Saturday then. Cold and rainy. In fact terrible to start with, and for some reason our Mk1 mess coach had no electricity, so we sat in the dark and warmed our hands on mugs of tea.
After a good hour, it suddenly stopped, so we set off for Toddington. We had two things to do to prepare for our two winter works jobs.
On the way to Toddington, we almost caught up with the rain, which was heading north, followed by the sun, which created this rainbow with the water still coming down over Toddington.
Once at Toddington, we gathered together, walked past the DMU waiting in platform 1 and headed out towards Stanway viaduct.
As we neared the 15 arch viaduct, the evil weather could be seen retreating over the northern horizon.
Strangely enough, the southerly wind was not warm and our weather app announced that 6 degrees C would feel like 1 degree. We could confirm that, as we headed out over the increasingly high embankment, along the Toddington north siding.
Starting early January, we will be lifting part of the track over the viaduct, so that the ballast can be removed, the inspection pits cleaned and, if we got this right, new waterproofing will be added to the arches.
Our role in this essential work is the removal and subsequent replacement of the track.
The purpose of today's sally forth was to measure precisely the position of the track along the centre of the viaduct. When we replace it in due course, we need to put it back in the same position (along the centre line as before) so that the ends still meet. We can't be taking a short cut and end up with an inch too much, or worse still, go wide and find we are a few inches short.
The DMU based Toddington - Broadway Santa specials continued as we measured the position of the track along various points.
Down below us, as someone pointed out, the ground seemed like the first world war trenches, all sodden and brown. Four horses nibbled away at any grass that was still visible.
|No present from Santa for us? That's it, we're out of here!|
The yard lamp post on the left is of course one of the two we rescued, restored and planted earlier in the year. It will add greatly to the period atmosphere of the loco yard behind the shed, together with the water tower.
|GWSR yard lamp top in the course of manufacture.|
|Yard lamp at Minehead|
After much discussion with a heritage consultant and a specialist manufacturer of period lighting we have agreed on a design, based loosely on the one at Minehead, and two lamp tops are being made as you read this. We hope to be able to mount them, and finish off this delightful little heritage project, within the next couple of weeks.
Just behind the A frame the ground has been cleared for a concrete base, which we understand will support a new diesel tank.
A member of the department was happy to show us this large block of machinery - Leigh has put his hand to show the size of the pinion - and this turned out to be a refurbished traction motor from the 'French' class 20 that was dismantled for spares. The lid of the commutator was taken off to reveal everything refurbished inside.
Outside by the diesel mess room was a pair of worn out traction motors, just to show the difference:
The commutator was dirty and heavily worn, caused by the wrong type of bearings fitted when still in main line service.
After lunch we carried on with the second of our preparatory jobs for the winter works, examining and marking for replacement the sleepers leading away from the Greet tunnel mouth.
The flat area on the left was used as a quarry for the long embankment towards Stanley Pontlarge, and may have been the site of the Greet navvy village. A nearby road bears an echo of this: Working Lane.
|Babes in the wood...|
We also knew of a cracked fishplate in this area, one that we are observing as the crack is still small and manageable at this stage.
Just checking then - no change from last time. Dave F (on hands and knees) is in fact the section track walker here, so he knows his faults. (the railway ones, that is).
Any sleepers obviously rotten, or with evidence of moving cast iron chairs, are marked for replacement.
This area will be spot resleepered early next year, and the whole stretch to Stanley Pontlarge replaced with concrete sleepers at some future date. It will then link up with the remaining track to CRC, which is already fitted with concrete sleepers.
An example of a sleeper that needs replacement is this one, broken upwards at the end.
A single unserviceable sleeper is tolerable at our line speeds, but we obviously need to stay on top of this, hence the replacement programme scheduled.
As the light began to fail we returned to Winchcombe yard.
|We're warm up here - what's it like for you down there?|
It wasn't long before the crew saw the lonely figure in orange, pacing up and down.
These two complete sets are available to anyone who would like to make a modest cash donation - contact: breva (at) hotmail.co.uk if you are interested.