Wednesday 27 June 2018

Why pay to go to Spain?

Why indeed pay, we have our own hot weather here. It's what we wished for all winter, so don't complain now that it's here. There was unrelenting sun today, but we found bits of shade here and there and 11 of us had a good time on the railroad.

The day started with a familiar shaggy dog story, which as you now know ends in the 'multi story carp ark' .

While waiting for the tea to be poured in the background. Peter, Rick and Martin listen spellbound as John works his way towards the distant punch line.

Having been to a recent Rail Live event at Long Marston recently, Jonathan came back with a bag full of goodies. To be fair to us all, he decided to raffle them off to those attending this morning, so we all drew a number to see what we got.

Mike drew a bit of a short straw, as he won a nice warm hat... Patience, the day will come, it will come, Mike.

We were basically working on a defect list south of Gothrington, but while your back is turned other defects turn up and one such was a loose bolt found on Chicken Curve.

Hence we loaded up the heavy generator on to the back of the Landie and headed half a mile north.

We waited for the first train of the day to pass, then cut off the nut, which had seized with the bolt loose. Another one, like last week. Strange.

Here's the new one going on, surrounded by the yellow marker paint for the old, seized on solid. A quick burp with the 'animal' and it was job done.

Or no it wasn't, because diligent eyes then found a new loose clip nearby. We had all the gear with us, so it was quickly jacked up, a thicker pad shoved underneath, release the jacks, bang a new clip back in and it was off to Gotherington.

At Gotherington Manor Lane we were all raring to go, but first to understand the hieroglyphics of the track walker's spreadsheet. Hmmmmm.

Then the train came. It was the first one ex CRC, and it was well filled (others later in the day less so, and the DMU was only modestly occupied).
Here's a nice shot of Dinmore about to enter the curve leading to Gotherington loop. We learned that this loco was running this week as it had a better ash pan, thus limiting the risk of lineside fires.

The passing shot, as the loco runs over Manor Lane underbridge. No bridge strikes here!

Then Dave consulted the runes again, and it was decided we needed to be north of Manor Lane bridge.
Half of us replaced some clips at the start of the loop, the rest were nearer the bridge on a second lot.

After crossing at Winchcombe on the two train service today, the balancing working eventually reached us at Gotherington in the form of the DMU.

Isn't that a beautiful hill in the background? One of the typical features of the Vale of Evesham, once the bed of the meandering river Severn over the centuries.

There were moments when not all of us could be employed at once, such as here when a better pad is inserted under a rail. Plenty of advice is always freely given by those that watch.

Came the DMU back from CRC, and the gang stepped aside, to be told another joke by John from the other side.

The joke was terminated early as the DMU intervened (Saved by the DMU, some were heard to say)

There was a wonderfully shady spot by the access gate, and this was selected for our picnic lunch. Rob (L) had thought ahead too, and was the best seated among us, many of which struggled with the prickly grass and young brambles.

We said 'Hi' to the crew of Dinmore as she drifted by our picnic site.

We slowly worked our way south towards Bishops Cleeve in the distance, mainly changing clips and pads that had worked loose, but also doing some ballast shovelling on a stretch with surplus ballast, where the position of each clip could not be seen by the track walker. This was the hottest bit of the day.

At 3 o clock we decided to knock it on the head, given that we had to drive back to Winchcombe, put all the tools back and lock up the site. Four o'clock saw us on the terrace of the Coffeepot, our reward after a hot day under a pitiless sun. Tea, and a peppermint Magnum - bliss !

Earlier, on Monday:

After last week's fishplate greasing session with 4 gangers, we put out a desperate appeal for one more ganger, please, all you have to do is put your boot on the other end of the bolt the man on the machine is trying to do up.

We did get a result to this appeal, but not the one expected: one fewer !

After hesitating whether to give up or plough on, the latter option was decided on. Three of us on site then. Luckily the machines were all out from last week, so all we had to do was get them on to their trolleys, using these wheels.

We're now out of Chicken Curve (lovely, with its 120ft lengths) and well down the long Defford straight. Annoyingly, this was laid with short 45ft lengths, thereby multiplying the number of joints we had to handle. We set ourselves a lunch time target of reaching a tree with a nice shady place under which to have our lunch.

The spot we were aiming for is the smaller bush on the right. It was the site of a concrete bin for gravel for shovel packing, left over from BR days. We sat on the rim of it and chewed our snap.

To our amazement we were suddenly the witnesses of nature's hunting party, to wit a little stoat after a large rabbit. The stoat followed the rabbit 5 yards behind along the other side of the track, the rabbit crossed over and ran back towards us. It vanished in the long grass; the stoat carried on running towards us when it suddenly realised we were there. It reared up, looked at us in astonishment, and it was gone. The rabbit escaped.

An internet search afterwards taught us that stoats do chase rabbits, and that the tactic is to tire them out, whereupon they jump on the back and bite it through the neck to kill it. The big lump - 4 times the size of the stoat, is then dragged back, bit by bit, to the stoat's nest. Check it out on YouTube, there are several examples of what we saw.

We had never witnessed the like of it before, until at Manor Lane 2 days later, we saw part of the chase again! It must then be quite a common occurrence. Not enough to influence the rabbit population hereabouts, there are millions of them.

While working along the track, we come across remnants of toilet paper 'flushed' down the carriage toilets.

We don't really have an issue with that. The remnants soon disappear, see bottom left of this photograph. The wet toilet paper hits the ballast at speed and pretty much disintegrates. Paper is also a natural product, so it soon bio-degrades.

Not so wet wipes. These are the devil's own work, they are not bio-degradeable. We came across several instances where people had flushed these down the toilet. And here they remain, on the trackbed, for all to see. And for a very long time indeed too. The reason is that wet wipes are made of plastic. It doesn't say so on the packet, nothing on the packet gives you any idea of what a wet wipe is made of. It's an artificial fibre, one that lasts forever.

So please don't flush wet wipes down the toilet, not at home (where they cause the fat balls that we have seen in the press) and not on our railway either. They are indestructible. Better use a paper Kleenex tissue, if you must. They are not good at all for the environment, they are a 'single use plastic' and we would rather not find them on our track.

Rant over, a quick snapshot at Broadway.

Here's a typical scene on the platform just after a Cheltenham train has come in. It was taken on Tuesday. Busy, isn't it? This is so good to see, it means cash for the railway, and we need a lot of it for the many infrastructure requirements that we face.

One of these is protection for our bridge. It was struck by someone once again a few days ago. First impressions are of a low speed impact, but what is so hard to understand about this giant sign we have put up? We are still getting them every 60 days on average, sign or no sign.

The good income generated by the opening of the Broadway extension is going to be spent, inter alia, on bridge protection beams here. We would rather spend this money on new loco messing facilities, or a carriage shed, or the completion of platform 2 at Broadway. But if someone gives our bridge a really hard whack, and they have done several times in the pass, we could end up with suspended services until the damage has been formally assessed. So bridge protection beams are an investment.

The good news is that the process for erecting the protective beams has started, and we see here a team surveying the area for that purpose. Meanwhile, another articulated lorry speeds on through.

We will resume progress on fishplate greasing next Monday, so do try to help. We are aiming for Toddington, and will get there, by hook or by crook.


  1. Perhaps some notices re the hazards of Wet Wipes would be in order in strategic locations around the railway?

    Graham H

  2. It's really going to be a bit of a shame, having to spoil the nice look of the carefully restored bridge by tacking a hulking metal protection beam onto it. Just because some people really don't think about what they're driving. Unfortunately I've seen for myself that the flashing sign/height detector approach really doesn't work. Unless you put LC style barriers that come down under the bridge when an over-height vehicle approaches, red wig wags, tyre deflator etc......

    1. As a former bridge engineer for the big railway, I have found that Collision Protection Beams are sometimes the only way to prevent serious damage to the bridge. They also mean that you can continue to run trains safely after an incident.
      I wish the authorities would prosecute the drivers responsible, that would send a message to the industry to sort themselves out.

  3. Wonderful pictures. We have good weather here in Cornwall too. (which is normally unusual - for this length of time!).
    Glad to see Broadway is doing so well.
    Bridge strikes are more ad more prevalent, according to RM magazine. The only thing that I can think of to protect a bridge, is to place beams somewhere like 30 foot distance either side on posts so that any over height vehicle will hit those first and realise (by the crunch!) that he is too high.
    As I read in the mag., hardly any road drivers know how high the vehicle they are driving is! What to do?
    Regards, Paul.

  4. The government should make it law that all articulated vehicle driven on British roads should have the height displayed in the cab and all driver made aware before being allowed to drive, with stiff penalties for ignoring. This would help to save a lot of money by railway companies.

    1. The problem is not the articulated lorry such as the one going under the bridge, but lorries with removable loads of varying heights.
      Skip lorries with giant or multiple skips, and flatbeds with outsize loads are what is causing us grief.
      I saw a likely candidate for the latest hit a few days ago on a nearby roundabout. It was a tractor-trailer carrying a telegraph pole at a 45 degree angle. It was just about to go down the bypass (ie instead of station road....)

    2. The vehicle height is shown in the cab. Unfortunately with trailers of different heights, the notice is not updated. I have been called out to Bridge Strikes on the main line and found the height Notice in the cab is wrong!

  5. Good to see the beams going up!

  6. Thanks Joe,I know its worrying thing for the railway in general including the network rail. It sounds like from your comment, carriers disregard for the arrangement of loads and they have an unlimited height restriction, maybe there should be height restrictions the same as speed limits and be commonly known as speed limits are. Multiple loading of skips beyond a certain height should not be allowed & more encouragements to rail freight

  7. What it needs are loading gauges such as the railway used to have where lorries have to go under them before setting off from their origin point. and if too tall, the load would have to be adjusted to conform or re-routed, much like an out of gauge load.
    Unfortunately, this would require an act of parliament to enforce it.
    Regards, Paul.

    1. What a good idea, a simple solution to the problem. Will it ever happen? I think we all know the answer to that question.........
      Graham H.

    2. The skip lorries pick up their skips all over the place, you can't have a loading gauge in every village.
      Te same goes for those who carry a 360, they are carried to every building site in the country.

      We still have to see the beam, personally I doubt if it will change the look of the bridge that much, but we shall have to wait and see.

    3. Given the whacking great big yellow "low bridge" signs, it's hardly the most photogenic view in the first place!

  8. Has anybody ever "costed" having the road scraped down by 6 to 9 inches bringing the bridge into modern day standards.The proposed beams will do the job of protecting the bridge but drivers have been injured by their vehicles coming to a dead stop and the cab being forced up under the bridge.Human error and poor judgement will always play a part none of us is perfect.

    Graham 2478

    1. Graham 2478,

      I don't know the answer to that question, BUT first of all, it would possibly be the Highways Agency or the Council that would have to possibly pay for it.

      However, would 6 to 9 inches be enough?

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