Wednesday 25 July 2018

Gee, you you guys really are on fire

A generous 8 volunteers today. Landie repaired, packet of Hobnobs present, tea up, we're all ready to go!

Once again, no PWay transport today so (almost) everything was shoved into the back of Dave's Disco, with just the wheelbarrow in your blogger's estate car.

Dave refused point blank to accept the open tin of black oil as well, after on a previous trip it fell over on the back of the Landie. Eeeeuch..... So, no oil out on the track today...

We were back out at Southam, continuing from last week's job of fault repairing southwards from Bishops Cleeve.

Here we are at the northern entrance to the Race Course, where there is a parking opportunity (and a bit of a walk, but hey, we have a wheelbarrow today, thank you, Dave).

Dave also has the master plan in his hands.

Just as we arrived at the well known spotter's location of Riders For The Disabled (RDA) Foremarke Hall trundled by with the first train for CRC. That's the very busy one.

We walked down to the RDA crossing, entered the trackbed, and then walked back towards Southam, where we left off last week.

Here is our plucky little group, walking all the tools (and in some cases, picnic and folding chair; priorities, dear reader, priorities) to the start of the works.

The very first job we did, to replace a broken 'biscuit', was also the hardest. There is a reason the plastics are broken - back when the track was laid and some sleepers were not exactly in the right place for the biscuits to drop in easily, the plastics were rammed in with a hammer.  Years later, you end up with cracked biscuits (plastics) and of course the sleepers still 10mm out of position.

We dug out the offending sleeper and managed to manoeuvre it along a bit, just far enough for a new plastic biscuit to go in. Then Foremarke Hall left CRC again, so we had to step aside.

After that we made quite good progress, being caught up with the DMU working a bit further south of the bridge. Note the white sleepers on the left, not a good sign.

While Martin inspects the next missing clip (a forensic examination in each case - why is it missing, what has caused it to fall out, what is wrong here) the same shot shows a whole row of white sleepers, with a big white area at the end of the length. All this points to poor drainage and a shallow ballast bed. The track is pumping water out, which causes the white stains.

Can you see it yet?

We decided to await the return of the DMU before addressing the next bit, just along from the RDA crossing where three of us are standing here.

Here's the DMU then, picking up people from CRC who didn't get on the first steam train. We noticed a coach tour from Germany in the CRC car park, our fame stretches far and wide.

As we rounded the Southam curve we saw the home stretch before us - CRC with its tea making facilities and ice cream fridge in the distance. It was unanimously agreed we would stop for lunch there.

We bagged a shady bench under the trees and waited for the kettle to come back. It had a bacon butty facility on board, we knew...

Bacon butty secured, we moved on to tea, generously sponsored by Rick with a tray. Nice place to sit with tea, Cheltenham Race Course station.

A Passenger then approached us with the news that there was a fire on the track.

Golly, it was true as well, but just a small one. We did a Mexican hat dance on it, and the pine cone and needle fire was soon out. Little did we know, but it was a harbinger of greater things to come...

As we drove back to the RDA crossing in Dave's Disco, we noticed a cloud of smoke in the shallow cutting between RDA and Southam bridge. Surely not?

But it was indeed true, the bank was on fire, it was well alight. What to do?

John R had remained on site and was already on the case, phoning the fire brigade as we arrived. We jumped out of the Disco and grabbed our shovels.

'Have a bucket of water to douse those posts.' The RDA ladies come to our aid.
By ducking down low under the flames we managed to get in close and beat out the nearest row of flames. Cheered by this success (have you ever put out a grass fire before?) we moved on to the second front, which had quite big flames, which were being fanned by the 'gentle breeze' promised in the weather forecast for today.

We beat that out with our shovels too. High five !

Once we had beaten out the fire both ends, two fire engines arrived. They were pretty quick to arrive, well done those lads.

The fire brigade hosed down the site, and in particular put out the burning posts, which we were unable to deal with. They were dressed in full gear and it must have been so hot inside that.

Afterwards the DMU arrived very cautiously (we did not want a bill for sectioned fire hoses) and passed the site without incident.

Here's what burned today. Just bone dry grass, but the heat and the breeze made for ideal circumstances. We were able to prevent the fire from spreading to the adjoining stable for RDA, and the ladies there came out with buckets of water and even borrowed our shovel to beat out a small incursion.We all worked together to beat it, and there was no harm done.

One of us seemed to linger for quite a long time afterwards, and we think a new friendship was struck up. Every fire has a silver lining, as the saying goes.

Monday on the track

Our usual gang of 3 was on the prowl again. There were a number of seized bolts still to tackle, one on Chicken Curve and the others in the tunnel (Yes!) so we got our trolley out and loaded it up with the generator and tools.

Here is John with the genny and lights, ready to go into the tunnel. Actually, we went north first, to do that seized bolt on the curve.

That one wasn't too hard, it just needed cutting off and replacing. Weird, that there are so many bolts which are seized, about one turn away from being fully tight.

Then it was up to the tunnel, which you can see here from an unusual vantage point. The picture was taken from the bracket signal, which was also used to photograph the adjacent property line following the construction of new housing there.

Imagine how all this was excavated in 1905 with the Ruston Dunbar steam shovel.

The tunnel was great. Even before we entered it, there was a wonderful wooosh of cold air coming out of it. Hmmmmmmm.

Inside, we cut off several seized bolts and replaced them with new ones. Here is Dave on the angle grinder, watched over by Jonathan on the right. The trolley has two powerful lights on it, run by the generator.

Here is an example of a bolt we cut off.

On closer examination it appeared that, while it was fully done up, The unthreaded part was too long, so it never had a chance to be fully tight.

Check out also the length of thread protruding from the top end, that's too long to be normal.

Another reason why we couldn't tighten up some bolts.

This system of fish plate relied on an intermediate plate with folded up edges to hold the heads of the bolts in place. That's the theory. In practice however.... the folded up edges break off or end up flattened, so the heads of the bolts revolve infinitely and you can never tighten it up. Work that out in the dark when you are trying to loosen them with the TB2.

If there is light at the end of the tunnel, it may not be the other end, but a train coming your way!

Actually of course, it's the trolley with the genny and the lights, fear not. Yet this tunnel claimed the lives of 3 track workers at the end of the 1920s. We remembered that while we worked in there...

Broadway snippets from Monday.

More troughing has been removed from P2, quite a big lot this time. The stretch between these two lamp posts was cleared on Monday, using a wagon and the class 37. That's about a quarter of the troughing gone now, more to come. Great stuff, it makes the place look so much better.

More security cameras have been fixed to our 1904 canopy, both inside and out. Surely a more elegant solution could have been found, than to just bolt them on 'in your face' on the end?

Inside the cafe the fireplace has had the back bricked up to reflect the shape of the insert from behind.

On top, a lintel was placed, and the gap with the concrete blocks that were there filled in.

Next, the insert was tested in situ.

This is just the metal bit of course, what we could find that most closely resembles the original that was used about our railway, several to a station. This insert once had coloured tiles for decoration, but we have asked them to be replaced by slate panels. Works quite well, don't you think?

From the pencil lines outside you can see that two uprights are still due to go in. Then there is a slate panel across the top, and finally a mantelpiece across the full width.

The new slate hearth is on the left, still in its wrapping. That goes in the gap at the front.

Meanwhile, our friends at C&W have drawn up a plan for a counter for the cafe in Victorian style. We were excited to see that they had also thought of a large panel for the rear wall, with shelving left and right of a central mirror. That should look great !

Post scriptum:

John Rogers has secured us this aerial shot of the fire at RDA:

John has 'friends in high places' we are told :-)


  1. Jo, I wonder if you could pass this on to the relevant people at Broadway? I notice on the webcam that the canopy lights have been left on overnight for the last couple of nights (at least). This is in contravention of the planning permission granted by Wychavon council. The planning decision letter says:
    "3. All lighting shall be switched off after the daily use of the buildings finishes. All security lighting shall have a PIR sensor on a timer. There shall be no lighting on the track bed area and it should be directed away from any Bat Roosting sites.
    Reason - In the interests of the biodiversity of the site."
    Any security lighting should be activated for a short time only by a body heat sensor (Passive infra read - PIR). Certainly the canopy lights light up the track bed area and this is specifically forbidden - something to do with disturbing bats I believe. Is this something to do with those oversized security cameras recently erected?

  2. Thanks, Peter, I have passed it on.

  3. Such a shame in this day and age that we have to have security cameras put up, but I agree, why are they so "in your face"! As for the lights, these have only just been put in and trying to set them correctly at this time of the year can take a long time, trust me it has taken me three weeks to set up the new one in the front of my house! I also see that the underpass bridge at Woodmancote now has security fences along the path, the bridge wings have been graffitied. all since the new housing went up! Such lovely neighbors and their children! All this taking funds away from what the line tries to do best. BTW will we be able to access the views of the security cameras? It was quite good to watch the site building up and when the first trains ran into Broadway, now we feel quite cut off from the line. Still great work by you all keeping everything working there in this heat, well done all.
    Paul & Marion.

  4. I had a similar situation with bolts years ago,what i found was that once a bolt starts to loosen it stretches the shank [plain] part of the bolt,it ALSO stretches the unused part of the thread meaning the thread pitch is out so when you attempt to re-tighten the bolt the nut picks up and seizes.

  5. The GWSR PWay team, ‘crack on’-wards.
    In the dust & the grit of the railroad tracks.

    Fuelled by Hobnobs, plenty of tea, replacing broken ‘biscuits’, inspecting missing clips.
    Digging out offending sleepers, laid on the ballast bed.
    Rounding the Southam curve in search of the oasis!
    Tea making facilities and an ice cream fridge at CRC!

    The GWSR PWay team, ‘crack on’-wards.
    In the dust & the grit of the railroad tracks.

    Then fuelled by bacon butties and mugs of tea,
    THE PWay team sprung into action, quelling two tracks fires,
    Stamping their big boots on one and using their mighty shovels on the other.
    ALL the flames were beaten down. High fives all round to the valiant heroes.

    The GWSR PWay team, ‘crack on’-wards.