Friday 20 November 2015

The next steps

A day out with the tamper yesterday, and a useful chat with the PWay gang.

There don't appear to be any images around of this tamper at work, so here's a little report, and an extension update. The tamper is an 07 and it's been hired in to do regular maintenance on the running line, working north from CRC. Yesterday it had reached Gotherington, where we tamped the loop, then worked further north to the overbridge beyond the sleeper depot at Skew Bridge.

The job was to fill in the voids in the ballast left by the tamping tines. Looks simple enough, you just follow the slowly moving tamper and shovel ballast into any holes. However, after an hour of non-stop shovelling your muscles start to complain loudly, and that rain forecast to ease off during the morning just hasn't ! The march of the tamper is relentless, and after 5 hours, and perhaps a mile later, we were pretty much exhausted.

There is a brief respite between runs, as the tamper passes over the next stretch to be done and measures it. The data is stored and acted upon during the actual tamping run.

This picture taken during one of the measuring runs shows the second man and recording screen with up to 4 variables visible.

Ideally, a team of 6 on the shovels is needed each day during the week. Thursday looked a bit bare, with only 3  PWay crew registered (or still fit after working Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday!) so two members from BAG came down to help on a BAG non-working day.

Having tamped one side of Gotherington loop, and completed the second half of the other, the machine skipped Gotherington platform (we tend not to tamp within stations, in order to avoid raising the trackbed) and continued north thereafter, reaching this bridge at the end of the day, when the light began to fail.

A grateful member of the gang climbs into the cab, which is dry and well heated. It even has a little grill to heat your lunch! We were then given a lift home to Winchcombe, and Toddington.

There isn't much room on board - three seats at one end, two in the other - but those in the driving end on the return journey got this view of Greet tunnel. Who knew it had such a long curve in it?

After this week, the tamper will return in March to complete the job along the rest of the running line.

Extension update:
The extension railhead is now within a stone's throw of Little Buckland bridge, maybe 6 panels to go. We now have the opportunity of winter maintenance during the short few months when normal trains don't run, so expect to see the PWay gang out along the main running line instead. Currently they are moving a point into a more logical position outside the loco shed at Toddington, and in January and February they will be relaying the platform 2 road at Winchcombe, and the southern part of platform 1. This ties in neatly with the B & S project to lengthen platform 1, and some of the spent ballast will be used as infill there behind the new wall now being built.

Trains start running again in March, so the Winchcombe relay needs to be completed by then. In the meantime, contractors will be replacing a damaged drain that crosses under the extension trackbed just short of Little Buckland bridge, and this is in the way of the 6 panels, so they can't be laid until that job is done. A culvert near Peasebrook Farm also needs closer investigation, as it has a tree growing on top of it. The trackbed has been neglected for 40 years, and no doubt little was done to maintain it in the closing days, so you can imagine that we can't just clear the undergrowth and start laying rail. There'll be quite a lot of 'civils' before we get to that stage.

What is perhaps less well known is that the final lengths of the Laverton extension also need relaying, from a point at a CWR 'breather' south of the loop, through the loop and into a headshunt north of it, latterly used to store the PWay relaying train. The slightly lighter rail used here was laid during a period of financial constraint, and while it is suitable for station confines, it needs to be replaced with heavier, main line quality when the loop is taken out. This will take place from March onwards, when the loop is removed, ready for transfer to Broadway. Initially, the materials will be stored, not taken to Broadway immediately. Hence the next purchase of new rail, a question often asked, will be for this stretch, from the southern Laverton 'breather' to the start of the extension. The rail being replaced is not wasted, but will be used at Broadway for the station loop and northern sidings. We will then have a high quality, new CWR line all along the extension.

The rail head in 2012 at Laverton, which still needs upgrading with heavier rail.

Saturday 14 November 2015

Along the last mile

After a day's work at Broadway, there was a window for a quick walk down the trackbed to Peasebrook Farm bridge today. This was prompted by the sight, from the end of Broadway platform, of headlights in the distance. What could that be?

It turned out to be the Saturday clarance gang, so here are some pictures taken along the walk.

This pictures shows the uncleared part of the Broadway extension, with the newly ballasted trackbed in the distance, and clearance gang member's cars parked topside. The smoke emanates from a new section just started by the gang.

You can just make out the JCB near Little Buckland bridge in the far distance.

Peeping round the corner by the blue car we can see a well cleared area, and we get a better appreciation of the height of the embankment at this point.

Our neighbours were certainly enjoying themselves down there in the mud!

Passing the clearance gang by the blue car, a second group was cutting down the larger ash trees that were too big for the first gang.

That sawn wood is not being wasted either, some of the gang members have woodburners, and these logs are a fitting reward for their efforts. Clearance is pretty hard work.

Bridge 4 and Peasebrook Farm are just visible behind the trees.

This view is as close to the ballast head as I got, as a phone call called me back to Broadway for a discussion on Signal Box stoves...

Turning round the other way, back towards Broadway a short mile away, you can see the large stretch of embankment recently opened out by the gang.

We are having contractors in as well to support them, and they complimented the Saturday gang's work on this big site. Well done, guys!

Walking back to Broadway, the old goods shed quickly comes into sight again.

The embankment remains very high on this stretch, but the freshly sprouted vegetation hides the sewage works that are located here on the left.

Just for interest, a couple of other shots taken yesterday:

This shows how far our ballast contractors got on Friday. The picture was taken standing on bridge 5 at Little Buckland, looking towards Broadway. The Terram now stretches all the way along phase 2, from this bridge to the next one, bridge 4 at Peasebrook Farm. A small bit of work will complete this exercise on Monday, and the contractor is moving on to another job.

There is still some work to do to excavate and repair a salt glazed pipe under the trackbed that was discovered here, crushed in the middle.

At Winchcombe, the ballast train stood silently on platform 2, as Cheltenham Race Trains rumbled past through platform 1, hauled  by 2807.

This ballast will be used next week to support the tamper that is doing the running line, starting from CRC and working north.

Thursday 12 November 2015

Sixth day of ballasting

The ballast line from Peasebrook Farm gets ever nearer. Today saw the back broken of this job, as we joined up the line heading southwards with the short stretch north of the ballast pile. At last, nearly 800m done.

Wednesday we had a day off from ballasting, but the quarry did not, and this morning 200 tons of new ballast delivered yesterday sat there to greet us. Here is the 360 making itself a path through to the end, in order to start loading the dumper in the foreground. It was a beautiful day, and quite windstill. That would soon change, but we were ignorant at that point. We started making serious inroads into this new pile, bringing the ballasted Terram further south, round the bend and giving ever shorter trips to the dumping site. You can now make out the white strip of Terram marking the tipping site at this point.

At lunch time, our mobile site hut in the form of our Estate Manager's car arrived. By this time, Steve was starting to ready the area of the former pile close to the bridge, so that we could lay Terram here too. It will be the last stretch in this area.

We snuggled down in the Freelander, and enjoyed cups of coffee from his warming flask.

After lunch, as we got out of the car again, the weather had changed. Clouds were skidding across the sky, and a strong wind was making its presence felt. The dust from the newly delivered ballast was so strong that Adam had to close all the windows in the 360 to keep it out.

Yours truly had no windows, so decided to stand upwind from the source.

Even more ballast then arrived, perhaps 220t in total. Steve is having a chat with the driver as to where the next load should go. What we don't want is double handling when this stretch, where the stockpile is, is also laid out with Terram. In the background the stretch that is now ready extends into the distance, round the rest of the bend. The grey silo just visible belongs to the sewage farm at Pry Lane.

This shot shows how the ballasted section from Peasebroook Farm has now indeed joined up with the area of the ballast pile. That just leaves 100m to do under the area of the stockpile. Steve is fine tuning the levels in the background, necessitating an occasional extra trip by the dumper where a low spot has been found. He also made sure that the down line is suitable for vehicles to use.

Suddenly, there was a burst of sunlight out of the clouds. It can be very beautiful here, if the weather is friendly. Steve is pottering around in the background fine tuning the levels, while the 360 in the foreground deals with the diminishing stockpile found this morning.

Another ray of sunlight penetrated the increasingly threatening clouds above. We had just laid down this stretch of Terram, when a gust came up and whipped it sideways.  There followed a scramble for any bricks, rocks, anything heavy that we could scrounge from the undergrowth to weigh it down until we got some ballast down on it. The Terram has to be laid fairly accurately, because the tracks laid on top tend to follow it.

A look south shows the last roll of Terram now started by the bridge. The sky turned an angry dark blue, but the rain held off, and we stayed dry.

Tomorrow may see this job finished, or possibly Monday. The crew doing the ballasting will be back down to 2 again, as yours truly is doing a trip to Crewe tomorrow to fetch a newly acquired diesel tank for the railway. We should be able to enjoy the Staffordshire countryside at leisure, as we crawl down the M6 on a Friday afternoon, but the company will be good.

See you next time.

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Fifth day of ballasting

Slowly the newly ballasted section from Peasebrook Farm gets longer.We put in another good day of dumping today, bringing the end of the ballasted section to within a stone's throw (!) of the supply pile at Little Buckland bridge.

The tree marks the half way point,and you can see that at the start of the day we are well past it. It was breezy today, with the forecast giving 'moderate to strong' winds. We had strong. There is no shelter in the Vale, with the trackbed at this point on a rising embankment so we were well exposed. OK for Steve in his nice warm cab, and his parting advice to yours truly, before he set off to grade the piles, was to reverse back to the ballast pile, because going forwards as before exposed the driver to a sandstorm of sharp dust particles. And it was true - one forward return trip was enough, the others were in reverse. Steve knows best!

Filming the dust wasn't easy, maybe this shot gives an impression during loading?

The other issue with the wind is that the Terram won't stay down. You roll it out by kicking it along some...

... then turn round to go back to the beginning, and this happens. Dang ! Originally we were given a set of giant staples with which to spike down the Terram, but in practice this didn't work very well (staples bent, or wouldn't go in due to stony underground) so we took to using lumps of anything we could find along the way to weigh it down.

Finally you find yourself on your hands and knees, trying to keep the stuff down - it has a mind of its own, and keeps ballooning up.

A clearance contractor was on site as well, strimming the fence line ready for a larger flail machine to do the embankment side.

Lunch was taken on the hoof (there is no site hut) but coffee was in the luxurious and warm interior of the company Estates Manager's 4x4, which drops in daily for a visit and a chat. Hot drinks were provided too, and 1980s copies of the GWSR bulletin for perusal. Fascinating stuff, did you know there had once been a derailment at Toddington of two locos at once? A steam crane from Gloucester soon got them back on the rails, but while waiting for it to arrive a visiting area manager suggested they drive themselves back on. Well, that didn't happen.

We laid about 100m of ballast today, until we ran out of supplies. Yes, the long pile has now gone, all ferried up towards bridge 4, six tons at a time. No quarry lorries came to us today, they were needed to resupply the ballast train at Stanton. With a bit of luck we can bag some more tomorrow, so that we can carry on ballasting on Thursday (the JCB being required at Broadway tomorrow). Here Steve is spreading out the last bits of it. The bit we have done over the last 5 days stretches out into the distance, about 500m of it. 300m to go behind the camera.

.... talking of which, we could just turn round and show you. This is how far we got today, the ballast pile is (was) by the 360 in the distance. That next roll of Terram should reach there nicely.

Two more shots form the ballast pile end for you:

On the left is a bit of trackbed with a small amount of ballast on it already, but it needs more. It was only put there, in a hurry, to narrow the pile to let vehicles pass through.

...and the other way - this is where the supply pile was. Although more ballast is expected in, we will eventually have to lay Terram here too, and cover it with the required 8 inches.

Finally, a plug for a new Blog set up yesterday. It's for our valiant little Building and Services department, who are relatively little known, yet who have built so much around the railway. Check them out, see what you think, and you might even like to join them?

Here is the link:

Saturday 7 November 2015

The rails go in on the 400

Just a quickie tonight, but the valiant PWay gang managed to get all the rails in today on top of the 400 sleepers we laid out. Should be about 17 lengths laid in all. Brilliant stuff, guys!

The view towards Laverton at Lunch time today
The first half of the day was characterised by high winds and squalls of heavy rain. Nonetheless an initial 7 pairs of rails were laid in, and fastened temporarily on every other sleeper. The gang then retreated to the mess coach at Winchcombe to dry out and sandwiches.

Rails laid from the end of the straight, up to the JCB so far.

7 lengths in, and looking towards Little Buckland, around the corner.
New rail laid today starts at the ballast pile in the foreground, a future foot crossing.

After lunch there was a remarkable improvement in the weather, and the gang returned, invigorated and with rather easier conditions to work in.

The good news is that they managed to lay all the remaining rails required to catch up with the sleeper laying again, about 150 sleepers short of Little Buckland Bridge. These pictures show the limit reached at the end of a long wet and windy day. Peace now reigns, but it was tough this morning!

In the background is the rail carrying bogie truck, with the spacer boards for sleeper placement in the foreground.

Here is Little Buckland Bridge, with the new rail head visible in the backround. Phase 1 ends at the spot from which the picture was taken. We have enough rail for this, then no more.

Phase 2 takes the line up to Peasebrook Farm bridge a further 800m away. Volunteers heard today that this is just one mile from Broadway, which happily matches the purpose of the vitally important share issue next Easter, Broadway - the last mile.

More ballast will be spread next week.

Friday 6 November 2015

Third day of ballasting

We're trying to remove the long storage pile at Little Buckland, but more keeps coming from the quarries.

You can see we have taken quite a chunk out of it, as it used to reach almost up to the bridge. Just when you think you are getting somewhere, another lorry turns up. We had 4 today, and another 6 are expected on Monday.

While 2 of us were loading and bringing up the ballast, Steve was in the JCB levelling the dumps from the last two days. He's already done quite well here, this looks almost ready for track laying.

This shot of a load going up gives you an idea of the distance remaining to be covered. We got to the 400m mark, working back from bridge 4, and this is about half way.

This is where we got to after another wet and drizzely day. We reckon the tree on the left is about half way back to bridge 5.

Rail will be dropped on to the 400 sleepers tomorrow Saturday. We have enough rail in store to get us just north of bridge 5. By the time the relay gets there, we need to have cleared the remains of the long pile, and replaced it by Terram and 8 ins of level ballast. We shall probably be on this job for most of next week then.

Thursday 5 November 2015

Second day of ballasting

Back at Little Buckland today, with a dire weather forecast but high hopes of a second, larger dumper. Alas. No second dumper available, maybe tomorrow (a bit like the sign in the pub, Free Beer Tomorrow)

Operator area....
There was a new element today - mud ! The rain did indeed come, and the shuttles to the tipping area near Peasebrook Farm made a mudbath out of the trackbed, which resulted in great Catherine wheels of spatters being flung from the wheels. But an early start, all the materials on site and the tipping area now slightly nearer meant that we made great progress.

Steve was on site at 7am to oversee the delivery of a further 80 tons of ballast, which were tipped in the area we cleared yesterday.

By lunchtime - picture on the left - we had moved these loads away again, thereby allowing us to make the original long pile somewhat shorter still.

Steve also levelled out yesterday's tippings, as you can see in the picture. The ballast piles in the foreground represent new material brought up this morning.

After a while Steve was called away to fill the PWay train of 6 Dogfish at Stanton, which they are using along the running line to supply the tamper which is arriving shortly. Adam took over in the digger, leaving yours truly to drive up and down with the loads and rolling out the Terram in between.

After lunch Steve was back, and we see him here clearing some concrete sleepers that were in the way of the non-terrammed track side.

More and more piles were dropped today, about 44 in total. This gives us another 120 meters of ballasted track, or about 2 tons per meter length. We need a depth of ballast sufficient to prevent the tines from the tamper penetrating the Terram underneath.

Steve will spread these piles out tomorrow morning.

Here is the point we reached at the end of the day, you can see that it is getting dark.  There is probably another 3-4 days work here. Our base with the ballast and digger is seen in the distance at Little Buckland bridge.

Various visitors came out to say hello, with interesting snippets. One bit of news is that a window has been found to lift in the rail into the 400 sleeper section laid out on Saturday last. This will happen in the next few days. If all goes well, up to 16 lengths could go in, thus advancing the rail head to about 6 lengths short of the bridge, say a bit over 100m. Quite close to the end of phase 1 therefore.

Wednesday 4 November 2015

More ballast down

There are currently about 300 tons of ballast stored at Little Buckland, and more is on the way. We therefore need to move some of it and on to the future trackbed, to make room for more.

The 6T dumper for this job was delivered to Broadway in error. Your blogger received a phone call, had he seen a large dumper by any chance? He had. Would he drive it down to Little Buckland, where the JCB was waiting to fill it? He would.

 The journey down, about a mile, was rather pleasant. Here is a view of the trackbed between the Childswickham Road and Peasebrook farm. It's good to see this new bit of clearance, a great job done here. Interesting too, that old ballast bin still there. Odd to think that the last trains along here were hauled by class 47s, and they are still running! Our trackbed though was very overgrown.

Can you imagine that coal train that came down here in August 1976? Just a few minutes more, and it would derail on Chicken Curve at Winchcombe, thus effectively closing the line. Such is fate.

Down at Little Buckland bridge - bridge 5, with the extensive abutment repairs - Steve was waiting with the JCB, and off we go. It's time we did more ballast spreading, because just peeping round the curve are the sleepers we laid on Saturday, that lot of 400. The red arrow marks the spot. One more day like that, and we will be over the bridge. But we still have to lay the rails in. For at least the next two weeks the PWay gang is on other duties. Regular running has now stopped, so this is the opportunity for track maintenance on the running line. End of the month, and trains will run again for Santa, so this is a window of opportunity for them.

Here is the pile of ballast that we are addressing. We need to shift at least a third of it, to make room for further deliveries expected tomorrow morning.

Proceeding up the trackbed with the loaded dumper, this is what you can see. The trackbed has been cleared and levelled, and new fences have been put in alongside. The little orange crosses on the left indicate the height of the ballast to be achieved.

A short length of ballast has already been spread out in order to narrow the piles and let traffic through.

The thin white stripe in the distance is the site where we are now dumping this ballast - it's the roll of Terram being spread out.

Approaching the work site, you can see the first piles already dumped on the Terram, with bridge 4, Peasebrook Farm, just beyond (white posts)

The red arrow marks Broadway Goods shed, now in the hands of the Caravan club.

Peasebrook Farm bridge is the limit of phase 2, about 800m beyond the end of phase 1.

It's quite a long drive up to the drop. The factors limiting the speed of the process were the size of the bucket on the JCB, and the number and size of the dumpers.
More dumpers (or bigger ones) and a faster digger would make us more productive, so a call went out for a 360 with a larger bucket.
Enquiries are being made for a second dumper tomorrow, preferrably a 9 tonner. Not easy to get just like that, let's see tomorrow what they came up with.

Just before lunch, the 360 delivery service made a call.
Further up this road is Buckland Manor at the foot of the hill, which the 1904 contractor Walter Scott purchased, because he liked it here. He then became master of the Broadway hunt, so it all connects!

This is more like it! The 360 excavator fills the dumper in just a handful of drops.

Here is how far we got at the end of the day, with light starting to fail. About 30 drops were made, each involving two 800m drives, so we were quite pleased with progress.

We hope to be a bit faster tomorrow. The distance will slowly shorten, and there should be an extra dumper on site - keep your fingers crossed !