Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Day two tamping at Broadway

It was touch and go this morning, what report will you get, Gotherington, or another tamping day? Well, this is what makes working on the PWay so exciting, you never know what you will get.

We met in the mess coach at Toddington, where there was a large contingent waiting for tea, some with idle hands.

It seems that this steam locomotive - could it be Foremarke Hall - is about to fall into a void of ballast in the track. But then out again, on the other side, we read into this.

Clive held forth - he's good at this, holding forth - about the Gotherington job of relaying the track across the bridge, for which we got the green light a week early. An opportunity then to make up some time. The trouble was, Clive was due to accompany the tamper crew today, and next thing you know, some other mug sat in that juddering thing today - yours truly, again. Clive was off to Gotherington instead.

So you get a Broadway tamping report today. As the team was quite a large one today, a smaller gang was split off and dispatched to Broadway to shovel ballast. Here they are, filling the voids between the sleepers created by the tamping yesterday. Is that what the misty cartoon was about?

The tamper arrived from Toddington, yours truly by car instead, so that he could take the crew back by road at the end of the day, leaving the machine in the platform at Broadway overnight.

The first job was to measure by hand the height of the track vis a vis the platform edge, and determine which was the highest spot.

The tamper then did a measuring run, and afterwards slowly worked through along platform 1. The Cotswolds side tamping bank first had to be moved inside a bit, in order to stay clear of the platform edge.
How do you reckon this works then?
The noise of the tamper engine, the hydraulic pump and the vibrating tines resulted in a clatter of falling tools at Broadway, and a collection of curious volunteers who all wanted a closer look at this big yellow machine.

Some found that a shovel made a useful prop against which to lean while studying the workings of this strange, noisy machine as it slowly passed.

There were occasional stops to service this 40 year old machine, and we see it here paused by the signal box as one of the crew guides it past the recently dug stormwater drain connection in the centre of the track.

Here's a shot from the steps of the signal box as the tamper slowly makes its way past the station building. It's eleven o'clock at Broadway, and there is no one about....

A deserted platform at 11.05, tea time, as the tamper is lit by the light passing through the canopy glazing.

Looking behind us, you can start to see a straight road on the left, and a wobbly one, still to do, on the right. That will be for tomorrow.

The view from inside the cab of the straight road just tamped and aligned through the station.

Will it be finished on time then?
Just before lunch, and with the tamper juddering away in the distance behind the camera, the ballast shovelling crew wander into the platforms to see how the station gang is going on. Neal tells it to them like it is.

After the first run through the platform on the down line is complete, the tamper crew re-measure by hand the height of the track as now packed. A few low areas subsist, principally due to insufficient ballast in those places. We were very conservative when dropping ballast here, with the idea that you can always drop a bit more, but you can't take it away. A second pass is decided on.

After lunch the tamper measured up the headshunt stretch, and then returned to start work by the turnout.
The ballast gang have decided to start filling in voids here, having done the area of the southern tunout as far as it was possible. There's always time though to pose for the photographer.

It was fascinating to watch the tamper play around with the tamping banks and individual tines in order to consolidate the northern turnout here. It was quite a ballet, and tricky to perform without hitting anything and ruining one of the tines on the downstroke.

At the start of its measuring run we caught the tamper parked right up against the buffers of the headshunt here, which we reckon was an 8 or 9 coach length from the inner home signal. We shall see in practivce what it can hold.
As we worked our way slowly along the headshunt to its northern end the light began to fail and it quickly got dark. On the left the track is done; on the right is for tomorrow.

This is the end of the day shot, taken from Springfield Lane bridge. Just a few more yards to go for the tamper, then it's the end of the road, unless we extend to Willersey halt a mile away. The green fence on the left has turned orange in the setting sun.

But of course this isn't the only thing we did today, the main gang was working at Gotherington.
Last week we took a look at the bridge repair site, and took a few shots to give an idea of the job facing the gang today.

The contractors had almost finished the job, with just a bit more ballast to lay down on the bridge deck.

On each side you can see 4 rails representing the 2 panels taken out on each side. That would be the job for today.

The track stops on the left, then there is a 4 panel gap, which here has been refilled with ballast and was being rolled. The road on the right is now for vehicles; once it was the up line and express trains came past here at 60mph.

On the other side the original track resumes and is soon in the confines of Gotherington station in the distance.

Here's a useful overview of the whole site, seen last Friday. The rails taken out are parked in the four foot, while the wooden sleepers were discarded and these will be replaced with new Jarrah ones. Concrete sleepers remain in place up to the deck itself.

Looking the other way in this 'drone's eye view' you can see Skew Bridge sleeper depot (now completely empty) and the line heading north towards three arches bridge.

Thanks to a local cub reporter Jonathan, we can show you pictures of the relay work today.

The vehicle road on the left has been finished, and sleeper laying has commenced on the down line on the right with bright orange hardwood sleepers.

These are brought in by Dave here in the Telehandler. The Jarrah sleepers are too heavy to be shifted anything more than a few inches by hand.

The line of new sleepers soon stretched into the centre of the bridge, with no difficulties encountered. That is a relief, so everything so far is going smoothly and we are one week ahead of schedule too.

Soon the other side of the bridge was reached. Dave brings in the last few sleepers, which are spaced out by the white boards in the foreground, brought down from their former duties on the extension. It's not a minute too soon either, they are completely worn out now.

The old sleepers are stacked on the left here, as Bob and Clive use the 'animal' on a set of bullhead chaired sleepers in the  background, purpose unknown as in this area we have FB rails. Perhaps that is why they were doing it discreetly round the corner.

Finally Steve laid in the rail again, an easy job for him as he could simply stand on the adjacent up line to do this.

That's it for today, a job on two fronts and great progress on both.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

The tamper reaches Broadway

One of several tamping days with the B&R tamper, but it's the first one, and it was a lovely, cold sunny day, good for photography.

Here is our report.

The B&R crew arrived at Toddington today, with their machine having been delivered the day before.
For reasons of expediency it was decided to push the regulator up the extension at the same time as the tamper movement, so that it would be ready when required without further movement.

The regulator was parked by platform 2 at Broadway. It looks like the crew will be here for 3 days in a row.

As the regulator has no buffing and drawing gear, it is transported using a bar, which is being detached in this picture.
Some of these regulators did have buffers, so that is perhaps an accessory to think of for the future.

The tamper then did a measuring run back down to near Pry lane, just north of the point where it left off last time.
Here Bob is just taking a couple of minutes to go through the results of the measuring run, which unrolls like a scroll on the screen. You slowly tamp your way back to the beginning, and you get a beep when the computer says you are nearly there.

Here is the tamper just setting off from the Pry Lane area, destination: Broadway station! The weather was, on occasions, very sunny but with a biting cold wind out here on the embankment. All the pictures were taken when there was a gap in the clouds. It wasn't that sunny, you know.

Here you can see where tamping has resumed, and you can make out how the track is lifted out of the ballast.
A pass will be made with the regulator and this should enable some of the voids left by the tines to be filled again.

Looking the other way you can see how the track has different heights before and after the tamper passes. The rail is quite bendy in the middle.

That's the old Broadway goods shed in the distance.

After an hour or so the tamper can be seen approaching the Childswickham Road bridge. It's so slow, you can take a picture from both sides, and it's still up there. But this is the pretty, sunny side.

So slow in fact, that you can walk back up the road after your photograph, and still take another as it crosses the bridge from above.
No, we didn't have a large camera crew here, it's not the BBC you know. It's all done by one reporter.

Here is the tamper a few yards further, as it starts to pass the former goods shed. We had lots of Caravan Club visitors emerge from their 'vans and come and stare at us.
Note how the sleeper ends are now bare, after lifting. More ballast is needed here to secure the track.

This is a peek at the screen that shows the measuring run, and how it unrolls backwards back to the starting point. The red figure at the top left tells you how many metres still to go. The line on the right is your blogger's heartbeat, after someone offered him a brew. Yes, please !

After lunch we arrive back at point zero, just short of the turnout, where we started the measuring run. Now we will go in the opposite direction, over the turnout and into the station. That also needs a measuring run.

As the tamper does its measuring run for the next section, a Chinook chops its way along overhead. The regulator is parked by the P2 starter.

Here is the tamper just starting its somewhat trickier session over the southern turnout.

This model can handle turnouts, but with all the diverging rails on them it's a much slower job. We do the through road first, i.e. straight on to P1.

This machine is very versatile compared to earlier models, and the tamping sets can be split and worked one bank at a time. Normally the tamper is operated by one person sitting in the gondola underneath, with a lookout in the cab in front. For pointwork both operators sit in the cab, and work one side each. Here is Rick tamping just one side, while Bob is off somewhere.

In this picture you can see what Rick (just visible in the gondola top left) is doing. As the rails on the turnout diverge, one tine is folded away and only a single one is used.
A hook (just next to the tine in the ballast) is used instead of the normal flanged lifting wheels.
This tine has a chunk missing on the end. It's all too easy to hit a rail or a sleeper with it, as each movement is controlled manually and sometimes you just get it wrong. Then it's an expensive  new tine and a scowl from the boss.

There's a video of the tamping in progress at this spot here:

Near the end of the day the sun is low as the tamper slowly crosses station road bridge at Broadway.
The absence of traffic - just like in the 1950s picture in a recent Cornishman here - is a fluke, normally there are loads of cars on this road, despite the bypass.

As we near the station, the last volunteer still there at the end of the day wanders out to see us in action.

Tamper, regulator and the station buildings bask in the low evening sun at Broadway.

Behind us is the job we did today: a nice level line and even curve heading back off towards Pry lane.

A last look of the tamper and regulator at rest. We then packed up our kit and took the big machine back to Toddington.
More tamping at Broadway tomorrow, but also regular PWay track work. You will read about one, or the other.

Finally, some more 'Early GWSR' pictures have been released on to John Lees' album on Flickr:

Take a look and wallow in nostalgia (if you were there, otherwise it's just interesting to see how they put all that track back on to a recently emptied trackbed)