Tuesday 16 August 2016

Ballasting the headshunt

Things are definitely stirring now on the Broadway extension.

The Laverton loop has been completely removed, and both turnouts replaced, with the northern one still waiting for the replacement rail. Now attention is being focused on the old headshunt, and indeed also on extending the track beyond the current railhead. Things are really moving again now.

Your blogger played a small part in all this today, driving the 6T dumper from the store of ballast at Little Buckland, down to the bed of the former headshunt, which is now being provided with Terram and new ballast. Here is the first load of the day.

The half mile journey with 6T of dusty ballast takes us over Little Buckland Bridge (bridge 5, the subject of radical repairs a while back).

What strikes the eye straight away is that the line of concrete sleepers has been advanced from the rail head near the bogie flats in the distance right up to Little Buckland bridge, about a 7 length zoom forward. This now awaits the new rail.

Here on the GWSR we are lucky in that we have a double trackbed, with only a single track on it, so we can drive down the other side. But it ain't half bumpy! The only way to travel is standing up. To see, to cushion the relentless blows from below (there is no suspension), and to look over the top of the numerous dust clouds that arise when the whole load gets shaken in the wind.

What we see here is the start of new rail laid earlier in the year, the trackbed of the temporary headshunt (in green), Steve clearing said greenery and levelling the bed, and a start in the distance with the new ballast.

In this close up, Steve is shifting piles of dirty ballast and levelling what is behind.

It took him all day, but Steve has now completed this job, and it's ready for the Terram.

Back at Little Buckland, fresh supplies are brought in by lorry, a whole fleet of them.

This is what your money is paying for, dear supporter. Thank you to those who have already helped, and 'please help' to those that are still thinking about it. We need a lot more fresh ballast like this, but you are getting a quality railway for it.

At one point during the morning, it was like Piccadilly Circus, with lorries coming and going and beeping, while the dumper was being loaded by the little 360 with crashes and clatters.

After a brief lunch, in the only piece of shade, which was on top of the dusty ballast pile next to the 360, Steve was reaching the end of the 300yard or so stretch of the old headshunt. The Terram in the middle distance is rolled out piece by piece, and piles of ballast are dumped upon it. Later they are levelled.

6T (one load) seem to go about 3yds, so you can work out a lot from that.

Way back you can see the DMU that has reached the stop board in its shuttle from Toddington.

On the return journey, you cross the bogie flats that are now empty of concrete sleepers.

The new line of sleepers, laid only a few days ago, now extends to the telegraph pole, which marks the position of Little Buckland bridge.

Returning with another full load, one of 25 transported today, or 150 tons by dumper, we find that Steve has turned his attention to pushing out the piles of ballast recently deposited. That suddenly makes it look much more like a railway line. And much longer looking.

Looking north, we can see the results of Steve's labours today, a freshly cleared former headshunt. Beyond, the start of the new track laid earlier this year. We need to meet up with this, then we can move on beyond Little Buckland and on to Peasebrook farm.

Dan, the 360 operator, had a go on the 25th and final dump. It looks quite impressive from ground level, that's a lot of stone being shifted. Behind him, we need a lot more of the same.

In this telephoto shot, the bit still left to be done doesn't look too bad, but it could be another 3 days work. The camera can lie...

What's next?

As you will have read, there are two shipments of new rail coming in, during the first fortnight of September. We need to avoid double handling these lengths.

The first shipment will be used to replace the headshunt track, so it's imperative that the ballasting is completed, and the sleepers, laid to one side, returned to their positions. The rail goes in, the track now extends back to just short of Little Buckland, and the bogie flats, now empty, can be recovered. These can then be filled with further concrete sleepers that we have in store.

Relaying the headshunt with fresh rail not only allows you to recover the two wagons for further loading, but you will then have used up most (all?) of the first shipment of new rail. This releases the two flats used for storing the rail for the second shipment, only 10 days later. They have to be available to stand on the unloading road in order to allow the lorries bringing the rail to unload. Hence the urgency also of the works outside Toddington shed.

From mid September, we would be in a position to commence track laying beyond Little Buckland. The Terram and ballast are already down for that portion, so it could go quite quickly. In the meantime there are various holidays, so if there's a gap, that's why!


  1. Thanks for the update, really informative (as always). Really taking the bull by the horns now ! With all this blogging etc., you are really going to be pushed to complete those lamp posts at Broadway. All the very best on the relaying. I follow with great interest. Regards, Paul.

  2. Thank you, Paul.
    Having day off in Wales tomorrow, which will be fun.