Two pople were in the cutting at Winchcombe today, to make a start on digging out the spoilt ballast from the area of the relaid double track, and relocated turnout. We were armed with a JCB, and a 9T dumper.
We hired in the largest dumper we could get, and asked for one with lights, so that we could take it through the tunnel. In the picture above, you can see it emerging from the tunnel. In the foreground is half of the turnout, in its approximate new position lengthways, but not yet widthways. It needs to move right a few feet to avoid a clash with the bracket signal, but at the moment access is needed so it has been placed to one side.
This picture gives you an idea of the conditions today - an early start in the gloom, and a maximum temperature of : 0 degrees C! This was reached quite early on, and did not change throughout the day. Cold then. On top of that it was windy, so a windchill factor entered into the equation. No worries though for Steve, in his nice warm cab.
A quick view towards the station, and it shows the crossing still in its place. It needs shifting to join up with the first half of the turnout, and the idea was to clean the trackbed, so that the crossing can be shifted on Friday.
Actually, the 'dumper with lights please' option turned into a bit of a farce yesterday. After it was unloaded the lights (which it duly had) were tried out - you never know - and they didn't work! A technician was called, who advised that there was no wiring for the lights. Well of course, we didn't specify wiring, did we? We asked for lights!
The technician not only wired up the headlamps, he added a great spotlight on top of the rollbar, which was beautifully aimed to hit the tunnel wall just in the right place. Perfect.
The atmosphere inside was brown, and for a while there was a concern about what sort of gas that might be, but the brown colour turned out to be dust generated by the dumper's own passage, and lit by the spotlight above. As the wind came from behind, the dustcloud was driven ahead of the dumper so that you were always in it.
For the first trip we both went to Gretton, so that Steve could explain what the general intention was. He also built a temporary crossing across the tracks (foreground) which turned out to be the same width as the wheels of the dumper. It's quite a large, squat machine, weighing in at 4.6 tons itself, plus the load.
The passages through the tunnel went well, and soon became routine.
Here is a shot of a ballast dump, with a row of previous dumps showing the line of the future track.
In the foreground is a bridge over a culvert.
This is the southern end of the tunnel, and the GWSR board showing the name and its length.
Sadly the date stone at this end is also missing. Its place has been filled by a layer of bricks.
On the way numerous obstacles have to be negotiated, time and time again. One of these is this signal post. Check out the space between the wheel and the sleeper ends, and between the bucket and the signage.
From the halo on the lights you can see that the gloom persisted pretty much all day long, and the return journey through the tunnel, against the strong draught through it, was bitterly cold.
After lunch, and with 14 trips made, Steve came up to see how things were going at the other end, and to level out the piles into some sort of formation.
The area on the left here is believed to be the site of the Navvy camp, a huge space dug out of the hillside (but no doubt also a convenient source of material to complete the embankments south of here).
This picture shows the track under construction, with Steve levelling the piles.
The area further south of here is too boggy to cross, even for a 4 wheel drive dumper, so we will need to tip forwards off the new track from here onwards.
At the end of the day, we had reached this little culvert with new bridge.
Steve is just removing some of the worst marsh and vegetation, so that the ballast can be dropped tomorrow onto firmer ground.
We were well pleased with this result. It means that tomorrow we can do some additional scraping in the foreground area, and in the afternoon we will move the crossing two panels south, to join its other half. On Saturday we might then have the opportunity of putting more of the track back again.