Tuesday 19 April 2016

Ballast Wagons emptied

The 6 Dogfish mentioned in the last post were emptied today, and returned to Laverton for a second round of filling from the bed of the loop.

We took a picture of Bert Ferrule - Bert Ferrule took a  picture of us.
A small team of 3 met at Toddington and boarded the class 73. After the disappearance, and reappearance of the DMU (now with refurbished centre trailer), the road was free for the light engine to go up to the extension and collect the train of 6 hoppers. Here we are crossing Stanway viaduct, light engine. A Pway ganger is out on a track walk to check for any defects.

Your blogger was happy in the cab of this electro-diesel, as it is a Southern Region engine, from whence he hails. It's a curious and unexpectedly successful loco. Most of the fleet of 49 built in the 1960s are still in service 50 years later, or preserved. The type was built for use on the relatively small Southern third rail electric system, and fitted with a modest 600HP 'get you home' type diesel engine, should it ever pass beyond the third rail area.  It is a pleasure to drive, we were told, and despite the low nominal power output it is fine for a preserved line.

A curious feature is this two way intercom system in the cab, called a 'LOUDAPHONE'. I think that name makes it clear what it sounds like.

Of course it is made in SR territory, in Surrey.

As we pass under the B4632, the straight leading up to Laverton Halt is revealed. The PWay train used on the extension is in the far distance.

As we arrive at the site of Laverton Halt, the southern turnout points to the loop line recently removed. The pile of concrete sleepers will be used to replace the turnout with plain rail. The Dogfish are filled to the brim.

The Class 73 couples up to the Dogfish, and the bogie bolsters are left behind. On the way back the weight of the ballast in the hoppers is felt more clearly, and the diesel engine has a proper job to do. You can hear the electric transmission; it sounds a bit like an old tram.

Back at Toddington, we wait for the service train to arrive along platform 1. We can then set off for our destination - Toddington north siding. This long siding, on the down line leading up to the viaduct, currently holds a number of sundry wagons, a steam crane and a kit called '76077'. Some of this unrestored stock will be moved elsewhere, giving the long siding enough space to store two working rakes of coaching stock, which will be very useful for when we run to Broadway. The loco kit will stay.

This siding is not yet ballasted, and the spent but almost new ballast recovered from Laverton is an opportunity too good to miss. All 6 wagons were dropped here, and the piles dropped into the 4 foot 'sharked' into the 6 foot and the cess, with an extra run made with the final wagon to give the cess a little extra, as it is on the route used by guards returning from stabling a train there.

Unfortunately, good as it is, the SHARK does not fully complete the ballast distribution job, and it has to be finished off manually. About 2/3 of this shovelling job was effected by the small team of three today. We worked along the downside cess, levelling it to sleeper height so that the sleeper ends are visible and can be walked upon. In the afternoon the weather became quite sunny and beautiful, but also very hot, so that we had to swap our orange bomber jackets for lightweight  and more airy Hi Viz vests.

At the end of the day the class 73 took the empty Dogfish back to Laverton, where they will be refilled almost immediately. A further ballast drop, also including the new turnout in Toddington yard, will be effected tomorrow. Whether there is enough spare ballast at Laverton for a third train, or part thereof, remains to be seen.

Here the class 73 has arrived back at Laverton and is about to shunt the whole train a few yards further back, to allow the next round of loading. This is approximately where the driver is walking in the picture.

What happens next?

The 'Last Mile' share issue is running, and we are accumulating a fund which, inter alia, will enable us to purchase another round of new rail to get us to Peasebrook Farm (bridge 4). This purchase is pencilled in for June. In the meantime a contractor will repair 3 culverts, the first of which, at Little Buckland, is what is holding up further track laying at the moment. This work will start on May 16th and will take +/- 6 weeks.

The PWay are never idle, and are quite busy in Winchcombe yard doing other stuff at the moment, and for example were called out to repair a broken fishplate just south of Greet tunnel. Next on the extension will be cutting the bolted rail ends off the rails on the through road at Laverton. This is quite a laborious job, with 4 ends to cut on every panel. After the ends with the fishplate holes in have been removed, every rail will have to be released and dragged southwards, ready for welding. This job could start in a fortnight or so.

And finally...

There's a GWR enthusiast out there on the clearance gang:

Have you copped '5977 Beckford Hall' yet? Does this sighting count?

The choice of Beckford Hall is quite fitting, as it has actually been split into appartments, just like this one. Judging from the scratch marks round the hole, it's quite well used too.


  1. Michael,
    I don't think this blog is the right platform to raise the point, interesting as it is.

  2. Oh come on! Let the PW team have some light relief, they work very hard and don't get much praise.

  3. By the way, is the new track into Broadway being laid with concrete sleepers?

    1. Up to Broadway will be concretes we have in stock.
      Within the station itself could be wood, but this implies an extra cost, so I guess we are waiting to see how the share issue goes.