Saturday 10 August 2019

Back to Broadway

Friday on the footbridge

Tricky day forecast - 'Weather Warnings' - why do we get these every day now, are we infants, or something? There was nothing to be warned about today.

While waiting for Neal to arrive, we got out the new WAY IN board and put it under the stamp sized canopy to see how we might hang it there.

We worked out that the measurements we took 6 months ago allowed it to fit precisely underneath.

The LT plan is to make this canopy, put up by the previous builder using two RSJs, into the wider one it was designed to be, encompassing the neighbouring windows and supporting itself on the two stone corbels.

Now we have to make the fixings for the board to hang there.

The Broadway team, with the help of Neal, added more treads to the P1 stringers on Wednesday. Almost at the top now, but none are bolted down yet, so hold your horses. They've just been laid in loose.

We did a lot of painting on Friday, mostly topcoat on P2, as these are the last few days with the scaffolding in place.

Neal fixed on this rather nice wrap around for the bottom corner. Of course this will one day be covered by 2ft of canopy overhang, P2 of course.

The extra treads laid in, seen from below.  As said above, they need bolting down, and risers fitting. The wood is ex HIA, but is very heavy hardwood and in excellent condition.
On the P1 station building side this box has appeared, one of several scattered about the railway. It is not a heritage item, and does not figure on the early photographs. Rather, its purpose is to keep the yellow and silver disabled ramp.

We can see the idea behind this (the ramp is definitely not heritage), but what ostensible 1904 purpose can the box be given? Wags have suggested a coffin! It's not quite the right shape for that.

Any ideas?

We had a series of rain showers and gusty winds today, and as the afternoon progressed, we painted a bit less, and took a greater interest in our second platform.

Here is Neal, having an exploratory dig around the site where the P2 waiting room and gents toilet used to stand. They were demolished in 1963 of course.

While no firm plans exist as yet, it is more or less agreed that the P2 building will be a bit bigger than before, as the P1 building is also bigger (by 50%) so as to keep things in proportion.

Neal planted some indicative stakes. The one in the grass opposite the blue bit on the platform would be the corner of the building.

Further away, by the white flag, is the other corner, and behind it, another stake to show the end of the future 'gents', actually to be a store room.

The new building will give the proper canopy overhang (7m instead of 3m as originally proposed in 2013) while still fitting in the space without trees.

The canopy overhang will extend to cover the bottom 2ft of the steps, visible in the corner.

Just for comparison purposes, here is a picture of the P1 side of sister station Hall Green. This is P1 at Hall Green, the overhang at Broadway on P2 (and P1) had a similar appearance.

You can also see, in red, the criss-cross bracing we still need to construct for the sides of the steps.

Hall Green is the nearest original thing to Broadway, why not go and visit and see it for yourself?

Saturday on the track

A compact team of 7 today, but full of good cheer as we have a new Head of Department agreed, and there is a revision of the new rule book being undertaken which will make our work a little more practical, than during the last few months.

In a change from the routine of improving timbers under turnouts, we took two Landies of kit up to Broadway today. The purpose was to install 6 insulated fish plates, part of setting up the circuits for the signalling scheme there.

This is one of those insulated jobbies, surrounded by plastic and somewhat heavier than a normal set (which with all its bits is already quite heavy).

Wanna get your kit out? You'll have to wait, mate! The class 47 nosed in to pick up the third rake, we've got an event on this weekend. (Lego....)

We needed the gap adjuster today, a piece of kit we don't often use. It too is heavy. Although it has a handle on each corner, it doesn't mean that 4 men can lift it on to the Landie. We got it up there in the barrow; Nigel lifted it up and over with the Telehandler. Phew!

We parked up by the southern turnout at Broadway, and used a Permaquip trolley that we had loaded up (also heavy, but it can be split into two halves) to trundle everything to Broadway north, our working area today.

Of course the loop road is out of service for a short while, as the point blade and locking bar were damaged a couple of weeks back now.

While passing through the station we had the chance to place the replica GWR leaflet rack in the booking office. There it is, on the left, loaded up with GWSR leaflets. It's had a lot of praise, that, it's a little jewel and it replaces some of the plastic initially used in the booking office when we opened.

Well done Dave for making it from a photograph, and Alex for the lovely gold letters, with black shading. Alex has a photograph of a single leaflet holder, and we have a provisional OK from Dave to have a crack at that too.

This is where we were working today. We had 6 insulated joints to place, of which two into the middle of plain rail, which we therefore had to cut in two.

The yellow tubes also mark where electrical signal wiring passes under the track, and indeed this is the spot for one of the sets of insulated plates.

Neal undoes the plain fishplate that is there.

On the other side, next to another yellow tube, is the spot where we need to cut the rail, and Bert is having a go at that.

We tried our best not to scorch that tube !

The class 26 has appeared in the platform, and would later be pulled out by the loco at the other end.

Here it is, life size as it were. It sat there and spluttered, until it was pulled away backwards and the spluttering slowly receded.

With that turnout run through, we're having to top and tail and that means two locos, and of course extra costs. The passengers seem to like it though, so there is a silver lining.

Once Bert Ferrule had cut the rail through, we moved in to cut 4 new holes.

Had to change the broach, which was for manganese rail, with extra teeth. Clearly a specialist subject.

Our Rotabroach machine is cooled by a soapy liquid which is normally pumped from the container Mike is holding here, but the plunger failed (of course!) and to keep the job moving we resorted to pouring the liquid on manually.

Pouring the coolant from the container was rather wasteful and we hunted round for something smaller and more accurate.

The cafe came up trumps - a discarded plastic milk bottle. Here we are just filling it. The spout was much more accurate, so we didn't waste so much liquid.

Meanwhile on the through road lofty brains were investigating why the fishplate wouldn't go on. It's best to give it a good, hard stare.

We got the loop road set on OK, after drilling twice, when one hole was a tad adrift, due to the gap for the end plate throwing out the measurement. The end plate is the insulated plastic piece of rail that insulates one rail from another, together with the insulated fish plate.

Bert then cut the second of two rails.

Having cut the rail in two, the slot cut out is not wide enough for the insulating end plate. The easiest way to deal with this is to drive the two rails apart with a wedge

That doesn't always do the trick though.

When it doesn't, such as here, you can resort to - the gap adjuster!

This marvelously compact but extremely heavy little machine can push or pull a pair of rails, creating or reducing the gap between them.

You can just see the gap within its innards. (centre)

It is powered by man, by pumping the hydraulic lever in Mike's left hand here. This not only clamps the machine to the rails, but also moves the rails further apart (in our case).

Once the gap is big enough, you slip in the end post, release the machine, and then you can do up the fishplate with the 'animal'. Insulated fish plates do not have self locking bolts, so the bolt head has to be secured by a spanner as the 'animal' rattles away.

One gap was too small to be successfully widened by the gap adjuster, and it was simpler to just cut it again with the disk cutter. This worked OK, but in the process two bonding wires became casualties.

Our apologies to the S&T department (for that bit of extra work) but at least all 6 insulated fish plates are now in. Job done.

We had the Growler come to visit us too, but sadly we didn't hear his voice as he just sat there and idled, and was eventually pulled away by a very smoky steam engine at the other end.

At the end of a very blustery and occasionally showery day we were pleased to see our job done. We trundled the kit back to the south turnout, and heaved the heavy gap adjuster and trolley halves back on to the Landies.

In preparation for the job next Friday, we also had another look at the damaged switch blade at Broadway south. It's not only bent, but there are some bits nibbled out of the top (the irregular light brown line).

We now have an agreed way forward, which is a repair by a professional party. We did make a try for a brand new replacement switch, but were pipped to the post by someone else, a strange coincidence for what is a very slow moving piece of stock. Sold on the very day you enquire about it. Hmmm.

While the switch is away being repaired it will be replaced by a length of plain rail, which is what we will be doing next week.

A look over the fence: Great Central Railway

This was another PWay jolly - on a non-working day, it has to be said - and 8 of us set off for Loughborough, not that far from the GWSR. Five decided to accept the challenge and go by train, whereas 3 of us thought it would be easier to car share from where we lived, as it's only 1h15mins from Broadway. We would meet for the 11.20 train south.

11.20 came and went. The three got there, and not finding a car park, left the car 20 yards from the Loughborough station entrance. That was surprising, but it worked for us. The 5 got to Loughborough OK, but that was Loughborough Midland station. They were going to do the rest by taxi, but there were none available. Now you remember that very hot Thursday a couple of weeks back? That was the day.....

The three of us were glad to reach the sanctuary of this momentuous booking hall, located off a bridge over this former main line. Everything looked original, from the beginning of the last century.

A staircase at the end took you down to the platforms.

It was a stunning arrival at the bottom. The WH Smith news stand, while now selling sweets, still boasted posters of WW2 war-time events, while the whole thing was spanned by a magnificent canopy.

The stock on the left was a dining train, while services were operated from P1 on the right, with the loco running right round behind the dining rain stock. Now that was a big station!

We'd only just got to the bottom of the stairs when we heard the rumble of a train - our hearts quickened - but it was a spoil train. We believe this came from the site of the canal bridge, part of their missing link to the north.

This link is being addressed in various stages, a good tactic.

The bridge over the Midland rail line is now in, so now for the next bit, the bridge over the canal.

The biggest step is always the first one....

According to this poster the appeal for the refurbishment of the canal bridge is doing well, they are almost there.

Of course there is still some embankment to reinstate, and a large loco shed to move.

We wandered along the Loughborough platforms. All the buildings on it are completely original, in, we presume, their 1899 opening condition.

Just look at the stationmaster's office. It has two doors, one for each platform. There is natural light from a big, wood lined lantern above.

A jacket draped over the chair has the initials 'GCR' on it. There is a fireplace, a typewriter, some rolls of plans stacked in a corner....

Only the electric cabling and the modern clock were off (if we are allowed to nit-pick).
 We were allowed a quick peek into the Ladies' waiting room. Very secluded, but not much to stare at (while waiting) except a poster advertising travel to Rhyl, and a pot plant. But that's how it was.

We were allowed a further peek into the ladies' inner sanctum (there were none about, we should point out) and found the only admission to modernity was a hospitality sized loo roll dispenser.

Wot, no IZAL ?

So what is the Great Central Railway then?
We were very well received by the station porter, who was happy to show us round the station, of which he was clearly very proud. And rightly so.

If he is the face of today's GCR, then they are a very friendly lot.

Less successful, we thought, was this conversion of a Mk1 to a balcony end, to make a sort of observation coach. It's on the end of the dining coach rake. It's touristy, rather than heritage. Has it contributed to the success of the dining train? As far as we can make out, most dining trains are well booked anyway.

Services on our day were one steam, one diesel. The steamer was 73 156...

... seen here running round its train to make the 11.20 service. This is the north end of the 8 coach platforms at Loughborough, and the engine shed is way in the distance behind the road bridge over.
Pedestrians are welcome to walk down this path and cross the line by the signal to approach it.

Before boarding our train, we made use of the facilities, this time the legit gents.

These too were pretty much original, with tiled cubicles and wood frames, the whole thing lit by a big lantern (a sort of greenhouse) on top.

Then on to our train, headed by 73 156. You cannot now imagine the heat that day, we saw 37 degrees on the car's thermometer, never seen that number before. And yet the driver was in a long sleeved shirt and tie. Admittedly the cuffs were rolled back, which we found a bit lax. He had taken his mash outside the engine, to sit in the shade. We opted for a full brake, which was immediately behind the loco and with the open windows offered music for the ears. We sat on some occasional chairs with tables scattered around.

We moved off a a cracking pace. Speaking as a passenger the line didn't offer that much to see, and this line too suffered from creeping housing estates, like the GWSR.

The southern terminus is a small new build, not bad but much much more modest than Loughborough. The original station was attached to the bridge visible in the background.

Our steamer ran round, we set off north again.

Frantic texting with the 5 NR travellers - where are you?

'We're heading south on the diesel hauled train'

'Dang, us here are heading north on the steamer!'

We got off at Rothley (pronounced Roathly, who knew?) to feed our hunger from a cafe known to be located there. We liked the fare, a baked potato with a good spud, a strong Italian coffee, and a tasty tiffin.

As we stood in the doorway, the diesel hauled train went by, and we got a wave from some hot looking GWSR PWay people....

An original urinal, on two levels.
GCR type steps (compare with Broadway type)

Gas lighting
Parcels office

At Rothley, as we waited for the next train to take us back to Loughborough, we had a mooch around some of the facilities. They were fascinating. Just look at the parcels office, located under the steps. It was a goldmine of ancient stuff, but all carefully chosen to fit in. Behind the camera was the room underneath the road, which was a mess room (with people munching in it, we didn't want to pry). But standing in the doorway we couldn't help but notice this working gas lamp. How do they do it? There even were some boxes of extra mantles stacked up on top. Straight out of a film set, but available to you, dear customer, on the simple purchase of a GCR return ticket.

And the GCR has double track, doesn't it?

We tested this out of our window, and yes, it's true, here comes the other train, hauled by a class 25. They don't cross at stations, but midway, along the line.

As PWayers we couldn't help but notice the very old wooden sleepered track with spiked base plates. Is that original, prior to the purchase?

Back at Loughborough, we watched our loco 73 156 run round, and take water.

The water arrangements were interesting, as a parachute type tank was used, which itself was not mains fed but supplied by this larger Braithwaite tank on the ground.

As 73 156 drank from the parachute tank, the little red flag on the ground here went up as the tank emptied to resupply the parachute tank. It then slowly went down again as it filled itself up from the mains afterwards. Interesting.

There's talk about water at Broadway again, after initial rejections during the build.

The signal box at Loughborough had an interesting arrangement for fire buckets. Thinking about those for Broadway, but still in need of more brackets. We have 4, need at least 6. Where to get them?

As a visitor you can walk right up to the loco shed, but not into it. This is as close as you can get.

Q: What loco boiler is this? Your blogger guessed Bulleid pacific.
A: Wrong! It's a Brit.  (we consulted a friendly employee, who was kind enough to set us right).

Did you know?

So this is the big shed they have to move, to get the track through to the missing link. It's bang in the middle of the old trackbed.

Meanwhile, back in that lovely Loughborough station... let's have some tea.

This is their cafe, in one of the many original rooms on the main, central platform.

It's great. Note the picture rail, and lamps in the same style as Broadway, but looking a bit meatier, a bit better quality (we were severely hampered by money constraints)

We liked the padded benches around the outside.

The catering staff was paid, and we didn't see a lot of customers around the station during our visit. Let's hope that was because of the heat. The cafe was fine on the other hand, I think they always are, people like cafes.

The picture above was taken at closing time. We were gentlemen enough to take the hint (no pressure at all, but we could see she was cashing up).

So we went and sat outside on the platform to sip our tea. The train on which we had returned was ready to leave again, the guard waved his flag, the driver acknowledged, the dappled sunlight shone through the restored canopy. We liked this.

The maroon coach was the full brake in which we travelled - we wanted to hear the loco exhaust, and found it unoccupied, but fitted with some loose tables and chairs. Perfect for us.

Then the diesel hauled service came in, it must have crossed the outgoing steamer somewhere down the double tracked line. At last we meet the 5 intrepid NR travellers.

Alas. We never met them at all during our GWSR PWay day out. They got off at Quorn & Woodhouse to visit the Butler Henderson cafe.

We lived parallel lives....


  1. Agreed - a splendid blog!

    Finally managed to visit Broadway last weekend. Even though I've been a regular reader of your blog(s), nothing prepared me for the real thing. Broadway is stunning, a massive credit to the volunteers involved in rebuilding over the past 4-5 years. Just... Wow!

    [Mad suggestions for coffin: tray of plants on top, or fire equipment, or first aid things?]

  2. Jo

    Excellent blog and information, curious looking at Hall Green 2 things that I notice are the very tall lamp seen over the footbridge steps is that original do you know - is it even Railway related?

    Secondly the doorways have a white section at the ground level - do you know is that stone or is it simply white painted brickwork?

    Certainly having such an example available must be very helpful.


    1. The lamps are modern.
      All the doorways had white paint on the bottom corners, probably an idea left over from the war, and continued.

  3. Why would you have bonding wires on an insulated joint?

  4. This joint was not an “insulated Joint” but a joint adjacent to one we were preparing to accept an insulated joint. We needed to increase the gap here so that we could ease the rail into this increased gap to accommodate the end post at the other end of that rail. It is not always easy to do this sort of work around “Pointwork” because of restricted access. Hope that helps.
    Neil B

  5. The picture of Hall Green is so like Broadway and SO useful for references.
    the leaflets rack is so very like the original that it deserves an award in itself.
    Interesting that the platform 2 building is being looked at.
    the trip (and photos of the GCR are wonderful - a great day out. Wonder why the southern terminus did not incorporate the original site with the bridge access.
    Great blog.
    Regards, Paul.

    1. The original site had been demolished and the new GCR had plans to build a grand terminus behind the buffers that now mark the southern end of the line. I believe that a high pressure gas or water main laid there prevented this. The current station is OK but not what was originally intended. The area is, or was, prone to intense vandalism at times, which does not encourage recreation of railway heritage.

    2. By the time the GCR got to Belgrave and Birstall the station was already heavily vandalised, so it was decided to move a bit further south.

  6. Jo, Thanks for this wonderful blog, so good to catch up on progress at Broadway, with such fine photo's and detailed, narrative. The Hall Green pic' is amzing its true but who has been maintaining this station so perfectly - surely not Network Rail?

    I was hoping to be there this weekend at some point but my wife had other ideas, I an sat at the desk top finishing off some year end accounts - what an unmitigated thrill!


    1. I don't know how Hall Green escaped, as Shirley is heavily altered and its footbridge has been replaced with a modern one and lifts.

      At Hall Green the footbridge was overhauled and the treads changed to steel ones. The booking hall had steel and bullet proof glass ticket windows fitted, although there are authentic corners left, if you know where to look. I might post some pictures of that later, as I have now completed my rather coincidental tour of preserved railways, which seemed to all come at once!

  7. I note that you spotted the spiked track at the GCR.
    Keep it that way and do not even think about using it anywhere else.
    The spikes loose their grip after a short while and it becomes impossible to tamp.

  8. The leaflet rack at Broadway is very nicely done. The painted lettering is a particularly fine touch.

    The GCR does railway heritage stuff very well - it's the big selling point of the line. It does not run through particularly dramatic countryside, so can't sell itself as a scenic route. Instead, the line offers a period experience that is as immersive as they can make it.

    I've recently purchased a property in Wales, adjacent to the Central Wales Line (or Heart of Wales Line, as I keep forgetting to call it). The HoWL is a fascinating museum of old-school permanent way.

    It's all jointed track (with speeds up to 60mph it's one of the few lines in the UK where you can still experience the traditional 'clickety clack' of rail joints), mostly bullhead rail, with some late-50s FB, including substantial stretches on spiked baseplates. It's maintained on a like-for-like basis - I don't think there's been an inch of all-new track laid for decades. The existing track is simply fettled up with spot replacement of worn components as necessary.

    There's a PW store at Llandrindod Wells where you can see a vast collection of spare track fixings, of all vintages, stacked up on shelves. It must be the only line in the UK where spiked baseplates are still stock items.

  9. I think the C&W guys at Winchcombe would have a fit if they saw what the GCR have done to that Mk 1 coach. Great Blog as usual. many thanks

  10. On the subject of the wheelchair ramp box -

    I can't think of how the box could be disguised to resemble an item of period platform furniture - but why does it have to be done like that? Why not dress up the box as an item of luggage instead?

    At one time it was common to see crates and boxes of all kinds on station platforms, waiting to be loaded onto the next train. There's even a well-known period photograph of racing pigeons in wicker baskets, stacked up on Broadway platform 2.

    So why not hide the wheelchair ramp in a container made to look like a packing case in transit - unpainted wood, a few THIS WAY UP labels, and the like?

    After all, suitcases are displayed on the platforms, to suggest luggage in transit. It would be perfectly authentic to have a crate sitting nearby, too.

    But then, is there any reason why the wheelchair ramps have to be on the stations in the first place? Couldn't they be kept on the trains?

    I know it's normal practice to keep ramps on station platforms on the big railway, but modern trains don't have the advantage of the large storage space of a Mk1 brake coach.

    Wouldn't it be possible for each brake coach to have its own wheelchair ramp as part of the on-board kit, thus solving the problem of platform clutter altogether?

    1. Ramps on the trains has been gone round before and for various reasons it's been put in the "too difficult" category. The reason that sticks in my mind (I'm sure there are others I've forgotten) is safe stowage of the ramps; they weigh an awful lot and what happens if the train stops suddenly? You want to be really sure whatever fastens the ramp isn't going to give way, which in effect means you want something attached to the main metal skeleton of the carriage, and certainly not the 3mm of wooden panelling.

      As for disguising the "coffin", Having seen it a couple of times now, I really don't think it's a massive issue. Yes there's no obvious "original" purpose to it, but it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb. It's a bit like the bins that have been encased and painted, still no obvious original purpose but they blend in. I'd far rather see some effort go to try and do something to lessen the impact of the grey electrical cabinets and the garden shed on the platform.


    2. The grey lineside cabinets were put up by the builder to facilitate the construction, but have remained post completion. They are largely empty, but do contain sockets and switches for the platform lighting, sometimes a tap.

  11. Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway next?

  12. Actually the order and frequency of these 'over the fence' visits was purely fortuitious. It was driven by a visit to see a friend in Wales, and some of our PWay 'jollies' recently.

    We do have a PR afficionado on the canopy gang, so it's certainly possible, esp if combined with a visit to their lovely signal box.

  13. Maybe the ramp box could simply be lettered 'Ambulance box' or something similar, as was seen on stations when be had frequent wars and skirmishes. I'm sure that Adrian could be persuaded to do his fine lettering in a period font,
    Regards, Paul.

  14. Well Jo, what a report and all those comments! Where to start though? Well the rail repair needed due to being broken by a loco, if you ask us they just wanted to play with all the toys! An awaday, how lucky! We keep trying to go to the GCR but never seem to make it! Your pictures are so clear and well taken. The MK1 coach, Yes if C&W see this they could well start a war about the vandalism! Have you been to the Chinnor & Princess Risborough yet, if you do then a report would be good it is only half an hour away from from us and we keep trying to get there too! And finally the brochure box / stand. how well made is that! Sorry to say this, but the other places don't seem to have the same sense of ambiance that is on our smiling line in the Cotswolds! Mean time keep up the good work there and thanks for the pictures.
    Paul & Marion