Saturday, 27 May 2017

A kettle in sight

A cold, breezy day today, very welcome after the heat yesterday but after a while, uncomfortably cold - some had to go and get their jackets, who would have thought of that? It started OK, nice and sunny....

Here's where we left off, before the new sleeper supply was shunted up. The rail wagons have been brought right up to the railhead, while the sleeper wagons are where they were last time - quite a long way away now - as we can't get at them on the high embankment on which we are working until the Childswickham bridge.

This is your gang for the day, just 13 of us. The size suits us, there is a job for everyone, and we don't get in each other's way. As we wait for the stragglers to arrive, we have a good cup of tea (or two).

We have new neighbours here, we're right next to a stable, and this is - a horse.

We said a cheery hello to each other.

To start with, there is a strap removal competition. Mike on the right calls out the 'ready-steady-go' and then we're off. There are 360 sleepers here; why the Conflat is only half full we didn't know, otherwise the number would have been 400. Perhaps it's a weight thing; 40 sleepers is 10 tons after all for the little 4 wheeled Conflat.

Here we are, all assembled at the current rail head. For those in the know, it's about 3/4 along the rape field just before the sewage works on the left behind the trees. We're now well away from Peasebrook Farm (and that horse).

Alan has been dispatched to collect the first load of sleepers from the supply train. It's miles away (well, maybe the best part of half a mile) and you can just about make it out in this picture as the dark shape on the track.

The rail wagon in the foreground contains 20 rails still. More have already been ordered, for delivery on June 12th. No pressure then...

Here's another view of the same thing, from the other side. The dip in the middle is bridge 4 at Peasebrook Farm. This area is due to be welded at the end of the month. We will be using CWR up to a 'breather' (expansion joint to the laymen) at Pry Lane bridge, the next one along, after that it will be one weld every other joint.

To start with, we have to hang the hooks on the spreader bar. It's the same thing every time, which hooks goes where? We can't leave them on, it makes the spreader bar too heavy to carry. These hooks are 'handed', there is a right way and a wrong way to put them on. And, no, it is not sufficient to just turn them round the other way.
The team puzzles over the arrrangement, until Bert Ferrule brings sound advice.

One small team sets off towards Broadway with an essential task: determining the exact line the sleepers will take. They hammer in these battens, and for the shorter distance by the sleepers we use a rope, which is pulled forward (in a rather satisfying way) every now and then.

Is that a curve we can make out? Is that really the start of the curve into Broadway station?

Alan then arrives with a respectable pile of sleepers, 12 in this case. Nigel gives directions as to where they are to be stacked for a short while.

To save time while the JCB was elsewhere occupied, we did a couple of stacks 'on the side' as it were. Later, when the JCB was back and the Telehandler took a long time to get to us with the next load - the distance from the sleeper wagons getting longer all the time - we used them up again. In this way we made rapid progress today, which was very pleasing. And all this while Gala was in full swing, we didn't even go and look (although bits of it came to us, as you will see in a moment).

Then off we went, laying.

The hooking up team steps well back as the jumble of sleepers leaps up from the stack, and dangles into a sort of shape.

Instructions to Steve for the jib movement are:
and a new one we heard today:
Oh heck, we'll have to bar it...

We did 160 sleepers by lunch time, which could well be a record. An early start, good weather, a plentiful supply and two machines with no hitches/punctures contributed to this success.

In the background is the rape field, with in the bottom corner the hedge around the sewage farm - we are now next to it.

Boosted by the laying success before lunch, we decided to lay in a few rails as well. There were 20 left on the wagon, enough for 10 lengths (260 sleepers).

But what's this in the background? Steam? A kettle? A surprise gift to visitors to the gala was the part opening of the extension. The stop board has now been moved to just beyond Little Buckland bridge, and what you see is the 'Laverton' shuttle (now the Buckland shuttle?) in the form of GWR 1450 and its auto trailer, just setting off for Toddington again.

1450 and the auto coach? What does that look like on the new extension? Here they are, just setting off again from the new stop board. On the far right, the mess coach, so the extension gang is not far away. We have given visitors as much as we could. Next stop, Broadway!

As the little tank pulls the coach back south again, we see an angry sky over Cleeve Hill. This was about to hit us, after a promising sunny start.
Our cars are parked on the wide bit by Little Buckland bridge, it's the only place we can use to get to where we are working. But it is now increasingly far away from the rail head. We are scratching our heads over a new place to park, further up the line.

Back at the rail head, we surprised ourselves by how far we had come. Here Steve points out to Dave the different areas of the sewage farm, a place where Steve has actually been on a maintenance job, so he knows it well. Further back is the spire from Childswickham church, it's a new vista for us every day.

In this picture you can see the distinctive tower of the sewage farm, and how close we are now to it. One of the last two rails goes in here. At this point, we have laid an amazing 240 sleepers, an excellent result for a day's work.

The last rail for the day is dropped in. We used 18 of the 20 rails left on the wagon. The last two were dragged off and laid on the ground, so that we can now say that the wagons are clear, and ready for the next load.

During the day, Leigh did an excellent job of temporarily clipping up the newly laid rails, ready for the welding team.

Dave and Neil help by lifting the rail ends to the correct height, so that Leigh can do up the special G clamp bolts. In the background is the Cotswolds edge, with Broadway village just out of sight on the left. The barns in the middle are alongside the B4632 which follows the line.

The railhead today, with 240 sleepers laid, and after 18 rails laid in. This gives 9 lengths built today, or 164 metres. Of course it all needs properly clipping up still, and welding, ballasting, regulating, sweeping, laying out clips and pads, stressing, welding, clipping up finally etc etc etc etc etc.......

On the left the Pry Lane end of the sewage farm, and the sweep of the ballasted curve into Broadway. By the end of the jib of the JCB you can make out the pilasters of Pry Lane bridge, which we should reach next time. This is also where the breather will go, then it's a change to more fishplates again.

This picture at the end of this rather dull and windy day shows exactly what we laid today. And we are definitely on the final curve, there's no mistaking that. The track has started to swing left.

The team is loading the tools back on the Landie here. Broadway goods shed can be glimpsed at the rear. We're on the curve.

And finally: More kettles!

Yes, a real, big train on our extension. Topped and tailed by a main line steam loco, the train has drawn to a halt by the new stop board on the right. The leading loco is standard visitor BR 76017, with a 'Red Dragon' headboard. There's a head at every window, and no wonder, the extension to Little Buckland opened today.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The Broadway canopy goes on

Bet that surprised you, you didn't know that was coming...

Well neither did most people, it was a snap decision when the loco team learned that they could not use the Toddington car park to make the trial assembly due to a field out of commission for the gala. So it was decided last minute to take the whole lot to Broadway and see if we can assemble it on site. And they did! It looks brilliant. It took all afternoon, but all 6 trusses are up, as well as the 5 ridge purlins, the ones with the beautiful arches.

Tomorrow the steelwork will be further bolted together, and next week the crane will return to lift in the purlins and fascia boards, another day's work.

Because of the scaffolding, it's a bit hard for the man in the street to see what has happened, so here are some photographs of the work that went on this afternoon. It's an exclusive, hot off the press.

Vic Haines came to Toddington this morning and loaded two lorries with all the bits you saw on the Hayles blog yesterday.

Here they are outside the station, with the purlins unloaded, up against the building, and the trusses being lifted one by one on to the steel framework inside the bricks.

It was a race to see who would be ready first - the bricklayers, or the team manufacturing the canopy. In fact the loco dept won by a short head. A few more rows of corbelling remain to be done.

The issues of transport, and assembling the canopy on site were solved by a single vehicle - the crane lorry from Vic Haines at Pershore. They did an excellent job for us today.

The 6 trusses were lifted on, starting in the middle with trusses B and C.

You can now see how far the canopy projects out over the platform in the foreground, and the scaffolding recently lifted takes account of this.

The second truss is lifted into place here.

The weather was so sunny that we became hot and thirsty, and our visiting Finance Director unexpectedly opened his dusty purse to offer us all a drink of lemonade. It was very welcome.

Once the first two trusses were approximately in position, the first ridge purlin was offered up. This connects the two, and confirms their positions.

While we were craning more trusses into position, a member of the crew - there were only 4 of us on site - already started drilling the holes to bolt down the first trusses we had put down.

With the third truss in place, the second ridge purlin could be lifted into place. the canopy was starting to look like something. It was a heart lifting moment, to see this actually being assembled, after so much heartache and discussion. It will look magnificent.

A conflab ensues on what is in its place, what isn't and what is/is not vertical.

It all went extremely smoothly. Only a single piece of angle had to have 1/8th inch shaved off the end to make it fit. It's an amazing testimony to the savoir faire of the small team in the loco dept. Congratulations, guys !

The different elements were initially G clamped together, until everything was properly wriggled into its place and the positions confirmed.

Soon we reached the northen end of the canopy, as truss 'A' is lifted into its place on the end. Beyond this is the canopy overhang, which conncts with the bottom of the footbridge steps.

Besides verifying the positions of the trusses in terms of the 'I' beam running around the top of the building, Neal also checked to see what the platform side overhang was doing in relation to the edge of the slabs below. We see him here dropping a line down to make sure it was all OK.

Now looking back south, with the truss 'A' behind the camera, we can see the ridge purlins in place on trusses B and C, and once again Neal checking with a level that everything is in its place.

A few moments later, the ridge purlin between trusses A and B was also located. You can now begin to see the lovely row of arches on this traditional rivetted canopy; that's what it was all about. There is going to be  a row of glazing with traditional coloured glass all the way along here.

Looking north again in a brilliant spring evening sun, you can see the arches striding along the ridge of the canopy.

Here we can see Neal with the mag drill following on with the gusset plates, which hold the ridge purlins on to the trusses. There'll be a lot more of this taking place tomorrow.

As the sun started to go down, the final truss 'F' was lifted into place at the southern end of the new canopy. You can see a lovely bit of corbelling brickwork on the corner.

Because of all the scaffolding in place around the top of the building, it's a bit difficult to give a good view from the ground of what is going on up above. Here is a shot from the site of the old viewing platform, which has just been taken down. You can make out the southern end truss, sort of.

This shot is from the signal box steps. Still not great photography, but you can see the last ridge purlin being lifted into place at the southern end. The whole of the canopy assembly is visible here. Still to come, as mentioned earlier, are the purlins and fascia boards, which hold the ends together.

Back on top, we can see a close up of the last ridge purlin, which has just been lifted in.

There's a whole row of steelwork up here now, and more to come next week.

A last look at the final ridge purlin going in.

Those arches are just amazing, and it's almost all been made in house, by our very own people.

The fascia boards will go on to the ends visible in the foreground here.

You can see all this during our open evening on Friday, and we'd love to see you and show you what we can. Do come.

Soil nailing progress.

Good, steady progress continues to be made here. The machine is steadily working its way along the embankment, and as of this morning, was a bit over half way along. There are no major issues as far as we know, which is a relief.

Here we see the machine with completed nails sunk on the left, and new nails laid out on the right. The sites of the nails to be sunk are marked out in red. The bottom row has already been done.

In this area at the beginning of the site the nails have had their caps put on, and the fence like matting has been laid out over it. This is what it should look like at the end.

This panoramic shot gives you the impression that the machine has almost finished, but that's a trick of the (camera) eye. Where it's standing is a bit over half way, but still good progress.
A bundle of 'nails' (actually hollow tubes) can be seen in the foreground; also the pump for pumping up the cement slurry is visible, together with its compressor.

The road along the bottom has dried out again, thank goodness.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Sleeper sorting for next week

More sleeper stacking at Gotherington today - we need to have enough to fill the supply train again, so that we can continue laying, now that the second 1000m of track are clipped up.

Sleeper stacking is always a pleasure, because for once, you get to see the trains go by. Out at Peasebrook, they are far away. Here 2807 drifts into Gotherington with a well filled train.

Once the train is out of the way, work can start. There are three of us here today, two on bars and one in the Telehandler. We made a super quick start today, and were on the job by 09.30. You could see the results at the end of the day too, we did really well.

Alan was in the Telehandler, and charged the quivering pile with gusto. There isn't really a right way to get into the pile, as it's such a jumble, but often he did well, and fished out between 2 and 4 sleepers each time. Not all made it to the sorting pile; as you can see, some fall off on the way.

Whoa, got to stop again, here comes another train, where do they all come from? It was 2 steamers on duty today, and it was pleasing to see lots of passengers on the trains.

After a while, a little orange dot was sighted in the distance, slowly getting larger. This turned out to be our plucky track walker Dave F, seen here on the curve just traversed by 7903.

Dave is seen tapping each bolt on the fishplates, to make sure they are well done up, and that the fishplate is not cracked.

Believe it or not, this duty along the whole length of our line is undertaken quite regularly, by a small gang of volunter PWayers who walk miles, for our security. Think of them, as you glide by in comfort up there.

Because we split off from the main gang today (they were laying in the big rubber crossing pads at Little Buckland foot crossing, and dealing with snagging issues on the recently stressed and clipped up stretch) we did not have lunch together, but Mrs. B did make cupcakes for all of us, and those that were at Gotherington had their own, special box labelled 'Alan's gang'. That's us!

Here Neil is admiring the feast that is about to be.

Along came our plucky track walker (who has a certain food consuming reputation, aka Gluttonus Maximus)  and enquired whether the rumour that we had cakes was true?

Cupcakes? Nah mate, not here, definitely no cake here, no sir, no way, we have no cakes. We are a cake-free operation here, oh yes.
Neil defended the cakes bravely, and denied all knowledge of them. But what is in that big red tin behind you, Neil?

Oi, you, unhand those delicious cupcakes, leave them alone, No!
Too late, the cupcakes had been spotted, they were doomed. Their lifespan was to be drastically curtailed, as were their numbers.

The Viking plunder of Lindisfarne was nothing compared to the ransacking that our cake tin was made to suffer. Neil could only look on.

A clank and a whistle announced the return of 2807, this time the right way round for a photograph, as it steamed out of Gotherington and over the Skew Bridge, which gave its name to our little sleeper depot.

The joy of working in the PWay not only resides in laying track on the extension, but also in the ability to photograph working steam trains from unusual locations. In fact your blogger was actually obliged to stand here, to warn the Telehandler driver of the approaching train. Really.

We made amazing progress today, thanks to an early start, a practised team, and good weather. By lunch time we had done 100 sleepers, and by the end of the day, another 90, so that all in all we had stacked what we think is a record for a day: 190 sleepers.

Ready for loading at the end of the day then were 400 sleepers, which should fill not only the two bogie bolsters with 160 each, but also the Conflat with another 80.

During our lunch, we were able to observe 7903 chug past out of Gotherington, here framed by some of the work we had done. We had set out a little bench of sleepers for us to sit on, in between the two piles here. That was a good idea, spoiled however by the drizzle that then lasted throughout our break. And the boots hadn't really dried out yet from their soaking from the mega clip up on Wednesday....

We're going to give you a little puzzle to solve. Some people have asked, how many sleepers do you actually have at Skew Bridge, and we said we didn't know exactly. So here is a through section of the piles. Count how many sleepers you see in this pile, then multiply that by five piles, and the total remaining at Skew Bridge is?

Our last photograph today shows 2807 again, with an early afternoon train of happy, fare paying passengers. The outer of the 5 sleeper stacks is just next to it.

We may well lay more extension track next Saturday - watch this space.

Other news

The soil nailers at Broadway are making good progress.

On Friday, two days after the heavy rain, they were in action near the top of the slope. You can see on the picture how wet it has been, the flat ground at the bottom is now all churned up.

On normal days, they achieve between 25 and 30 nails in the ground, between 9m and 14m in length. At the 30 degree angle, most of their length is in the embankment itself. They've set themselves a target of 5 weeks to do the job, which sounds reasonable because at 25 nails a day, a month @ 20 days gives you 500 nails bored in, and in reality they have 518 to place. So we're doing OK at the moment, with the exception of Wednesday, when it got really wet and only a few were achieved. At a rough guess, they've done about a third so far.

The pipe leading up to the drill is the feed for the cement, which is pumped up from a hopper below.
In the foreground, you can see numerous pipe ends sticking out of the ground. They have yet to receive their caps.

Here's a picture from below. To the left, numerous bits of rodding stick out of the ground, work already done. Above is a tractor with a winch. The slope is now so slippery that help is needed from above with a hawser to keep the machine from slipping all the way back down again, despite the caterpillar tracks.

You can see the state of the ground at the bottom here. It's been raining, see?

In the foreground is a row of nails already achieved; they decided to do the bottom ones first, after a while.

On the left is the hopper and the pile of bags of cement for the pump.

Here's the drill back down at the bottom, and the tractor on top pulling on the hawser.

The man on the right has laid out lots of soil nails ready for use, and feeds them into the machine one by one.

The manufacturer of the machine, Klemm Bohrtechnik,  has a video here:

It's a bigger machine, and instead of a bod holding the pipes, they've got a mini digger with something rather larger, and the whole thing is hydraulic, not mechanical. But you get the idea.

The guys on site reckon the job will take them 5 weeks, which is pretty good. After us, it's the turn of the SVR. Their river valley is known for its unstable ground. In 1952, a severe slip occurred at Jackfield, a few miles further up the gorge. You can read about that here:

Makes our occasional little slips seem quite manageable!