Saturday 18 May 2019

British Lager

Friday at Broadway

Just two of the canopy team today, but progress with the steps nonetheless.

To start with, Neal brought along three roof sheets which had been bent using a system of bits of scaffolding pole and an 8mm steel edge. He did this with Bob Mason (Ex. BR Blacksmith) who worked out how to bend the sheets to Neal's requirements, then made the tooling and helped Neal bend the first sheets. Here Neal has fitted one, to see how it goes. We have to say, it goes just fine. We took it off again afterwards, as it now needs cleaning up after manufacture.

While we got several tips for bending corrugated iron following an appeal on this blog, unfortunately all were either suppliers of sheets, or could only bend a whole sheet at once, not part of one, and not in opposite directions either. So Neal worked the MO out for himself.

Yours truly was given this choice set of dagger boards to paint in undercoat, not forgetting inside the grooves. They are for the P2 side, which requires more than P1 as we will follow the original canopy -  footsteps arrangements on this side. So here the dagger boards will go almost all the way down to the bottom.

Here we see Neal attaching the next batch, at the end of the intermediate landing.

The weather was grey and surprisingly cold, thanks to an insistent wind. Such a change from the beginning of the week.

By lunch time he was on the lower half. They've had a coat of undercoat here, and the upper half has had two, so looks a bit darker.

Looking down from above, on a sunnier day earlier in the week. Isn't the station golden? Actually this picture is a bit of a cheat, as it was downloaded from the station camera and straightened. You don't get this light while we work, the picture was taken in the evening as the sun went down (which could be as late as 9 o'clock), and sadly there won't be a train coming round the bend with a glint on it at this late time of day.

We had a group of students to take a quick look today, and as they rounded the corner on to the platform we heard them say 'wow!'  That was very rewarding. People do notice.

Given that the sheets Neal bent to shape were now looking a bit ratty, we decided to give them an extra coat of zinc primer. Next week the other side, then a coat of bitumen (or two) on one side, with something lighter underneath.

Neal spent the afternoon on the centre span, refitting the end of the existing roof sheets, which he had taken off a few weeks ago to allow the fitting of the wooden side beams of the steps.

An issue with the existing sheets has been that they were not carried over far enough over the end, where a thick moulding still has to be attached. After sleeping on the issue, Neal decided that there was enough meat left in the overlap to pull the last sheet out a bit further, so this is what you see him do here.

To finish with Friday's work, here is an interesting find from the ash along the railway.

It's an ash tray for Wrexham Pilsener. You may well have heard of it, but for those (like yours truly) who have not, here is the unusual background.

There was indeed a brewery with this name in Wrexham, and it brewed only lager, no bitter at all. It was set up by two German immigrants in 1883, after they came to England and weren't impressed with the beer that we brew here ('what is this, it's all warm!'). They thought that the beer they knew back in Saxony and Bohemia might sell well here, so they looked for a good spring and found a suitable one in Wrexham. The lie of the land also allowed underground storage, which is where the word 'lager' comes from. Lager beer is allowed to rest for 3 months before it leaves the brewery.

After some ups and downs the brewery eventually did well, when it sold its Pilsener to the army. The beer travelled well too and it was sold, inter alia, on transatlantic liners. There is a photograph of a GWR train leaving Wrexham for London, loaded with 1700 casks of Wrexham Pilsener for the Cunard Line. The brewery used the sidings by Wrexham station to ship its products

And there is a connection with the Honeybourne line too. The GWR was a customer of the brewery, and served Wrexham Pilsener in its restaurant trains. Broken china from the GWR restaurant trains can be found along our line if you know where to look, and the ash tray was probably thrown out as a corner had broken off. Thanks to a badger digging it up we now have this echo from the past, a bit of our history. We have surprisingly few artifacts or documents from our history, so this is a welcome find indeed. Perhaps it can be displayed somewhere one day?

Saturday at Didbrook.

First, select your Landie. But one didn't work, the battery was insufficiently charged, just a series of clicks were the symptoms.

Luckily we now have two Landies, and we managed to start the white using the blue.

Problem solved, now to load up tools, generator, Kangos, and off to Didbrook.

C&W were manoeuvering round their delightful little freight train today. We won't be having a freight train next week, but these wagons will be shunted at Winchcombe during the festival. That should be very popular. They don't come out very often.

At Didbrook we continued with last week's job, i.e. dealing with a number of dropped joints and twists between the two bridges of Didbrook 1 and Didbrook 2.

Interestingly, one of these underbridges is a brick one, while the other was replaced by BR and the material chosen was concrete.

Didbrook 1 was also the end of our first ever piece of running line, just 700 yards long in 1984.

Didbrook is rather a good place to take a picture of a train trackside, as this fine example with Dinmore Manor shows. Much of the track runs on the down side, which means that the gang stand on the up side and see the shadow side of the train. Only in the afternoon is the sun on your side. But today started grey and drizzley, so for the light this was pretty much perfect.

Bert Ferrule and Steve were soon rattling away with the Kangos.

There's a touching little scene in the background, where Tony is either giving Jim a plaster for some little graze, or else he is stealing his watch.

There were three trains out today, all pretty well filled. Last week was not so good as there were several very wet days, and people stayed at home. Grey weather seems to be ideal; on a hot day people like to BBQ or go to the beach, it seems.

We had the DMU and two steamers out today. This is the second, being the Welsh coal tank 4270.

This picture here shows a situation that we often find in this area, one with the earliest track that we ever laid, back in the 1980s. The ends of the rail imperceptibly (for your eyes) bend down towards the joint, and are 'crippled'. This results in a 'thump' as the wheels travel over them, which rams the adjacent sleepers into the ballast bed and makes the problem worse. At the same time there is huge strain on the fishplate and often a crack emerges, such as here. We replace such fishplates but you need quite a stock of them, as they are all different. On this one you can just make out that the LH one is new, while the RH is worn. You need a transition fishplate or 'lifter' which compensates for the differences in wear. It's all part of having laid second hand track, but that is what we could get back in 1984. We're on top of the problem, but it is a lot of work.

What can you do? The best but expensive option is to relay with concrete sleepers and new FB rail. The cheaper, fall back option is to cut off the crippled ends, and move the rail ends back together again. That is what we did at Winchcombe by the tunnel, and more recently at Toddington last winter.

Meanwhile buzzards circle overhead, often bombed by crows but they fly on, unperturbed. It's nice company to have, with their piercing calls.

We did several dropped joints in the morning, and repaired to the mess coach for doughnuts and fairy cakes for lunch. Some of us brought salads in a vain hope of compensating. Thank goodness we have an active hobby.

The crew of Dinmore gave us a cheery wave as they rolled past us and into Winchcombe station. There are always a few seconds to swap a bit of banter between the gang and the footplate crew.

After lunch we moved along a bit and reached Didbrook 1, the brick built one.

We found a rotten sleeper and decided to do that one, in passing as it were. Neil is just taking off the chair screws here, while in the distance Bert Ferrule and Nigel are looking at the next joint. Behind the camera, the gang is packing the previous one. It's all go.

We had a visit from the DMU as well, which rolled by very cautiously, now inside our temporary speed restriction of just 10mph. Just round the bend on the left is Toddington yard.

It was about here that the 1980s relaying gang finally started to disappear round this bend towards Didbrook, to whoops of joy from the volunteers at Toddington as the relay of the lifted track was finally off the long straight out of Toddington and out of sight. One (still with us, you know who you are) ventured that we would never get further than Didbrook! Oh ye of little faith, miracles can be achieved, the preservation movement has shown that repeatedly.

Such a long time ago....

After Neil had released the sleeper from its chair screws, Tony came and pulled it out with the pick axe. It was split down the middle, not so obvious from above but well spotted by the gang on the day.

Bert Ferrule then pushed in the new one. It looks easy enough, but it soon collects a fistful of ballast under itself and then jams against a chair. It needs persuading with a crow bar from behind, then it's in.

Mid afternoon the big 2-8-0 tank rumbled by again, on its way to Toddington.

After it had vacated the scene, we bolted down the new sleeper and packed it with the Kangos.

Job done, plus of course several dipped joints cured. For a while.

Will anyone notice? Seems unlikely, but we know in our hearts that we have track in good condition.

Back comes 4270, and the gang steped aside to let it pass. Our sight lines are so long on the GWSR that we can see it coming when it leaves Winchcombe. We have a lookout too.

You may have noticed the Cotswold stone houses in some of the pictures. These belong to the little village of Didbrook. Neil on the gang is a native of the village (he has moved away now to the distant town of Winchcombe) and he was able to tell us a few things about life there.

The oldest house in the village is this one in the trees. It is from the 15th century and has a fairly rare form of construction known as a cruck frame. This has the 'A frame' roof timbers come right down to the ground, often using curved timbers much sought after by the navy for its ships. Neil related that this small house, with its single chimney, was at one time actually split into two dwellings. How times have changed.

The other house we could see from above was immediately below us.

Although not as old, it is nonetheless interesting as it has so much history attached to it. One can make out several generations of house. It looks as if the gable on the right was built first, with a chimney at each end. An extension with a single window seems to rest on it, followed by another with two windows. Finally, the wing in the foreground seems to lean against it, with a slightly lower roof line. The Cotswold stone is also slightly more mellow, and this is typical of the region as each stone quarry had a slightly different colour of stone associated with it. Notice the blocked up window on the end gable, with its sill still sticking out. Is this a victim of the 1696 window tax introduced by William III?

Didbrook is an estate village connected to Stanway house, we learned. Many of the houses in the village had the little shed extension on the left. It served a a privvy, laundry and coal shed. There was an upper Didbrook and a lower, and as people did not migrate much until recently many families were related to each other. One group of villagers came all the way from Scotland to work on the estate.

So much for a bit of history. What will we do next week? Do come and visit our gala next weekend, see the blue King on a former double track GWR main line. There's also an interesting Caledonian blue tank loco, as well as a B1, so we think we'll have 8 steam engines in action over three days (Sat 25th - Monday 27th)

This is the company link for more details: 

See you there!


  1. I saw the work being done today from the train.
    Added bonus of the King being attached to out train for a test run from Toddington to Broadway and back. ��
    Keep up the good work.

  2. Neal and the roof sheets: A company couldn't be found, no-one does it any more, a lost skill - so he worked it out for himself. A pioneering spirit - you have to admire the man.
    Jo's snippets of railway history: Fascinating stuff. Could a booklet be penned "History along our Cotswold railway"?
    Mike Rose.

  3. Neal HAS done well with his bending jig. Got a winner there!
    Also the footbridge is now starting to actually look like one.
    The Hall looks rather nostalgic with the new W.R. route board on the front.
    And the stone Cotswold buildings was a nice feature to round off the blog.
    Regards, Paul.

  4. Another wonderful informative blog, many thanks. I had been hoping to see something about progress on the foot bridge; most impressive. And in true "Stephenson" (George) tradition, when all around are telling you "it can't be done" just get on and do it yourself! Wonderful.

    Powli Wilson

  5. May I query the destination of the Wrexham Lager train, if it were bound for Cunard's liners? Surely it would be headed to Southampton, rather than London, or possiblyto go to Birkenhead for a ship sailing from Liverpool?

    1. Scroll down here and you can see the picture in question:

    2. According to this, Cunard operated out of London between 1922 and 1940: