Saturday 2 June 2018

Back to the very old days.

It was 'hat' today, surprisingly so, as the forecast was overcast and only 20 degrees. We sure suffered in the latter half of the day, out there in the weeds by the C&W back siding.

The day started cool enough, and it was overcast and warmly pleasant.

The job at the moment (we have others lined up) is to resleeper the C&W back road head shunt. A start was made last week; today we almost finished the job.

We've been scanning and repairing more of John Lees' excellent pioneer photographs of the track laying, back in the old days. Here's a then and now shot for example, involving the area where we are working:

Then - January 1989.
The 1989 shot - 29 years ago now- show the access turnout to the goods shed being installed, with more work behind the camera, which is part of the area we were resleepering today, almost 30 years later. You can imagine that the sleepers laid in 1989, then already second hand, are no longer top class today. It's not as if there is regular running across the bit of track in question, but occasionally the shunter will need to go over it while repositioning some of the carriage stock in waiting, and we don't want it to end up 6 wheels in the dirt. It's also a low cost job, which suits us at the moment.

In 1989 services to Winchcombe were barely a year old....  (8th March 1987). At least one of today's gang was part of the team that laid down the track, and could well remember how some of it was propped up on bricks right at the back. Needs must, in those heady early days.

Back to 2018 then, and here is Steve jacking up the rail end so that a replacement sleeper can be slid in. (we were going to say 'new' but that would not be true, they are all garden quality now, second hand second hand)

The old one is dragged out. Compost quality sleeper, anyone?

Note that only one pair of nips is required, unlike for the new Jarrahs.

The bed of the old sleeper is dug out to remove roots and grass. There was no ballast here, just some ash, at best.

Nigel has ordered a basic supply of ballast to enable us to bring the track back to level again.

Being a trackside gang, we are still enjoying the after effects of the gala for free - here is Oliver Cromwell drifting into Winchcombe. Did he secretly steal the show from King Edward? (Discuss...)

Having waved ' Ollie' past, we insert the replacement sleeper. Most of the bad sleepers were replaced last week. This week the job was to finish that off (see picture) and to insert the rails and start packing.

While the main gang was at work over by the C&W sidings, Paul and Dave repaired and serviced our vehicles. An essential but rarely spoken of job, on which we all rely. Here they are replacing the axle on one of the trolley wheels.

The trolleys were very much in the picture today. The first one to venture out along the old siding was this one, bearing two chaired up replacement sleepers. Paul and Jim pushed it along vigorously, some say too vigorously, because it derailed all 4 wheels right in front of us. This resulted in a burst of hilarity, with a leering Paul behind, and Jim almost bent in half with laughter. Two long serving stalwarts of the gang, but pushing a simple trolley along proved too much. Pride comes before a fall !

Then it was all hands on deck, men on bars, to revolve the bullhead rail back into its position in the jaws of the cast iron chairs.

Although the rail starts outside, it is rolled over the tops of the chairs into the 4 foot, then rolled back and into the jaws of the chairs. That's how it works, it doesn't work from the outside in one go.

As we stood there and worked, the C&W diesel shunter came very close - whoa, we're not ready yet. Actually, it was on the adjacent tracks, extracting some vehicle from storage in the background. So now you can see that this bit does need decent sleepers.

Mid morning Oliver Cromwell came by again, and now the sun was out, giving beautiful colours to this snapshot of the mighty locomotive pulling into Winchcombe station. We stared at the giant drivers in awe.

Back by the mess coach. Dr. Landrover had called and was giving our trusty Landie a well deserved once over.
The Landie is quite old now, but spares are plentiful and above all, cheap.

It's also been quite reliable, requiring just a few basic parts to keep it going and street legal. Not a big deal for Paul.

Paul attracted a small audience, as we went off to eat our picnic in the mess coach. Mike and Steve watch as Paul fitted a new air filter this morning.

Towards the end of our lunch break, we calculated that the King, facing north, was due, and here he was. Nose into the sun, under a blue sky, copper shining bright.

This passing shot also came out well, as the great locomotive ventured out on to Chicken Curve. Only afterwards do they open the regulator very much (sadly).

A symphony in blue - enjoy it, while it lasts.

Despite the mirthful derailment, a second trolley was produced, but this time with more competent drivers in charge. It was loaded with a ton of ballast.

And then a third trolley appeared, also loaded with a ton of ballast. This one had a single driver, and a supervisor behind. That's life.

After much pulling of point levers, the two trolleys started to trundle in the opposite direction, and now slightly nearer to our area of operation. Was there a master plan behind this?

There was! After negotiating a final set of points, the two one ton ballast trolleys appeared on our track right at the back. How very sensible, now we don't have to walk backwards and forwards with shovels.

We jacked the relaid track up quite high, as this ground here is made up and has settled over the 30 years after the track was first laid.

A row of trip jacks was placed along the embankment side, and the voids under the sleepers were gradually filled and packed as the trolley was pushed along. In the distance Mike was tightening down the last of the chair screws.

Back at the base, we had a 40 ton pile of ballast to play with. This was loaded by the Telehandler into the trolleys, fitted with removable boxes.

We are resting. It's hot, you know.
After lunch the sun came out with a vengeance. We got through a lot of water, complimentary from Severn Trent following a burst pipe near one gang member's house. Knew it would come in useful.

Sadly, the King was facing the right way only one trip out of two, but it's still a King, and soon it will have gone back to Didcot again, so enjoy it while it lasts.

Thanks to the well thought out positioning of the trolleys, shovelling the ballast under the sleepers was manageable, despite the strong sun.

Every now and then we dropped a jack, and moved it along a few cribs to hold the track up to its proper level.

As the sun burned hotter and hotter, the shovellers were starting to look a bit weary, brave men.
Thoughts started to turn towards a cold drink in the Coffeepot. The Coffeepot is the big advantage of a PWay base at Winchcombe.

Here we are at the end of the day. The resleepered track panel is back in, and the ballast trolleys, already back with a second load each, are about three quarters of the way along. Just a bit more to go then, to complete this little job.

We threw the tools into the Telehandler bucket, restored everything to the 10 ton van, and allowed ourselves a drink in the shade of the station canopy. Bliss!

How blue can it get?

A few tidbits from Broadway

There was a small gang at Broadway on Friday, tidying the site after the gala days. Mike and Graham were painting the platform edge and the cafe respectively. A wheelbarrow load of pine needles was extracted from the gutters. We really need to think of a system to allow the water to drain into them, but keep the pine needles out, for example a 'comb' like fitting over the top that is available commercially.

Work also continued with the next two sets of V boards. This one was acquired at auction some years back, with the specific purpose of using it at Broadway station when the time is ripe, which is now. The BOOKING OFFICE letters will be used over the front door (together with WAY IN) and the TELEGRAPH will go into store to help make up the 4 inch letter alphabet we are setting up.

The board itself will be used for REFRESHMENTS, letters for which we still need to have cast.

In between times this interesting bit of fun was cleaned up. It is a length of original Broadway GWR spikes, such as were fitted to the top of the cubicle doors to stop people climbing over to avoid 'spending a penny'. The SVR have these at Kidderminster, and will have them in their new extension at Bridgnorth - very authentic.

During the day on Friday a fire and drive train came into the station twice, hauled by our star pacific locomotive P&O.

Then of course it left again, very cautiously, and under supervision.

Finally, if you have subscribed to blog updates by email (see top of the column on the right) you may have experienced some delays in the last few days. It seems that Blogger have had a software bug, which is being worked on and is hoped to be rectified some time next week. The page view counter is also currently not working, possibly for the same reason. Patience then.


  1. Broadway pine needle problem - There is a good company supplying a variety of "woven wire mesh" from 11.1mm to 0.027mm apertures in stainless steel, either custom sizes or bespoke. I have used them to make filters for drains feeding soakaways. You could make your own for gutters etc. tele:020 3290 9990, the leaflet explains all.
    Mike Rose

  2. Time to dig out the "sombrero"

    KC Jones

  3. That's a lovely photograph of the King running into Winchcombe station where the colour of the locomotive matches the deep blue of the sky. It was an excellent event and great to see the engine (and supporting cast)on a GWR main line with so much authentic infrastructure in place. The impression would be complete with a section of double track perhaps between Winchcombe and Toddington with a second platform at Hayles Abbey Halt.

  4. To be fair to Paul and Jim where they derailed the trolley is the very spot where C&W always have to be very careful when shunting bogies. We have been known to derail at that point as well. Perhaps we should ask the P’Way Gang to check out the level of the track at that point.