Saturday, 14 July 2018

Stone blowing on the horizon

The heat continues; it seems to be weighing on our numbers. We had another 27 degrees today and it was very muggy, adding to the warm feeling.

We started the day with 4, went up to 5, the 6, then back down to 5. But, enough to do important work!

Mrs Blogger fulfilled her promise and made a second 'cake', in fact a tin of Rocky Road, all chocolate, biscuits and marshmallows. That went down extremely well with the morning's tea.

Then we were off to Gotherington Skew bridge, to prepare for a dose of stone blowing (possibly next week) by digging out the dipped joints that had been reported here, and along the straight at Manor Lane.

It was a low and strong sun today, a bit awkward for photography along the line. Here are Nigel and Tim just approaching a dip, which you can make out on their left. Ahead is the famous 3 arch bridge, a favourite place for photographers.

Well, were were underneath, trackside.

Stone blowing involves lifting the track back to just above its normal height, then using compressed air to inject fine ballast. Obviously, in order to inject the stone underneath the sleeper, you have to be able to see the bottom. So here we are, digging out sets of sleepers under track joints. Happy days !

Not for long of course, because there were two kettles out today, and the first soon interrupted our digging activities. It's the first (nearly empty) train out to CRC, here hauled by 35006 P&O.

We do all this by eye, there is no measuring required at this stage.

We identified a dipped joint, and Bert lay down on the track and gave us an estimate as to how many sleeper beds to excavate, ready for the stone blower next week.

Then we dug out the beds around it, so that when we do the actual stone blowing, we can concentrate on that activity alone.

After identifying and digging out 2 or 3 sites at Gotherington, we moved on to Manor Lane on the other side of the station. By now we were 6, with Dave and Ade joining, at least for a while.
Insulated joints seemed to dip more often than plain ones. Here we are digging out an insulated one, which you can see by its yellow pipes protecting the S&T wires for the block.

While we waited for the next train movement, a buzzard flew over and chose as a useful perch the Gotherington bracket signal... That's quite a big bird there, but the distance was quite big as well, it's zoomed in here in the picture.

When 2807 came by tender first, we had just reached the Manor Lane access point, which thanks to its shady trees would also be our lunchtime picnic area.

There were quite a few clouds about, and the air was hazy with the Malverns hard to make out in the distance. Unfortunately the clouds never built up quite enough for a cleansing thunderstorm.

2807 then headed past our picnic site.

It was very hard work today, armed with mattocks and shovels, digging holes between the sleepers.

As we didn't have any folding chairs with us (we are not wimps) the best we could manage for ourselves was a nice stretch on the approach road from Manor Lane.


Of some hindrance to us was that this area had oversized stone ballast dropped on it years ago. You can't shovel big stones, they just cause the shovels / mattocks to slide over them. They are also poor at holding the track, as with bigger stones, you get bigger voids between them. Some were as big as grapefruit.

Our favourite photograph today came just after lunch, as P&O headed south out of Gotherington.

The first up train today, we noticed, had a face at every window, but there were seats still available in each compartment or table. No one had to stand. So that seems OK.

Now for a bit of news: 4270 is back. Did you see the first picture of it on this blog?

Do you have any chocolate? On this loco? You must be kidding, mate!

Our Welsh large tank loco was at Winchcombe at the end of a test run. All looks well - here she is, off again towards Toddington.

We closed the day with refreshments at the Coffeepot.

Some remaining Rocky Road from Mrs. Blogger remained in the tin, but not for long. A volunteer was found willing to take them home - in his hat.

Monday's fishplate greasing

We had a small gang out on Monday, another hot day. Well, they all are at the moment.

Having pushed our TB2s and trolley out to the start of the section to be greased for the first two weeks, we are now faced with a longer journey and pushing isn't really an option any more. Now what?

The ingenious solution was to use the little transport wheelset to take them up to a Permaquip trolley. This was hooked on to the Landie, in rail mode, and propelled to the site (at the end of the Defford straight).

We cautiously propelled our little 'train' out to the start of the next section. Just 3 of us again, as you can see. We can actually do it with 3 we have found, but it's so much better with a few extra hands.

Our pleasure then was great when, reaching the end of the next stage at Hayles Abbey halt, we were joined by Bert Ferrule, whose mere presence boosted our numbers by an amazing 33%.

Thanks, Bert, it made a big difference and was much appreciated.

Here we are about to break for lunch under the shady road bridge at Hayles.

This is as far as we got, the end of the platform. Next Monday, Didbrook, then Toddington and that could be that!


Although the Hayles platform shelter (ex Usk) is certainly shady, it is also very hot inside, so despite the comfy looking bench in it, we preferred to sit on the trolley in the breeze under the bridge.

Some Broadway bits.

 We had a rare visitor in the sky at Broadway:

It was Dakota, with invasion stripes under the wings. It flew just to one side of the station and village, presumably to give its passengers a sideways view out of the window.

And then it was gone again...

Back at the station itself, work continued on Friday under the roof. In the rush to get the station ready enough to start earning some desperately need hard cash, we were asked to concentrate on the ticket selling and lavatorial side of the business, leaving the roof for a later date. And this is now.

Broadway station is a 'shoe box' under an umbrella, that best describes the building and its canopy. The top of the shoebox, while perfectly dry under the canopy, was not yet finished. The insulation - 12 inches of it - needed to be placed and then covered with chipboard sheets. Originally there was just planking and no insulation. This is modern stuff then, but completely out of sight.

A story we were told by the children of one of the original gangers here was that he liked his drink and kept the supplies up here on the roof space, away from prying eyes. The empty bottles were flung under the trees along the drive, where we did indeed find a few.

As we worked away under the roof, finishing about 90 % of it on Friday, a diesel driver experience rumbled in.

Here is its loco, 47 376 just running round at the north end.

A video of the train leaving again is available here:

Cast GWR style letters have been ordered for the next V boards that are still left to be made: REFRESHMENTS, WAY IN, WAY OUT and OVER FOOT BRIDGE. From the text you can guess that we are thinking ahead to include what is required for platform 2. We were able to lend the foundry almost all the original letters that were needed for this, thanks to our growing collection of cast iron GWR letters. If anyone has any for disposal, or would like to swap, we'd be interested to hear (breva2011 at We have some spares in both 4 inch and 12 inch sizes.

Finally, Neal has made some progress with the Gent's modesty screen for the south end of the building. Some fettling of the angled brackets is required, we discovered during this trial fit.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Bishops Cleeve

A day at Bishops Cleeve today, and a birthday.

Mrs. Blogger was persuaded to produce a cake:

Peanut butter and chocolate - Yum!
Sadly, due to your blogger's birthday, the average age of the PWay gang went up a notch today.

It was peanut and chocolate. It was a test: if successful, another birthday cake will appear on Saturday!

We can report that the cake did indeed vanish, despite apologies for peanut allergy and diets. Others very kindly jumped into the gap and consumed twice their share.

We decided to continue with our fault finding mission on the southern half of the line. Last week we reached the northern breather at Bishops Cleeve, so to Bishops Cleeve it was. All aboard!

Bishops Cleeve is surrounded by new housing, and the station site was sold years ago. The railway today is just a double track channel through the middle. There's a wee bit of space by the foot crossing, so this is where we parked the cars and the Landie.

Head scratching now, as we consult the track walker's spread sheet.

We decided that all of us would repair to the northern breather, located a bit north of the road bridge at the far end of the former station.

On the left is the former goods yard of the station. Years ago now already the British Legion built a clubhouse there, and a couple of years back it came on the market and was bought by a nursery, which made a very good job of fettling up a fairly dire building.

The GWSR had a crack at acquiring (part of) the site, but was outbid by the nursery. We are not rich, sadly.

The local village site has two good pictures of the former station. Have a look at this one:

It's taken at the same place, but looking in the other direction. The passenger station was at the back of our picture above, by the pine trees in the distance. So the British Legion site would not have got us back our station anyway; it's covered by housing already.

At the breather, part of the CWR laid here to give the residents a quieter experience of the railway line, we split into two teams. One went south to continue fault finding; the other addressed a problem with the breather and would then work north to replace some failed fishplate bolts.

The breather had a loose base plate bolt (tightened) and a loose bolt on the two short lengths of rail that hold the breather together.

That was a bit more tricky, as the bolt was spinning and it would normally need an insert.

The steel coil insert would not go through the hole in the old rail, and with the hot weather we did not think it wise to remove the rail. The best fix we could devise was to fill the old hole with a piece of sapling, and then  screw the chair screw back into it.

Job done! All nice and tight again.

Just step aside for a moment to let 2807 through, with the first full train from CRC. Generally speaking the trains looked filled OK today, including the DMU, which provided the second train that was about.

The fault finding team loaded their gear into a barrow and started to walk south. That barrow was loaded up with heavy stuff, and we wish we had a second Landie for this sort of requirement. Now it's a lot of old men pushing heavy stuff along in a wheelbarrow.

Steam loco 2807 was followed  by the DMU, which seemed to feature in quite a lot of pictures today. Probably because the loco was running with its tender facing south, and with the strong sun a shot to the north (looking at the end of the tender) was the best photograph available.

Having addressed the breather, we moved further towards Gotherington and eventually found the loose fishplate bolt that was reported. We failed to find the neighbouring one, said to be located in the next joint. Must have been tightened by the track walker then.

If you take a closer look at the bolt (which we decapitated, as the nut was spinning) you can see it is off centre in its hole. That's bad news. We managed to knock it out, but the new bolt would not go in unless we hammered it, thus rendering the thread useless again.

Here is the bolt that we took out. The problem is not the wasted thread at the bottom, but the two lines of thread nearer the nut. It was here that the nut was spinning, having stripped the thread.

How, we do not know.

We solved the problem by loosening the other three bolts, and then knocking one of the fishplates sideways with a keying hammer. It was a great feeling of victory when we got the new bolt in, without damage. Another problem solved!

Where next? Dave studies the spreadsheet, as the DMU approaches in the distance from Cheltenham.

Another set of loose bolts a bit further along was easily addressed by tightening up with what we call a 'hand' spanner. It could just as easily be a simple spanner, but we also have motor driven ones (the lovable 'Animal') so hand spanner it is, to underline the difference.

While were at it, we did both sides, you never know. We're still close to Bishops Cleeve here, but you can't see the new housing estates because of the trees, so it still looks all green here.

Note also the Genny on the Landie. This is a really useful machine, which we use to cut through the seized bolts with the 115v angle grinder

South of Bishops Cleeve, evidence of activity from a neighbour on our side of the fence. The fence is right on the edge of the cutting, and the neighbour has been on our side to lay down some sort of Terram, part way down the slope towards the track.

With the sun requiring photographs looking north, we took this picture of 2807 about to enter the site of Bishops Cleeve station.

What a lovely locomotive, with its polished motion.

We stopped for lunch by the foot crossing, where we found a shady spot from which to engage in loco spotting.

2807 Got that one though, did I underline it?

After lunch the gang united and walked south, after losing a few members on other duties.

The Cotswolds side of the line is still intact, with no housing estates visible.

This herd of cows came to protest loudly at something, but there was nothing we could do to help. It was a mixture of milking cows and their calves. Not a good combination to approach in a field, the mothers are very protective.

Keeping an eye on the clip repairers from the Landie. Have they finished that one yet?

Further south still from the conurbation that is Bishops Cleeve, we can see Cleeve Hill at the top here, and another herd of cows in a very dry meadow.

When they saw us, they all came cantering towards the hedge, moo-ing loudly.

We were clearly expected to provide something, but what?

Right at the top, John informed us, was a former hill fort, whose outer defensive ring was interrupted by quarrying. Fascinating.

With Bishops Cleeve now receding fast into the distance, we replaced out last set of clips and pads here, using the trusty pan jacks.

Or Land Mines, as they are also referred to by some.
We said it before, but that DMU featured a lot today, because with the sun behind us we had to look north and the sole kettle today was tender first this way.

Quite a few people were in the DMU today, which is good news. Were they just travelling from A to B?

Before we go, news of a brand new project from the railway's Heritage Group. A long gestation period after the completion of Hayles Abbey halt has finally come to fruition.

Read all about it here, in the revamped Hayles Abbey blog, now retitled: Heritage Herald Blog.

Onwards and upwards ! We are the GW (S) R.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

North carriage siding

Five of us today, quite a small group. We decided to measure up the rails of the Toddington north carriage sidings. These extend from a point north of the Stow road bridge, all the way up to the end of Stanway viaduct. The sidings used to hold little used stock (eg the steam crane, the kit of parts that make up 76077, and a number of wagons that belong to a third party) but since the opening to Broadway they have become much more useful for a completely different purpose - stabling two rakes of coaches, end to end. Yes, the siding is that long! There is indeed room for 16 coaches here.

There were two 'kettles' out today, and here is the second. 2807 used the space vacated by the departing Dinmore Manor south to attach to the northern end of its train, about to leave for Broadway.

It's a bit daunting, standing here in this cutting, as you think you are on a proper main line and a Penzance Express should come hurtling round the bend at 60mph at any minute. There's double track at each end of the cutting, with this short stretch of single line in between.

Although this wasn't part of the original plan, we did spend a few minutes also measuring up one of the ends of this crossing, which was showing signs of wear, and could do with a lifter plate.

Meanwhile, 2807 has settled down at the head of its train to Broadway and is ready to go, awaiting just a clear signal.

Still no clear signals yet, as Bert checks the measurements at the end of the crossing.

The signals clatter, and the train heaves itself into motion. It's the first train of the day into Broadway, leaving Toddington at 10.15, and it's not too full yet.

Below the first carriage you can see the turnout for the north carriage siding that we are measuring up. At the bottom of the picture is the catch point, a device that protects the running line from unauthorised access from the siding. The running line turnout under the first carriage is motor driven, as the signal box is way over the other side of the station, opposite the goods shed. The catch point is mechanically linked to the running line turnout by means of the rodding run on the left.

Looking the other way, you can see the siding to the right. This end is in pretty good condition, and in the past locomotives never used to progress much further.

Now that we are stabling two rakes, end to end, the loco propelling the first rake ventures quite a lot further up the siding, and we need to upgrade its quality, principally by fitting more fishplate bolts, and fitting lifter plates where in the early days, a little bump in the siding caused by rails of different wear was of no great consequence.

A close up of Bert measuring the rate of wear on one of the rails. This siding - being a siding of course - was laid with lower quality second hand rails many years ago and has unmatched rails of varying rates of wear. To correct this, we will fit lifter fishplates where they are needed. Measuring is the first step.

As Dinmore Manor returned form Broadway we had a tea break while we were in the shade anyway. In the distance you can see the siding start to wobble a bit, in the last few yards before the stop block at the end.

Tea break turned into lunch 'al fresco'. It has to be said that, sitting in the shade and with a very slight breeze, it was rather pleasant out here, out of sight of all humanity.

Nigel was back from his hols and the famous sponge cake was on again. What a relief!

In the foreground is the fact sheet on which the measurements of each rail were recorded.

The 15 arch Stanway viaduct - hardly anything visible from track level.
We measured the remaining lengths up to the stop block by the viaduct, so that was job done.

While we were out here we decided to have a gander at the southern breather of the CWR stretch  that starts beyond the viaduct. Having just walked out of the cutting, it doesn't feel very high up, until, once on the viaduct, you look down. Oops! It's quite high after all...

Nigel and Bert have reached the CWR breather. Out here the sun is unrelenting, and everyone has a bottle of water with them.

The breather was lubricated a few days ago, and we wanted to see how it was performing in the obvious heat we have been having.

The answer was: Very well indeed, no problems to report. The concrete sleepers, and plenty of ballast, hold the CWR in place despite the heat expansion. Much of the breather's work is actually to protect the CWR stretch from the expansion of adjoining, normal fish plated track.

The CWR here runs all the way up to (Broadway) Pry Lane, a stretch of 3 miles! Since it was laid, it has given no trouble at all, a big feather in the cap of those that put it down.

A shot of the breather from above, with the bonding wires marked in yellow to make them stand out. The two lengths of bullhead rail hold everything together.

Just for those that are interested, here is a close up of the breather gap itself.

You can see how the rails can slide past each other to open up or further close the gap. The wheels feel nothing.

Note that the outside temperature was 29 degrees today, while the temperature of the rails will have been considerably higher than that still.

A last chew of the fat, before we walk back to Toddington in the heat. Bert pointed out an interesting phenomenon by the bracket signal (end of the run round loop). The SHC clips that hold the rail to the concrete sleepers have a tendency to twist sideways there, due to the constant stopping and starting of large locomotives here as they run round their train.

Broadway snippets

 Great was the ire of your blogger as he arrived for work at Broadway on Friday morning!

On platform 1, adjacent our neighbour's customer car park, was a bag of dog mess.

This must have been tossed over either last thing on Thursday (after the last train left) or first thing on Friday, before we arrived at 9 am. What is the purpose of these 'doggie bags' if all the owners do is hang or throw them somewhere?


In the recent (somewhat more minor) bridge strike that we suffered the wasp striping was hit by a blunt object that seemed to be less hard than steel. It bent the bracket of the warning stripes, but seemed to just scratch the actual bridge itself.

During the day we also spotted this tractor carrying a telegraph pole passing under our bridge. Now, if you wanted to minimise the overhang at the back, you would want to load it quite a way forward.....

Could the two be connected?