Thursday 30 July 2015

Next contractor update

The jungle drums report progress on the slip repair, so time to take a look and see how it's going:
True enough, the slip is almost completely back filled. Only the top layer remains to be done. At the foot, the new drain runs from right to left, all along the foot of the embankment from Laverton bridge to the stream by the van in the rear.

At intervals, the drain has been made accessible by means of new manholes, which have been neatly finished off with a course of bricks and a steel cover. We can report that there is water at the bottom of each of them.

Work on the Malvern side culvert has resumed, following delivery of the gabions.

Here the mini digger has a bucket load of stones, which are being placed inside the gabions to the left and right of the mouth of the culvert. A concrete pad will be cast over the top, to replace the length of culvert that broke off.

The end of the new drain along the foot of the embankment protrudes from under some temporary sandbags on the right.

On the other, Cotswold side work has not yet started. This is a view of the entrance to the culvert. Looks OK from a distance, but...

... if you are willing to get your feet wet you can look inside and see how this end too has broken free. There is a big crack inside, where the end brickwork is rotating downwards. This appears to be a block including the wing walls, as the pointing outside is still intact.

While the Malvern side is easily accessible via a track running along the bottom of the embankment, this side is not. There is only a public footpath. The plan is to access the culvert via a temporary ramp from the top.

Topside is the bottom of a pretty substantial telegraph pole, which the contractors came across during the slip repair. All our lineside poles were cut down years ago, and it is striking to see how thick they were, and their good condition after all these years buried underground, thanks to a liberal dose o creosote. These poles were quite tall in places, for example at Broadway, where the lineside pole route ran along the top of the cutting in the station limits, and then along the bottom of the embankment in the 'car park' field, where the poles were particularly tall to compensate for the sudden change in the terrain.

You can see the pole route on this picture behind the Leamington - Gloucester DMU. There were no fewer than 17 wires here. What a neat trackbed, and immaculate cutting sides. How did they get it so neat?

It's just a single car DMU. I guess these replaced the old GWR ones that also ran along here.

Picture taken by Brian Parsons in 1966, near Springfield Lane, Broadway. Thanks, Brian !

Back to 2015. In this view we can see the slip repair from the top. It is almost completely filled in again, except for the top layer, still to go and due to be completed within days. Then we can put the three track panels back in, and go for a further stock of concrete sleepers with which to resume track laying.

Looking the other way we can see the top of the slip repair, the sleepers from the removed track panels, the isolated Pway train, and in the far distance, the new ballast bed with the first 100yds of new track on it.
On the Malvern side again, piles of stone are being assembled. Nearest is the pile of larger stone for the culvert gabions, and behind it and newly delivered is a pile of ballast sized stone for the last layer on the slip repair.
The driver of the lorry knew us well.... Broadway Bridge, Chicken Curve, Laverton ..... we are clearly investing heavily in infrastructure repair, a good thing.

This is where the final layer of stone is going, next to the existing, older layer of track ballast.

More news next week !

Thursday 23 July 2015

Contractor update

Tomorrow being announced as very wet, we had a quick look today, and with the help of our bridges engineer, here is an update of the slip and culvert repair works at Laverton.
Just to show how close we are to the present end of the line, here is a picture of the regular DMU service, which has ventured to the far end of the Laverton loop to have a peek at the works, and us at them!

In the foreground is the start of the ditch which will run at the foot of the embankment, not only to drain the lower edge of it, but to take away the floodwater that runs under the road bridge on which the DMU is standing.

Already shown earlier, here is a reminder of what the end of the existing pipe looks like. The contractors have cleared it out as far as they can reach (i.e. not very far) so we had a look inside:

The pipe is pretty much silted up, no doubt because the water could not easily clear once it got to the end. This is now being addressed with a new, deeper ditch, with a drain at the bottom and regular inspection pits.

Looking the other way from the mouth of the old drain, you can see the contractors digging the new, deeper ditch up to the next inspection pit, just behind the digger.

Because of some material shortages earlier this week,the contractors have concentrated on this ditch. With the rain forecast for tomorrow, we hope they can get it completed before then. Some water in the foreground has already tested the levels, and it seems to be working.

Most of the new drain is actually already in - here is a picture taken beyond the digger, with the dumper coming up for a new load. The pipe in the ditch is wrapped in Terram, and then the ditch is back filled with stone, which also helps to take the water away. In the distance it is complete, needed as the slip works are just next to it.

This is the other, northern end of the new drain, where it empties into the stream that crosses under the embankment in the culvert that is under repair.

Very little work has been possible on the culvert, as the contractor is waiting for the gabions - they have now arrived. Stone with which to fill them is in the background.

Our last view is of the slip repair. The steps have been covered in fresh stone, over a permeable membrane. The stone starts at a level 500mm below the level of the adjacent access road. In the foreground is the completed part of the new drain, with an access pit on the right. The stone is consolidated with the roller on the left. More stone is awaited to finish this job, possibly at the end of next week (depending on weather and stone deliveries). Progress so far looks good.

Friday 17 July 2015

Contractors' progress

A quick look-in at Broadway today, to see the carpenter measuring up in the box, and then on to Laverton to see how the slip and culvert repair works are going.

Quite a lot of attention is being paid to drainage. This pipe, the exit of which has been cleared, actually drains the bridge in the background. A proper ditch has been dug for it at the outlet, which should allow it to run clearly now.
Turning through 180 degrees, the rest of the ditch is underground to stop it from filling up with debris from the embankment. It now leads all the way to the stream in the distance, where the culvert exits are being repaired.

So that the underground pipe can be maintained in the future, manholes are being installed at intervals. Here Richard is bedding down fresh concrete that has just been poured into one of them.

The Malvern side culvert exit has been cleared, and a start is being made on rebuilding it. Gabions will be placed here to strengthen the sides. While this work is done, the contractor needs to divert the water and to this purpose a sump has been installed - the vertical pipe in the back. Very neat.

Can you see the other end yet, John?
A Broadway volunteer inspects the good remaining part of the culvert. Of the two pipes that pass through it, one is redundant and will be removed, the other is being used by the neighbouring farmer, who has been very helpful.

This is the view of the end of the culvert, before the damaged part was removed. You can see the shear point quite clearly. This has now been dug away (see previous pictures) up to the point where the brick is hanging down.

Last week, the remains of the broken end were still on site, but have since been removed. Good, solid GWR brickwork; shame about the foundations though.
On the site of the slip, as start has been made on back filling the bottom with good material. The digger has paused for a moment while the next lorry is awaited. Next week should see a lot of this hole filled again, so here's hoping we can put the track back again soon.
The still useable material from the top (old ballast) has been stored topside, visible in the piles at the back. It looks to be about 2ft deep, before the embankment fill becomes the original clay.

 The other excavated material is being stored here, on top of a pre-existing shelf, and compacted.

An interesting diversion then appeared, as we waited (fruitlessly) for the arrival of the lorries with stone, in the form of 45 149 with a driver training special. This is an impressive machine, with a handsome train and a very 'BR' look to it.
It trundled past and screeched to a stop by the Pway stop board. How many axles in this bogie? Four ??? Never seen that before..... with a weight of 135 tons, this would give an axle loading of only 16.9 tons, which is quite low. As the outer axle is mobile, this would be a 1 Co Co 1.

We'll take another look in a week's time, with more progress to show for you.

Thursday 9 July 2015

Contractors at work

The contractors mentioned in an earlier post have now started work.

There are two jobs:

- Repair of a small slip on the Malvern side.
- Repair of the mouth of a culvert under the embankment, both sides, a few yards further on.

The contractors are expected to be on site for 5 weeks or so, but after only 3 days progress was already quite impressive. Here is a view of the two sites today:

Just to recap, where we are is a 3 panel gap in the Laverton headshunt, Malvern side. The temporary gap in the track was created just so that this work could be carried out, and in the distance you can see the headshunt continue, with the PW train on it. Now you know why we can't get any more concrete sleepers - for a while.
The side of the embankment has been cut away in steps right down to the bottom. While the top end of the embankment is made of ballast and ash, the lower half is clay, excavated in 1904 from the cuttings north and south of here.
The black line across the field on the left indicates the brook,which crosses under the embankment and whose culvert is also being repaired.

This is the culvert, Malvern side. It's a brick arch on a bed of Cotswold rubble. PWay train of ballast hoppers above - we will need a lot of ballast hoppers!

There are two interesting pipes that have been placed in the culvert. I wonder how they came to be in there?

The brook then flows into large concrete pipes under the camera, to dive under a farm track parallel to the embankment.

The damaged section has already been removed, so these guys work pretty fast.

Here the excavator is removing a line of fence posts between the two jobs. A French drain will be laid at the foot of the embankment. No doubt we have built up some experience after tackling the larger jobs at Chicken Curve and at Gotherington.

It is a hot and sunny day today. The chap in the yellow vest is in an unusual pose, and no, he's not looking at his wrist watch.

This is the reason ! The yellow colour attracts swarms of flies, as you can see with this Hi Viz vest left on a fence post. Yours truly, in an orange vest, wasn't unduly bothered by them, so perhaps give them a change of colour, or a big beer tonight? They will have deserved it.

A last look at the work on the slip:
Seen from underneath, the steps are quite striking. A bit more spoil removal, and then this area looks ready for back filling with good material.

We'll take a look from time to time, and keep you posted of progress.

Saturday 4 July 2015

They're off!

Yes, today was a milestone - the first day of actual track laying on the 2 mile extension to Broadway.
A small team of 11, supported by the JCB and the Telehandler, laid the 125 concrete sleepers we had previously stocked on site, and completed the job with 5 pairs of new rail. The extension has kicked off with the first 100 yd stretch laid.

Here's how we did it:

First of all, a quick overview of the site. This is taken from the road leading to Laverton halt and bridge, looking north. In the centre you can see a number of Dogfish and Catfish ballast wagons, and two wagons loaded with concrete sleepers. The extension starts to the right. As you can see it was a beautiful day, 'good track laying weather' except for the fierce sun.

This is the railhead as was. The old LT bogie flat serves as a bufferstop; behind it, two wagons of concrete sleepers. Three have just been retrieved from underneath it, and are the first sleepers to be laid on the extension.

To the left and right you can see a pair of home made spacers. How these are used, you can see in the next picture.

We have a jig that holds 4 sleepers at exactly the right spacing for laying down on the track. However, they do dance about  a lot, so to keep them the correct distance apart, and to form the correct spacer from the previously placed sleeper, the home made spacer jigs are used.
Two men guide them in, calling out the required movements to the JCB operator: Tod - Broadway, and Cotswolds - Malvernside. Two men stand by with bars to inch them finally into the right position, called out by the ganger in the rear of the picture. Those sleepers have a mind of their own, and, despite the spacers, they like to hop sideways just before they make contact with the ground. Dang !

We're using 25 sleepers per length of rail, and we had a supply of 134 on the two wagons you can see. There are always a few with bent hoops that escape detection, despite the vigilance of the two gangers on top, so it's good to have a reserve.

Here Alan is using the Telehandler to tease out another load of 4, which later became an ambitious load of 8 - the result of practice making perfect.

After a while a rather pleasing row of perfectly spaced sleepers lies there for admiration. We're proud of our work !

Thoughts then turn to placing the first rail on them.

The first rail on the extension to Broadway is then dropped in ! The whole gang enjoys this special moment. Two miles still to go.
Here is the second length going in. If you get the sleepers exactly in line, the rail drops in perfectly, with an all round sigh of relief. Often though, there is a 'bad boy' among them, now which one is holding everything up?

A few words on method. The extension will be built in continuously welded rail, with the next expansion joint (or 'breather') not occurring until the Childswickham Road bridge. The rail now being placed is therefore in a preliminary fixing position, just using the SHC clips, but not the 'biscuits' nor the pads underneath. The rail joints have no fishplate holes, and will be welded, then stretched, then ballasted, and then properly fixed down with the complete set of fixings. So no thoughts of railcar shuttles up and down the bit we have just laid, it's temporary track for a while still.

The first joint is also temporary, as it occurs between two sizes of rails. Once the first 800m of extension are laid, and indeed the contractors have finished with repairing the small slip and culvert, we will return to swap the 200m or so of headshunt with the higher weight new rail, the lower weight being earmarked for the station area in Broadway, together with the Laverton loop points.

Then it was lunch time, and we had laid three lengths, just two to go.

A panel of newly laid track is ideal for sitting on face to face, for a good chat.

Here you can see the entire team today.

A big omission today was Mrs. B's exceedingly good cake, caused by a very recent return from holiday. OK, just this once then. But they are lovely, something to look forward to after working all morning without a break.

After lunch, a small group split off to fix the rails together, using these special clamps instead of fishplates. They will be replaced by a weld here indue course.

It also became apparent that, while the sleepers were in line to allow the rails to dropped in, the new railway line wasn't quite going off in the required direction. This can best be corrected once everything is plated up, and the JCB is able to move the whole track. Nigel gives instructions inch by inch. If only Steve was listening, but he's on the phone. Is that strictly legal?

Even Alan on Telehandler duty is having to wait. 

Where have I seen that 'bored gargoyle' look before?

Then the final panel is built. At the end of this track laying session, we were about half way down the straight leading to the curve at Little Buckland. There will now be a pause in track laying, while the contractors handling the slip and culvert occupy the site, and our PWay train is blocked from going to get more materials.

The reward for this day's hard work was a round of ice cold beers on the platform at Winchcombe, followed by a 'track inspection' behind the class 20, on the cushions. Yes, we like to enjoy a ride on our own efforts, you can proudly say: I helped to build that.

We expect the next track laying session in around mid - August. Further ballast fettling and fencing will continue behind the scenes in the meantime.