Saturday 27 May 2017

A kettle in sight

A cold, breezy day today, very welcome after the heat yesterday but after a while, uncomfortably cold - some had to go and get their jackets, who would have thought of that? It started OK, nice and sunny....

Here's where we left off, before the new sleeper supply was shunted up. The rail wagons have been brought right up to the railhead, while the sleeper wagons are where they were last time - quite a long way away now - as we can't get at them on the high embankment on which we are working until the Childswickham bridge.

This is your gang for the day, just 13 of us. The size suits us, there is a job for everyone, and we don't get in each other's way. As we wait for the stragglers to arrive, we have a good cup of tea (or two).

We have new neighbours here, we're right next to a stable, and this is - a horse.

We said a cheery hello to each other.

To start with, there is a strap removal competition. Mike on the right calls out the 'ready-steady-go' and then we're off. There are 360 sleepers here; why the Conflat is only half full we didn't know, otherwise the number would have been 400. Perhaps it's a weight thing; 40 sleepers is 10 tons after all for the little 4 wheeled Conflat.

Here we are, all assembled at the current rail head. For those in the know, it's about 3/4 along the rape field just before the sewage works on the left behind the trees. We're now well away from Peasebrook Farm (and that horse).

Alan has been dispatched to collect the first load of sleepers from the supply train. It's miles away (well, maybe the best part of half a mile) and you can just about make it out in this picture as the dark shape on the track.

The rail wagon in the foreground contains 20 rails still. More have already been ordered, for delivery on June 12th. No pressure then...

Here's another view of the same thing, from the other side. The dip in the middle is bridge 4 at Peasebrook Farm. This area is due to be welded at the end of the month. We will be using CWR up to a 'breather' (expansion joint to the laymen) at Pry Lane bridge, the next one along, after that it will be one weld every other joint.

To start with, we have to hang the hooks on the spreader bar. It's the same thing every time, which hooks goes where? We can't leave them on, it makes the spreader bar too heavy to carry. These hooks are 'handed', there is a right way and a wrong way to put them on. And, no, it is not sufficient to just turn them round the other way.
The team puzzles over the arrrangement, until Bert Ferrule brings sound advice.

One small team sets off towards Broadway with an essential task: determining the exact line the sleepers will take. They hammer in these battens, and for the shorter distance by the sleepers we use a rope, which is pulled forward (in a rather satisfying way) every now and then.

Is that a curve we can make out? Is that really the start of the curve into Broadway station?

Alan then arrives with a respectable pile of sleepers, 12 in this case. Nigel gives directions as to where they are to be stacked for a short while.

To save time while the JCB was elsewhere occupied, we did a couple of stacks 'on the side' as it were. Later, when the JCB was back and the Telehandler took a long time to get to us with the next load - the distance from the sleeper wagons getting longer all the time - we used them up again. In this way we made rapid progress today, which was very pleasing. And all this while Gala was in full swing, we didn't even go and look (although bits of it came to us, as you will see in a moment).

Then off we went, laying.

The hooking up team steps well back as the jumble of sleepers leaps up from the stack, and dangles into a sort of shape.

Instructions to Steve for the jib movement are:
and a new one we heard today:
Oh heck, we'll have to bar it...

We did 160 sleepers by lunch time, which could well be a record. An early start, good weather, a plentiful supply and two machines with no hitches/punctures contributed to this success.

In the background is the rape field, with in the bottom corner the hedge around the sewage farm - we are now next to it.

Boosted by the laying success before lunch, we decided to lay in a few rails as well. There were 20 left on the wagon, enough for 10 lengths (260 sleepers).

But what's this in the background? Steam? A kettle? A surprise gift to visitors to the gala was the part opening of the extension. The stop board has now been moved to just beyond Little Buckland bridge, and what you see is the 'Laverton' shuttle (now the Buckland shuttle?) in the form of GWR 1450 and its auto trailer, just setting off for Toddington again.

1450 and the auto coach? What does that look like on the new extension? Here they are, just setting off again from the new stop board. On the far right, the mess coach, so the extension gang is not far away. We have given visitors as much as we could. Next stop, Broadway!

As the little tank pulls the coach back south again, we see an angry sky over Cleeve Hill. This was about to hit us, after a promising sunny start.
Our cars are parked on the wide bit by Little Buckland bridge, it's the only place we can use to get to where we are working. But it is now increasingly far away from the rail head. We are scratching our heads over a new place to park, further up the line.

Back at the rail head, we surprised ourselves by how far we had come. Here Steve points out to Dave the different areas of the sewage farm, a place where Steve has actually been on a maintenance job, so he knows it well. Further back is the spire from Childswickham church, it's a new vista for us every day.

In this picture you can see the distinctive tower of the sewage farm, and how close we are now to it. One of the last two rails goes in here. At this point, we have laid an amazing 240 sleepers, an excellent result for a day's work.

The last rail for the day is dropped in. We used 18 of the 20 rails left on the wagon. The last two were dragged off and laid on the ground, so that we can now say that the wagons are clear, and ready for the next load.

During the day, Leigh did an excellent job of temporarily clipping up the newly laid rails, ready for the welding team.

Dave and Neil help by lifting the rail ends to the correct height, so that Leigh can do up the special G clamp bolts. In the background is the Cotswolds edge, with Broadway village just out of sight on the left. The barns in the middle are alongside the B4632 which follows the line.

The railhead today, with 240 sleepers laid, and after 18 rails laid in. This gives 9 lengths built today, or 164 metres. Of course it all needs properly clipping up still, and welding, ballasting, regulating, sweeping, laying out clips and pads, stressing, welding, clipping up finally etc etc etc etc etc.......

On the left the Pry Lane end of the sewage farm, and the sweep of the ballasted curve into Broadway. By the end of the jib of the JCB you can make out the pilasters of Pry Lane bridge, which we should reach next time. This is also where the breather will go, then it's a change to more fishplates again.

This picture at the end of this rather dull and windy day shows exactly what we laid today. And we are definitely on the final curve, there's no mistaking that. The track has started to swing left.

The team is loading the tools back on the Landie here. Broadway goods shed can be glimpsed at the rear. We're on the curve.

And finally: More kettles!

Yes, a real, big train on our extension. Topped and tailed by a main line steam loco, the train has drawn to a halt by the new stop board on the right. The leading loco is standard visitor BR 76017, with a 'Red Dragon' headboard. There's a head at every window, and no wonder, the extension to Little Buckland opened today.


  1. Great report and excellent progress by all.

    A lot of hard work undoubtedly went into that effort today.

    Just one question, with 360 sleepers on the 'Conflat' at the start of today and with 240 sleepers laid, were the other 120 sleepers offloaded along the side of the track before finishing?


    1. No, they are still on board, and will be used next time.

  2. Jo, I travelled on the 11:25 Todd to Little Buckland, what a nice smooth piece of PW it is too, credit to you all on the great work

  3. A wonderful sight to see steam engines further along the extension. Do you feel proud Jo? you certainly should. Not only did you help make it happen but YOU reported on it all so that we could see it from afar. Well done to all of you. Regards, Paul.

    1. It was the team that built it, I just have a camera. In total there are 40 - 50 of us.
      It is certainly very satisfying to see the track getting longer.

  4. Second the comments regarding the smooth journey on the Autocoach to Buckland and back. I didn't expect to be able to travel that far north today! Outstanding stuff. Also delighted to report that 2807 took out the 1st fare-paying passenger train to leave from Platform 2 (since the platform was rebuilt) this morning.

  5. Fantastic work ad always guys

  6. Not sure why my comment came up in the canopy support post when it should be here. Maybe a senior moment...
    For the hooks and chain on the spreader bar can you colour code them so that you know which way round they go. Blue side of hook to blue side of header bar etc. In the time saved you might just be able to put in another 4 sleepers making Broadway that little bit closer. Adrian. Turin

  7. hey guys, even Google earth has the rails reaching the Farm prior to the sewage farm and the ballast wagons and wagons with rails on, in position. Anyone know when it might have been taken.

    1. 8th April - so it says on the picture

  8. Jo, what great work by the team, what are the working dates from 16th June, I need to bring some doughnuts for the team when we visit! An amazing site to see the trains getting closed and closer to Broadway, as above comments, all reported by you making us blog watchers aware of what is going on! If you don't report, no one would know how the work was done!(and how hard the work is!)Well done all.
    Paul & Marion

    1. We work Wednesdays and Saturdays.
      Don't forget Nigel's excellent Flickr site with photographs of PWay works - I'm not the only one.
      You can access it here:

  9. It's certainly good to see from your pics,that the railhead,has reached the start of the curve,towards Broadway!.Although I,attended the Gala,I,did'nt ride,on the Auto!.(I,was too busy,videoing,elsewhere!).But I,understand that this weekend,the railway,is running the Auto,instead of the DMU!.I'll be on it,then!. Regards!. Anthony

  10. Out of interest, with having travelled over the new extension on BH Monday, what's the mileage of the bridge at Little Buckland or come to that at what mileage is the current stop board at please? Just like to know such things for the record