Saturday, 9 December 2017

Starting the turnout

Minus two and a half degrees this morning, ice everywhere. Toddington yard was heavy with the lazy thick smoke from a recently lit fire in Foremarke Hall.
While we sat in the mess coach, the whole carriage started to shake rhythmically. What? It turned out to be the green class 37 being started up, that is some big motor. Smoke was everywhere, and the green thing popped and spluttered. The low early morning sun made attractive scenes which unfortunately your blogger was unable to capture. For, as he took out his camera to capture the atmosphere to share with you, the camera seized up with a lens error. This is the fate of all the cameras used so far, as the retracting lenses do not like the dust that accompanies the building and PWay activities. Usually they last a year, this one rather less. Bang goes another £160.

As a pacifier, some historical photographs will be included at the end of this post, and for pictures of the day do visit Nigel's excellent flickr site:

As it wasn't very windy today, the work in the great outdoors at Broadway was actually quite bearable, and we had a full complement of volunteers. No fair weather friends here. The sun was out, and it was interesting that while the ground was frozen, it was on the heights such as Dumbleton hill that some snow had clung, but not down here on the plain. There was a striking line between the two.

Although we had advanced the two (three actually) rail heads to the ends of the future southern turnout, there remained a lot of work left to do on them - straightening sleepers, clipping up, finding and distributing plastics and Pandrols, cutting flame cut rail ends off and drilling to fit fish plates. At the end of the morning the most recently laid track looked a lot better, although the length by the goods shed still needs clipping up, as we ran out of Pandrols along there. Note for the next person to come up from Winchcombe! There are still a couple of dumpy bags of them down there.

After lunch al fresco Steve in the JCB and Alan in the Telehandler started to bring up from the supply train at Childswickham the components of the last remaining turnout from Laverton loop. This is what we all wanted to see! We laid out the first 24 timbers, and then it was time for the serious stuff - the rail!

By the end of the afternoon, and it soon gets dark now, we had the first two switchblades in and bolted up. Standing at the southern end, you could see where it is all heading to now. There is a clear line departing to the left.

Amusing anecdote of the day: Neil had a go at disk cutting a rail end off. He was soon emitting a huge meteor of sparks behind him. With your goggles on, the ear protectors and the noise you are in a bubbleof your own there.

Suddenly Tim shot up and started hitting Neil's legs like mad. Neil killed the engine, took off his goggles and ear protectors.

Neil: Why are you beating the c***p out of my legs, Tim?
Tim: You are on fire, Neil!

So, next to a new camera, it's also a new pair of jeans. The joys of laying track.

History corner:

George Bryant took a number of photographs in the goods shed area, which he is kind enough to share with us. George was the former signalman at the little Moreton in Marsh signal box, until it closed a year or more ago now. Now George is an active volunteer in our S&T department, and no doubt never imagined that, when he took the pictures below, he would one day help to rebuild a signal box at Broadway.

Here are some of his pictures, taken in 1979 during the lifting of the track by BR.

Broadway goods shed, with its corrugated iron packing shed in front.
The same view from the end, also showing the up line lifted and sleepers stacked on the down line. We have just relaid this stretch.
Lifted sleepers on the down line, which is already in poor condition. The line had closed 3 years earlier.

The down line and stacked sleepers in the confines of Broadway station itself. The main buildings used to stand beyond the pine trees on the right. Springfield Lane bridge is in the distance, now our northernmost border.

Just to compare: here is a similar shot nearly 40 years later. The pine trees on the right are still there, but George has a new signal box to work in :-)

This one's just a fuzzy snapshot, but illustrates well the atmosphere when the gang of teenagers would cycle down to the station to watch (and crudely photograph) the trains that went by. The station is already closed (the running in board has been taken down) but the buildings are still there. This dates the photograph to somewhere between March 1960 and November 1963.

The boys came on their bicycles, which are parked up by the fence. Someone has taken parts of the dismantled signals and stuck them on the end of the spearhead railing fence leading to the horse dock, behind the camera.

Totnes Castle hurtles by with the down Cornishman....

As soon as the Amazon drone delivers a new camera, reports on the extension work will resume with pictures. Next week Monday is a supplementary work day preparing the 1000m stressing job, Tuesday is the stressing itself, and Wednesday is the Mega-Clippathon, with our very own train confirmed. That will be fun, and very atmospheric.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The Pre-Clippathon

A gang of 20 spread itself out along the last 1000m of CWR today. Suddenly, 20 seems very few people indeed. Where are they all? Well, that's one every 50 metres...

To start with and to provide some entertainment while we drank tea and ate the festive iced mince pies, Clive stood up to give us a low down for the mammoth 'Clippathon' next Wednesday 13th December.

There will be 6 gangs clipping up 6 panels each. Sunshine and a cloudless sky have been ordered, to make a change from last time. Clive is hopeful of getting the mess coach and van actually out on the extension, which would solve the car parking and messing issues. Treat yourself to a ride up the extension! Bring your own lunch, but Paul will be providing Tomato soup. If you want some, bring your own mug, as we're going to be short.

Then it was 'all hands on deck' today, to get the stretch ready for the welding on Tuesday and the Clippathon on Wednesday.

Seventeen of the 20 went up to Peasebrook with the Landie loaded with tools, while three went to Winchcombe to try and secure the red Transit (success there!) so that we could use it to supply Peasebrook with the necessary extra materials.
The first thing to be loaded was a dumpy bag of sacks of Pandrol clips. We tried a second, one was not going to be enough, but after a quick inspection underneath the Transit springs said 'no', and we took it off again. That would mean a second trip at least.

The dumpy bag contained about 20 plastic bags of 25Kg each we reckoned, so that's a good half ton up there. And half a ton to fish out of the bottom of the dumpy bag and throw over the side, every 10 sleepers. Competition for the driving job was fierce, and Peter won by a short head, leaving Andy on the back rummaging in the dumpy bag.

 Jobs to get this stretch ready for stressing then:

- Unclip the 5 fully clipped lengths at the southern end (the former anchor point of the previously pulled stretch)
- Lay out the pandrol clips for the remaining stretch (different sleeper type)
- lay out the pads for same
- Locate and distribute the plastics for same
- Finish sweeping the last length
-Raise both rails off the sleepers and insert the rollers.

In the picture part of the gang is occupied unclipping the 5 anchor point panels. That was a very slow job as it turned out.

An easier job was the unclipping of the Pandrols further along (only every other one was done up in the first instance) and this little team made short work of it.

Note the row of Pandrol clip bags - neat, eh? The spacing was carefully counted out.

This is what it's all about - the gap where the hydraulic pullers will be positioned next Tuesday, and after the pull it will be welded shut.

Behind the Pandrol supply team's bag drops others had already opened them and put 4 on each sleeper. They're all carefully counted, you can't just throw them down. Orange insulation clips are still to go.

Then it was back to Winchcombe to fetch more supplies, this time the black plastic pads that go on the sleepers, under the rails.

Did you spot these two new 40 footers at Winchcombe? Note that all you need to place them is two concrete sleepers, one at each end. It's cheap, they can be moved afterwards, and they're solid as a rock.

Another item that was new at Winchcombe is this GUV. Athough heavily covered in graffiti, it's actually in pretty good nick, although its principal attraction, we heard, is its two good bogies.

While we were loading a pallet of track pads, one member of C&W sort of sidled over and asked 'Could you just....?'

OK then, if it's quick. These are dangerous words. They usually morph into 'and while you're here now, could you also just....' but to be fair the lads from C&W stuck to their word and we were off again to Peasebrook. We tried a pallet of pads, and a second pallet of Pandrol clips, but once again the springs said 'no'. Just the one then, we'll have to come back a third time. Went up and down that B4632 four times today!

Back at Peasebrook, it's a ballet on the road adjoining the track. Out here on that long embankment leading to Childswickham, there's only a single point where 2 vehicles can pass. We saw the Landie come towards us some distance away, so paused at the passing point. The Landie also stopped. We advanced. The landie advanced. We stopped again. Finally we met in the middle. Negotiations as to who should retreat then ensued, it was worse than Brexit! Such fun.

We tossed off sufficient Pandrol clips to cover the stressing section, then disposed of the rest from the dumpy bag by the goods shed, where they will be needed next.

Our last Transit job was to recover the pile of Pandrol 'biscuits' (orange plastics) from beside the trackbed at the goods shed. They were put there in bags, but due to the effects of the sun the bags had disintegrated and there were little orange plastics everywhere. On our hands and knees we gathered all these up into the former Pandrol dumpy bag, and took them down to the stressing section.

Returning to the section to be stressed we found two gangs lifting the rail up to place the rollers.

The guys at the former pulling point - fully clipped up, we recall - had a tough time of it. Not only did they have to undo everything again, when they lifted the rail the pads already in use stuck firmly to the underneath like glue. In every case the pads had to be scraped off from under the rail lifted one inch, using whatever scraping tool you could scrounge on site.

This is the special lifting tool for that inch of height. You stand it on a pair of SHC clips and heave the handle down, with one tonne of rail coming up one inch as a result.

The slow thing then is to get the pads off the rails, and any bits of dirt out from underneath - the clipped up stretch, although brushed, seemed to have attracted far more little nests of pebbles than the rest.

Here are Dolce and Gabbana from the rail lifting gang, a charming pair as you can see.

Good humoured, they are proud to show off this season's PWay wear. These people are at the cutting edge of fashion after all, we have to take our fashion cues from them.

Jackets are being worn very open this season, collars may be casually flicked back for that extra little je ne sais quoi. Hats are being worn very low right now, right down to the eye for that look of sophistication.

Trousers are not only stone washed, but also mud splattered. Quality shops will sell you these ready browned.

Accessorise with a rail lifter, or, why not, a piece of scraping wire playfully displayed.

At the end of the day the southern rail lifter team came to the end of their five length stretch. What a b.....r it was to get all those pads off, stuck to the underside of the rail like limpets. Stricken with relief three volunteers fall to the ground in gratitude.

It began to get dark, and while this team now started to make serious progress on the simpler unclipped section, it proved impossible to prepare the whole stretch. We are going to have to come back for an extra day to finish it off. This will be Monday. If you can do that, or join us in the Clippathon next Wednesday, we would be very grateful. Bring a mug, and you might even get some soup.

And finally...

A selection of 160 of Ivor Dixon's 'early GWSR' photographs have now been scanned, cleaned and corrected, and uploaded on to Flickr. You can view them here:

If you think getting to Broadway was a big job, check out what faced the earliest volunteers when they turned up at Toddington and found a trackbed that was completely empty!

Do feel free to add any additional comments or extra knowledge that you have on any picture.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Making ends meet

It really sank in that it was winter today - the temperature was down to 3 degrees, it was raining, and a Santa train left Toddington in a vast cloud of steam.

This was a double header too, although you'd never know it. It was a Prairie and a Manor. Where's that Prairie then...

Ah - the veil was lifted as they steamed out on to the main line with a long train for Winchcombe.

A quick cup of tea then, a briefing, and we are off to Broadway.

Here Steve has been busy these last few days, and as you can see he has joined up the ballast beds north and south. Soon we will have track on them too.

This is today's opening shot - one track is over the bridge. It was drizzling steadily.

The first job today then was to extend the sleeper run on the up line down to the gate by the access road up the slope. That's where the turnout will start.

Although we were all together on site, we had three main areas of activity, within sight of each other.

This team here is extending the up line southwards, and in the picture has gone as far as it can go with concrete sleepers. A pair of rails could go in, but there's no time for that at the moment.

The main team was working on the down line on the bridge. A big pile of Pan 11 base plates was brought up from Winchcombe, to be fitted on to some last remaining unchaired Jarrah sleepers still available. It was decided to change the rail we laid last week on the down line, in order to avoid having to buy a very expensive set of hybrid fishplates. That pair of rails came out, and another was put in, which was quite a juggling act in this confined space.

We had many interested onlookers from our neighbouring caravan club, all positive about the railway coming to town. John was happy to explain what we were up to.

A third team was occupied with lengthening the sleeper run on the southern rail head.

The two wagons loaded at Skew Bridge on Wednesday were brought up, and this enabled Alan to start bringing in concrete sleepers to continue placing them past the goods shed.

After a while we were well past the goods shed with the concrete sleepers, and approaching the corner of the fence.

That's officially past the goods shed then. No time for rails yet though.

Lunch was sandwiches, taken in the drizzle while sitting on the ice cold bridge beams. Quite a change from Wednesday then. No hot food here, just a cold salad from Mrs. Blogger, supplemented by a slice of Mrs. B's best sponge cake, the tin parked in the rain but with the lid on to keep the cake dry.

This volunteer was wrapped up to his chin, hat pulled down to his eyes, a lukewarm cup of coffee to fight off the cold.

The drizzle stopped for a few moments, then resumed throughout the afternoon.

After lunch the rail changing by the bridge was largely completed, and at last we were able to go and fetch some rail.

Steve, Bert Ferrule and Nigel laid in 3 lengths alongside the goods shed, and the railhead moved further towards Broadway by another 55 metres. Easily done, that. Behind the camera further sleepers were being laid down.

It was a bit of a traffic jam up on the embankment, with Steve trying to lay in rail, and Alan trying to get past with loads of concrete sleepers.

This is where the railhead was at mid - afternoon, clearly well past the goods shed.

A small group is clipping the rail just laid with a few basic clips, to make it stable.

Alan continued to bring sleepers. A brick was put on top of one of the fence posts to warn us not to go too far, as we would be in the territory of the turnout to be laid.

This turnout is likely to keep us busy for three weeks, judging from previous experience.

Almost there! The sleeper laying team has only 4 more sleepers to lay, to reach the end of the plain track on the main line.

Looking the other way, we can see double track now right through the station, with a last rail on the down line about to go in (the replacement one). From here you can see the long curve that goes right through Broadway station now.

The last rail on the bridge has gone in, and is being clipped up by a small gang here; some younger members under the supervision of one of the old hands.

Jarrah sleepers are used on the bridge, reverting to concrete once the track is back on Terra Firma.

This shot, taken from the end of P1 at Broadway, shows just how close the two rail heads are right now.

On a normal day you can see the hill above Greet down the end of the trackbed here. Today - nothing, it's a whiteout. That's bad news, it means it's going to rain, or is already raining.

The gloom descends over the site, and the Telehandler's headlights are used to stand out in the greyness. Even more sleepers are on their way, where are they going now?

Meanwhile, the main gang has found a moment in which to lift in a pair of rails on the down line sleepers laid first thing this morning.

With these rails laid in the foreground, the two rail heads were only some 50 yards appart.

Now to get a turnout in here.

And still Alan brought more sleepers out of the gloom. Our last hurrah would be to extend the sleepers off the bridge on the down line, that's what they were for.

And another pair of rails went in, this time on the goods shed section, using the sleepers just laid to the end.

And this was the situation at the end of our cold, wet and now dark day. Only a handful of sleepers remain to be laid on the down line to bring it up level with the up line on the left. Another pair of rails can be laid in in the foreground.

Then it's the pointwork in the middle, and we are united.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

A clean sweep

Five jobs for the gang today! We couldn't believe it, and buried our heads in the tea and mince pies. Minus 1 degree C too.

But it was true:

- Lifting tackle inspection
- Telehandler refresher course
- Broken fishplate repair at Didbrook
- Sleeper loading at Skew Bridge, Gotherington
- Ballast sweeping at Peasebrook

 Busy, busy, busy. We shall have to spead ourselves thin.

In order to close the gap at Broadway, we need one final trainload of concrete sleepers. As it happens, we have just that at Skew Bridge. Three of us ventured down to Gotherington to load them on to the two bogie flats, which had been parked there waiting for us.

This is all that's left now, and they are not all suitable, so you have to pick carefully. Some are different sizes, and some are broken.

Jules jumped up on to the wagon to be banksman, while Peter continued to hone his growing skills as a Telehandler driver.

Here the first load of 8 goes on.

With 8 being lifted on at a time we soon had the first wagon filled with 128 of them. Ideally, we need 240 loaded, if we can scrape enough together.
This team worked through to lunch time, and ended with 194 loaded in all. Then we handed over to the Telehandler refresher course team, who had their theoretical course in the morning, and needed something to practice with in the afternoon. We left them a few more piles to play with.

The three of us then car shared back to Toddington, where a steaming hot meal waited for us. All 20 or so volunteers came back from their individual activities, to find maitre d' Paul in a steamy kitchen with today's delicious offering. What would it be?

Fish! And you'd better like it, or you know what you can do!

Paul really pulled his finger out today, as we were priveledged to be in the presence of our new volunteer liaison officer Ian Stewart, who came to see what it was all about. We tried to impress. It was haddock filets, with buttered potatoes, peas, bread and butter, tea, and iced mince pies. A cheeky voice demanded tartare sauce and received a swift and stern rebuff, what do you expect for just £2.50.

After lunch it was back to the Skew Bridge sleeper depot. There are hardly any sleepers left now. Do you remember the huge piles that were here? Now you can park you car there. There were once 7000 sleepers here, and we have loaded and laid them all.

Here is the train, now three quarters full. Half a wagon is still available for loading, we left that to the refresher course team.

How does this work then?
After a handover in which we explained what was left and what needed to be loaded / discarded we left them to it. Fingers crossed that they all passed.

Peasebrook farm and the track sweepers next then.

After the passage of the ballast regulator there is a kilometre of track to sweep by hand - two rails, each with two sides. Grab a broom and join in.

The regulator does a fantastic job, but it does leave a line of ballast inside the web of the rail, and in and around the Pandrol clips. When we lift the rail on to the rollers for stressing, the risk is that somewhere some of this ballast will fall under the rail, and then we can't clip it up any more. So better to sweep it clean first. Many sacks of extra Pandrol clips have been laid out, but equally many more are still required too.

The section in the photograph has already been swept, and the little gang of broom handlers can be seen in a knot in the distance. The distance to do seems endless, but they plod on in a steady wind and a temperature only just above zero. Never mind, the job keeps you warm.

Here they are, armd with brooms, shovels and scrapers. No one tool actually does the whole job, so there is a bit of a division of labour going on here.

This shot illustrates what's going on. Nearest to the camera is a bit of rail that has been partly cleaned of the worst of it (a final sweeper will follow) while at the top is the ballast around the web before we have done anything to it yet.

This broom here comes from the blogger's own mother in law - she's a test pilot at the broom factory.

With only one panel left to do (out of 50) there was a sudden consensus to call it a day. It was getting dark, and the constant repetitive action does get to your back in the end.

The last panel shouldn't take long. The concrete sleeper wagons now have to pass over this stretch, then it can be unclipped and lifted on to rollers for stressing.

The stressing itself is due in a fortnight, followed by a mammoth 'Clippathon' the very next day (a Wednesday) in which we need as many volunteers as possible to clip a kilometre of track up again, all at once. Many hands make light work, so do consider joining in to help.

We hope to get all the rails to Broadway laid by the end of the year. Ballasting, tamping, sweeping etc requires fewer people, so that the main gang can then turn to to this year's closed season task,  a job in Toddington yard involving two turnouts, which will give the loco yard better access. That will take place in January and February.

And finally:

Over the last 5 years we have assembled all sorts of heritage kit for Broadway station. It's not something you can just go out and buy, because when you want it, it is not there. Patience is required, and a lot of luck.

In this way we have collected amongst other things two original crowd barrier posts for the booking office, and with the help of a friendly neighbouring railway, we had two more cast. When they are in position, they should look like this:

We have the cast iron columns then, including the four base plates at the bottom, but not yet the wooden tops.

In a great act of cooperation, our Winchcombe carriage and wagon department has very kindly offered to make the wooden tops for these crowd barriers. This is great news. To help them see how the tops fit on to the posts, we took one of them to Winchcombe today, so that work can start without delay, ready for the opening. With a bit of luck, there will be crowds at Broadway for them to manage too.

The 'IN' and 'OUT' plates have also been found and copied, as well as the small 'TICKETS' plate for under the ticket hatch. The original for this was found in the estate of a supporter at Willersey (for which once again our thanks) and you can imagine where it might have come from. Which station with a booking office was the nearest?