Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Three jobs

Three jobs today for our gang:

- Clipping up at Broadway, both rail heads
- Chairing up sleepers at Winchcombe
- Sweeping rail at Buckland in preparation for stressing, due some time in mid - December.

There was another job as well of course: find the mess coach! Once we overcame this hurdle, Paul awaited us with tea and a mince pie with icing on top. Life is good!

We found the mess coach hidden behind this Peak.
Sneaky, but we found you.

It's parked very close though.

The next job, before we even started at Broadway, was to open the box van doors to get the tools out. Parking a 133 ton weight in front of the doors is a great way to stop theft.

H-o-w-e-v-e-r ...... how do we get in? A very thin PWay gang member (these are very few in number) had to slide in between Peak and van to hand out the brushes and tools that we needed at Buckland.

Then on to Broadway for clipping up. Saturday's somewhat moist laying marathon left several panels on both sides still requiring Panlock clips to secure the bullhead rail to the chairs.

A second group split off to do the stretch in front of the goods shed (one sleeper in 5, until the fishplates are on)

Over the last 2 days Steve and Adam have been busy, and the trackbed now ready for laying has been advanced over the bridge with Terram and fresh ballast. Just a few yards now separate the north and south ballast beds, and the gap is basically the site for the future southern turnout.

As we sorted out some clipping up tools Steve and Adam were still levelling off the ballast bed over the bridge. This area here is the end of the double track through the station, here fitted with Terram due to the slushy ground beneath.

As we chatted with Steve for an update, Adam brought up a final load of ballast, which he spread out over the bridge. They spent the rest of the day moving infill around for the station site, and demolishing the concrete base of the bric-a-brac shed (whose temporary planning permission expires this year).

Here's the station gang clipping up. It's a slow job, as the ballast bed undulates very slightly, so some sleepers are lower than others and this makes it difficult to put the rail right down into the chair. There was lots of fiddling around with bars and fulcrums, and one of the Pan Pullers needs some work done on it as it is very loose, so kept slipping off the job. Luckily we had a second.

A passing Apache is always very exciting. You can hear its distinctive sound a few seconds before it appears, so giving time to whip out the camera and take a picture with the signal box on.

Thar she goes.
Ours are equipped with a 30mm canon - can you imagine a gun barrel of 30mm diameter? It seems huge. Those pods underneath also hold rockets, so better give them a friendly wave.

What do you mean - there's tea?

It was very windy today, so we were glad to get away from those breezy embankments and get back to the mess coach at Toddy for a nice cup of tea, and with luck, a warming meal from Paul.
The queue for the teapot formed quickly ...

On top of spaghetti....
Julian and Paul had the task of spooning out (forking?  - what is the verb for dishing out spaghetti?) the spag from a huge pot. We were 21 today, pretty much the maximum the mess coach can hold. What a popular gang we are, it must be the atmosphere.
Meatballs that came out of the oven were piled precariously high on a dish on top of the grill. Should one meatball accidentally fall, perhaps rolling under the stove and acquiring a few extra hairs, Maitre d' Paul declared it would be given to the last one through the door. That should teach them to report for lunch on time. You blogger's ears are still ringing from the painful tirade he received for being 10 minutes late last week. Ouch !

After lunch we completed the station clipping up, with the exception of the last panel, which was not yet fishplated up. We had a little tidy up too, finding a little stash of scrap and the omnipresent bearers for sleeper transport that we are forever collecting and sending back to base. It's a pretty relentless circle.

More concrete sleepers will be loaded in a week's time.

Will you dance with me?
Julian also brought up a number of bags of Panlocks from a dumpy bag full on the other side of the bridge. That's 25Kg to carry over 100 yds each time, a bit like an episode of the strongest man.

As we go to press news from the other two gangs is sketchy as yet. The little orange dots in the distance here are working between Little Buckland and Peasebrook, preparing the last 1000m stretch for stressing. There are 50 lengths of rail to clean with brushes, and equip with rollers and additional SHC clips ready for final clipping up after the stress. Today they did 4 panels, we learned. Let's hope we can do a big bash on this next Wednesday.
At Winchcombe the third gang was fitting the last of the Jarrah slepers with chairs and/or base plates, and were loading them on the train. The last turnout also has to come up, it's a lot of balls to keep up in the air to get the laying job finished by Christmas.

Here's a last view of the southern rail head by the goods shed. This was partially clipped up today, to keep everything in place.

A bit of Broadway history.

Two things really.

First of all, there has been a great response to the suggestion we put people's early GWSR pictures on the Flickr site. Four people have offered to put up a selection of their photographs, mostly seen from a PWay angle, which is what interests us here.

It takes a fair old while to scan a selection of photographs (it would be a huge job to do them all) and then treat each one with Photoshop to remove dirt and try to improve on the effects of age. The first portfolio has now been completed, and uploaded here:

It's called Early GWSR - Garry Owen.

Garry was head of PWay and also chairman of the company, so was able to photograph first hand a lot of what was going on. The comments are currently a bit sparse, so if you can think of more to add, please feel free to do this on the site.

The second offering today is, given that we are working at the goods shed, a couple of historical photographs of the same area, seen through the camera of Brian Parsons. Brian lived in Broadway, often photographed trains at the station, and loved the railway so much that he became a BR fireman at Worcester. A boyhood dream! When steam came to an end he became second man on diesel locos, and this is how the pictures below came about.

Thank you Brian for sharing these.

Here is Broadway goods shed, seen from the cab of a diesel loco on the up line, and taken in the summer of 1972. Note the fresh ballast and good state of the track. Broadway station was behind the pine trees in the distance. Note also how the embankment was wide enough for additional siding tracks left and right. This was a high speed main line.

The same picture taken 4 years earlier. This time we know the number of the locomotive: D1749, a class 47 diesel.
Note the lorry on the far right, next to the corrugated iron fruit packing shed. Fruit packing still seems to be going on, although the goods sidings were lifted by then. Assembly of packing crates was also reported in that shed. It is the rubble of the base that we think we removed from the bund by the bridge.

This was Brian's workhorse, D1749, here photographed at Toddington with a brake van. It seems to be parked in the yard, facing south - the Cotswolds edge is just visible in the background.

Enjoy !

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Through, and out of the station

A surprise visitor was found this morning in the car park at Toddington:

It's newly arrived 5526, a visitor from the South Devon Railway. What a classic branch line engine, such elegance. She was built way back in 1928, and has now done more than a million miles in traffic.

After inspecting the visitor, we had tea and biscuits, and then set off for Broadway.

Here Steve was already on site and busy dragging up rails for us.

We had quite a few sleepers left from last time (without rails laid in) so the first job was to do just that.

The weather was pretty awful today. No one seemed to anticipate it, but we had a steady and very wet drizzle that lasted all day, without let up. We got soaked.

We alternated the laying in of rails, first with the Malvern side and then on to the Cotswolds. In this picture we are laying the last panel in front of the station building - soon we will be through.

The rain got so bad that one unnamed gang member even got out an umbrella. Well, the Broadway gang was working indoors, so why not us? You can't do much track laying while holding on to an umbrella handle though. Pass me that... oh, never mind.

Much hilarity resulted from this little 'incident' (we don't seem to have accidents any more, although this looks very much like one) where the reversing Landie suddenly wouldn't go backwards any more, even though the accelerator pedal was firmly pressed down.

Ah, that could explain the lack of backward progress.

Now what?

No problem though, we only find solutions!

The Landie was hooked up to Steve, and its driver told to drive forwards, its back end hanging in the air.

Who did this, who is the perpetrator? Tim put his hand up.

He then said that he was going to Singapore immediately, although it was not clear whether that was out of shame, or to glower at us triumphantly from under a tropical sun.

More rails were brought up by Steve, here crossing the site of the future southern turnout. Double track will continue up to this area, after crossing the bridge.

The rails laid in continued relentlessly throughout the day, here in a neck and neck race to the end of the platform. The building has already been left behind.

The rain continued.....

In the hope that it might stop while we had our lunch, we decided to break a bit early. The cake siren sounded, and the gang marched en masse down to the cabin (we recommend - it has a new heater!)

The Pway gang is so tough, a number even sat outside in the drizzle over lunch. Possibly it was because the fastest among them grabbed all the seats inside in the warm. Mrs. B's cake tin in the middle here was exposed to the gentle autumn rain, but not for long. It was swiftly emptied.

Car parking is getting very difficult now at Broadway, what with the trackbed up on the embankment largely occupied by ballast bed and vehicular traffic going up and down.
Luckily the big pile of trackbed scrapings at the bottom was removed by Adam and Steve, and taken up the station drive for re-use. In this way 5 extra spaces were created, which were gratefully employed today. It's still crowded though.

This is the latest view on top today. Steve has put up the new fence aloong the edge of the embankment on the left. Sleepers and a pair of rails wait to be used. Everything is black and slushy. There was even a complaint that the Landie was dirty - now that must mean really dirty.

Having laid in as many rails as we could, we had to resume laying down sleepers.

With the exact spacings here a bit in question over the last few days, we are careful to get the measurements from the platform edge just right, here using our track gauge.

The BROADWAY running in board and signal box now form the background to our work.

In this picture the loop road has almost reached the end of P2. Steve has squeezed in on the down line to lift in another pair of rails.

Pete is thinking about stuff. Sometimes it's good to stop and reflect on things. Where did I leave that corkscrew last night?

The rail going in here gave us a lot of trouble. At first it went fine, after all the sleepers were eyed in to give a nice straight line along the open chairs. The rail went in OK, except for one chair, where it decided to hang. The usual method for recalcitrant rails, a speedy bang on top with the digger bucket just gave us a loud 'clang' but didn't shift it.

After watching us struggle with this rail from inside his nice warm and dry cab, Steve eventually got out - yes, really! - to give the situation the benefit of his 30 year experience with the GWSR.

Some hearty whacks with a keying hammer were prescribed, and effected. They didn't help either. Hmmmmm....?

The final and successful diagnosis was a burr under the second hand rail we were using. Moving the sleeper in question along a bit eventually solved the problem, after the rail was lifted out, and back in again. This time it did indeed drop down.

You can't beat experience with a book.

As we were laying in a curve, the inside rail was starting to overtake the outside one (well done that spotter in the last blog post) so Nigel stepped in with the disc cutter to even things up.

This allowed us to lay another 24 sleepers, enough for the up line to reach the southern platform end.

The first rail of the last panel today has just been lifted in here.

With both rails in on the last panel today, you can see here how far we got today, in one of the wettest days we've had so far.

There are just 48 sleepers to lay on the down line, to bring both roads to the platform end.

We're not sure just what we laid today, it's something like 7 or 8 panels, a brilliant result in the conditions.

Here's an end of the day view of the track now through the station.
Signal box, track, station building, footbridge... it's all there now. This is pretty much what Broadway station will look like. The track still needs fettling and ballasting of course. We'll do that when it's joined up to the running line.

Looking the other way, the double track is laid past the buildings and seems to stretch into the distance.

Of course there's a gap of a couple of hundred yards to close still, and a turnout to be laid.

Broadway station with double track

At the end of the day the bedraggled PWay volunteers trudge back to their cars. We were wet and cold, but triumphant.

Broadway station track is almost done, just the gap over the bridge to fill now.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Out into the country

One of the unseen jobs on the railway is accompanying the tamper crew on one of their days up the line. A member of the PWay gang accompanies them each time, for the purposes of liaison and local knowledge.
Tuesday was one of those days, when our contractor B&R took their Plasser & Theurer 07 out on to the Broadway extension.

The 07 is open to hire by any railway, so moves about from job to job. This week it was based with us.

The first job of the day was to refuel it. The tamper has a high revving diesel engine, which amongst other things runs a hydraulic pump that propels it along and operates the tamping tines.

The job for the day started 150m south of Little Buckland bridge. This is actually on the recently lengthened operating section, but as the track settles down in use, you have to come back and correct it here and there.
From here the tamper travelled up the line to Pry Lane bridge, measuring as it went. It does a recording, prior to the job.

Then it came back to do the 150m south of the bridge. In this zoomed in picture (which exagerates the defects) you can see that a couple of twists have appeared.

Here is the 07 on those twists, which were easily removed.

If you look carefully, you can see a low bit between the tines and the front bogie. This is lifted as the machine moves a long, a bit it a time, and tamped, a bit at a time.

The wheel just in from the right lifts up the rail, and then the tines descend, and vibrate the stone in under the sleeper in question.
The spot between the white marks was actually the pulling point for the second 1000m of CWR, and hadn't been tamped before, hence it was a bit lower than the rest.
The operator sits in a small gondola suspended under the machine, just off to the right. All he can see is two sleepers, directly ahead of him. A second man sits in the cabin, and makes sure the machine doesn't (very slowly) run over anything.

This is one of the driving ends. Bob (the 'B' in the 'B & R track services') is setting up the machine on the track recorder, after one of the measuring runs. On the right are two dials which show the attitude of the machine.
Not visible in the picture: the microwave and the kettle! You are out on your own here. We didn't even stop for lunch, these are hard working people.

The screen of the track recorder shows various attitudes, and also top left in red the distance still to be travelled to the end of the measuring run.

That was handy in the dark, as we couldn't see where we were... a beep tells you that you have arrived.

Looking forward now, we have reached the stop board, signifying the end of the operating section, and the end of the first job.

The second job was to (re-) tamp the last of the three 1000m CWR sections after an additional ballast drop. That's now ahead of us.

Behind us is the curve north of Little Buckland bridge, a job just completed. Doesn't it look good? The back of the stop board is on the right, so in the foreground is the start of the next length of CWR.

Can you imagine that iron ore and coal trains hacked along here at 60mph?

That would have scared the wildlife. Well, we did anyway. Here are three roe deer galloping away from us across a field, their white back ends hopping up and down.

They gathered at the top and peered back at us, as we slowly ground along with a steady drone.

A bit further along, and we have reached, on the left, the sign representing the Gloucestershire-Worcestershire border. Broadway seems miles away here. Well, one mile anyway. The problem (for the PWay gangers) is that our railway is one of the last ones to be built in the UK, and was laid out for fast running. There are many long straights, unlike some of our colleagues in the industry, who meander and wriggle through narrow valleys. Inside the train you don't really notice this, as the Cotswolds hills and stone cottages slowly drift past. Very pretty.

Here's a picture you won't see very often, as the tamper approaches bridge 4 at Peasebrook farm.

There is new fencing all along here, and the bridge is private. Once the line is up and running, steam locos will be pulling away here, as it is uphill.

The tamper slowly crosses over bridge 4 at Peasebrook farm. The Cotswolds edge is behind it, and the clouds are gathering in a winter sky.

Another unusual view, as the tamper slowly works its way north to Broadway. This area is quite inaccessible, unless you arrive here by tamper. It's so slow, you can get out, walk back to the bridge and into the field, take the photograph, back to the bridge and up the track, and the tamper is still very much where you left it before. It takes 3000 tamping movements for one kilometre, and today we did one and a half. It took all day.

Another job for the second man is to warn the operator of any difficulties up ahead.
Here in the foreground we have the next pulling point, midway in the new CWR section. The rails here are only held together by temporary fishplates and clamps.
Further along is the breather (expansion joint) another thing to look out for.

Past Peasebrook farm now, and Broadway is in sight. The start of the long curve through the station can be seen in the distance. It's starting to get dark. No matter for us, we just follow the instructions of the track recording machine.

A 'space ship' at Peasebrook
With only another 300m to go at dusk, we decided to press on regardless to the end. This meant that we did not have to return to the job to finish it off the next day, when the regulator was due to come here. Worth the extra couple of hours.
The tamper here has paused for a bit of TLC. All the kit is on board, so it doesn't take long to fettle it from time to time. Good moment to take a moody picture too.

Finally we reached the end, the beep came and told us so. We were at Pry Lane bridge (bridge 3) although you'd never know it. We had a full beam on, so you could just make out the pilasters in the gloom.

To make the tamper fit for travel back down the line, the tines and measuring wheels have to be retracted again, and secured.

The next day the regulator came out and swept the same section. It is now ready for the final preparations for stressing.