Saturday, 19 January 2019

Stairway to Broadway

Friday at Toddington 

A last minute breakthrough in negotiations meant that the green light was given to make the transport of the footbridge steps to Broadway possible - this Saturday!

Gulp! And the last we heard was that everything was delayed to March, but great news.

We still needed to do some last minute riveting. Fine, we have Friday for that. But then we discovered that the oxygen had run out. Luckily we managed to get an urgent delivery, so we were on for riveting on Friday.

Here is one of the bolted up intermediate landing supports being manoeuvered into the loco shed.

Friday morning, all present and correct, but no gas yet.

Neal takes the opportunity to cut 30 rivets down to size.

The gas arrived at lunch time, so after a quick snack we were off.

Here is a white hot rivet about to be hammered into shape.

The routine was to undo one of the temporary bolts, ream out the hole (which had shifted a bit, or grown smaller with the zinc coating), then chase a rivet into it. Job done! Very satisfying too.

Mid afternoon the first of the two supports was done, and here we are manoeuvering it back out of the shed.

It went a bit quicker than on the way in, we worked out how to do it by then.

The intermediate landing support frame was then slowly walked towards the ash pit, where a Warflat was positioned, ready for loading.

We felt really good about this, the fruits of our labour finally on their way to Broadway.

At the end of the afternoon, at dusk, the second frame was also done. This too was loaded on to the Warflat.

There is more riveting still to do, and more to take to Broadway, but what we did today was the largest and most important part.

At the end of the day both landing supports were on, ready to go.

When will they be installed? Watch this space!

Saturday on the winter relay

A typical winter's day, wet, windy, but there was a good attendance as we had a job to do. ' I come here because of the job satisfaction, and a sense of achievement' as one volunteer commented during the day.

We started on the fifth panel, which although laid still needed the second end cut off, a job accomplished by Chris.

On Friday Stevie, working alone, laid another 4 pairs of rail into the four foot. He wasn't with us today, but left us this legacy. It enabled us to lay the rails straight in, just by rolling them with bars.

10 volunteers lined with with bars, and on the command their combined forces lifted and rolled the rail into the chairs. Job done! Just like in the old days.

After the miserable, rainy start, things suddenly improved a tad as a hole in the clouds was found and the sun shone through. It illuminated our work site, and made a faint rainbow over Stanway house.

Stevie had also dug out some more old ballast, leaving this final stretch in the foreground. The contents of this we would like to use on the headshunt, behind the camera on the left, which has a sort of ski jump downwards and then carries on well below the level of the main running line.

We hope that the several spare diesel engines on well wagons will be shunted away tomorrow, so that next week we can break up the headshunt ready for better sleepers and a higher base.

In this picture you can see the fourth of the four pairs of rails left for us by Stevie. Gradually we worked towards the end, tipping each pair into its chairs as we went along.

At the signal box end - panels 4 and 5 here - another team was busy bolting down the chairs, as the rails are initially laid with one on every sixth sleeper. The remaining chairs have to be found and then laboriously inserted underneath, usually jacking up each rail end to make room underneath. They weigh 46lbs each.

Pete on the left is either extremely pleased with something, or else someone has just dropped a chair on to his foot. Mike and Diana enjoy the joke.
Peter here and Mike (centre) spent the day drilling fishplate holes where we cut off the rail ends, while Diana carried sleepers from the trolley to the trackbed. All hard work, so a pause with a cup of coffee from a flask is very welcome.

How many more minutes to lunch time?

The most forward planning team was that of Mike and Pete, who managed to stop drilling for lunch right in front of the mess coach door.

Chapeau, chaps ! It shows a thinking mind.

Prior to fitting fish plates, Ade here measured the wear on each rail and wrote the result on to the nearest sleeper using just a nail. Hope it's still legible next week.

The sleeper laying team went great guns. After unloading two one ton packets off the trolley, a change in the method was tried and this time the packet was brought with the Telehandler, and unloaded even nearer to the job. Good idea, that one.


On the right is Alan with the Telehandler, while David and Tim unload the sleepers and Diana repositions the gauge each time.

Do they know what they are doing? Nah... What about him? Nah.... Him then? Nah. Any of them? Nah....
After many holes were drilled by Mike and Pete the fishplate team followed on. As you can see though the chairs are not yet bolted down or keyed up, so this will be a job for next Wednesday.

The state of play at the end of the day. Sleepers are laid out as far as the new ballast permits, so before we dig out the rest that headshunt (visible with the blue tarpaulin in the background) needs to be cleared for a while. Then the remaining spent ballast can go straight in.

We ended the day having laid the 11th pair of rails, out of the original 20.

On the way back to the car we spotted this skip by the loco shed:

This skip of general loco dept waste always fills up quickly, this time with plastic Christmas trees and bulky items of furniture. Are you letting the company pay for what you could take to the local tip for free?

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Getting up to speed now

Monday and Tuesday at Toddington

After the start of track laying on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday saw further work on removing the spent ballast underneath the old track, and resupply with new.

The spent ballast pile in the car park grew bigger and bigger, until relief came in the form of this little tractor and trailer, which started to remove it again.

The destination of this spent ballast is our track access at Gretton, where a long, boggy track rising up to the tunnel is an ideal place for spent ballast.

Manoeuvering past the huge pile of lighting up wood with a fat 6T dumper hundreds of times is tricky, but so far so good.

But those timbers in the foreground here for lighting up, that's a bit optimistic, isn't it? They're quite chunky...

GWSR throws away steam engine!
At the sight of the big dumper the Toddington station group asked very nicely if we could ferry around the redundant playground furniture. Happy to oblige.

Meanwhile, Steve continued to scrape the spent ballast into piles in a number of short stretches. Behind him is a finished stretch, and behind that, another with fresh ballast in it.

The footsteps / canopy team had a day of reorganising and minor jobs, such as re-cutting the threads on the tie rods.

Here they are parking the completed fascia boards down the side, until we can start riveting them.

On Tuesday a small gang carried on with ballast removal.

Mid afternoon came a nice change in the pattern, as the whole trip was reversed and the dumper drove empty up past the pallets, and returned filled with fresh ballast.

Although there are no trains, there are some trains.... see below for the answer to this contradiction. Look left, look right....
The fresh ballast arrives at the long stretch dug out on Tuesday. Each load gives a bit of bed about 3m long.

In the car park there are two piles of it. An old one, and a new one.

Luckily the old one has now stopped growing. More fresh ballast arrived in the morning, but was mostly used up by the end of the day.

At the end of the day we stopped loading, and Stevie came over the level out the day's drops.

As you can see, it went quite far. The darker colour is Tuesday's work.
We stopped at sunset and here is a train that isn't in the timetable. It's the S&T department returning after a trip to Broadway.

Wednesday at Toddington.

The main gang returned for another session on the relay.

Four volunteers split off to load concrete sleepers at Winchcombe.

These are left overs - not suitable for laying under track, with various defects but the concrete is always good!

They are required at the Stanway viaduct, where the 4 corners will be piled and retaining walls installed.

This also helps us get rid of stuff blocking up the yard.

After an hour or so 80 sleepers were piled up on this bogie flat, ready for locomotive haulage north.

Then back to the gang at Toddington.

Within minutes the class 73 arrived with the same sleeper wagon. Here it is carefully pushing past the work site, using the loop road, which is still serviceable.

It was a grey day this morning, the forecast not so dry, it has to be said. Once the sleeper train out of the way we were able to trundle the Permaquip along the line with the next load of replacement sleepers. But the sky started to look ominous.

In the distance two more groups are fitting chairs under the rails laid on Saturday, and keying them up. That's quite slow and laborious. Clive went up and down with the TB2 and screwed them down.

Just before lunch time the heavens really opened.

There was a clatter of tools and next thing you knew there was a line of men filing back to the mess coach. It was a packed show today too, virtually every seat taken.

We spent some time looking out of the window, munching.

Is it still raining?
Has it stopped yet?
Has it stopped now?
Is it any less yet?

Eventually there was nothing for it but to climb back down that ladder and face it. We got wet for about an hour, then it got a bit friendlier. During that time the southern end of the gang laid in another pair of rails.

We would have lad in a second pair but uncertainty reigned, despite an excellent plan of the works provided by our HOD, about which rails were intended next.

We were sure about these - scrappers. They had a red 'X' marked on them and so Steve took them away. But what in their place? Saturday will no doubt sort that out.

At the end of the day, with light starting to fail early due to the heavy cloud, we had laid out about 50% of the new sleepers, and 25% of the rail was back in.

About 25% still remains to be dug out. We are keeping this in the ground for the moment, as we would like to relay the headshunt as well (the one with all the diesel engines on well wagons on it) but it needs a shunter to take away the wagons. If we then remove the track we can dump the spent ballast right in from where it is being removed. The spent ballast is fine for this siding, which currently sits about a foot too low.

PWay work was finished for the day as it got dark, but in the loco shed the canopy team was still at it, in a nice bright work environment.

Today they made the handrail for the yard lamp. Didn't they bend it beautifully!

The next job was to curl the ends under (so that you don't take your eye out as you climb up) and here John can be seen heating one end up, ready for beating into a pig's tail shape.

Sadly the oxygen fizzled out, so this will be for another day.

Friday is announced as a riveting day, as the footstep parts are due to be loaded on to the flat wagon now in the yard the very next day.

Finally, a quick stop at Broadway on the way home to see how the scraping of the forecourt was going. This started earlier in the week, after preparatory drainage works.

It is surprising how much spoil has come out, but we don't want the surface water to drain into the building, hence the kerbs along the front.
Note how the far end is a yellow colour. This is the original clay. The site is level, but the original ground profile, before the station was built, was a slope towards the road, with the railway coming out of a cutting and on to an embankment. The station sits exactly on where cutting changes to embankment.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

First track back in

Stevie said on Wednesday that he would put down a layer of fresh ballast by the box, and that he hoped to lay the first 4 panels of track back again on Saturday.

Incredible idea, but we did it!

Here is Stevie's layer of fresh ballast in front of the signal box, waiting for us this morning.

The dumper took away a last 6T load of spent ballast and tipped it on to a growing pile in the Toddington car park.

The Alan grabbed a large bundle of new, creosoted but softwood sleepers and put them on the Permaquip trolley which we had parked on the end of the disposal pit.

With a lot of heaving and shoving we propelled this not inconsiderable mass over two sets of points, and ran it down to the work site.

Here Nigel was waiting for us, together with a gang of 4 hopefuls for a little light sleeper action.

While we were unable to complete the sleeper run with mechanical laying, this was nonetheless a method that worked. It did mean that every sleeper was laid by hand, but heigh-ho, we took turns and got through the day.

Jack on the right here for example was a willing volunteer.

We didn't tolerate any complaints about weight, as the sleepers were softwood ones... can't be heavy then.

Once a sufficient length of new sleepers had been laid out a first length of rail was dropped in on to chairs set at 6 sleeper intervals. We will fill in the rest on Wednesday.

In view of the signalling equipment being abundant in this short stretch, we had to lay in the rail from one end, using out trusted and tried 'Fulcrum' method.

John is keeping a careful, supervisory eye on all this, wearing his best class 58 vest.

We're now cutting off the other end of the rails (where crippled) so here is Neil on the rail drill fitting one rail with new fishplate holes.

By lunch time on this dreary, drizzley but warm day we were outside the signal box - whoopee!

Great progress, it's all coming together nicely.

The bits of wood in the foreground are spacers for the sleepers.

You put half of the spacer in the previous crib, and then the other end tells you where to lay the next one, as Jack and Chrisman are doing here.

It's a tiring job, so from time to time we had a bit of a rest.

John started greasing up the chair bolts, and one of the frequent loco dept. visitors took pity on him and came out with a chair. How very kind of him.

When he wasn't loading bundles of sleepers on to the Permaquip, Alan had the bucket on front and replenished the dumper with fresh ballast.

That's another big pile in the car park, although at the end of the day it was a rather small one.

Bert took the dumper load of fresh ballast along a recently dug out piece of trackbed and increased the length of the pile there. Steve then jumped in with the JCB (when not lifting in rail) and leveled it out.

Mid afternoon we were actually past the signal box, where Steve can be seen lifting in the first rail in the fourth panel.

Almost reached the target now.

Here is the view from the start this morning. The rail head is already quite a way away. The track is still a bit wobbly, it needs some 'tweaking'.

No issue for Steve with the JCB of course. By now it's getting dark, and the shutter speed is a bit slow for perfectly sharp pictures. Sorry about that, but better than no pictures at all.

Here is where we stopped. The 4 panels we set out to lay are in, and even a few more sleepers laid out along the 5th one (of the 20 to do).

A small gang of two will work on Monday and Tuesday to dig out the rest of the old ballast, and replace with new. This will allow further sleeper laying on Wednesday for some of the gang, while others can insert the remaining chairs on panels 1 - 4 and screw them down.

Other news:

No progress on the footbridge steps, which ought to be at Broadway now but are not.

At Broadway itself the contractor is close to completing the placing of the drains for the forecourt and drive. Once that is done, 'scraping' can take place, meaning that the level of the forecourt will come down sufficiently for a proper base for the tarmac to be laid, while still remaining below the level of the kerbs.

In the meantime, another contractor came and worked on the old steps that lead to the very top of the drive. These are located in the far corner of the car park, and they used to give a short cut access for the stationmaster and the staff living in the 4 cottages there down to the station, without having to walk down to the junction where the upper part of the drive meets the start of the forecourt.

Originally the main entrance to the stationmaster's house was at the top, but when some land was sold off after demolition to what is now the B&B a new entrance was made off the far end of the forecourt. Originally, the far end of the forecourt led to the horse dock.

Gretton tunnel:

There's not been a rush of replies about the date stone over the tunnel mouth at Gretton, and indeed Hunting Butts.

It would be helpful if someone could point us to an old photograph that shows the date stone in place. It seems to have been missing since at least the 1960s, and it is still crumbling today. Was it flush with the brickwork, or proud, or set in? What date was on it? Audie Baker's book suggests that the tunnel was completed in the winter of 1905/06, so which date was it?

We would like to do something with the hole that is there now. Either brick it up to stop water ingress, or else replace it with a replica date stone. Come on, look in those old books...