Thursday 9 June 2016

Contractor's fourth week

It's been a dry and sunny week, which makes for almost perfect working conditions for the contractors, except perhaps for the heat. The flow of water trying to pass through the culverts was relatively modest and work building new head walls could proceed in the dry.

A walk down from Broadway allows this panorama of the future extension trackbed. This was once double mainline track, with 9Fs bearing down and 800 ton iron ore trains.
In the background is Cleeve Hill, an obstacle that the original GWR builders decided to circumvent via a short (-ish) Greet tunnel, rather than a long and expensive tunnel straight on, that would have come out at Southam.

The two walls in the middle distance are those of bridge 3, Pry Lane, and beyond the contractors can be seen at work on the Malvern side. In fact, there are several locations active at once, with men moving from one to the other as requirements dictate. A small amount of work remains to be done at culvert 5A before it can be released to traffic, as it were, and at the moment they are working on 3A and 3B.

The drainage gang was also on site today, and we grasped the opportunity to ask them how the culverts are actually numbered. What is the significance of the letter for example?

Andy P was agreeable to lifting a corner of the veil. It's simple really - each culvert is related to a bridge, and lettered alphabetically going south. Hence culvert 5A is the one the contractors started with immediately south of Little Buckland bridge (being bridge 5) and as it is the first one along, it is 5A.

The two culverts now being worked on are south of Pry lane, bridge 3, and as there are two of them, they are 3A and 3B. Got that? Now all you need is a list with bridge numbers.

Just before reaching Pry Lane, the new fencing recently put in by Steve appeared on the left. In fact there is quite a bit of new fencing in this area now, all ready for occupying of this part of the trackbed.

Steve has also worked on the other side, disposing of a large pile of material from the horse gallops that were temporarily installed on this part of the track here many years ago.

Today the contractors were working on the small stream that crosses under the embankment, here named culvert 3B. In the previous blog update you can see a rather green photograph of the large tree stump that had overwhelmed the exit of the culvert here. Today this enormous stump was successfully removed (see below) and the original headwall was exposed again. It is still in good condition. The encroaching spoil from above is being dug away.

To give you an idea of the size of the enormous stump that was removed, we asked Andy P to stand next to it, and the stump stands almost as tall as he does! Not something our clearance gang would have handled easily. In the background the 360 continues to dig out the area around the headwall; most of this involves standing on a slope.

On the other side of the same culvert you can see a lively little stream, and once again the headwall has been overwhelmed by the spoil form the embankment. It too has been dug out.

Looking at it from below, you can see that about 8ft of ditch has had to be dug to find and expose the original headwall of the culvert, which here was substantial enough to merit its own brick built tunnel. It is still in good condition, but too far back.

The solution adopted for this end is to pipe it back to the fence line. A job still to be done; in fact the contractors will be here for another two, perhaps three weeks.

The next culvert along, towards Broadway, is 3A, i.e. a bit further along towards Pry lane bridge.

Here the solution adopted has been to build a new headwall. It might look a bit thin from above, but in fact there are two courses, with a cavity in between with a sheet of reinforcing, which will be filled with concrete. With the blue bricks in use, it will look very neat.

Here is the bottom end, Cotswolds side of the same culvert 3A in greater detail. A suction pump is being used to catch the small but steady trickle that flows here, so that the brick layer can work in the dry. The rebar in the headwall is now also visible.

Track laying

The welders have been back at Laverton, and successfully welded up all the remaining joints from the breather near the stop board up to the bridge over the road to Laverton. That's it from them for the time being.

Next we need to remove the northern Laverton loop turnout, fill the gap with plain rail and then relay the former, roughly laid headshunt. To do that, more rail will be ordered.

A priority job in the meantime will be addressed at Toddington, where yard end of the loading siding needs to be relaid. This will happily overlap with the time that the contractors are still on site on the extension, so further extension work is on hold for a few weeks.

Harvest Home (as was)

It has gone!

Only the pub sign (on the left) remained as a sad reminder of the railway inn that once stood there. Another at Aston Cross seems to be set to suffer the same fate. We're not drinking enough beer!

A further contractor's update should be possible in a week's time.


  1. It's amazing what is hidden and only comes to light when you start digging! But it does show that when originally built the standard was very high and means the work is that much easier to repair! So with the contractors working to a high standard future maintenance will in theory be easier. Now if I can win the lottery, (LOL) how harder would it be to double track to Broadway? But well done with the blog reports.

    1. On the subject of digging, I dug up a teaspoon today with letters on the end. Could it be....?
      Careful scraping revealed three letters, to read L.....M.....and S.


      Another for our museum of finds at Broadway.

  2. Sterling work! All to be commended. Paul.

  3. I have sent in an email with an attachment which is my attempt at listing Bridge and Culvert numbers and their positions based on looking at Andy P's flickr photos and the Bridges blog. Hopefully it will reach Andy P. It almost certainly contains some errors and doesn't include overline bridge and accommodation bridge locations. It might be useful?