Monday 6 November 2017

Extending the ballast bed

A joint operation today, PWay helping out BAG, the Broadway group.

A request came in for back fill material for the platform, and as it happens, we were removing the (old) signal box end of the bund, where there was some of the spent ballast.

Six or seven dumper loads were taken over to the station, where it was dropped at the southern end and under the canopy, as far as the current ducting installation allowed.

Then it was back to ballasting by the goods shed, to get a decent stretch ready for Wednesday, when the 'second front' will open here. Our Wednesday gang will lay here in concrete sleepers, resuming where we stopped a while back by the unloading area further back. It's wet and sticky up here, hence the use of the Terram. Steve recalled that after track lifting here in 1979, the contractor also took out the ballast using a drag line and lorries that came in at the former station site. So today we're pretty low down.

Photograph courtesy of Tony Harden, and with grateful thanks

Fishing around in our old photographs, we found this picture of a lorry parked on the old station site at the end of the 1970s.

After the chat with Steve today, it seems clear that it was there to remove the ballast we are now having to replace.


While we were bringing fresh ballast up from the car park, Steve started spreading it out on top.

This enabled him to give the dumper driver some feedback as to how high to pile it.

With every load that came up from below, we had to stop and kick the Terram out a bit further.

This is our second 100m roll today already. Good progress, despite the ice cold start, and the water on the dumper seat....

Two things to note in this picture now.

Firstly, you can see Steve comparing the actual height of the ballast he has levelled, against the desired height, as per white finger boards. We think he got it just right! A clever system, devised by two of our PWay gangers. It really works.

Secondly, the class 73 has arrived in the background to pick up the now empty extension train. Good coordination here. It's going to take the wagon down to Winchcombe to be reloaded with concrete and Jarrah sleepers, for each end of the laying exercise.

Moments later. Steve, having checked progress with levelling, has resumed pushing the ballast with the JCB, while the class 73 makes a slow and smoky departure in the background.

Around lunch time the ballast had reached its apogee, as it were.

Beyond the corner of the fence the terrain wasn't quite ready for any more yet. The dumper has parked up by the next bit that needs clearing for Terram.

Steve then came over and cleared the triangular bit that comes next. The fence line here takes a diagonal line a few yards back, and then continues along the Cotswolds shoulder of the embankment up to the wall by the former signal box. That length still has to be erected.

Our mission ('should you decide to accept it') was to remove the remains of the bund up to the site of the old signal box. We're going round the back of the site access gate here, and this will come down very shortly as it is clearly now redundant.

Once again the sun weakened, and then turned orange. Just as we got to the last few helpings, the mini digger started to hop along on one track and wormed its way in this manner up to the dumper.

Strange. It turns out that it had a torn track, so that put an end to today's digging activities. If its key can be found, we could carry on tomorrow using the Broadway mini digger, which is parked only a few yards away.

At the end of the day we got as far as this - ballast brought up and levelled to just beyond the turn in the fence line. One more day could see us join this ballast with that heading south from the bridge.

 Broadway cafe

An anecdote:

In Stalinist times, a production worker at the people's own perambulator factory was asked how he enjoyed his work.
'Fine' he said, 'I am really motivated making these prams for the greater benefit of the people.
The only problem is that, once they get to the end of the production line, they are Kalashnikovs.....'

All of us at Broadway thought we were building a station with a cafe. Here is a detail of the original plans to which we were building.

Outside on the Heras fencing we explained to our many visitors what the different rooms in the building were for.

This photograph was taken today.

Now it seems that two years ago it was decided to give our visitors a shop. We had no idea; indeed, several volunteers at Broadway were looking forward to working in this cafe after the build was completed, until a few days ago.

This blog is just a chronicle of a motivated volunteer giving his time for the Pway and Broadway gangs. Yesterday however it was overwhelmed by the largest number of reactions ever seen on it - 74 at the time of writing. All this because of a small PS at the bottom: the Edwardian cafe is cancelled, it will become a shop.

If you are disappointed with the cancellation of the Edwardian cafe, then make your feelings known to those that decide.


  1. Disappointed, yes, but I can see both arguments (my preference as a visitor would be a cafe), however this seems to have been badly communicated, and it is sad that the wonderful gang who are putting in the man hours have not been told until the 11th hour.
    Living as I do at the Broadway end of the line, I was hoping to drop in for a coffee and cake occasionally when passing, but my days of buying Thomas the Tank Engine toys are long gone! In my High Street every other retail space is now a cafe, so the public seem to have an insatiable appetite for refreshments, even better in unusual settings! Cafe gets my vote, but I don't want a civil war on the railway either!

    1. At the GCR it was realised that every station needs catering facility. Not to have one at Broadway would be a major error. The car park has to be dealt with as well. From a marketing and sales point of view, it's not really an option. I hope the civil war will be averted, but hiding a decision for 2 years is not a good way to promote peace.

    2. There is some confusion here. I new 2 years ago of the change and at the time there was discussion on the change between volunteers at Broadway. Perhaps with the passing time in got forgotten?

      Vic Smith

    3. It would seem so if that was the case then Vic, as "cafe" was mentioned 12 times in the past 2 years in the Broadway station rebuild blog, and "kitchen" a further 6.

  2. I checked back on some previous blogs and found recent references to the cafe.
    I also remember seeing the signs on the fence.
    It is poor communication by the board not to tell the excellent volunteers that the refreshment facility they are building, and hoping to staff and use, will now be a shop selling the usual merchandise.
    I have made a comment on the previous blog and I have emailed one of the directors regarding this decision.

    1. That seems like a good idea, esp if you say what sort of a stakeholder you are:
      - Shareholder
      - Donor
      - Volunteer
      - Customer

  3. Great to see the progress on the extension and all the hard work everyone has been putting, it does prove that heratige railways really are stronger that ever! Thank you very much for these blog posts Jo, they really do show us shareholders where all the money goes and how much the railway is worth investing in. With regards to the cafe, I completely understand the controversy the decision to change the cafe into a shop has caused. I was wondering if there was a possibility that the due to a lack of staffing that the cafe could open on some but not all days if this is the only reason? Anyway, keep up the good work and I’m looking forward to catch a train from Broadway next year!


  4. Great photos as ever Jo. I think your last 2 photos say it all really. Order, counter-order, disorder, disgruntled.

  5. CAFE. will it open on Mar 30 2018 hundreds will need a drink.....

  6. keep the board members away from Broadway it won't be nice the cafe society loves sensible people .

  7. a big thank you to all the CAFE supporters.

  8. leave the rail books at toddington enough is enough.

  9. Million dollar question is will the Management at least at this stage of first fix allow the necessary plumbing and wiring to be put in so that a cafe can be installed at a later date.
    Or will they seek to tie the hands of a future more enlightened Management by making such an option unfeasible.

    1. Very good point - keep our options open.

  10. I seem to remember a similar controversy over the original design for the station building, with some nonsense about a 'firewall' going up into the apex of the roof. Common sense eventually prevailed over that, resulting in the magnificent structure that we see today. Can we hope for some more common sense over the cafe decision and wiser minds will win the day - again?

    1. Who are the people who really matter in all this (no in any order)? -

      The paying public
      The shareholders who own the PLC and pump money in
      The volunteers who've given their time free for 8 years to build it
      The sponsors and donors who've responded big time to special appeals

      None of these, apparently, were consulted.
      What does that say about the quality of decision-making?

  11. I would think that sales at Toddington café will drop as your tourist passengers ie none loco enthusiasts from the north, west and east will join at Broadway and not alight at either direction. Hardly an attractive wait at Broadway having tea/coffee from a vending machine. Rod Liddiard

  12. Dear Jo,
    I would like to make my feelings clear to those who decide. The trouble is "they" seem to be Eminences Grise. I guess it's not politick to name names, but it would be useful to have a target recipient.
    Finally, a decision made 2 years ago without consulting those involved is not poor communication- it is deceit.
    Mark T.

    1. The contact section on the company website allows you to send emails to a number of recipients.
      One even reached me !

  13. I very nearly stopped being a shareholder when the railway sold the goods shed,
    But stuck with it,I am very disappointed about Broadway station not having a
    cafe,This would of been a great place for one,maybe They have special interest
    in keeping it at Toddington

  14. This must be very deflating for all the hard working people at Broadway. What has happened is deceitful. Not all potential customers will come to ride the trains, many will see it as a stop off point for a drink and admire the work carried out. There are no similar facilities at the caravan park some of whom will surely use the station cafe. To keep the decision quite for two years was just dreadful. Just hope common sense prevails.

  15. I agree with all who support the Café (Refreshment room). I truly thought that the 'king of the castle' mentality had gone away and all were pulling towards a common goal. I fear that I am mistaken UNTIL the decision makers realise that they have not only made a mistake but, by the amount of comments, they 'have merely awoken a sleeping dragon'. (Quote by the Japanese Admiral after their raid on Pearl Harbor).

    However, to the activities today. Wonderful to see the ballast nearly joined up so that track laying can continue. Great photography. Regards, Paul.

  16. For the foreseeable future, Broadway will be the end of the line. This will require a café in which, having popped over to see the village, they may enjoy refreshment while awaiting the return train. When visitors eventually return to their cars at Toddington, they may wish to buy a memento of their visit. It's obvious really. The shop needs to be at Toddington. Sorry if this upsets the powers that be.

  17. There are plenty of older folk (some disabled)and those with young children who will alight and not want to make the trek into Broadway for refreshments. And folk who wait for a train will surely welcome a tearoom. This is so shortsighted. And when the line is completed, for the moment, will there not be surplus volunteers who could man the tearoom?

  18. I read sometime back that there would be minimal parking at Broadway Station. This will probably lead to most visitors having to park at Toddington, or at the Broadway town centre car park, one mile away.
    After walking round Broadway, and perhaps avoiding expensive designer coffee shops, visitors would have a half a mile walk to Broadway Station from the nearest part of the High Street. I’m sure these people would rather find a reasonably priced cuppa and somewhere to sit, than to end up with a Thomas the Tank, to lug back to the car, where they had left it, a mile away at the other end of town. Most people buy their souvenirs on the way out, not half way through the day. One exits most museums and galleries via a shop after all.
    I was surprised when I saw the shop on the drive was to close. Perhaps in its current state, it doesn’t look “period”, but something else could be erected in its place I’m sure; one of those wooden taxi huts for example, or a grounded four wheel coach, as at Chinnor. The latter, being a temporary building would probably need minimal planning permission. Four wheelers can be made to look very smart and do not look out of place. That might solve the losing the shop dilemma.
    I always love to visit railway cafés to soak up the atmosphere, especially if there is a tea urn or large teapots, and a lady in a pinny behind the counter.

    Steve Randall

    1. The shop at Broadway is a bric-a-brac shed to raise funds for BAG only.
      It has to close as it only got temporary planning permission to stand where it does today, previously having stood where the building is now.
      I share your thoughts in the last sentence, I think we all do.

  19. If this was Facebook, I'd be 'liking' all the above comments. I am a shareholder and have just used the contact page on the GWSR website to write to the Chairman about this discouraging turn of events. A kitchen and cafe is expensive, so let's have a dedicated fundraiser for it. It will repay handsomely however. Just ask the GCR! Oh, and decision made 2 years ago? That I'm afraid is poor. Some repentance is needed. We have been here before and found the solution. We can again.

  20. I hope a cafe is retained. Perhaps When the buildings are eventually built on the opposite platform,a
    Gift shop could be incorporated into them at that time

  21. Thanks Jo for your amazing blog ! I hope a cafe is retained. Perhaps When the buildings are eventually built on the opposite platform, a Gift shop could be incorporated into them at that time. In the mean time, perhaps the cafe could sell a small selection of the more popular gift items, as well as tea and snacks, to tap into both markets, and guage interest in building a dedicated shop.
    Regardless, i hope that the room is at least plumbed and wired in now, to allow a cafe to be easily added in at any point.
    Keep up the amazing work !

  22. Jo,many thanks for yet another interesting installment in your blog. I do take my hat of to you, the PWay team and the team at Broadway for your hard work and sterling efforts in creating what will be a true gem of station!

    I think lack of a cafe is a retrograde step for the railway. I do hope that the people concerned who have made this decision have based it on facts and data rather than perceptions and opinions. Why have the board not raised their concerns with the volunteers at the GWSR with regards lack of staffing or funding? I notice that another big railway in the local area have just finished another big share campaign to finish the rebuilding of a terminus station. if we need money to finish projects, then why arent we doing the same.

    As someone who visits other big railways, (which we should now class ourselves as) a cafe is always welcome at a terminus as it gives parents with young children somewhere to relax and take in the atmosphere that the hard working volunteers have created. I very rarely purchase anything in shops as there is generally very little that draws my attention.

    If there is deemed a need for shop, could a temporary installation be put somewhere until funding could be sought?

  23. Imagine the Ffestiniog Railway Without Spooners, even Tan Y Bwlch Cafe opens until the end of October and its int he middle of nowhere. What a ridiculous decision. Shops make little profit, cafes make massive ones. Typical markup on coffee is 80-90% maybe 5% on a book/toy.

    1. Rob Early last evening I put an entry on the Boardroom blog about profits, (it's yet to appear - quelle surprise ! ). Briefly in the period from 2010 to 2017, the shop profits increased by £14,394, or 12.6% an average of 1.58% per annum. For the same period 'On train catering" profits increased by £60,338, or 128.2% an average of 16.03%. Obviously these figures do not include takings in the cafes which are unknown.

    2. Dear Chris

      This was not posted because it was not named and we do not post unnamed comments on the Boardroom blog. As long as a comment is named and does not contain defamatory or inappropriate language it is posted, good bad or indifferent. I have never not posted a comment because I did not agree with the content.

      Moderator on the Boardroom Blog

  24. We visit Porthmadog regularly, travelled on the train last week once, however stopped for coffee 4 times and in addition 3 times had a meal (for two of us). As a member, travel is free so guess what made them the most money from our visits? If I visited Broadway, it would be the same (bit not if the only choice was vending machine)

  25. Charles earlier mentioned a dedicated fundraiser towards fitting out the Cafe .... Ok lets start this off.. £500 available towards fitting out cafe. Offer will be repeated on boardroom blog shortly.

    1. Hello Ian
      we cannot match your figure but we are willing to chip in with a £100 to help retain the café. If they really want to put a vending machine into the "shop" then my company are prepared to supply a state of the art coffee machine at a very good rate, my boss has said we cannot do it for nothing but we can do our very best with the price! Not the ideal solution but at least a good drink could still be had at Broadway!
      Paul & Marion

    2. Well done, Ian.
      There would be £200 from me.
      Paul C

  26. I quite regularly go to the NYMR at Pickering for the sole purpose of using the cafe. Vending machines would not have the same draw.

  27. Whenever my travels take me near a heritage railway, I always visit. Sometimes, I don't have the time for a ride but I ALWAYS buy something to eat and drink. It makes a nice break to a journey and is a small but enjoyable way to provide support. No café at Broadway? BIG mistake. Richard

  28. What I would like to know is when would we have found out about the change from cafe to shop? If it had not been made public by Jo who we all appreciated for his wonderful Bloggs each week.
    As a visitor, donor and share holder I am disappointed and feel slightly deceived about the change, like many others we bought into the vision for Broadway, a Cafe was part of that vision. I think the management in general do a wonderful and at time must be a very difficult job running the railway but in this instance they are wrong with this decision and hope with help and support they will change their minds. I know finances are tight but with good will all round I am sure that if a fund raising campaign was needed for Broadway it would be well supported.

  29. As a member of another Heritage Railway, that desperately needs a wonderfully informative blog such as the GWSR has, the thousands of enthusiasts visiting Broadway during the next few years will want to sample a reasonably priced refreshment, but can purchase their souvenirs at Toddington if they want to. Shame on the decision makers leaving the news to fester until almost the last minute!

  30. I am another who eats in preserved railway cafes whenever possible in preference to the high street for the interesting surroundings and because the profit goes to a cause I want to support, even if for one reason or another I don't ride the trains. All station shops seem to have exactly the same selection of pointless tat, only the railway name changes. Does anyone actually buy that stuff?
    On a related point, railway managements, if you do provide catering at stations the timetable needs to make it possible to actually use them (unlike the Churnet Valley!).

    I am in direct contact with Richard Johnson. I have asked for a meeting on site at Broadway with RJ, a project leader, builder, and a member of the Heritage committee. Agenda.
    1. Current arrangements already made for services for a café/kitchen and shop.
    2. A suggested temporary site for a retail outlet.
    3. Design of a temporary retail outlet.
    4. A suggested permanent arrangement for a permanent retail outlet.
    I'm prepared to drive up from South Wales and I am awaiting a reply.
    Mike Rose

  32. With all our comments and desires for a Refreshment Room, the words from SETI (Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence) come to mind. "Is there anybody out there listening?"

    Hopefully there is someone listening with the status to overturn this shop idea if favour of the ORIGINAL design of an Edwardian Cafeteria! Regards and hopes, Paul.

  33. As I've said in the comments below the previous blog post, I think the decision to cancel plans for a cafe at Broadway is extremely flawed. It seems to be based on some fairly random assumptions, none of which stand up to scrutiny.

    But aside from that, what really worries me is that the decision was taken by the GWSR PLC board two years ago - and was then kept secret. Even when the decision became known just recently, it was not because of an official announcement. The news more or less leaked out.

    For two years the Broadway team has been allowed to carry on building what they thought was going to be a cafe. None of the GWSR directors had the courtesy to tell the people who were doing the work that the plans had changed.

    In my view, this shows a complete disregard for the volunteers who are working to build the railway. At the very least, the GWSR board should apologise for misleading everyone.

    Unfortunately, it's not the first time this sort of thing has happened. It wasn't so long ago that we discovered - again, at a very late stage - that the board had secretly ditched the original plan to rebuild Broadway in the 1904 style, in favour of an 'economy' design which would have resulted something similar to the platform building at CRC. It was only after a huge amount of argy-bargy (and one high-profile resignation from the Broadway team) that the original plan was reinstated - which has resulted in the magnificent building we now see.

    It makes me wonder what other little surprises the board might be hiding up their sleeves....

    How has it come to this? Decisions made behind closed doors, and then kept secret. No communication. Volunteers taken for granted. And then, when the secrets finally leak out, it all turns into a lot of stress on the internet, which is hardly good for the image of the line.

    Frankly, this is no way to run a railway.

  34. You need a decent cafe, and good parking facilities at Broadway Station. Not everyone wants to ride the trains, or if they are,to drop off at either Toddington or Winchcombe for refreshments. The current shop could be moved to platform 2 as an interim measure when a proper shop could be built in the future. A Disappointed shareholder.

  35. CAFE..CAFE..CAFE.. this is what is needed at the soon to be, new northern terminus of a very successful heritage railway. Next year coming from the south i will catch the train from Cheltenham Race Course and sail straight through Toddington and then have to walk to get a meal and tea/coffee in a local establishment (probably expensive) and then avoid the slot machine coffee in a polystyrene cup in the proposed retail outlet (more duplicated semi rubbish to be avoided) whilst waiting for my return train. As a shareholder and user of the railway I have until now used both the Coffee Pot at Winchcombe and the Flag and Whistle at Toddington. I will continue to use the Coffee Pot for its period details and to be able to sit at the platform tables with a coffee and a snack and watch trains arrive and depart is truly amazing and a reminder of a bygone era (wonderful). The only reason I will exit a train at Toddington from now on will be to visit the engine shed and the narrow-gauge railway and then probably only once a year. I travel on the line at least 7 or 8 times a year so the Flag and Whistle will miss out on my patronage. I feel very sorry for the volunteers who have been under the impression they were providing Café facilities for the PAYING PUBLIC but a misguided board with a changed agenda and extremely poor communication have changed this and caused such an outrage. As already mentioned above if it’s a case of cost then a bit of fundraising should bring in enough to cover the installation of proper period Café facilities.

    I have read all the blogs for several years now but this is the first time I have felt the real need to make an entry.

    Thank you for all the very informative blogs I look every day to see what is going on and especially how the tracks are now moving towards each other in a really lovely station.

    Despite a direct email to Richard Johnson at1400 to confirm or reject a meeting I have had no reply at 1600.

    1. Give him a chance! It's Tuesday, it's possible you'll find he's putting in a shift at C+W today.

    Copy of email sent to Richard Johnson.

    Good afternoon Richard,

    I phoned the office and I understand you have been "on the railway" with meetings all day and left at 1500. I was unable to obtain your telephone number or that of Alan Miller whom I understand is the newly appointed project manager for Broadway.

    AS a shareholder I would be grateful if you could extend me the courtesy of a reply either by email or phone.

    Mike Rose

    My reply to Richard Johnson

    Good evening Richard,

    I appreciate, with your heavy commitment, you are unable to attend a meeting at Broadway or send a deputy and have dismissed the ideas in the agenda. A pity because the newly appointed project leader, builder and heritage member will be on site.

    I note your comments that "mine is not the only view and that a number of volunteers are supportive of a shop". You will be making a decision at a meeting to reject or retain a shop on Monday next and it will be fully communicated.

    It is also a pity because we could have had an opportunity to discuss the important, relevant information I have from Wychavon D.C.and I am not sure what I say those members who have put will legacies on hold.

    Despite the fact you state you cannot take this further, rest assured, I will.

  39. No cafe at Broadway is a serious mistake that if not reversed now the railway will come to regret. Broadway is a natural pick up or drop off point for the numerous touring coach companies. This has been a growing revenue stream for the railway in the last couple of years. By using Broadway this business can be expected to grow even further. Don't mess up this opportunity. Steve.

  40. yes Steve you are on the money the cafe decision will be reversed if not the work force will take action that's the word ..

  41. Ho hang on the board have called an emergency meeting penny's dropped...

  42. Quite simple, the reason why the Café at Toddington has to survive is that the HQ Management resides there to enjoy there, no doubt, 'staff rates' for a bacon butty and cuppa. Putting a Café at the current end of the line has to happen. It is so obvious - Mart Cornwall

  43. Silly small minded politics ! This is the main reason i ceased being being involved with any British preserved rail projects - there are always the ones who wish to impose their limited, dictatorial decision on the majority, even when they are patently wrong decisions !
    The idiocy of so called 'management' - most of whom have zero practical railway experience on the 'real' railway, and whose man management skills are about as 'useful' as their railway experience ! In other words - USELESS !