Tuesday 19 April 2016

Ballast Wagons emptied

The 6 Dogfish mentioned in the last post were emptied today, and returned to Laverton for a second round of filling from the bed of the loop.

We took a picture of Bert Ferrule - Bert Ferrule took a  picture of us.
A small team of 3 met at Toddington and boarded the class 73. After the disappearance, and reappearance of the DMU (now with refurbished centre trailer), the road was free for the light engine to go up to the extension and collect the train of 6 hoppers. Here we are crossing Stanway viaduct, light engine. A Pway ganger is out on a track walk to check for any defects.

Your blogger was happy in the cab of this electro-diesel, as it is a Southern Region engine, from whence he hails. It's a curious and unexpectedly successful loco. Most of the fleet of 49 built in the 1960s are still in service 50 years later, or preserved. The type was built for use on the relatively small Southern third rail electric system, and fitted with a modest 600HP 'get you home' type diesel engine, should it ever pass beyond the third rail area.  It is a pleasure to drive, we were told, and despite the low nominal power output it is fine for a preserved line.

A curious feature is this two way intercom system in the cab, called a 'LOUDAPHONE'. I think that name makes it clear what it sounds like.

Of course it is made in SR territory, in Surrey.

As we pass under the B4632, the straight leading up to Laverton Halt is revealed. The PWay train used on the extension is in the far distance.

As we arrive at the site of Laverton Halt, the southern turnout points to the loop line recently removed. The pile of concrete sleepers will be used to replace the turnout with plain rail. The Dogfish are filled to the brim.

The Class 73 couples up to the Dogfish, and the bogie bolsters are left behind. On the way back the weight of the ballast in the hoppers is felt more clearly, and the diesel engine has a proper job to do. You can hear the electric transmission; it sounds a bit like an old tram.

Back at Toddington, we wait for the service train to arrive along platform 1. We can then set off for our destination - Toddington north siding. This long siding, on the down line leading up to the viaduct, currently holds a number of sundry wagons, a steam crane and a kit called '76077'. Some of this unrestored stock will be moved elsewhere, giving the long siding enough space to store two working rakes of coaching stock, which will be very useful for when we run to Broadway. The loco kit will stay.

This siding is not yet ballasted, and the spent but almost new ballast recovered from Laverton is an opportunity too good to miss. All 6 wagons were dropped here, and the piles dropped into the 4 foot 'sharked' into the 6 foot and the cess, with an extra run made with the final wagon to give the cess a little extra, as it is on the route used by guards returning from stabling a train there.

Unfortunately, good as it is, the SHARK does not fully complete the ballast distribution job, and it has to be finished off manually. About 2/3 of this shovelling job was effected by the small team of three today. We worked along the downside cess, levelling it to sleeper height so that the sleeper ends are visible and can be walked upon. In the afternoon the weather became quite sunny and beautiful, but also very hot, so that we had to swap our orange bomber jackets for lightweight  and more airy Hi Viz vests.

At the end of the day the class 73 took the empty Dogfish back to Laverton, where they will be refilled almost immediately. A further ballast drop, also including the new turnout in Toddington yard, will be effected tomorrow. Whether there is enough spare ballast at Laverton for a third train, or part thereof, remains to be seen.

Here the class 73 has arrived back at Laverton and is about to shunt the whole train a few yards further back, to allow the next round of loading. This is approximately where the driver is walking in the picture.

What happens next?

The 'Last Mile' share issue is running, and we are accumulating a fund which, inter alia, will enable us to purchase another round of new rail to get us to Peasebrook Farm (bridge 4). This purchase is pencilled in for June. In the meantime a contractor will repair 3 culverts, the first of which, at Little Buckland, is what is holding up further track laying at the moment. This work will start on May 16th and will take +/- 6 weeks.

The PWay are never idle, and are quite busy in Winchcombe yard doing other stuff at the moment, and for example were called out to repair a broken fishplate just south of Greet tunnel. Next on the extension will be cutting the bolted rail ends off the rails on the through road at Laverton. This is quite a laborious job, with 4 ends to cut on every panel. After the ends with the fishplate holes in have been removed, every rail will have to be released and dragged southwards, ready for welding. This job could start in a fortnight or so.

And finally...

There's a GWR enthusiast out there on the clearance gang:

Have you copped '5977 Beckford Hall' yet? Does this sighting count?

The choice of Beckford Hall is quite fitting, as it has actually been split into appartments, just like this one. Judging from the scratch marks round the hole, it's quite well used too.

Monday 11 April 2016

Laverton track lift completed

A small PWay gang completed lifting the last panel on Saturday, and removed the last concrete sleepers, so that only the ballast now remains on the loop line at Laverton. The through line remains in place, as do the two turnouts, which still need to be dismantled (no 'e' this time!) and replaced with plain track.
This view today shows the site of the old halt in the background behind the PWay train, and in the foreground the site of the run round, with only the ballast, laid with the loop and still fresh, in the foreground.

Steve, the contractor, was on site today to a). Start loading the ballast into the empty Dogfish, and b). Start dragging the loop rails over to Broadway. Here we see him attaching a pair of rails to the back hoe of the JCB, ready for the 1 mile journey to Broadway.

This is the view immediately north of the northern turnout. In the distance is the old headshunt, quickly laid, which will also be replaced.

Looking at the southern loop turnout here, you can see that the ballast bed laid only a couple of years ago, is being recovered. Nothing must go to waste. This ballast, almost new, will be used elsewhere on the railway.

This shot shows about the middle of the loop. Steve has made a good start with recovering the ballast here, and has filled 5 or all 6 (the exact number escapes me) of the Dogfish. They now need emptying and returning to Laverton to complete the job.
This part of the track is in good condition, but needs welding up, so has to be cut to remove the bolt holes, dragged to close the gaps, and CWR welded. There's still plenty of work here for the gang to keep busy, while we wait anxiously for the outcome of the share issue. There has to be enough money in the kitty for us to complete the job.

At the other end, just short of Broadway, Steve is depositing the rails that he has dragged for a good mile or so by the Childswickham Road bridge. It's the first rail to arrive at Broadway ! Another great step in progress. From here it's just a short drag to where they will be used once the PWay team gets here. They will make a start at Springfield Lane bridge, and work back. This will happen once the work at Laverton is complete, and the kitty is looking good enough to buy rails and ballast.

Broadway station was very damp today, and the steady rain prevented all but two short rows of blues being laid. We did try!

Here is a view of the BAG team taken last Wednesday, when the share issue was launched by Pete Waterman. Ian Crowder took this photograph of the happy gang. Your blogger is in there somewhere :-)

A proud Peter Waterman is out in front.

Wednesday 6 April 2016

More dismanteling at Laverton

A small team from the Wednesday gang took out further track at Laverton today.

A change in the MO was decided upon, and we are now doing it with the forks and two sets of chains. We lift them out and on to a pair of bearers, then scoop them up for stacking at the end of the loop. Slower, but surer that way. We'll have to load them on to the bogie flat another day, but it proved very difficult to do so on the very narrow remaining trackbed.

Here the telehandler has just lifted out a pair of sleepers, and has started on its journey north to the stacking point.

At the northern Laverton turnout, 60 sleepers have been stacked to allow the replacement of the pointwork in the foreground with plain rail. The others sleepers are being parked here, and will be taken up to Broadway eventually.

Behind the telehandler, this is all that is left of Laverton loop today. Just one more pair of rails to be taken out and dragged north, and a few more sleepers. A day's work could see this completed.

Looking the other way from the top of the bogie flats, you can see the last remaining stretch of rails. The sleeper stacking gang is busy in the background. A very welcome van load of new wooden bearers was also delivered. These are invaluable for stacking the sleepers, not only here at Laverton, but also at the sleeper depot at Skew Bridge. This is a brilliant source of free bearers found by a member of the PWay gang.

The rail has been dragged north to a point beyond the turnout. At a later date, it will be further dragged along the trackbed to Broadway. The two turnouts will be dismantled and taken by truck.

Ready for dismanteling, the turnout timbers have already been marked up in numerical order. In the distance is the bumpy former Laverton headshunt, that also has to be renewed. The gang will be at Laverton for a little while yet then.

Later in the afternoon, and with a squall in the distance, the gang decided to call it a day, as they had to return to the telehandler to Winchcombe and lock up the tools. The tiny stretch of track remaining can be seen in the distance.

Earlier in the day, the formal launch of the EIS share issue took place at Broadway. The biggest cost item in the 'Last Mile' is rails and ballast, so please heed Pete's call and help. We can't do it without you.

In response to a desperate Mr. Baker :-)

But no money for the steps, unless the share issue is oversubscribed!