Saturday 15 February 2020

And over the viaduct.

Friday at Broadway.

A dry day at last, so regular work of painting and fitting timbers continued normally again.

Neal has now cut everything on the Cotswolds side, and from the bottom up to the intermediate landing on the Malvern side.

In the picture you see him start work on the last two, upper, sections.

The Cotswolds side has been completely trial fitted in this picture. Actual fitting should happen soon, assisted by a healthy amount of mastic in all the joints and mating surfaces. For example, when this was taken down again, water was found standing underneath the bottom timber in the intermediate landing here. We will try to prevent this.

John and yours truly painted all the white timbers in the picture in undercoat the same day - a second coat is still outstanding.

Saturday with 'Dennis the Menace'.

We said it last Saturday, and now say it again - this is the day of the big storm, but the name has changed from Ciara to Dennis. Same job, different storm, hey-ho.

You have a long walk from Toddy to the viaduct to start with, not so bad because the wind is blowing you along from the south.

We sheltered in the mess coach for a while, but after a decent interval there was nothing for it but to climb out and face the weather.

After the team on Wednesday clipped up the remaining panels from last Saturday, we had just 2 panels left to lay today, before the ends of the track were reunited again. Two panels is not much for us, but the dreaded question was, would the rails fit back together again? Would there be a gap, or an overlap? Surely one or the other, a perfect fit was highly unlikely.

Stevie brought the hardwood sleepers back four at a time, and we laid them 26 to a panel using little offcuts of wood for spacers.

The end was in sight mid morning, but as you can guess from the picture it was raining and the high winds whipped the raindrops on to your face and made them feel like stinging hail. We turned our backs to it.

The penultimate panel was laid in and Neil here offers a helpful and vital foot to Bert Ferrule as the fishplate nuts are tightened up.

Neil had a decent wrap around sort of cap on but it was his, of all caps,  that the wind whipped off and threw up against the cab of the JCB some distance away. Neil went galloping after it, waving his arms at Stevie to cease operations until the vital piece had been retrieved.

Soon the last few sleepers were lifted in, and at this point we were actually off the viaduct already, with a growing sense of achievement. But how about those rails, would they fit back in the space?

With the last few hardwood sleepers laid back in, we had a quick session with the bars to line them up.

It's Bert Ferrule wrestling with the bar, and Nigel, collar rolled up high, who's calling out the directions.

The last rail is in at last - or is it?

There is a quarter of an inch in it - not bad after 11 panels, but it still doesn't fit. What now?

There was a lot of wrenching around with bars to try and prise the two rails apart, but what did it was the simple idea of jacking up the penultimate rail, which due to the curvature created, made it so very much slightly shorter. But enough! The two rail ends popped together, we dropped the jack and plated the ends up quick. Job done. We relaid 11 panels round a curve and ended up with a mere 1/4 inch difference.

An executive decision was taken to leave the job for what it was for today, retire to the mess coach for lunch, and let Dennis the Menace roar without us for the rest of the afternoon.

A little more fettling is required to smooth the curve and take the stress out of the tight joint between the last two rails.
We packed up the tools and pushed the Permaquip trolley back over the viaduct. Looking back behind us - unlike Lot's wife we were not turned into a pillar of salt - we felt pleased that we had got everything back in, with a minimum of complications really. A job well done.

This kink towards the end still needs straightening, rough packing of some hanging sleepers, as well as clipping up the last panel are the next jobs.

The first train runs on March 7th! No pressure then...

We can't go into the finest details of what work is like on a viaduct in a storm with high winds and rain. That would be too personal.

But over in Brussels is a little statue with whom we have every sympathy.

Manneken Pis doesn't like the wind either.

At least we were allowed home at the end of the day. We hung the wet togs up in the garage (they were still dripping even after an hour of hanging in the mess coach), put the sodden boots, gloves and beanie in front of the fire, made a cup of coffee and settled down with a book about the Tuffley loop.


Saturday 8 February 2020

On the viaduct.

Friday at Broadway

Neal was back today fitting and fettling. It's a slow business, this.

What you can't see from the picture is that there are many more timbers that have already been cut to size and are in the course of painting, or re-painting, if damaged by further fettling.

Neal had got to the top of the Cotswolds side and found that a small change at the top had repercussions all the way down again, so today a number of pieces had to come off and be fettled further.

During the blogger's involuntary 14 day absence, the Malvern P1 side timbers were test fitted right up to the top. A picture exists, but ancient telephone camera technology means that the picture is blurred, and can't be transmitted to another device.

So, instead here is a picture of the Cotswolds side being trial fitted. Neal had almost got to the top this mid afternoon.

Last thing we saw was this big diagonal going in. When at last the final cut has been made, we can soak the ends in preservative (3 times), primer them, then the whole piece can be painted in undercoat (twice).

The whole thing looks very laborious, and our suspicion is that when the bridge was new in 1904 it was painted last of all. If that meant missing a few areas underneath, or not painting inside the joints, it wasn't a big thing as in the day better quality wood was used. That had much more resistance to shrinking, twisting, and decay. We however are constrained by cost limits and have to go for the cheapest wood.

Interestingly we are aware of another footbridge project where the timbers are proposed in GRP. It will be interesting to see if that works. In our experience, here at Broadway, each timber needs to be crafted individually, and there is no question of making the components in one big job lot off a production line.

Saturday on Stanway viaduct.

A sunny and blustery day, in preparation for tonight's big storm. Why not spend that day on our highest, most exposed structure? That's the 15 arch Stanway viaduct. Coats on, hats pulled well down then.

Because it is a relatively remote location the PWay train with mess coach has been brought up. This allows us shelter, a cup of tea, and all the tools and materials we need close to hand.

Otherwise, it's a long walk to the nearest station, Toddington.

Here is the opening shot for the day, with 5 panels laid last Saturday and Wednesday.

The blue ballast is the infill added by the contractor around the drainage pits. The orange pipe in the distance is one of the inspection pipes provided during the viaduct work. You can now poke a camera down there and see the state of the drainage pit underneath.

The orange pipes are cut off at the level of the sleepers after the track has been relaid, and provided with a removable cap.

All the tools were loaded on to a Permaquip trolley and rumbled out to the relaying point. A key element of the supply chain is in the form of these bags of doughnuts. We didn't spend so much time in the mess coach, and by the time the doughnuts arrived, we were already raring to go. So they got taken outside, for consumption as we went along.

After bringing the tools necessary for the job, the Permaquip trolley returned to the south end of the viaduct to get the track materials - sets of fishplates and in the stillage, a large mound of Pandrol clips.

The track already extends a considerable way across the viaduct, as new recruit Nick pushes the trolley down the stretch that has already been relaid.

Nick and yours truly spent the day doing this - clipping up the FB rail to PAN 11 base plates on hardwood sleepers, laid about 15 years ago. We did over 300 of these clips. After writing this blog, it's going to be feet up and a beer, phew!

Hardwood sleepers - we bought these new 15 years ago, and look what happened to some of them. On the left, a hardwood sleeper in perfect condition; on the right, one from the same batch with advanced decay underneath. It still has a bit of life in it, so we put it back in, but the short life span of some of the sleepers described as 'hardwood' is rather disappointing.

The main gang was doing the actual relaying, here something over half way across the viaduct. The chaired up sleepers are lifted back in in groups of 4. In the foreground one of the new inspection tubes pops its head out from in between the sleepers.

Once 26 sleepers have been roughly laid down, they are inched left and right under the direction of Nigel, so that they form a straight line (or slight curve in this case) ready to receive the rail back again.

Mid afternoon the rail head was getting surprisingly close to the other end of the viaduct, such progress!

We laid in 5 or possibly 6 panels today, and clipped up 3 1/2 of them. Four panels were laid the first Saturday when we started this job, so we are accelerating.

Looking back the other way (apologies for the  blurry effect, caused by the zoom used in the falling light) and the completed track stretches right round the curve towards  Toddington, as Nick clips up the last few Pandrols before the light went on us.

Looking the other way, the relaying gang felt that the track laid could do with a tweak towards the Malverns. Twelve men good and true should be able to move the track with bars, like they did in those British Transport films of the 1950s. Unfortunately we only had 6 men good and true, and the track stayed where it was.

Back next week then with the sluing jacks.

As the sky grew ever greyer and the wind started to wind itself up ready for the storm we packed up the tools and took them back to the train.

This is as far as we got today - almost there, just two more panels to go. The last panel could be interesting, as the rails have to go back exactly (we measured up the curve before taking it apart) and there is bound to be a small difference, necessitating more tweakings of the curve to make it bigger or smaller.

Goods shed, stop frame style

Finally, a quick shot of the goods shed extension from the steps of the signal box. If you have followed the blog, you should now have 5 or 6 pictures of the extension going up, bit by bit.

The roof is now on, in simulated slates but they do look quite convincing.  The arches, the windows and the brickwork detail are a faithful copy of the existing goods shed. It really looks rather good, and demonstrates that we do have the ability, as at Broadway, to produce convincing railway buildings in a heritage style.

Congratulations to the team that achieved this!

Thursday 30 January 2020

Interim update

You're probably wondering why the blog has gone quiet.

A nasty dose of the flu has struck, leaving the blogger at home shivering in bed. No work, no photographs, no blog posts. It's been like this for 8 days now, with not much improvement. It's too early to predict when posting will resume, please be patient. It's a virus, nothing much you can do, it has to run its course.


The Pway gang have completed the resleepering and re-ferruling excercise at Greet, and this Saturday will return to the viaduct to start putting the track back. Work will start from the southern end and continue north. Quite a number of the sleepers sold to us as 'hardwood' 15 years ago have severe decay and will be replaced by a small supply we have in stock still.

Normal blog service will be restored as soon as possible.

Saturday 18 January 2020

Cold and dangerous.

Friday at Broadway.

Steady as she goes - John was on drilling the holes for the timbers, through a very thick stringer.

Neal was cutting the timbers to fit.

Yours truly on preservation fluid and painting. Six coats, not counting the top coat. Another coat of everything was applied today, we are inching on further.

While John drilled higher up, Neal was cutting a timber to size. This has to go back and forth, with lots of little tiny cuts and shavings with a chisel, until it fits snugly round the roof hoops.

After a while the upper timber on the bottom was tried for size.
 It was right at one end, now for the other. Funny how cutting with the grain is harder than across it.

The bottom one is signed off, and taken round the corner for preservation fluid to be applied on the newly cut ends.

Then on with the second timber from the bottom.

We managed to work until almost 17.00 today, with a bit of sunshine towards the end lighting our way.

No Monday (part-) blog post, due to a funeral. In fact three at once in the circle of yours truly, all in the space of about 3 weeks. Is that because of the winter?

Saturday at Greet.

Just one degree above zero today on setting off, but minus one and a half between Toddington and Winchcombe. Add into that water running from one side of the road to the other, and that explains the 'POLICE' notice by the side of the road on the way back, and a Ford Fiesta with the front stove in inside the Didbrook turnoff. Dangerous conditions today.

Better stay in the cosy mess coach then, and drink tea until the danger goes away. By mid day the thermometer had reached plus 5 C, but in the many shady spots frost continued to lurk throughout the day, and this can catch out the unwary.

Of course we've had plenty of rain too, and because rain strom has followed rain storm, it never really drains away.

Here we are loading spare cast iron chairs into the JCB's front bucket, and the volunteer nearest the camera is ankle deep in water. Nice.

With only 1 Landie available (the other having a technical issue) we clubbed together in private cars, parked up in the pub and hopped over the fence (we didn't hop so easily at the end of the day, that was quite noticeable).

This allowed us to see Stevie arrive in the digger, followed at some distance by a little blue and white dot, the other Landrover.

Your mission for today - should you wish to accept it - is to further dig out these sleeper beds, deep enough to accept the new sleeper and its chair, all of which must still fit under the rail without lifting it.

The ground was frozen, but harder than the light frost was the cement like compaction of 40 years train travel, on a poorly drained base (from the early days of course).

Jack and Neil here are doing just that - digging out the beds as a first stage to reinserting the replacements.

We then settled down to +/- two teams, one inserting the new sleepers and chairing them up, the other team following on behind and applying the Panlock keys.

Bert Ferrule here is tightening the chair screws with the impact wrench, while Stevie (in yellow) is tweaking the sleeper into a better position, parallel to its neighbour.

This shot shows the frost on every sleeper. Not so thick, but enough to hide the crosses we put on the ones that need replacing.

The shallow cutting here never saw much sun during the day; the best the sun could do was slide along the top of the cutting, leaving a long dark shadow so that the frost remained in the ground on the left.

When enough beds had been dug out for the day, Stevie went to collect the first bundle of new sleepers. As we have only a tiny budget, these are actually left over from the Toddington relay last year.

At one point Stevie actually got out of his cab to shove one in (sleeper nips not required by him) and this rare event was captured by a passing camera.

So yes, he does get out of his nice warm cab sometimes. Here's proof.

This sleeper looked half decent at first sight, but in fact has holes that have worn oval, which allows the gauge to spread and generally move around. It was dug out and replaced.

Playing pick up sticks at home or with a wheelbarrow on the trackside has the same conclusion in either case - disaster!

When Chris put the heavy Pan puller on top of everything else, it went.

Dang - all you can do now is give up, and go back to the mess coach and have your lunch.

After lunch there was a further surge of activity, with the whole team now well spread out along the affected stretch of track. But in fact this shows how well we were doing today. Counting from the group in the foreground and then back to the tunnel mouth, 54 sleepers had been changed and keyed up at this point, mid afternoon. More were in preparation, and more were completed post camera shot. We think we are something over half way now.

In fact mid afternoon Stevie had to go and get another pack of new sleepers, and distribute them with Jack here along the line.

Note the wet patch again, a place where Steve got stuck last week while unloading from the bogie flat.

Our last shot of the day, with the 'younger' members of the team (young - ha!) still hard at it.

In the background is the curve before the straight leading to the former Gretton halt.

On that subject, a bit of history, for here is a picture of one of the original oil lamps that used to be fixed to the back of the platform at Gretton.

It's quite a find. There were only 4 of them, and it's the first time we have seen one. It's from the former Winchcombe railway museum, currently not operating and hence a private collection.

It's odd that the halt at Hayles Abbey used hurricane lamps hanging from a hook, a much cheaper and less appealing option.