Wednesday, 14 November 2018

The grease feast

No, not an all day breakfast at a roadside burger van, but our job today. Stand well clear! Volunteers anyone? Hands up for the grease feast.

Some shunting greeted us as we loaded up at Winchcombe. This lovingly restored DMU seems to be on its way to Toddington at last to join its sisters, but in fact it was being propelled by the 03, making room in the workshop for something else while the interior is completed outdoors.

We needed 12 volunteers today, not least of all to load the two Landies to the gunwales with all sorts of heavy equipment.

And we got 12 volunteers. Bless them.

Mind you, we meant 12 volunteers for lifting, not committee forming to give points from the side for style. One ducked out as he had 'put on clean trousers this morning'. Must have read the call to arms email, that one.

Our starting point was the home signal at the start of the long Gretton straight. We split into 3 teams, consisting of 2 TB2 nut runners and one Permaquip trolley with a compressor and the grease (we stood well clear of that one).

The grease was to be distributed by compressed air (isn't that asking for grease everywhere?) and the system involved a sort of pressure cooker type pot with a lid. Nothing can go wrong with that! Well no, unless of course you open the lid because the grease has stopped coming through...

This is the distribution end, with pipework leading to two grease guns.

Love the volunteer who thinks some blue gloves will stop any grease getting on to him. Ha! The grease is cleverer than that.

Here are the three teams together. Initially we were quite close to each other, but as the day progressed the 'doing up' team fell further and further behind.

The first thing that slowed us down was a bang, as this bolt, perhaps an inch thick, suddenly split and the two halves shot off in opposite directions. That was a new one, never seen that happen before. Luckily we had brought  a few spares, you never know.

We made it to this spot by lunch time, the skew bridge over the road at Gretton. As you can see, it is very autumnal here, and some trees are quite close to the track.

In fact some are too close. Here we have a hedge of conifers that someone has planted just 8ft from the rails. That can't be right?

We ate our lunch back in the mess room, car sharing from Working Lane. For those in the know about trackbed access, we started to build a road from the Royal Oak down the hill to Working lane (quite a distance) but ran out of material, using the spent ballast from the Winchcombe relay earlier.

The contractors from the slip have now put their surplus material on this new hardened road, but instead of lengthening what we started, they have set off from the Working Lane end. Now there is an unmade up gap in the middle, still to do.

A casual gaze around the mess coach easily reveals those who go out and mess with the grease, and those who stay behind....

On the way back, now to Stanley Pontlarge, we passed this charming bus shelter near the access point that we use.

As you are probably wondering what the Latin inscription says, we have translated it for you:

A harbour in a storm for anyone

It does have a certain rural charm, it's true.

Disaster struck when we returned !

The evil grease monkey had overturned one of the tubs. As it had a lid we thought we were safe, but it turns out the lid was loose.

After some emergency swabbing on site, we cleaned up the Landie back at Winchcombe. Of course some of the grease had jumped on to various tools, and like some sort of virus it quickly moved on to gloves before infecting overtrousers and similar such kit. We hope it spared Dave's Freelander, with its immaculate interior. This morning.

As we moved through Gretton we enjoyed lovely views of the Cotswolds edge. We're on quite a high embankment here, so high that it has a step half way up.

This is a view down our embankment, or is it now someone's garden?

Team 'doer upper' was moving along nicely, with its 3 members in perfect tune operating the machine, pushing it from side to side, and putting the boot against the bolts to hold them in. When we got tired, we swapped around. You can barely see the home signal in the far distance, where we started earlier in the day.

Then the socket fell off, a major blow. It had been secured by a split pin, but out here on the top of this long embankment new split pins were scarce. What to do?

Necessity is the mother of invention: Bert went over to a bush and broke off a suitably sized twig. This was pushed into the hole, and it held the socket on for a fishplate or two, until the twig snapped. We then - got another twig! This went on for quite a while, but it got us home.

As the light began to fail, we reached the 'limit of operation' for the day as it were. The starting point by the home signal is almost out of sight in the far distance. We think it is about 3/4 of a mile or so, an excellent result. Martin is wiping the sweat from his brow, it was a hard day's work, but satisfying for achieving so much.

The point we reached was right next to our Far Stanley access point to the trackbed, easy to remember for next time. We heaved the heavy TB2s back on to the white Landie, and unmissable purchase as you can see. The other Landie had the compressor and tools on board.

Tuesday at Toddington

We managed to get another 4 volunteers together, and set out to do the cleats on the other 4 stringers for the footbridge steps.

Here are the ones we did earlier: 96 rivets in these, and there better not be any rivet counters out there. Now for the other 4. Confusingly they have only 11 cleats each, so if we achieve that, we will have done 88 rivets.

Neal, John, Chris and yours truly got a nice rhythm together and, despite a late start, got all 88 rivets in by mid afternoon.

Result! That's the stringers done.

As there was still some daylight left, we carried on by parking the 4 stringers to one side to clear our little working area for the next job: riveting the uprights that carry the roof.

Again we bolted them back to back to make a frame against which we could push the jammer. One such frame, consisting of 2 uprights, has 12 rivets in it, and we did two frames. That makes 112 rivets for the day, a result with which we were best pleased.

There is still no sign of the squeezer we had intended to borrow, so we are just carrying on doing the rivets by hand, which is proving just as quick.

Still to do are the uprights in the background, and 3 more off picture on the ground. We have penciled in Friday for this.

After that the units we have made up will be cleaned, and sent to be galvanised. That should only take a week, so completion of the fabrication looks possible by the year end.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

North carriage siding

A good crew today, and a lovely sunny day to greet us. We had a special job on, which was to rectify mismatched fishplates on the north carriage siding at Toddington.

How to get our kit there though? As always, it's heavy. We worked out that the white Landie was just big enough to hold the Permaquip trolley, so we loaded that up, and had the road-railer Landie bring the equipment. At Gallery crossing north of the viaduct the two were combined. Then the Landie was put on the rails as well, and both vehicles moved south.

Note the ominous clouds in the background on the left. That doesn't look too good...

As we got to the work site first with our trolley, we had the opportunity for a special PWay 'run-by'. You don't get many of those. It's not a Castle, but it's the best we can serve up in this department. Enjoy then.

In the foreground is the end of the north carriage siding, which is long enough to take two sets of 8 coaches. With the opening to Broadway we have made more use of it, and the unevenness between some of the rail ends became too noticeable to ignore. We were to repair that today.

Here is one of those mismatches. The LH rail is more worn than the RH one, but the fishplate used does not take this into account. There is a step, and the carriage wheels have hopped from one rail to another, leaving a gap of say 2 inches (shiny rail, and rusty rail). It needs a 'lifter' here.

Here is one such drop cured. Yes, we know it's not the same one, don't write in. It's for illustrative purposes only. Here the lift is on the right, and you can see the step in the new fishplate, with the rail tops now level. Smooooooth....

Three gang members split off and checked the north end for missing keys. They seem to come out here a lot, and we replaced the missing ones with Panlocks that don't come out.

This north end has not yet been ballasted.

Hayden and John replaced the fishplates. Young and old working together, there must be 50 years between them. Nigel's well aimed boot holds the head of the bolt in so that it doesn't revolve.

As we were quite numerous today, we had the luxury of two teams, and like this we were able to complete the whole job in one day. Great!

Some nasty clouds have arrived overhead though, and it's getting noticeably darker round here.

At one point both teams were working opposite each other - that felt like real progress.

Any seized bolts - there are always a few after all these years - were cut off by Chris. Chris hadn't been for a few weeks, so we had this pleasant little job for him. Way to go, Chris!

It then started to rain in absolute bucketfuls. We had no shelter either, just the hope that our jackets and trousers would withstand the onslaught.

You could tough it out, like these brave souls here, or....

Sorry - there's no more room.... what's it like, out there? proceedings from the sidelines, under John's umbrella.

Poor old Pete thinks he's getting the benefit, but to stay dry here, you need to cuddle up together a bit more, Pete.

Activity at Winchcombe

Thursday saw the arrival of a large lorry, which came to remove one of the two derelict GWR carriages which have been parked near the yard entrance for many years.

The nearest of the two carriages had previously been tidied up into a sort of 'flat pack' to make it feasible for transport by road. The superstructure was in such a bad shape that its structural integrity could not be guaranteed as it went along.
The trailer, which was fitted with standard gauge track, had a rear steering feature, very evident in this picture. It was invaluable in getting the trailer parked up in front of the track, which was a short stretch isolated from the rest of the railway.

The end of the isolated piece of track was jacked up until it met the height of the trailer bed.

It was then reversed in with a remote control, and communication with the rather distant driver by mobile phone.

Here is the whole combination in place in front of the isolated piece of track, ready to start winching.
Both carriages were winched together. This was to bring the second one to the end of the stretch of track, while the first, 'flat pack' one was loaded.

It is the owner's intention to rebuild the carriage, once a rare GWR non corridor third.

The second carriage, also of GWR origin, was left on site for the time being, but should leave us before the end of the year, as this area of the yard is required for the carriage shed planned here.

Pulling the second carriage forward one length uprooted a number of saplings which had grown very close to it.

As soon as the second carriage is removed from here, the siding will be dismantled by the PWay department, as was a parallel one that used to lie next to it.

By lunch time the 'flat pack' carriage had been loaded, and at the end of the day was on its way to the owner's private site.

The second carriage was moved to the sidings by the end of the C&W barn, waiting to be collected.

Note that the far end roof has now fallen in, after its little adventurous journey across the yards.

The removal of the two ruined carriages has left a short piece of track, which will no doubt be dismantled shortly, as its twin was.

This leaves behind a large free area:

This area is earmarked for the carriage storage shed, but first we need to source the funding for it.

The two stop blocks, formerly at the ends of the two sidings, have been lifted out as well and await collection - they are also private property.

One out, one in.

At Toddington, there was a new arrival.

It's a Mk1 TSO, numbered M4867. Built at Wolverton in 1959, on B4 bogies. The previous owner was at Quainton.

It needs a lot of TLC, but it's nothing our C&W people can't fix.

TSOs are getting scarce, so it's quite a find for us.

The other side has broken windows, but again that is something that we can handle.

Meanwhile, back in the loco shed, a smaller team of 4 carried on riveting, still in anticipation of the squeezer becoming available, but we can't stand still.

We had 4 of the 8 stringers set up, bolted together in temporary pairs.

The objective was to rivet the cleats on, with the 'Jammer' working against the other stringer of the pair.

So this is not the future width of the staircase, just an arrangement to facilitate riveting.

You got that air on? I said 'air' !
With just the 4 of us on Friday, some of the jobs split between 6 earlier overlapped. Yours truly was rivet bringer, as well as air operator.

Here is Baz with the 'Jammer' in place, waiting for the next rivet. Neal has the rivet gun.

After a bit of setting up and fiddling around with items that got in the way of the 'Jammer', we turned into a well oiled machine and did loads of cleat rivets in a row.

Here are the first two stringers done, that's 48 rivets.

After a while we got them in so quick that the slowest point on our production line was John on the 'BBQ', heating the next rivet.

The record from picking up a hot rivet, inserting it, air on, rivet gun does a burp and back to picking up the next hot rivet was - 31 seconds ! How's that!

Of course it wasn't that fast all of the time, as stuff happens. Two rivets didn't go fully home and had to be redone, we kept having to stop to clamp down the whole construction to stop it moving about, and once the airline disconnected itself, just as the hot rivet was in its hole waiting to be hammered.

But all in all we did 4 of the 8 stringers, and that's 96 rivets, a daily record.

This is one of two we had to do twice. We decided to leave it in place, and heat it up again for a second dose of hammering. That sorted them out OK. Now it all looks very neat.  We even had a request for a rivet on 3850.

Have rivet, will travel!

The intermediate landing supports have also been completed and have had their 4 feet attached. Here they are in stock, ready for galvanising.

We're going to carry on riveting by hand, with or without the squeezer, as we need to get the stuff away to the galvanisers. There is still plenty more to do, about 650 rivets in total. Not all will be done in the loco shed.

The 'riveting' tale will resume on Monday.