Saturday, 21 October 2017

Tracks past the cabin

Track laying resumed at Broadway today, but with a smaller team. We were a dozen today in all, and half went to Winchcombe to chair up sleepers, and half went to Broadway to push the track on up to the platforms.

The forecast was for strong winds, followed by rain in the afternoon. Our compact gang hastened to Broadway after only a single cup of tea and a single (well alright, two) dunking biscuits, to try and get something down before it all got too miserable.
You can see here the fruits of Steve's preparatory labour yesterday. Anticipating that the Telehandler would be in use at Winchcombe with the 'chair persons' there today, he brought up these two stacks of concretes yesterday afternoon, and we were glad of them. This morning he arrived with two rails for them as well.

At the other end of the JCB Steve had grabbed three units for the barrow crossing that we will install about where he is positioned in the photograph. They're in the front bucket.

We were soon busy laying out those stacks of sleepers. First on the Malvern side, where 26 laid in a row were enough for that pair of rails Steve brought in.
Just the 6 of us today then - four on the ground, one in the JCB, an one behind the camera (sometimes). It's best to stand well clear when the rail is lifted in. Rail is moody, and does funny things.

We got the first length in on the Malvern side, and then had to go back to the Cotswolds side to lay a parallel piece. We now have to keep alternating, otherwise the JCB will be too far away to lift the rails in end on. It's already a challenge, but we manage by using a fulcrum to move the far end about, and then lifting the near end into place. Clever stuff.
In this picture we are laying track right across the entrance to the Broadway group's container - that must have been a surprise!

Here the first two lengths of the day are in, one on each side. They still need clipping up, a long and slow job, and with our small gang we could only do the bare minimum to make the rail secure, in between JCB arrivals.

After adjusting the direction of the previous length a bit, we carried on with the next one. It's important to get the end of a length in the right spot, as the next sleepers laid will follow it, and if it was say 6 ins out, all the next length will be too. Of course the whole thing has to follow a curve, and hit the right spot as we arrive at the platforms.

The sleepers are brought in by Steve and slid off the end of his wobbly forks. Because of this, they end up higgeldy piggeldy on the ballast, and in this picture you can see the next job, which is to eye them up and bar them into a straight line (or curve, in this case).
The next pair of rails has already been positioned in the six foot.

While we were doing that news came of a piece of welcome heritage just placed at the bottom of the station approach. It's a 'GWR PRIVATE ROAD' notice. We have been hunting around for two of these for a while now, and were successful at one of the railwayana auctions recently.

Our station approach is a private road too, something we would like to remind people of. And it adds to the atmosphere. We even made sure the post was bullhead!

Back to the farm. It now gets a bit tricky, as we are approaching:
a. A barrow crossing requiring special hardwood sleepers with FB base plates.
b. A change of rail from FB to bullhead, requiring a different type of wooden sleeper, and cast iron chairs.

The concrete and red hardwood sleepers in the picture will bear a single FB length of rail.

The steel plate protecting one of the catch pits was also removed at this point. The pit will be built up with more rings, and finally covered by new concrete lids. From now on, there is no longer a risk that road vehicles will fall in.

Here are the hardwood sleepers for the barrow crossing laid out in a row.

The spacing between them is different and has to be very accurate, otherwise the rubber crossing units that go on top won't fit.

By now we have attracted the attention of the Broadway gang....

We also had a special visitor today: Garry Owen, former head of PWay, and former chairman of the company.

Garry was in on the earliest days, and saw many track extensions built under his management. He was impressed by the quality of our work, better than anything in his days, he felt.

With enough sleepers in for the third length today, Nigel checks the alignment so far.

Are the sleepers in line enough to bed a rail down, and is the curve correct to meet the space between the platform ends? Hmmm....

Those sleepers under the barrow crossing are brand new hardwoods, and the base plates on top are brand new castings. First class quality materials in use here. Once under the barrow crossing, we don't want to have to renew anything for a considerable time. Bert Ferrule here screws down the chair bolts with one of the 'animals'.

Under an increasingly threatening sky a shaft of autumn sunlight illuminated our site as the third length is readied to receive the next pair of rails.

Then, in they go.

One rail is already bedded down on the right, as the second is prepared for lifting on to the left.

The 'Pan 11' sleepers for the platform 2 side of the barrow crossing have also been brought up now. This will go where the JCB is standing here.

They're in! Both rails on the third length are down, as well as the timbers for the platform 2 side. Steve walks over to see Nigel for a shake down of the day's activities. We can see rain approaching up from Winchcombe, it won't be long now. What's on next Saturday then?

Here's the same shot from the other side. The sleepers are now just about touching the catch pit in the middle. They need their ends sawn off to fit as they are slightly longer than the concretes.

As the catch pit has a rather deep maw, and although there are still 2 more rings to go on them, we decided to fit the covers for the time being at least.

The last shot of the day. The crossing seems quite far back already, as we are about to enter the Broadway platforms. Two timbers are nudging the catch pit and need sawing to size, while on the left we need to find two lengths of rail to match those on the right, as from here onwards we will proceed in bullhead. Second hand on the left, and new on the right.

The new bullhead rail is being delivered on Monday, when we are also doing a pair of ballast runs. Before that, ballasting will continue at Broadway. Busy, aren't we?

And finally, a big thank you to our blog readers:

For the first time ever, the monthly page views on this blog reached over fifty thousand. That's a hell of a compliment! Thank you for your continuing interest in our activities. You can always come and join us, or if you can't, send something to the GWR Trust with gift aid to help us financially.

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Friday, 20 October 2017

Cotswolds side clear

Today our small gang of 3 carried on at Broadway. Two of us removing spent ballast, and one, Stevie, busying himself about the place grading and bringing in sleepers for tomorrow.

At the start of the day - a much drier one, thankfully - we had the last stretch of spent ballast to remove on the Cotswolds side, between the last two of the 9 catch pit lids. In the far distance you can see Steve with a worried expression - is the ballast level at the north end right for tomorrow's laying session? He was up and down with the JCB, pushing and grading the ballast this way and that.

After an hour the Cotswolds side was cleared as well - high five! All the spent ballast between the platforms has now been removed. We immediately started bringing in fresh, knowing that several more lorry loads were expected in a car park area that was now very full indeed, as most of the spent ballast was dumped there as well.
Notice the tiny gap available between the dumper's bucket and the platform edge, with a similar gap available between the front wheel and the edge of the deep catch pit. So far, so good.

And then they came ! The poor little minidigger here is completely surrounded by ballast, as a second lorry load arrives, and just as we were dealing with it, a third.

Arghhhh !

Adam had only just climbed on to one of the new piles and started filling the dumper, when the next load tried to squeeze in.

In the foreground on the right you can see a large pile of the spent ballast we took down here. More is parked on top by the new fence, ready to fill in a void detected in the old trackbed.

Then, with only a tiny parking space left for the dumper to load in the 'car park' we resumed the shuttle trips. We decided to concentrate on the Cotswolds side, leaving the Malvern side flat so that vehicles (JCB, Landie etc) could pass on Saturday.

After quite a long time carefully grading, here is the first area that is completely ready for laying sleepers between the platforms. It's tricky working out the heights, as different sleepers are thicker or thinner, you have to know what is going to be used where.

Next to the grading excercise, Steve also shuttled up and down with supplies of concrete sleepers. This is not only to empty the extension supply train, but also to position for tomorrow's laying, when there will be no Telehandler on site. The Telehandler will be used at Winchcombe to chair up more sleepers with a split gang.

At the end of the day, another milestone: all the initial ballast is in on the Cotswolds side. Well OK, maybe two more drops, but we were tired.

At the end of the day we wandered over to see how the fence contractor was doing. Answer: he has almost finished, just putting on the last few rails. What a good job he has done, and such good company he was too.

We're standing by the Childswickham bridge here, and looking along the top of the fence you can now see that it has a gradual curve to the left, just as it should. This now means that the track can continue along it at the same distance as in the foreground. Besides a bit of trackbed tidying up along it, we're ready to continue, but first the platform roads.

Monday will see us ballasting a second time on the last 1000m of CWR, to fill the low spots revealed by the tamper.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Ballast removal almost done

On a soaking wet day today a gang of three continued with the removal of the spent ballast at Broadway. It was at times truly miserable, it was so wet. But that's what we have Goretex workwear for. Except for the neck. And the hands. How come the water still manages to creep in?

A few opening pictures for today:

With Steve working the Childswickham end of the site, it was for the mini digger to try and punch through the hardened cake of spent ballast. It wasn't really up to the job, and eventually had to resort to a smaller bucket, armed with teeth. Just goes to show how hard and impermeable this stuff is.
This opening shot from the doorway of the SB shows that we had already passed the station building, at least on the Malvern side.

At the Childswickham end, Steve was helping the fencing contractor with the removal of the old fence, and then preparing the PWay unloading site for more materials, basically the sleepers loaded at Winchcombe yesterday.

The last stretch of old fence was taken down today.

Here's the extension train safely arrived by the Childswickham Road bridge.

It needs unloading urgently, as it will be needed again for a further resupply. Hence Steve's preparation of the area.

This is the start of the 'pinch point' where the track laid so far is hindered by the old fence. The new, permanent fence will be 3-4ft further back by the goods shed, a few inches at either end. That brings back the curve that was here.

A more 'aerial' shot illustrates the pinch point better. The fencing contractor was a fast woker and in this shot was already well past the goods shed. The exact line of the permanent fence was set out with little yellow stakes on the ground by our PWay dept, so all the contractor had to do was follow them. Simples, and precisely measured.

Here is the contractor assembling the 4 bar fence, already well past the goods shed. Not so far to go now. He's a local man, so over tea we shared some great stories. One way or another we all know each other, via via.

An opening shot of the ballast removal excercise here, seen from the opposite direction and higher up. The instruction was to proceed up the Malvern side, and if any time was left over, start on the Cotswolds side by the yellow gravel in the foreground.
Also in the foreground is the completed stretch of platform slabbing. Now it's one continuous curve all the way through. Next it's further infill to bring the ground up to the level of the building, not forgetting a supplementary lamp post in the bottom LH corner.

From ground level there are prodigeous piles of ballast now along the Cotswolds side, which Steve hasn't had the time yet to grade off. Too busy!

Regular digging all day took the Malvern side beyond the building, past the signal box, and past the running in board. One long clean stretch here now, ready for fresh ballast in a day or two.

Speaking of the running in board, ours was put up 3 - 4 years ago now, one of the first heritage items on site. However, we had to use letters cut from plywood, which delaminates over time as you can see here.
With 4 more years of experience under our belt, we have since built up sufficient contacts to be able to source replica GWR cast metal letters. In future (when our busy carpenters have a moment) both our running in boards will be so equipped.

At lunch time we finally reached the end of the Malvern side. 200 yards of digging. Now for more of the same down the other side - luckily only about 50 yards of that remain to be done. Photographs were taken in between bursts of heavy rain, gloves wet and reluctant to come off, camera under 3 layers of wet clothing and not very happy in all the dirt. The blogger's camera needs to be replaced about once a year, at a cost of over £100. Part of the price of your hobby, we don't mind.

Now a look back over what we did:

... and then a look forward too:

Here we are on the bridge. You can see the curve towards the right, through the gate, through the pile of willow stumps waiting to be removed, to the white blob in the distance, which is the Conflat on the end of the extension train. It'll be double track here up to where the white van is parked.

Now we want to go back the other way, on the Cotswolds side, but there is a lot of stuff still lying on the trackbed.

This one belongs to S&T, it's one of those concrete frames you bury in the ground and on which you can attach cranks and pulleys etc.
We parked it on the end of the platform from where they say they will collect it. High enough so that there is no lifting involved, aren't we kind. It's heavy.

Next, a fine selection of broken concrete catchpit rings. They went down to the corner of the 'car park'.

Also removed were supplies of rebar, a street lamp post no longer required, some scrap on a pallet and of course the wooden steps that used to lead down to the trackbed. In future volunteers will need to use the barrow crossings that will be installed at each end. One is already on the extension train.

At four o'clock a final rain shower made it go so dark that for a moment we thought it was (already) the end of the day. We were about to quit when it was gone as quickly as it came, and we did a bit more. We extended the Cotswolds side of excavation to within 1 catch pit from the end, i.e. about 30 yards still to go. That shouldn't take long, then it's fresh ballast every trip. Five more lorry loads have been ordered, and there's no room in the 'car park'. Better get going tomorrow then.

At the end of the day the fencing contractor was within sight of the end, as you can see here. Didn't he do well?

The trackbed needs a bit of soil removal here still, before we can ballast it. That grass has got to go.

Steve meanwhile had started on emptying the train as the light began to fade.

Here are some of the wooden sleepers, now fitted with chairs. Concrete sleepers, in use outside the platforms, were also brought up.

Here's the end of the day shot from the Conflat - compare with the same picture at the top of this post. The fencing is almost finished, and it looks so normal now. The track coming off the bridge behind the camera no longer seems intent on ramming it, and you can see a gentle curve into the station.

Just to show that we were not quite alone at Broadway today. Malcolm and George spent the whole day in the SB down in the locking room, on the slow and tedious job of fitting the locking.

Nice and dry in there.... we're in the wrong department...

Upstairs the lights were on, and a chance for this atmospheric late in the day shot.