Wednesday 25 April 2018

A cracking day

No Maitre d' Paul today - no doughnuts! Fear struck the modest number of volunteers that turned up nonetheless. What would we have with our tea?

Biscuits! That was the answer. Unfortunately, sometimes you can have several answers to the same question, and this is how we ended up with a table full of them.  Great minds clearly think alike.

The double chocolate ones proved popular, until Peter arrived. It was his birthday - many happy returns, Peter - and to celebrate, he brought 4 packets of doughtnuts as well.

This one is empty, Peter!
Now we didn't know which way to turn. Eventually we had to defer the consumption of several of them to lunchtime, but we did complete the job.

Work today:

- Fishplate replacement at Gotherington (4 volunteers)
- Moving sandbags into position for the wartime event (8 volunteers)
- Shovelling ballast at Broadway. (1 volunteer)

The fact that the majority of the volunteers quickly put their hands up for sandbag carrying may surprise, until you learn that they are filled with sawdust. Not so heavy after all. On the other hand ballast shovelling at Broadway recruited but a single voice, but Robert continued doggedly from shovelling last week, and thanks to this admirable determination he is making good progress there.

We will be based at Toddington for not much longer, soon our mess coach and tool van will return to Winchcombe.

Today then we glimpsed the start of a new development for Toddington, the very first preparations for the new messing facilities for the loco department. Here their compressor hut is being moved to a new location, to vacate the space where the new extension will go on the end of the goods shed.

After loading up the Landie with tools the gang of 4 fishplate replacers repaired to Winchcombe to load up appropriate fishplates. Our regular track walkers draw up excellent fault reports which tell you exactly what to repair, and where. So we knew from the start that we would need, for example, a 1/8th inch lifting plate for FB rail. It's no use going out to the sticks to find that you have brought the wrong one.

The first address was MP 16 at Gotherington.

We have a number of vehicle access points along the line, and this is one of the more discreet ones, at the end of a winding lane.

From the top, there is a majestic view of a straight piece of track all the way to Bishops Cleeve.

On the left is the defective fishplate, which has developed a crack. The track walkers have spray paint with them to identify the one with the problem, and this makes it easy for us to find them.

This is the baby. There's a crack from the top, and another rising up from underneath. Before the use of CWR we laid our track with second hand rail, and this means that the ends can show signs of wear, as in this case. It is second hand, after all.

Changing the fishplate is quite quick really, just 5 minutes is enough. We can do that between trains. What takes longer is preparing for the job, and finding exactly the fish plates we need to replace the cracked one with the same.

The next one was in the same area, a bit further north at Gotherington loop. As the track changes from single to double track here, we couldn't drive the Landie any further so had to carry the heavy gear the rest of the way.

Another quick change here, just inside Gotherington loop.

Weighted down with a keying hammer in the 4 foot is the fault report, which we need to consult to see where exactly the next one is located.

Unfortunately we were then subjected to a rain storm which ruined the paperwork, so had to find the third one from memory.

As we were putting the tools back on the Landie Foremarke Hall drew in from CRC, and gave us the chance for this drone's eye view.

On the way back, we found this cap by the lineside:

It's a green Marks & Spencer cap. If you have a 'large' head, it could be yours. We took it back to the office to await it's owner.

Next stop: Prescott. Another cracked fishplate by the road underbridge. And another shower. Everything is wet here.

This is the sort of weather we were having today. Large thunderous cells, which were heavily laden with rain and hail, and this one even showed a flash of lightning. We're in Greet here.

The cells came and went, and we managed to finish this one off in the sun as you can see. Unfortunately the replacement fishplate we took with us proved to be too small, so we put the new one on as a temporary fix and made a mental note to come back after lunch with the correctly sized one.

On the way back to Toddington we stopped off at Winchcombe to locate the bigger fishplate, which, after a lot of rummaging and pacing around the site we eventually found.

As we waited to cross, Foremarke Hall got permission to enter the station.

After lunch we kept our promise and returned to Prescott to replace that new fishplate with a bigger one. We let the DMU pass, before crossing the trackbed. How fortunate we are that we have a double width trackbed. It makes it so much easier to access almost any stretch of the line with heavy materials.

Later, we saw Foremarke Hall here too, with one of those dark thunder cells in the background. This is the now empty sleeper depot at Skew Bridge, Gotherington.

Last thing in the afternoon we went to replace the fourth cracked fishplate, which was found at Broadway on a track walk only last Saturday. How's that for service!

Again there was a heavy shower. We replaced that one PDQ, then had the opportunity to film Foremarke hall leaving the station with its heavy train:

Monday at Broadway.

Yours truly went to erect GWR signage but ran into an Asparagus celebration. On this non-running day an entire 8 coach train had been chartered to mark the start of the Asparagus season. On offer was a return from Broadway to CRC, and it was heartening to see how quickly we were being adopted by the local community for their celebrations.

Passengers were bused in, an a whole fleet of Morgan cars was parked along the station approach in brilliant sunshine.

On Sunday the station was bedecked with English flag bunting, and a bunch of giant Asparaguses (Asparagi?) was planted around the station.

It was perfectly clear what the celebration was about !

The fully booked train was waved off by Gus Asparagus, in full costume including green wellies and a green beard.

How that must have itched...

The train then set off for CRC, where further celebrations took place.

The public was invited to purchase tickets by the organisers, and did so in large numbers. The train was a great success, even making the local TV news.

At the end of the afternoon, with everyone safely back and the train now empty, Foremarke Hall took the ECS back to Toddington.

A quick Google check on the headlamp code here reveals this to be a
''Parcels, newspaper, fish, meat, fruit, milk, horsebox, cattle or perishable train composed entirely of vacuum-fitted stock with the vacuum pipe connected to the engine. Express freight, livestock, perishable or ballast train partly vacuum fitted with not less than one-third vacuum braked vehicles connected by vacuum pipe to the engine''
Perhaps the perishables were the Asparagus? A great day, in any case.

In between times we had a successful afternoon fitting another GWR 'BEWARE of TRAINS' notice. Neal drilled the holes again and with some difficulty we excavated a 2 1/2 foot hole through ballast, clay and old bricks into the northern corner of the P2 platform.

The crew of Foremarke Hall had the decency to pass by slowly, so that we could take this picture of the newly erected sign in a proper GWR environment.

We erected a fourth post at the northern end of P1, so all that remains to be done now on this little heritage job is to complete lettering the other two cast iron signs, so that they too can be bolted on, probably on Friday.

There are also high hopes that the long awaited canopy lamps will arrive that day. It all depends on the courrier, so don't hold your breath, but it could be that special day.


  1. I too dined on sparow grass, same on Tuesday & this evening. Enough's enough now, but the railway made a sterling task of celebrating the 23rd of April. Well done everybody.

  2. Asparagus? Totally awful vegetable, can't bear it. It looks just like a Jurassic horsetail. Rest of the blog was awesome though.

  3. I like asparagus. (Preferably wrapped in streaky bacon and fried). But here I Cornwall, we're in Broccoli country. Now that is something that I hate. (Little trees).
    Great photographs, especially of Broadway.
    Regards, Paul.

  4. P.S. Is there any truth that the BAG team are creating a patio by the mess hut? (As partially seen in the last photo!).
    Regards, Paul.

  5. Broccoli should be chopped up & rested for 40 minutes before steaming, so that the enzyme Myrosinase can act to release Sulforaphane, a compound that is hoped will protect against debilitating neurodegenerative disorders. Either that or eat it raw. Chewing activates Myrosinase. You pays yer money, yer takes yer choice; so said my father.

  6. I wish I could claim the flat cap as I have a large head as you all know !I lost one on this stretch about 5 years ago when on SPY duty but never found it .
    just bought some Asparagus on way home from Hayles Abbey halt ,grass cut ready for Wartime weekend ,see you on SPY duty on sat .

  7. I thought that Broccoli in Cornwall was actually Cauliflower. I seem to remember train loads in a BFI film talking about Broccoli when the loads were obviously Cauliflowers.