decrepid pallets.

Steve here is freeing up a BH turnout so that it can be hoisted away.

Lots of material on pallets stood in the way and was taken away by Alan in the Telehandler, sometimes after re-stacking as the pallets underneath had rotted.

The job took half a day. We broke for an early lunch where a pleasant surprise awaited the team:

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Graffiti et al

Sunday at Bishops Cleeve

Our highly motivated railway graffiti hit squad took a Landie down to Southam bridge today, to address the remaining graffiti not dealt with when we first did the Gretton area.

The stuff at Southam was so large that it was not practical to remove it, so as an alternative we covered it in a layer of black wall paint.

The paint was really quite effective, we almost had a colour match with the Brindle bricks. It went on in a very satisfying manner with the roller on a stick.

A second area that needed treatment was an underbridge next to the new housing estate north of Bishops Cleeve.

Previously we did the pilasters above, but the wing walls and abutments, albeit out of sight to the trains, were also heavily covered.

The drainage gang have already built an anti vandal fence inside the passageway, so all we had to do was to remove what there was, and there is a good chance it won't be put back again.

If so, we will just paint it out again, we have lots of paint and two rollers on a stick.

Aerosol paint is not cheap, about £12 a can, and we think we can keep this going longer than the individual who is doing this.

Here is the same wing wall after treatment.

Just in case, we checked the rest of the area up to Gretton, and found one or two bits we missed the first time round, like this bridge identification marker.

We may have to re-visit after the school holidays, but this exercise really wasn't very onerous and we are happy to pounce again if required. If you see any more, let us know.

On the way home we had a look at the new car park, mid afternoon on its second day of operation. We're pleased to say it was indeed being used by passengers, with about 20 cars in evidence.

The embankment has recently been cleared again, so we can get a full view of the last Broadway departure for CRC being hauled out of the station by Foremarke Hall.

The car park has a one way system with its exit at the Childswickham end, where there is a one way trap in the ground to prevent cars entering. In the 10 minutes we were there two cars tried to drive the other way past the no entry sign in the picture. We'll have to see how this works on busy days.

Monday at Broadway

The canopy gang is waiting for additional quotes for the scaffolding. These may take another week or two for scaffolding to actually arrive on site

In the meantime we drilled the holes for the 'Passengers are requested to cross by the bridge' sign.

In the background the Broadway gang is preparing the area under the steps for slabbing. This really needs to be in place before the scaffolders come.

We've got the one cast iron sign we have out for a test fitting. We drilled the holes into the rails set last week, but decided not to finally bolt on the sign until it is needed.

We remain hopeful that a second sign, with the same text, will surface as a gift, or at an auction. That would be for P2. If you see one, let us know.

Once we had drilled the bolt holes, we started to dig the holes for the two cast iron gate posts that will effect a return to the spearhead fencing that will run along the kerb here. The others were levelling the area ready for slabs - just visible at the rear - and barrowing away quite a bit of excess spoil.

The first of the two cast iron gate posts, the last two of ten replicas we had cast a couple of years ago, will go on the end of the B&B wall here. Neal is squaring up the hole in this picture.

In this overview you can see the Broadway gang busy levelling the site under the steps, with a shaped board on the right which is pulled along to get the desired level for slabbing.

Neal is still hammering away on the right.

While the first post will go up against the end of the wall here, the second will go up against the wooden fence post. This leaves the option of extending the spearhead fencing further north in the future, along the currently wooden fence you can see here. Wooden fences eventually rot.

The sleepers were in the way, so Neal cut the ends off. It took quite a while, with that hand saw.

My tape measure has more inches on it than yours...
The three of us took it in turn to excavate the two holes, which we eventually realised were easier to excavate as one big one. It was a hell of a job, as we hit the slag stones originally placed by the GWR when the station was built. These blanket the original clay underneath, and are very hard to extract when jammed up together at the bottom of a narrow hole.

Next time we will put a concrete base in the two holes, then the posts themselves.

Wednesday at Stanway viaduct.

A smaller than usual gang today, as several of the regulars were helping with the race trains, being stewards in the train, rattling buckets, or even as a signalman for the three trains.

I say, these magazines are rather saucy!
We kicked this rather windy day off with tea and some second hand magazines brought in. Eventually Dave rose and outlined the programme:

Two teams today, one to replace plain fishplates at Broadway with insulated ones (part of the signalling installation), the other team to work on the north carriage siding at Toddington.

We have worked on this siding before, fettling it up for regular use with the stabling of two of our rakes of coaches here.

A ballast drop and a run by the tamper have got us this far. The tamper was unable to do the last 20 yards, and some of the lifts required were so high that one pass by the tamper was visibly inadequate to get the siding anywhere near level at the end.

All lean on the shovel - like this.

Our job today was to jack and pack the last 100 yards of the siding.

Quite considerable lifts were required, some lifting the sleepers well clear of the ballast.

Extra ballast was retrieved by Stevie from the stop block area, a tricky bite for the back hoe.

Stevie in the JCB rolled forward a few yards and dropped what he had managed to retrieve on the shoulders here.

It's hardly a main line, but we like to do a good job.

Further towards Toddington the tamper had worked well, but some ballast was covering sleepers, which Robert was clearing in a one man effort as the class 73 came by with an ECS working for Broadway.

This is a positioning move for a race train tomorrow.

The ECS train trundled slowly by, as still in the 10mph station limits area.

We then moved our trip jacks to a second low area, where again quite a lift was achieved, and you can see the sleepers rising out of the ballast.
This was the low bit that had been tamped, but the modest lift wasn't high enough the first time round.

Stevie also brought a front bucket full of fresh ballast, fetched up from Stanton a mile away.

At the end of the day we achieved what we set out to do - spread the lumps of ballast at the end, and lift and pack the final 100 yds of the siding so that it is now level.

Job done. Now to put all the heavy tools back in the white Landie, and reverse it back up the line to the nearest foot crossing. No chance of a three point turn here, it's very tight and a long way down.