Tuesday 30 June 2015

Still more ballast

Today was announced hot, and - it was ! We're working out on an embankment here, and there is no shade, the sun is unrelenting, not a cloud in the sky. 29 degrees at lunchtime it was. Suncream factor 30, hats, high collars, two-litre bottles of water by your side. And more of the same is announced for tomorrow, with a slight increase in the temperature too. There is a slight rueing of the day I sat in my living room in January, complaining about the cost of heating it ...

So what did we do today?
First thing was to roll out another roll of Terram, which brought the end of it near the relocated ballast pile, once again freshly resupplied early on. Another 20T truck load arrived during the day.

After his adventures at Toddington yesterday, Steve was back on site with the JCB, to pursue the task of levelling the dumps of ballast.

Here is a picture of him attaching the receiver unit of the Laser level (actually a theodolite, I'm told) to the front of the JCB.

Just put the bucket down, and reverse away, keeping the indicators in the right field? It's more difficult than that. The trackbed falls away out of the cutting at Laverton, levels out, and then rises again at 1 in 440 up to the summit at Broadway. Where are the breaks in this then? And the existing trackbed, while of good quality, does undulate slightly, leading to thicker bits of ballast added, and then again thinner bits. How to stick to 8 ins of depth, without it getting too thin, or wasting money?

A second volunteer was also on site today - Andy Smith. This proved useful in handling the manual Laser receiver, and measuring the depth of the ballast here and there, while Steve got on with the levelling job a bit further along.

At first we spread about the ballast dumped here last week, later on with some low spots apparent, we had to resort to extra ballast from the guys working round the bend - yes, the prepared trackbed now stretches out of sight.

Then those Merlins paid us another visit. So impressive. That's 15 tons fully loaded up there, one of those! They seemed to fly around Broadway tower, describing a large circle which included a pass quite close to where we were working.

They got so close that I was able to take this shot of the fly-by. Is that flap open at the back there? They must be out on manoeuvres, dropping stuff off.
Here's another look - yep, that loading hatch is definitely ajar. That's our boys up there, good for them!

Then back to the serious stuff. Here is Steve explaining a finer PWay point to Andy, while in the background Tom is delivering one of the 'top up' loads to a low spot.

Pretty much the same scene, seen from the northern end. In the foreground lots of little ballast drops, which haven't been levelled out yet.
Andy spent a long time walking back and forth. Your lump hammer, tape measure, Stanley knife, water, coffee, sandwiches et al are always at the other end, 500yds away. It's like that. Or as a Polish engineman once explained to me: 'System.... !'
There's no argument with that.

While Steve, Andy and yours truly attended to the levelling at the railhead end, Tom and Adam carried on dropping fresh ballast on to the Terram rolled out this morning. You can see that they are approaching the end of it here. Remember that pole - it's by Little Buckland bridge, so progress is quite good.

By lunch time, the ballast supply was getting low, despite the extra load supplied mid morning, and an extra roll of Terram ordered had still not been delivered yet. Andy and I left, with progress as visible in this last picture - the new ballast bed is seen approaching Little Buckland bridge, from where the photograph was taken. Steve had, at this point, also levelled sufficient for the first 5 panels that we are mulling. That bit is ready.

Monday 29 June 2015

More ballast

Today was the third day of ballasting, i.e. laying down an 8 inch layer of newly delivered ballast on top of rolls of Terram.

The day started with three of us, but soon Steve was called to Toddington with the JCB, leaving just Adam on the mini digger and yours truly on the 6T dumper. This Adam loaded surprisingly quickly each time, so the pressure was on, running up and down the extrension between the ballast heaps and the 'coal face' where the ballast was being dropped. This slowly moved northwards, about 6m at a time.

Here is the opening shot of the day. We're working from the ballast drop near Little Buckland, and in the distance, now into the curve, you can see some uncovered Terram, where worked stopped on Friday.

Although it's only a mini digger, it managed to fill the big dumper surprisingly quickly. It's got an expert driver! (you owe me now, Adam)

Our supply at this point was 120 tons, or 6 lorry loads. These come first thing in the morning. Adam has parked himself on top of the pile, which is a very efficient way of loading the bucket. Not so far to reach up each time either.

Soon we had covered the remaining Terram roll right up to the end, and it was time for a new one.

Before you can roll it out, the mini digger rectifies any unevenesses that have occurred, and the big roller then gives it a smooth surface, so that there are no projections that might puncture the sheet.

Here's a view from the ballast stockpile the other way, looking north.

In the distance, you can make out a telegraph pole - that is the site of Little Buckland bridge, the target for this first piece of track extension. It's a total of 800m from Laverton Loop. We've got all the kit for it. We should end up just beyond the bridge, with the rails we have in stock.

A couple of hours later, the piece of Terram Adam was rolling out, two pictures above, looked like this.

Lots of neat little dumps, which Steve still has to even out, and spread to the correct depth.

We have to be very exact, as this new ballast is expensive and we do not want to waste any, yet have enough thickness for the tamper to pass over it, without puncturing the Terram. A delicate balance then.

Before we roll this bit of Terram out any further, the mini digger has to even out the trackbed one final time (it's already been done once, but with all the traffic on it, more lumps seem to occur). Then back to the vibrating roller.

I've got an automatic watch, which is now wound up into the middle of next week ! Some vibrations, that.

You might be interested in this snapshot off Little Buckland bridge, looking towards Aston Somerville. Bottom left is the mouth of a drain, which Andy P has rebuilt most beautifully (a few more bricks due to go on, by the looks of it) and the most impressive thing is the channel leading away from it, by the hedge, which has seen a lot of dedicated spade work. It must have taken ages, but now the water will run away again, and not undermine the embankment any more.

Well done, that drainage gang !

This picture shows the new Terram roll fully unrolled, and with ballast tipped right up to the end of it. This is in fact the final dumper load of the day.

We are some way round the curve, as you can see.

Can you zoom in on this?

The picture shows, from most of the way round the curve, where worked stopped today, and in the distance on the left, you can see the starting point with the Pway wagons parked on the headshunt.

Today's last picture, work stopped here. That telegraph pole looks a lot nearer now. The next roll of Terram (each roll is 100m long) is ready for laying down, and the last thing we did was regrade the next 100m stretch, and roll it, ready for tomorrow morning. After that, we will need one final roll to get over the bridge.

Noted today: two Merlin helicopters (big jobs, they are) and a fox, 100 yds away, stood on our ballast dump, completely unconcerned by our activities. He even came back for a second look, very casually.

Tomorrow, we should all but reach Little Buckland bridge with the Terram/dumping. Steve will probably even out to the correct depth that which we have already dumped, and then...... there was talk of track laying !

Soon we shall be laying down the first 5 panels. This is what it's all about, and we hope to show you this milestone event.

Thursday 25 June 2015

The first ballasting

Ballast started to arrive today in larger volumes, but it seems to have been a bit of a 'dawn raid' and by 9am today's supply had already been delivered on site. Note to self: get up earlier !

Yesterday's comment that an extra 100m of Terram had been laid was true, what a dedicated team!

The initial run now stretches away out of sight, into the start of the curve. It's all been weighed down by an initial thin covering of new ballast, to keep it in place.

Looking back the other way, the Terram stretches back to the end of the headshunt, with a line of levels to the right to guide the digger driver about the heights required.

This was the end of the works this morning, with a pile of freshly delivered ballast ready to be spread out along the line of the future track. It's much longer than it looks, this is a telephoto shot.

As the lorries were unable to deliver all the way down to the railhead, this intermediate pile was made, from which our dumper ferried the stuff down to where it was needed. At least this way, we can spread it in a more measured way, rather than all 20 tons at once. With all the levels needing checking, hand measurement of the first layer and subsequent adjustments, large volumes all at once would not really have been practical anyway.

Then, off we go. Tom drives the first dumper load, in an impressive 6 tonner.

At the railhead, Steve was waiting with the JCB to give instruction, and to spread out each load.

In the background, normal services were continuing. It's nice to see a service train in Laverton loop, this one being headed by 2807. Looking at the Flag & Whistle and the car park at Toddington yesterday, we are doing well, so here's hoping it generates a nice cash flow for our extension pot.

As Steve checks whether he has got the first bit to the right depth, Tom is already bringing the next load and dumping it a bit further along. The trackbed undulates a little bit and here and there there are also high spots difficult to remove, so it takes careful measurement to get at least a minimum depth under everything for the tamper to work on. There was a lot of walking about and measuring this morning, before we actually started on the job.

Due to a meeting in the afternoon your blogger was unable to stay on, so this was the situation at lunch time.

The important bit is to get the beginning set up right, after which the JCB, equipped with the reflector from the laser level, can get on with the job.

The ballasting will continue on Friday and into next week, when a further update will be possible. So far, so brilliant! Well done Steve, Adam and Tom.

Can I ask people posting comments to keep them friendly and helpful, and not post criticism, and certainly not anonymously. These guys know what they are doing, and would appreciate our support.

See you next week, and thanks for your interest.

Wednesday 24 June 2015

The first steps to ballasting

Today saw the first work on the actual extension track work. This was in the form of 200m of terram, covered in an initial thin layer of ballast to hold it down. We started from the current headshunt.
Several rolls of Terram were positioned along the trackbed, and a pile of new ballast was positioned in the 60yd gap that the gang created on Saturday. Here are Alan and Steve getting the first roll ready. Luckily the wind, often notorious here, was kind today, with just a gentle breeze, which didn't make our material flap too much.

With the first 20yds rolled out, Steve was able to help himself to a bucket load from the pile down the track, and bring it round to the start. The laser level you can just see will help us get the depth right, but today's job was just to get enough down to hold the Terram in place.

The pile of fresh ballast is between the Pway train and the end of the turnout, and yes, there were trains running today. We are that close to the end of the line, but hoping to move away further and further...

We've got our Dogfish wagons ready too, some recently overhauled, so we're ready to go.

The Terram is wider than we need, so don't worry too much about the line we took - it straightens out as you can see.

Here is Andy doing a bit of 'manual labour' laying stones along the edge, in case the wind changes direction and gets under the textile on the Cotswolds side.

That's a nice row of stones there. Keep going, Andy! Just 2 miles left to do.

Here is the view from the Pway train, looking north. The trackbed has been further graded, and a roller brought in to compact it, so that the stones do not puncture the Terram from underneath.

After the first 30yds, there's a little site discussion to see how it's going.

The scrub at the start of the curve to Little Buckland in the distance will be cleared when the bird nesting season is over.

It was quite busy on the trackbed at one point. Volunteer's car, roller, contractor's van, second roll of Terram. Not half as busy as tomorrow though, when the real ballast starts to arrive. This will be emptied on top of what we put down today, for a depth of 8ins, required for laying sleepers. There'll be loads of large lorries running up and down here tomorrow.

In this picture quite a bit of progress has been made (given that Steve is getting his supplies of fresh ballast from a fair distance away) and a new roll of Terram has just been opened. In all 200m of Terram were put down today, more is due later.

Once again - after CRC2 on Monday - there was lots of dust, especially if, like Neil, you stood downwind from it. At least it was dry. On Saturday, having walked to Little Buckland, the entire Pway team of 15 was soaked to the skin by a downpour while walking back to their cars parked at Laverton. It's quite exposed on this embankment, but at least the views are fabulous.

Hey, you said it was my turn on the roller now!
We hope to be able to give you a brief update tomorrow, after the lorries with the ballast drop have been in.

Saturday 20 June 2015

June update

Slowly but surely the extension work is gathering pace. The lizzards have been carefully removed from their lodgings in the former gallops, and today the PWay gang was out at Laverton in order to take out three track panels so that work can start on correcting a small slip at the start of the extension. The slip is not very exciting to see - just an irregularity in the greenery really - but it has been spotted and will be corrected by contractors in the next few days.

As part of the Laverton loop, there is a headshunt of a few 100m for the storage of PWay wagons - you may have seen them from the Broadway road. To allow contractors access to the slip, 60m of track previously roughly laid was taken apart with the Telehandler and stacked.

Did you know a telehandler could go along sideways? It's called 'crabbing' and proved very useful in dragging the rails out of the way from the side, but in a straight line. Nigel proved expert at this.

Once the rails were off, the Telehandler was able to get at the sleepers, which were all stacked at one end, ready for relaying once the contractors have finished. The contractors will also be effecting a sizeable drain repair a little further along, where a small stream runs under the embankment and the ends of the little tunnel need rebuilding.

Given that the headshunt is now interupted, a temporary stop sign was put up by Andy and Ivor. Careful with that keying hammer, Andy !
In the background menacing clouds are drawing in. If you can see Cleeve Hill, it's going to rain. We could see Cleeve Hill....

Then a quick lunch while it was still dry. Lunch with the Pway gang is always a pleasure, as they often pull something interesting out of the hat. Today it was two tins of Mrs. B's most excellent Lemon Drizzle cake.

Neil was happy to be test pilot for the formal tasting. They passed.

After lunch Stevie Warren came down and there was a most useful discussion about the next few days, followed by a track walk to the end of the first track laying phase, Little Buckland bridge. With our current and initial supply of rails, we should be able to get to just beyond this bridge. (Bridge 5 in the prospectus)

The view above also shows how the embankment north of Laverton has been cleared along the sides, and more recently, the trackbed itself along the top. The cleared trackbed now extends all the way to Little Buckland, while shrubbery around the curve, in the distance, still remains to be cleared. This job is earmarked for after the summer holidays, but is not critical to track laying. So basically the trackbed is ready to go, once the slip and culvert repair are complete.

Further along at Little Buckland bridge Stevie Warren and Ivor Dixon on the photo discuss how much ballast is needed and where, the approaches to the bridge still being a bit low after the bridge repair works.

The curve round to Peasebrook Farm (bridge 4) in the background is also clear, and has most recently been receiving some attention in the form of new fencing.

The latest news is that some ballast is coming Wednesday, and will be dropped on rolls of Terram, starting beyond the headshunt.  Rolling the Terram out in this windy location could be tricky, so hands will be needed to hold it down. Pencil the date in your diary if you think you can help - Nigel will be confirming via the usual channels.

The ballast isn't coming until Wednesday....