Saturday 17 August 2019

Bent switch

Friday at Broadway

.....with a difference, the PWay gang and a couple of S&Ters came to replace the bent switch at Broadway south with a plain rail. An unusual and interesting exercise.

First thing, the class 73 came up from Winchcombe and brought the length of plain rail that was to be fitted. It also brought the two S&Ters - normal people came by road, by Landie, or in Steve  L's historic VW camperbus.

The first job was to remove the fishplates and chairscrews holding down the bent switch and its attendant stock rail.

It wasn't a big job, and it was good to see many had made the effort to come out on a non-working day (for the PWay group, many of whom also hold down a normal weekday job) and so we all pulled together, even assisted by two of the Broadway canopy gang.

The switch was soon loose and can be seen being lifted out here by Nigel in the Telehandler.

The base plates for a switch and a plain rail are not the same, so new base plates had to be fitted.

Bert Ferrule had his eye close to the ground to supervise Ade, who was knocking each base plate this way or that, to get them all perfectly in line.

Neal was itching to help too.

The length of plain FB rail sourced from the Winchcombe yard was then taken off the bogie flat and brought round to the site.

Here it can be seen next to the switch that has just been removed.

All this was very interesting, and luckily we had a viewing platform, which was slightly elevated for that maximum view from above.

Next it was 'measure twice, cut once' as the plain rail was cut to size to fit the gap exactly, minus half an inch for the two fishplate gaps.

Ade does the cutting, as Neil has another look at that damaged switch.

Once the right length the plain rail was lifted into the gap left by the switch. Piece of cake really, and the weather more or less left us alone, despite the dire forecast.

The bent switch is on the bogie flat here, ready to be taken away for specialist repair.

It wasn't just bent, it was also 'nibbled' where the wheels of the King climbed over it. After all, if you are going to run through a turnout, you might as well get the biggest locomotive you have.

All this is perfectly repairable, but it's a lot of wasted hours for the team that really wants to get on with the normal job.

Straight on only, please.

Here's the plain rail in its place, all clipped up already. The viewing platform is down to one last viewer, a sign that the job is nearly over.

In the meantime our trains to Broadway will have a locomotive front and rear, a more expensive arrangement but one that we hope will not take too long. We now have a way forward, and the switch is out. It will be sent away for repair on Monday.

Meanwhile, back at the farm.

The canopy team was a man down today, due to a funeral. The two remaining ones loaded up the last 10 painted boards into the centre span, and did a few odd jobs such as painting behind the dagger boards - where it was still dry, despite the increasing rain which was making its presence felt.

We also had a sort out of the risers we have in hand for the treads. Some material was unfortunately lost when it was decided to burn all the woodwork from the steps saved from HIA, but a few representative pieces were smuggled under a tarpaulin, and saved for future inspection.

The P2 scaffolding will be removed on Monday, so we cleared that too. We have now done all we can from the scaffolding, so it can go off hire.

While litter picking along the platform tracks - more wet wipes dropped down the toilet, while the train is waiting in the station - we found this cap. It's not entirely new, so may belong to a member of the loco crew?

We have now found two watches and two caps! The second watch has not (yet) been claimed.

Saturday - take a survey!

Got me doughnut, got me tea, do I have to work as well?

Saturday was an interesting day as we met to work out how to do a complete survey of the track assets of our railway.

Survey or not, the day always starts with jollity and doughnuts. Steve dropped in for a visit but suspicion soon deepened that he was only there for the doughnut and chat, as long walks turned out to be on the cards for today.

The starting point for our survey of the line was to be the breather north of Stanway viaduct. Tricky to reach by car, so we opted to take the ECS from Winchcombe to Toddington.

Motive power for this trip was 47 376, the FREIGHTLINER loco. It had come to Winchcombe to pick up the rake parked outside our mess coach. Six of us got on, the seventh (ahem) was offered a cab ride to Toddington, which was hard to refuse. The offer included a tour of the engine compartment. Now that is interesting.

Nearest the cab end was the room with the blower motor, and on the right, one of the fuel tanks.

Don't shoot us down if we haven't got this all 100% right, it was the first time on board a class 47, so show a little leniency, if you please.

Note the tiny door into the next section.

Space quickly became an issue.  There isn't any!
The decision by the designers to squeeze what is effectively two engines side by side into the very modest British loading gauge meant that you had to shuffle along sideways to get alongside.

Look how the crew member has to stand sideways on in order to stand there at all. It's not a place for claustrophobics.

This is the main generator.

The class 47 has a 12 cylinder engine, in two banks of 6. However, rather than link the two rows of 6 cylinders with a common crankshaft in a 'V' formation, the 12 cylinders are stood side by side in two rows of 6. They are linked by gears. That makes for a wide construction, hence the lack of space for humans.

The rooftop windows were a good idea.

At the other end is the auxilliary room - not much more space in here either, so we didn't visit. Looks dark and oily.

Much more friendly was the roomy cab, with the usual controls and even a telephone (which we suspect sees little use, given that we all have mobiles nowadays.)

While abroad, yours truly would get calls from a friendly driver on a freight locomotive, using the on board mobile. Once we missed his call, and tried to call straight back. We got a recorded message from a reproving female employee telling us not to call the driver on board the locomotive while he was driving it!

A vital piece of equipment in the 47 cab is the hotplate for mashing up. So now you know what the second man is for! Notice the strips which you can use to grip the kettle, so that it doesn't jump around when the loco is riding over rough track. We saw the same installation in a class 14.

We trundled cautiously over the high Chicken Curve embankment. It has a permanent 10mph speed restriction on it. It felt pretty stable from the class 47; less so when bowling along in a Landie along the sloping ballast.

Hayles Abbey halt was passed, still looking good.

You could also feel the beneficial effects of all the packing of the joints we did a few weeks ago along the Defford straight, which was happily confirmed by the loco crew.

We trundled into Toddington, where the second man gave up the token to the waiting signalman leaning out of the window.

Our ECS train came to a halt at the north end of P2 at Toddington, where the 47 was due to run round.

On P1 the class 45 was waiting with its train for Broadway.

We needed to get out here and walk the rest of the way to Stanway.

As we were going to walk up the track, we informed the signalman, but also the driver of this next train out, just in case. It's good to communicate.

Minutes later, as we were approaching the Toddington north carriage siding, the Peak pulled out for Broadway and accelerated past our little gang.

As trains can't run round at Broadway at the moment, they are topped and tailed, and the tail end of this train was provided by King Edward II.

That tender is a lovely blue, isn't it?

We were then able to walk up to the north end of the viaduct in peace. We stopped at the breather, marking the start of the CWR northwards.

The information we are recording on our track will be quite comprehensive. It includes type of rail, wear, length, type of ballast, sleeper type, fixings, chairs, fishplates, adequacy of ballast etc.

Although our line has a full set of quarter mile posts, we also marked each rail with a number.

This was done by spraying on a panel, and then removing the paint for the number. This made the number stand out really well, but wore down Bert Ferrule's finger. We advised him to use a different one after a while...

We were soon on the viaduct itself, which affords magnificent views of the Cotswolds edge and the nearby farm below.

Another view was of wet wipes discarded from the train. This is disheartening to see, as they are made of artificial fibre and do not rot down. Normal loo paper or paper towels pretty much disintegrate when they hit the track, but these fiendish wet wipes last for ever. More were discovered at Broadway between the platforms. Hence a plea - please do not use wet wipes, and certainly do not discard them from our trains into the countryside. They are bad for the environment.

Back to more pleasant things. The King is back - long live the King! Here it is slowing down for the 10mph speed restriction into Toddington. And the team has just reached mile post 9, still measured from Honeybourne.

We did about half a mile of our 15 mile railway this morning, ending by the turnouts at Toddington north. We will do the double track between the platforms at a later date, as well as the turnouts themselves.

We stopped to let 2807 head off for Broadway.

Lunch was taken back in the mess coach, as that is where Mrs. B's cupcakes reside. Can't miss those.
After lunch we returned to Toddington, this time by car, to continue the track survey south, starting at the signal box.

The new loco mess facility works are coming along nicely.

Some blocks have been laid and the many services that run underground are being laid out.

There was no work today though, as it is the weekend.

This new mess block, attached to the goods shed and showing a similar style - at least along the trackside - will replace the current trusty mess coach used by the loco crews.

Here it is, Mk.1 TINA.

Does anyone know its proposed fate, when the new mess block is opened?

In the afternoon we surveyed the new length of track laid during the last closed season, starting outside the signal box. Much of this is already recorded, but we went though the process again.

We got to the end of the stretch we relaid, by the southern turnouts that we also put in place.
The Peak, returning from Winchcombe, is just running over the same stretch here.

While returning through the loco shed, we came across this rather splendid class 26 No. D5310, now on the Langollen railway.

During our diesel gala it was failed with a defective bearing in the No.2 traction motor, and here the bogies have been removed and the traction motors taken out. Very impressive.

Lastly, the walk through the loco yard shows one of the two GWR yard lamp posts recovered, refurbished and re-erected in the yard. This one has a new ladder and platform.

We are now waiting for the manufacture of the big 6 sided replica lamp tops by a specialist manufacturer.

It's a slow process though, much patience is needed. Drawings have to be created and there is a 12 week lead in period too.

In the meantime, why not enjoy some more of John Lees' early pictures of the GWSR trackwork? About another 80 or so have been put on the Flickr site, now reaching the 2007 period.

You can see the latest pictures here:


  1. Is there a reason why Chicken Curve has a permanent 10mph restriction?

    I can understand the need for a temporary limit, until the new earthworks have settled, but it seems odd to insist on 10mph for ever - especially as the rebuilt embankment was made to modern standards and thus should be more robust than the Great Western's rather haphazard original pile of earth.

    Is there still some doubt about how secure the embankment is?

    1. I think the reason for the speed limit is that it is 10mph within station limits. These extend for quite a distance, eg at Broadway up to the Childswickham road.

      An S&Ter will surely tell us more, but it's probably the advanced starter/outer home signal.

    2. As I understand it, 'station limits' means a full train's length beyond the first/last turnout. This ensures that trains never go over the points faster than 10mph - which reduces wear and minimises maintenance. I don't think there's a single turnout on the line which can be taken at 25mph.

      The geometry of the turnouts isn't relevant. The 10 mph restriction is applied to everything. If I remember correctly, Toddington loop north turnout is ex-ECML, good for 40 mph.

      I can understand the need to keep maintenance low, but it is rather frustrating when the trains never really get a chance for sustained running at speed - even at the artificially low speed of 25mph - before the brakes come on for the next 10mph restriction. It also means that we never see a train accelerate away from a station with any real vigour. It's just a long, slow, creep, until the last carriage clears the points.

    3. I know, I know, I've stood there wanting to film the departure but after a quick blast it settles down to 10mph.
      You need to be somewhere beyond the advanced starter to film any more acceleration.

    4. Signallers on the GWSR are taught that station limits are defined as that stretch of line from the home signal to the section signal (some people call it the "advanced starter") - hence it is different depending whether you are travelling "up" or "down"

  2. I think the auditing of the track is very commendable.Just one query regarding the ballast. How do you check the packing is up to the mark i.e. pumping or not when a train passes? My dad was a pway man hence my additional interest.