Saturday 6 April 2019

Didcot et al

Friday at Broadway

After the torrential downpour and sleet on Thursday - during which, of course, your blogger was out on a 4 mile walk - the outlook on Friday morning was a little more hopeful.

We arrived early, in anticipation of an 8am start by the scaffolders.

As we cleared the site for them, we admired the excellent slabbing work around the P1 steps. It's almost finished now, certainly good for the scaffolding to go on top. It's opened out the whole area.

The rain drifted away and the sun came out. Sadly there was no sign of the scaffolders, hence a few panoramic photographs for your delectation. Here is a view from the B&B entrance, which will soon be equipped with a sliding gate to distinguish the station area from the B&B area. People are still driving up there, then coming out again. Please don't.

The pavement extension will also be slabbed, and to deal with the difference in height there will be a step under the spearhead fence along here. An Arco drain was also installed to collect any standing water.

At 9 o'clock the scaffolders finally came. How can you tell? The radio was installed on the platform. It's the first thing that comes off the van. Scaffolders can't work without a radio. Turn it off, and they stop. A curious phenomenon.

We carried on with the P2 steps. We had a final roof hoop top to install at the bottom of the slope. Neal's just checking it for level here. It is now bolted to the temporary RSJs and the idea is that in due course these will be removed and replaced with the actual canopy extension supports, when the P2 building and its canopy go up. There's no visibility on that yet though, before you ask.

That final roof hoop top allowed us to bolt on the loose ends of the timbers we put on last week.

Today was a non - running day, so of course we had a train, a fire and drive experience. It rolled in at lunch time. It looks rather good, framed by these two signals. Sadly the replica Beware of Trains notice erected a few weeks has been taken down again on the right, and a BR lineside cabinet installed in its place. We hope that it will go back up again too.

Not long after arriving the loco ran round and underneath the footbridge centre span.

Here's heavy freight loco 2807 at the head of its train again, ready to depart after a brief stop at Broadway. There's also a video of it leaving here:

With the scaffolding rising around the P1 steps now, work continued on the P2 steps and here you see them with the newly installed boards in white primer. Just the top LH one is still to go.

Meanwhile Neal was cutting the next timbers for the P1 steps to size down by the containers.

When we do these on Monday they will be ready and should be mounted in no time.

The prepared timbers were immediately put into primer on P2, just as 2807 rumbled by on its second trip to the station.

Saturday at Toddington - and Didcot.

A late arrival on site at Toddington, due to an early trip to Didcot, of which more below.

Hurrying to work

At 10.30 the gang hadn't actually started, due to some last minute shunting occupying the line.
The class 47 was going, the class 24, an 03, lots of hooting and tooting in the yard. Finally we were unleashed.

We were back on 'Siding 1' where our mission was to change 24 failed sleepers, as well as review all the fishplates from 1982.

We did 6 sleepers last week, and another 6 today. So we're half way there.

The worst bit is the digging out, it's really a young man's job. If only we had a mini digger!

This is the first sleeper used today, it has a 'K' on it for 'knackering'. It's a hardwood one.

Diana had a go on the impact wrench, and did very well. It's only used very briefly, but it saves so much work with the T spanner.

In the various shunts, here by the class 24 hauling the class 73 dead, was this (newly arrived?) intermediate vehicle for our DMU fleet.

The word is that this trailer vehicle, formerly on the WSR, will be refurbished and used to make up a 4 car DMU, thus creating more capacity for those trains when it is quite full (which has happened in fact).

We use the DMUs quite a lot; there was one out and about today, despite there being two 8 coach loco hauled trains as well. Very busy, and quite fun.

Then we regularly have to stand aside to let a service train past, like this one pulling out of Toddington, having just picked up its token. Dinmore Manor is pleasingly loud, more so that Foremarke Hall?

Yes, we love you too.

Among our many duties is compulsory waving. There is a lot of waving necessary with a full 8 coach train trundling by at a steady 10 mph, the station limits speed. We now know how Her Majesty feels.

Three jumbo jets taking holidaymakers from Wolverhampton to Benidorm.
Then you get distracted by interesting traffic overhead. We're not on a regular passenger carrying corridor (a blessing!) so it's worth looking up when something loud passes overhead.

Doctor, doctor, I can't get to sleep. Read this new rule book then.

Our team was small today, so there was a bad miscalculation in the cake consumption, pre-funded by yours truly.
16 slices of chocolate, and chocolate and caramel cake were purchased, but only 10 consumed.
A quick calculation reveals that 6 slices returned to the Blogger Country Pile for mopping up. Not something to be repeated every week. And yet 8 days ago the gang ate all 16 slices. It's a challenge, that.

Photograph by John Lees
To illustrate how old Siding 1 is, here is a picture from 1982 when it was first laid. It's the second from the left, and the sleepers were already second hand even then.
Note the interesting wriggle at the top end of the yard. That isn't there any more, although one of the turnouts is now laid back to front, which achieves its aim but isn't very neat.
The yard throat was connected to the main line. That was later taken away, and refitted by us a year ago.
The two signal posts may well be originals to the line.
The rail head stops just beyond the yard throat. That's all the line we had in 1982. Slowly the track was extended down the long straight and if you read old numbers of the Cornishman you will see the jubilation when the newly laid track finally disappeared out of sight round the curve.

One member of the PWay gang, still here today, predicted gloomily that we would never get past Didbrook 1 bridge.

We are happy to confirm that he was wrong!

 Looking at the second hand track laid in 1982, we saw just how varied the sources of the rail were.

This fishplate reads:

xx 1923 xxxx 00 GWR MILD O.H.S xxxxx

Can anyone complete the text?

The '00' refers to 'ought-ought' rail, a GWR speciality which means normal 95lb fishplates don't fit. Of course.

 Rail used for a cast iron sign at Broadway says 'Crewe 1899'.

This rail here is another ancient survivor: 'BLAENAVON 1893'.

These are of course not in our main running line, but all on a siding.

One of the sleepers we dug out had this water underneath, what we call a 'wet bed'.
It results from the initial laying of the track on to a ballast bed that had already been scraped clean once (by the demolition people) so in places the track ended up on a clay bed, or at best an ash one.
The new ballast seen on top is a thin layer added more recently.

Again, this is siding 1, not the main line.

We are a jovial team with a sense of humour and much joshing, and when it comes to lunch time, we say 'STOP'. Time for tea and cake.

Or perhaps it was to cease working while Dinmore went past again in the afternoon.

All in all we did 6 or 7 sleeper digs and replacements, that was enough for today. Two more beds were excavated, so that will give us a flying start next time. There are 24 to do in total and at the end of the day we were half way there. The fishplates will be sorted out after that.

Other heritage stuff.

That trip to Didcot this morning.

A couple of blogposts ago we made a plea for a cast iron sign that goes at the foot of the footbridge steps. You can just make it out in the picture below.

Broadway Cornishman, by John Diston.
We purchased one at auction a couple of years ago, but couldn't find another. The original text is this one (as in our picture at Broadway):

It's a genteel sort of text as 'passengers are requested', but after a while the tone was sharpened as the request did not convince enough people to actually do what they were requested to do.

It then changed to this one:

Now you were not allowed to cross the railway, except by the bridge. Oh, these modern ways!

Having read the blog appeal, reader and supporter David Barnard offered us his for a very kind price, reasoning that it would be better seen by hundreds by an actual GWR bridge, than by one person in his back garden.

This all in classic dodgy style, between two cars in a public car park at Didcot.

David then went to inspect 'Lady of Legend', while your blogger went on to dig ballast. David clearly got the better deal there.

The new cast iron sign is for the P2 side at Broadway, and was dropped off straight away at a shotblaster's for cleaning up, prior to repainting in black and white.

In other heritage news, the yard lamp post at Toddington (one of two) has been primered and today received a coat of paint.

It's really great to see this little project actually get under way. The loco dept. have made new ladder bars (which were missing on one of the posts), there is one original ladder with platform and another copy has been made for the second post.

Holes have been dug and cable for the electric supply found, so we are ready to go.

A design for replacement hexagonal lamp tops has been agreed, but the actual order is still pending.


  1. Michael Johnson6 April 2019 at 22:31

    I wonder if the Pontypool & Blaenavon Railway has any track actually made in Blaenavon?

    Hanwell station still has a 'Passengers are requested' sign - a very large wooden one, possibly made specially for the location. I wonder if it is the only one left with the 'requested' form of words on the national network?

    Photo of the sign here (note also the very neat recessed drainpipe!)

    1. That's an interesting sign, no doubt made of wood as no cast iron subway signs exist. The larger words echo the normal cast iron sign.

      Broadway should have had the same recessed square downpipes. You can still buy them.

  2. I may be wrong but the three Jumbo Jets look suspiciously like B52's!

    1. Three USAF B52s. The airframes are almost as old as BR Mk 1 stock. On detachment to RAF Fairford at present.

    2. I agree and sadly while I heard them when at gotherington yesterday I couldn't see them. A good a spot Jo.

    3. I'm told there are some crew who are flying the same airframes as their grand-fathers! Pretty extraordinary service life for a military plane; I can't think of anything else like it (although I guess the Nimrods went on for quite a while).


    4. Apologies for the thread drift, but please dont forget the English Electric Canberra which entered RAF service in 1951 and was finally retired from the RAF in 2006. I believe that NASA still operate some (heavily modified) examples.

  3. I'd put the 'not allowed' sign on P1, actually; I'd suspect most people will be entering the station, or alighting from a train, on that side, and that way they'll see the admonition first!


  4. Hi Jo, the Class 24 doing the shunt looks suspiciously like Class 26 D5343 which was starting up in the Steam shed as I left this morning. Class 24 5081 is still having the replacement bogies wired up I do believe.


  5. Unless you know different, the 'new' DMU centre car could be for the blue DMU set (when the other green power car is reunited with its green set), for the blue set does not have a centre car at present. When completed, the two sets coupled together would then make a six car set.
    Nice slab work at Broadway - very neat.
    Would be nice to see the canopy steelwork go up on Platform 2 so as passengers could get an idea of the finished article; but I know there are many demands on the financial budget that may outweigh the needs of the waiting room etc. at Broadway such as a carriage storage shed for instance. Also I do know that there are only so many hours in the day and several other things to do in them.
    Regards, Paul.