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.


  1. And the Christmas version of the above goes....
    6 gangs a clipping
    5 panels unclipped
    4 bags of pads
    3 trips to Winchcombe
    2 large containers
    1 Clive a'singing
    Sorry its the best I can do this morning! Feel free to add your versions from 7 to 12!!
    anyways well done the team
    Paul & Marion

  2. '.....And a partridge in a hot oven', is what I would add! Talking of which. When working as a guard at Kidderminster, we were constantly finding dead game birds who met their demise by trying to cross before the train. They never went to waste! Have you encountered similar birds (feathered variety) after trains passage on the tracks (or drawbar of the engine) at all? Could start the GWsR culinary menu book. Paul might help. I'm sure there would be plenty of volunteer tasters!
    Seriously well done on the epic preparations for the stressing (of the track - not the P Way!). Regards, Paul.

  3. Looking at the photograph album it is incredible how much has been achieved in a relatively short time by a volunteer army of dedicated people. I would have loved to have been involved in this wonderful achievement.

  4. Super progress - well done to you all. Just a comment about the new containers being 'rock solid'. I am sure they will withstand anything likely to be encountered on the GWSR - but in the Falklands one of my men sheltering behind such a container as a Chinook came in to land was killed when the rotor down-wash blew it over on top of him.

  5. Some very good quality tracklaying in these photos - impressive stuff. Much better than certain parts of the national network I could mention...

    By the way, it's actually possible to buy jeans which come ready-splattered in imitation mud. I think this proves that the world has gone completely mad!


    1. "I think this proves that the world has gone completely mad."

      Yes, I couldn't agree more with Michael's comment, but I rather think the world went mad back in the 1960s . . .

      Peter Wright

  6. I really like the graffiti on the guv van.... looks cool

  7. I would imagine they are wearing steel capped boots also

  8. Could the C&W department at Winchcombe be persuaded to do a quickish cosmetic paint job (sorry about the graffiti, Mick) , on the GUV, so the long suffering PW team can have a smart (well, smartish) mess coach in which to trundle up and down the line ? No ? well, it was just a thought.

    Peter Wright

  9. I,odly,I can't believe I'm saying this,think the graffiti on the Guv is cool. Gives it character.

  10. David,

    I, oddly, disagree, and look forward to the GUV repainted in GWR non-passenger coaching stock, i.e. dark brown.

    Sorry to disagree, but there it is.

    As to graffiti art, some of which is truly excellent, (which I have seen on trains in the New York metro,) there is a time and a place, but the GWSR is neither the time nor the place.

    There it it is.

    Bless you.

    Peter Wright

  11. Great work guys. One of my peeves is reading in the press about damage caused by vandals to heritage railways. My suggestion is to equip a vehicle like the GUV as volunteer overnight accommodation, With a large dog and modern telecom(no,not smoke signals!)such a vehicle could be positioned at vulnerable locations. An ounce of prevention is worth a many pounds of cure

    1. Yes, I agree, but graffiti art and spray can art (a very dangerous procedure indeed), applied to rapid transit systems around the world, is a rather different thing. Books have been written on the subject. Much of which comes down to the question : what is art ??

      As an art historian, I can only say, I don't know, yet.

      But vandalism, like barbarism, is not art . Ever.

      That is all I can say, for the present.

      Peter Wright

  12. Graffiti is not only obnoxious, but reflects the parlous state of moral decline in a country/nation.
    Defacing someone else's property is never acceptable, however 'artistic' it's deemed to be.
    Just the costs and labour involved in removing such mindless scrawl is horrendous.
    Just about every railway system on the earth is subject to this plague with the exception of Japan - except in the major conurbations like Tokyo, Yokahama etc, and even there, you not find trains plastered , only lineside bridges, and some cabinets.
    The Japanese will not tolerate defacing of trains, and perpetrators, when caught, receive some very punitive attention !
    The 'liberal' west is falling apart under it's own lack of respect and moral discipline, sad but true.

  13. I always thought that Graffiti-'artists' (who are in the same artistic category as p!ss-artists) were a sub-species of humanity who proved that nature doesn't always abhor a vacuum. Their tagging & spraying is a cry for some sort of recognition, which they, being nobodies of the first rank, would never otherwise get.

  14. The Berlin wall chaps was/ is covered in it. Perhaps street art and its cry for attention is justifiable for those without a voice.

  15. It's not justifiable under any circumstances and I don't see why these people need a 'voice' particularly as most of that stuff doesn't actually sends any messages, other than the fact that they must have too much disposable income - a can of spray paint is nearly a tenner these days! Maybe they just steal them? A couple of years ago some individual(s) covered the whole of one side of a stabled 3-car DMU at Banbury with silver paint before getting to work with the actual 'artistic' stuff. Lord knows what that must have cost, both to the so-called 'artist' for the paint and for Chiltern Railways to remove it!

    1. The city of Paris simply does not tolerate spray can "art" or graffiti in its city centre. In fact, the municipality employs a dedicated squad to clean away such vandalism as soon as it finds it and wherever it finds it, e.g. on the stone embankments alongside the River Seine.

      Would that other European cities had the same system. ( Perhaps they have, but I can only say they seem less efficient in cleaning up the mess made by spray can "artists".) I know modern Singapore comes down hard on vandalism when it catches the culprits. Other cities may do the same. I don't know. But then if you're not careful, you run the risk of authoritarianism taking over people's lives. In a modern liberal society law enforcement can only go so far.

      As to vandalised trains, the worst I have seen (as I have mentioned elsewhere) were on the New York subway some years ago.

      The urge to deface public buildings and private property seems to be a plague which is spreading.

      Even in the comparatively sedate Isle of Wight, the IoW Steam Railway has to lock up its fine old preserved carriages (some of which are now very old,) to protect them not only from the weather, but also from the attention of local "chavs".

      Graffiti in the streets is as old as the Roman Empire, and even older. It was even practised by the ancient Greeks, although in ancient times they at least didn't have cans of spray paint.

      I really don't know the answer to this world wide problem.

      Peter Wright

    2. An afterthought. I have read and re-read the comments here, and there are clearly (and unsurprisingly,) strong feelings.

      However, this is a vast subject and I can see this thread running on forever.

      I have a feeling the blog administrator might soon step in to stop it. . .

      Peter Wright

  16. Tell that to banksie.. he’s laughing all the way to the bank.
    The guv van looks cool in my opinion, the work is art, perhaps the panel should be cut out and the art auctioned and the money put back into the railway...�� mick.

  17. Actually, I should amend my previous comment, because it’s the railway wagon that adds to the beauty of the art of the piece.
    The whole thing should be auctioned as art!... (minus the bogies ) ... it’s part of modern (70s-2000) railway heritage to have spray can art on wagons. Mick