Thursday, 19 April 2018

Chairs - please take one

Sunshine at last! A larger than average number of volunteers - welcome back, the rain wimps - assembled in the mess coach at Toddington under a glorious sky. We found two cakes, oh joy!

It was Dave P's birthday. Candles were absent, owing to the huge inferno they would have represented. Drawn by the sweet smell of cake, Stevie also made a brief apperarance to secure a slice, but we were not working together today, Stevie being elsewhere occupied on the railway. He was last seen under Stanway viaduct on fencing to keep the lambs at bay there.

Outside, the Green Goddess made an appearance next to Dinmore, which was in steam ready for today's half steam, half railcar services.

After Dinmore rumbled off to attach to the train, the yard took on a very modern appearance. Five diesel locos ruled the roost; there was even a sixth (the class 47) hidden behind the class 20. All magnificent pieces of machinery, we must admit.

We split into two teams. One went to Broadway to shovel ballast along the P2 road, and the other went to Winchcombe with two missions: sort out the large pile of cast iron chairs next to the running line, and if time allowed, recover the concrete sleepers exposed by the removal of a third party's rolling stock on the unconnected sidings by the yard gate. The latter job eventually had to be deferred to another day, as there were an awful lot of cast iron chairs to move.

Down to Winchcombe then, with a quick pause at Hayles Abbey halt.

Dinmore trundled through, safety valve blowing off in the lovely morning light. We would have let you see a bit more of her, but the trigger finger camera decided to take the picture earlier than intended.
What an idyllic spot though. The halt is well kept, the grass is weed free and recently mown. The cutting has been flailed with the remote controlled machine and now looks like it did in steam days.

At Winchcombe we started to address the numerous piles. Mixed up all together were GWR type throughbolters, spiked base plates, S1 chairs and specialist chairs for pointwork. Most of them were for bullhead rail, which we now use only in stations, although there are still penty of them out there from the 1980s reconstruction of the line.

Many of the chairs had already been stacked on pallets but not then subsequently moved, so that the pallets rotted underneath the pile.

Here Paul is sorting through a pile, with throughbolters predominating. You can recognise them with their sticking out bolts, which are impossible to remove as the nuts are rusted on solid. They give you something to grab though.

The chairs were removed to the back of the yard where they are out of the way. However, a goodly supply of GWR type throughbolters was taken up to Toddington for the 2807 group to turn into bootscrapers, which sell very steadily and provide them with a income for their favourite loco. They were heaved on to the back of our trusty Landie, while Dave kept a wary eye on the maximum weight allowed.

We have accumulated track components over 35 years from all sorts of sources from steelworks, an Army camp, a concrete plant etc so the inscriptions on the chairs make interesting reading.

This one is from the western region of BR, which decided to continue using the through bolts, whereas all the other regions were using chairs with 3 holes for chairscrews.

This is a very old one, marked GWR on the left and 92 (1892) on the right. The corners are distinctively rounded, which also points to its venerable age. Note how even the through bolt was marked GWR from above.

We suggested to the 2807 group that they charge a premium for GWR chairs, but they said that would complicate the pricing, so when you buy yours, you might be lucky with a genuine GWR veteran. Rumour has it that they will paint you a specific one in your preferred colour too.

This one has two holes for bolts, and two for spikes. It's from the Midland Railway, and dates from 1901.

It could become your boot scraper too, we found 3 or 4 of them.

Finally, this one. A 'His and Hers' boot scraper? No more waiting while your partner cleans her boots. Through bolted as well, so of WR origin.

The Landie, well loaded with chairs for 2807, set off twice for Toddington, each time with a crew of three to help unload. It's a tight squeeze in there, but there are seatbelts for each of them, even if the occupants look somewhat apprehensive.

This scene reminded your blogger of a similar photograph he took in China:

The same three apprehensive faces, as the truck is carefully manoeuvered over an open level crossing with its vast load.

Anything coming? Can't really see, there's a summit just round the corner. After all, what could come along here in the middle of nowhere?

This could come along here, and did, moments later:


Back to earth, in Winchcombe. We also had a train go by, it too was steam hauled, but no iron ore here (not since 1965 in fact):

Dinmore takes the 11.20 train out of Winchcombe, as the chair hauling gang gladly pause for a moment to cheer it along with a wave.
You can see the motley collection of piles by the track. At the end of the day they were (almost) all gone.

Once the chairs had been re-stacked on to more robust pallets, Martin moved them with the Telehandler up against the fence.

Here Julian received them, and arranged for them to be stacked neatly in rows for an easy pick up if so required at some time in the future.

Lunch was held in Winchcombe behind the cafe, which was very busy. We had to wait before we could place our order for teas. And it was crowded out there in the sun - 13 people round a table for six.

Dave's two part birthday cake experience is still with us in the foreground, but was fully consumed by the end of the day.

Winchcombe can be very atmospheric when trains cross here, as they do with a two train service. Here is the DMU out of CRC, waiting for Dinmore to draw in with the train from Broadway. All the cafe tables were taken. On the opposite platform sirens wailed as a bus load of schoool children was given a war time experience.

The visitor centre in use. It's very modern in there, but does hold a lot of children.

On the opposite platform two ARP wardens / firemen were passing the time between falling bombs with a chat. Squirts from a stirrup pump are left behind on the platform.


A further working session took place on Monday. Next to tidying up / removal of scrap and waste there is a small amout of building work still going on.

Both the kitchen and the cafe ceiling have now been fitted with plasterboards. This is a low cost activity - we have the plaster boards in stock, and the work was done by two volunteers.

Here the cafe ceiling has just been completed. This is a false floor, made of scaffolding for the volunteers to stand on while putting up the ceiling. The actual floor is a further 3ft down. The fireplace can be glimpsed at the end. A handful of generous donors have clubbed together and raised the funds for a new slate surround and grate, so funding for that is secure.

A professional plasterer will come on Thursday to fit plasterboard to the walls and then skim the boards with the plaster in the bags on the right. There is traditional wainscoting up to waist height.

Outside, preparations are being made for the final length of spearhead fencing at the north end of the station building. There will be a single spearhead gate here and the foundation just cast here is for the gate and posts.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Packing heat

No, we weren't armed with revolvers, we were packing today, and for the first time this year it was hot. Lovely !

Trains were one steamer and one diesel today - here is the steamer coming off shed, waiting to be let into the station. What a lovely railway atmosphere here. Behind them is the valley where Hayles Abbey used to stand.

On arrival at the yard, we noticed that our Telehandler was being used by the loco dept, but they let us have their small one.

Nigel ran up to Alan, wondering if the machine had shrunk. What is this that you've brought along?

Although the little machine could boom out, the safety soon cut in and in practice it couldn't handle the distance that we needed it to go, so we resorted to shoveling the ballast out of the bucket.

I say 'we' but your blogger finds himself with tennis elbow and can't use his right arm. Embarrassing, but it now needs rest, not shoveling. Duff jack carrying with the left arm works OK though.

Here the full bucket from the little machine is offered up, to be emptied by hand. The bearers laid into the check rail to stop it filling up weren't needed, as the machine couldn't tele out that far.

Next came the packing bit, using the ballast just brought in. We're going to start by hand, and probably finish off with more serious Kangos next week. Steve gives it a good bit of welly, while others already take a rest. It's hard work.

The levels are checked with a fairly precise instrument, here being employed by Tony to see what effect the jack on the right has had after being cranked up a few inches.

In the middle of this stretch there was a cant of 30mm, which we removed successfully.

This is the middle of the level. A bubble on the left is centered using the small knob on the right, and when it's in the middle, a reading on the panel on the right tells you how far one side is higher than the other - the cant in question.

Here's a detail shot of the read out. In this case the display shows that the track is level - which is what we intended - with a reading of zero. You can centre the bubble by turning the knob and when it's in the middle, the figures tell you how many mm of cant you have, left or right.

Of course on certain sections you might want a degree of cant, and this is how you measure it.

Before jacking up the offending rail to the desired height - up to 30mm today - you need ballast in the cribs.

Here the little Telehandler, having part discharged his load in the foreground, is able to stretch a little further and the carefully placed boards finally work, to protect the switch blades from the stones.

Having spent most of the morning shoveling and packing, our valiant little gang collapses on to a trolley for a few precious moments to savour between arrivals of fresh ballast from the car park.

Behind the trolley a second activity centred around ballasting the start of the headshunt siding, which drops back down quite quickly here. We're starting to tidy up the site, ready to sign off the job, perhaps as early as next week.
Steve helps with ballast spreading with the back actor, as letting one man - in casu David - do it all is asking a bit much.

At the pointy end stretcher bars have been fitted. This now allows the use of a regular clamp to secure the blades in the through road position. Actual use of this new turnout is not expected for a few months yet, but we needed the non-running season to get the other turnout into the running line. This is being traversed every day now by regular trains.
Beyond the STOP board is the short stretch of plain track we resleepered last week. This also received ballast today.

Today we were buzzed by a plane flown by Tim, a friend of David and Diana.

He's in a plane called an Aeronca Champion, or Champ.

We waved enthusiastically, and in return saw dives and tight turns round the field next to us.

Hi there !

David normally flies a Boeing Stearman, a biplane from the 1930s used as a trainer but now often seen in flying displays. This is his day job, believe it or not.

In between shoveling a welcome break was always the passage of a passenger train. Today the maroon rake was hauled by our class 47 diesel. As we are here still within the 10mph station limits speed restriction, there isn't much clag to see, alas. With the slow speed we got plenty of opportunity to study the passengers, and were pleased to see that there were lots of them. Mid day almost every table / compartment was taken.

The other loco out was 2807 today. The warm sun really brought people out in droves, which is good news for our income.

It's quite an impressive loco, 47 376. It was built in 1965 but still looks very modern. The type ran down our line before closure.

Having completed the ballasting of the second turnout, we moved towards the loco yard a bit and ballasted known voids, then jacking and packing some dips we had noticed.
Alan and Steve did shuttles with ballast from the car park, which was very full and some people parked too close to our ballast pile. We managed.

Here we are even closer to the yard, with the first diesel locos parked up on the right already. It was now so hot all jackets were ditched and some were in shirt sleeves after lunch. The day ended with 17.5 C !

Stevie came and carefully dropped bits of ballast in voids that had been there for some time. Afterwards we felt that a very good job had been done, it all looks very much neater now.

During the ballast spreading and shoveling exercise nearer the yard, some diesel loco shunting went on in between deliveries.

Here the shunter is waiting for us to level off a recently arrived pile, then we let him through. He had quite a train in tow, hauled by the class 73 stuck between the Peak, a canibalised class 20 and this class 26 up front.

I said NO. You are not allowed on the new turnout yet. What part of STOP can't you understand?
Humour appart, we were happy to borrow two locos to try out on the recently packed northern half of the second turnout, to see how much it deflected.

Richard at the controls and his shunter Dan really enjoyed their work. It was good to see Dan, who is a second generation volunteer on the GWSR. His father Greg took part in the opening ceremony to Winchcombe in 1987.

At the end of our day the 'kettle' returns from Winchcombe with the penultimate train north of the day. The second turnout is now just about finished. A few small jobs remain outstanding, such as replacement of some sets of fishplates with insulated ones, and perhaps a last tamp with Kango hammers. We will know more next week.

Here is a final overview of both turnouts at the end of the working day. Looking good !


A day spent at Broadway on Friday helping with a number of jobs. Following reports of cloudy cameras a volunteer (Dave) came out to effect a repair and reports that the issue is damp inside the lens. The lens in question was cleaned but the problem really needs to be cured by better weather. Perhaps we are now off to a good start, after, we read, the wettest March in 40 years.

Two volunteers spent Friday cleaning up this original board, bought at auction a while ago - you can still see the label on the left. On very close inspection of the paint it turned out not to be white on black, but ivory on chocolate, and this from the start. If this is correct for 1904 we may well replicate those shades.
The board originally said LADIES WAITING ROOM and we will drop the WAITING bit to turn it into LADIES ROOM, as on the door plate. This one will be a two sided board, suspended from a truss as there is no room to put V boards by the toilets, due to the long arch there in the new building.

The (part) heritage toilets seem much admired - a group of ladies came specially to see them, we heard - but there are a number of leaks in the copper pipework, which (we hope) were sorted out by a visit from a plumber on Friday.

The kitchen and part of the cafe ceiling have had plasterboard fitted by the BAG gang. Here is a view of the cafe, with a raised floor to allow the ceiling work to continue.

Money remains very tight at the moment, but enough has been found to allow a plasterer to come next week and skim the ceiling and walls.

Old - and very new
Platform side, 8 plastic frames have been attached to large boards fitted to the walls.

At the northern end a hole has been dug to take the foundations of the spearhead gate and cast iron posts that will lead to the canopy overhang due to go in on the right here.

The manufacture of the steelwork for the canopy overhang and steps is currently under discussion.

Meanwhile, the first of the replica cast iron BEWARE of TRAINS notices is being painted. It was cast using a genuine one provided by a supportive member. More could be cast if there is sufficient interest, with any profits going to the railway.