Monday 28 November 2016

Following on from the Jacker / Packer

After the successful lift made by the Jacker / Packer last week at Laverton, the bump over the bridge has pretty much disappeared. It's a great little machine! It did leave behind about a 100yd section of voids, where the track has been lifted out of the initial bed of ballast, and this now needs to be filled again with another ballast drop. That takes us to today.

This morning, Steve spent 3 hours once again filling the 6 Dogfish - you have to wonder how many times he has now done this, bless him - and just before lunch time they were taken to Didbrook (just south of Toddington) where 4 of the 6 wagons were emptied into a gap created by a recent maintenance relay. Lunch for Steve was a hasty bacon bap with the Hayles gang. He turned up very late there, and had the very last one. He was almost served up a spare bap with a mouse in it, if evil plotters had had their way. We are awful.

Two o'clock saw the ballast rain arrived at Laverton, here photographed from the Malvern side, as the low winter sun makes photography a bit more awkward this time of the year. Can't go any further left, it's a steep slope of angry brambles here.

The train was unusually not headed by the trusty class 73, but by the 04 shunter, the yard pilot at Toddington. Yes, it's a VOLVO ! And you thought they had a Gardner 8L engine.
Curious coincidence: One of the leading lights in the loco dept has a Volvo.....

Here is the ballast train parked at the 'hot spot' just north of Laverton bridge. Stevie is just directing Neil to park it in the right position.

Neil here is fitting the tyre to the nose of the ballast plough, while Stevie inside the 'van is winding it down. The wheel was so stiff we found him on his hands and knees yanking at it to get the spokes round.
Yours truly opened the hopper doors on the two Dogfish in question.

With hopper doors wide open, a small quantity of ballast falls out until the chutes are blocked by the pile. Neil walks back to the loc to draw the train forward over the voids, some of which can be seen in the right foreground.

We all patted each other on the back when it appeared that two Dogfish with 40T of ballast were just right to fill the voids in the 100 yard stretch. Job done!

This is what it looked like afterwards:

The view towards Broadway shows a nice deep bed of fresh ballast, neatly swept left and right into the shoulders. Now for the tamper to consolidate this, then it can move on further to Little Buckland and Peasebrook farm.
At the time of writing, the guess was that the tamper would do this in the latter half of the week, after first consolidating a maintenance job elsewhere. We shall see.

This is Laverton Bridge seen from the Malvern side, and on top of it the now empty ballast train is about to set off for Toddington again.

You might find this historical picture interesting. It was lent to us by Tony Harding, with his permission to use, but not for you to download, so please respect that. We have reduced the resolution just in case.

The two pictures were taken from exactly the same place. We don't know the date, but it would have been the period 1960 - 1976, as the tracks are still down, but the halt is clearly out of use.
Note the two white gates - one in the foreground, one beyond the bridge. These were the entrances for the paths leading to the old Laverton Halt platforms. The halt was clearly on the southern side of the bridge.

In our final picture, the empty ballast train trundles back south towards Toddington.
It's a photographer's dream - a glint shot! But of an 04 shunter? Well, we have to start small. Maybe Formarke Hall here soon !

Wednesday 23 November 2016

The Jacker / Packer

The 'humpback' at Laverton bridge, due to its higher replacement deck, has been testing PWay minds these last few days. If the hump is too prevalent, it will hinder the correct stressing of the CWR, so it has to be smoothed at each end. The lift required was too much for the tamper, unless dozens of passes were made.

The tamper was out at Didbrook on the normal running line yesterday, and parked itself by the Toddington signal box at the end of the day. This position was to let out a new arrival yesterday afternoon, the 'Jacker / Packer'.  The what? Then read on.....

This miniature and less sophisticated tamper has been hired in to do the special lifts at Laverton. Its first day of operation was also used to train one of our own people, so that we could, if required, use it on a bare rental basis.

After quite a long wait, it eventually trundled into sight at Laverton bridge. It's not a racing car, OK, but it does rumble along steadily. The southern bridge approach has already had a first pass from the big tamper, and looks reasonably good.

Not so the northern end, where the trackbed is rather lower, and a considerable volume of extra ballast is needed to be able to lift the track to the required height. This was worked out beforehand and various datum points noted along the rail.

A gang of 8 had a go at manually raising the track, but did barely 10 yards in a day. It was really hard going, so the Jacker / Packer was hired in.

The 'lump' visible here is the height we need, so there is a lot more lifting required around it.

It didn't take very long to set the machine up. All you need to do is drive it to the site, and release the tines, which are secured (for travel) underneath.

Note the lifting hooks behind, which have already grabbed the rail in the picture.

A pair of hydraulic rams then pushes down, thus lifting the machine, which is clinging to the rails.

The height is determined by the operator, using sighting boards. The cant can be adjusted using a graduated spirit level inside, with each ram operated individually.

Once the height and inclination are satisfactory, the operator closes two double sets of tines around the chosen sleeper. It pushes the ballast underneath, but does not vibrate like its bigger brother. If you now retract the hydraulic ram, the track should stay up... if you have enough ballast.

You can see here that the lift was a high one, and that we indeed now need more ballast here,as the sleepers can be clearly seen emerging from the ballast bed.

In due course we will run another ballast train over this, followed by a final tamping from the big machine.

A good old-fashioned visual check along the top of the rails does no harm, and also ensures that we do not go to high. When tamping, you can go up, but you can't go down! Alas.

In this picture you can see the job that the Jacker / packer is doing. It has started at the far end of the hump, and is slowly working towards the camera, slowly decreasing the lifts as we get to the bridge (behind the camera) where zero lift is required. A sighting board has been placed at the end of the stretch to be lifted.

As we move backwards towards the bridge, Peter, prone, confirms the progress while Bob, on board the machine, makes sure the rams go down in the right place. Our trainee Martin, already an experienced plant operator, but not on this one yet,  looks on.

Here Martin is operating the machine, under the supervision of owner / trainer Bob.

It all went very well, it's not a complicated machine to learn.

Our conclusion was that the session went well, the machine did the job it was asked to do. It may well be useful elsewhere on the railway, if we keep it for a while.

Next, more ballast here, and the big tamper returns.

Back at Toddington, work was proceeding in the newly rewired goods shed on the Broadway station canopy. The big riveter has been tried out on half a dozen rivets, which are now in one of the fascia boards. What a lovely construction this is turning out to be. Just imagine the lofty construction above you, with a whole series of rivetted arches sweeping along above the platform side facade.

Back at Broadway, a customer came to collect 5 replica GWR platform lamp posts, cast specially for him in addition to those recently planted on platform 2. All profits go to the GWSR, so if you you want one or more for your railway or garden, get in touch via the company website.

Friday 18 November 2016

On the road with the tamper

While the original 07 Mk5 tamper is awaiting a quote for the repair of its gearbox, the replacement 07 Mk2 tamper swung into action today and made a start on tamping the entire Broadway extension, i.e. the whole stretch from Toddington to the railhead. We need to have the extension tamped to the highest quality, in order not to have to go back to it any time soon, so to do it properly, tamping starts at Toddington north.

Today's job was a stretch of track which basically covered the through line of the former Laverton loop, starting a few dozen yards south of it.

The tamper was pushed out to the site by the class 73, which then backed off to allow the crew to set themselves up.

This involves getting out the trolleys and support bars behind it, with a pair of steel wires which run from the farthest trolley, through the machine and all the way to the forward cab. This arrangement allows the machine to measure where it is going and what it should do.

It's an older arrangement, no longer required by the newer Mk5, but it worked fine, as we could see afterwards.

Here is the pair of trolleys, bars and wires fully rolled out.

Progress was pleasingly rapid, once all was set up.

Here is Bob (the B in the 'B&R', the 'R' being just visible in the far cab) at work in the course of operating the machine. The process in this model is to a great extent a manual one, and it is the operator that moves the machine forward between each sleeper. It has one advantage in that you can easily identify any obstacles, such as cables crossing the track, or extra large gaps between rail ends, which can swallow the small diameter wheels of the trolleys - it has happened.

After a while a short site inspection took place, in particular to inspect the shape of the insulated block joint (yellow marks), and to see if it posed a problem for the tines. It didn't.
The slightly irregular path of the rails can be made out; this is what we came to fix. The location is the through road of the former loop at Laverton.

This shot from the forward cab shows the slight irregularities  being addressed today, and more substantial wobbles and dips in the distance, where the new track has been laid and provided with extra ballast to allow the tamping corrections.

In particular the area north of Laverton bridge shows a larger than normal dip, coming off the raised level of the bridge and its thicker deck. Manual jacking here to raise the track to a level that the tamper can handle easily proved fruitless, and a jacker / packer has been hired in for next week to do this.

The tamper then arrived at Laverton bridge, here doing the last few yards, being observed by Neil, who had come to move the machine to a second site at Toddington.

Once again the crew got out in order to inspect a potential problem; here the pulling point for the future stressing of the CWR. Again everything went fine. The larger gap here (deliberate) has been temporarily bridged with a short piece of rail and clamped fishplates, so no problem for the little trolley wheels with us.

Shortly afterwards the tamper passed over the pulling point, and did a few more yards up to the top of the bridge.

This was the end of the first job today.

Here is the tamper stopped just before the pulling point, with Laverton Bridge in the foreground.

The class 73 is poised in the background, ready to haul the tamper back to Toddington for the second session today.

The tamper has paused on Laverton bridge, at the end of its run along the loop.

On the way back to Toddington, we passed this kit of parts for an engine that could be very useful on our line, being modern and not too hungry for coal.

Anyone see what it is yet?

After being taken back to Toddington, the tamper was readied for the second session, which starts at the beginning of the Broadway extension, just north of the stock siding. Bob and Rick roll out the trolleys again.

The second session also went very well, and we did more than expected.The tamper worked its way all the way up to the signal that can just be glimpsed in the distance, just short of Stanway viaduct.  This will be the starting point for Monday.

A quick glimpse into the shed at Toddington showed that work on the authentic canopy for Broadway continues.

More fascia boards are under construction, and a large pallet full of rivets has been delivered. They come in two sizes. The smaller ones are for the fascia boards, and the larger ones for the trusses.

A riveter has also been borrowed, seen here on arrival in the back of the Transit. It's enormous! It looks as if it could happily handle cold riveting, but in fact we are going to do it hot, the traditional way.

Friday 11 November 2016

Tamper update

No news is - no news, so that's why it's been a bit quiet on the blog here.

We had hired in an 08 tamper, which did quite a good stretch from Laverton loop to the start of the Little Buckland curve, but then failed with very unattractive mechanical crunches.

Here is the hired in tamper at rest in the loco yard at Toddington. With considerable difficulty the crew managed to extract the broken gearbox, which was the reason it failed.

Here is the gearbox on a pallet, waiting for repair. We heard that teeth came out when the oil was drained (not our teeth, the gearbox teeth!)

Finding another tamper at short notice is not easy and eventually a compromise solution was found, which is an older model 07 tamper, which while less capable, is immediately available. It arrived at Toddington a few days ago.

An 08 model will run up the track and measure it, and then tamp the result. The 07 can also tamp, but you have to do your own measuring, and tell it what to do afterwards. Slower, but you still get there in the end.

We lost a good week due to the breakdown, but at least the 08 made a start and the bit over Laverton bridge already looks quite good. However, the first tamp exposed a number of low areas.

Earlier in the week a supplementary ballast drop was made, and a second additional drop was made today, between Laverton and the Little Buckland curve. Here the first wagon of ballast is about to start its drop.

You can see that after the first tamp, the sleeper ends have become exposed due to the extra height.

Some of this is due to the 'hump' over Laverton bridge. Those who have been taking notes will recall that this bridge was temporarily removed many years ago, and when replaced by the third party involved, the bed of the track was raised as the new beams were made of concrete, rather than the original steel deck. This gives a hump here now, which the tamping will soften on each side.

In this picture you can see the difference before and after the drop. On the right under the first wagon the sleeper ends are showing, while on the left the plough of the 'SHARK' is scooping the drop from the four foot out and on to the sleeper ends. Much better.

This drop has temporarily exhausted our ballast supply (more is coming on Tuesday) so the almost empty supply train was pushed right up against the rail head at Peasebrook Farm.

This picture was taken just before the wagons reached the end of the line. The rail on the wagon will get us to the end of the ballast bed at Peasebrook farm bridge. We still need to lay the last few yards of this; another load of 300 sleepers is currently being sorted out at Gotherington.

Steve the contractor has not sat still and has cleared the trackbed all the way to the Childswickham Road bridge. This picture was taken from Pry Lane and zoomed in.

The days are drawing in now, and photography like this is getting difficult in the low light - it wasn't even 3 o'clock when this picture was taken.

In the last remaining light of the day, Steve and Dan were working on drainage beyond Peasebrook Farm.

A 360 has been hired in for the heavier work, including preparation of the Broadway 'car park' ballast storage area.

At the foot of the embankment here, Steve and Dan are running a new drainage ditch, to connect a farmer's field with the culvert behind the camera.

It requires a lot of skill to get the slope of the drain just right, as the terrain goes up and down, and the source of the water in the neighbour's field is behind a hump, so actually quite low down. Water needs to flow downhill after all.

Tamping should start again shortly, and we will keep you informed when it does.

As this blog is read by quite a few people - 30.000 visits a month at the moment - we would like to appeal to you to help us win a £25.000 grant by nominating the GWSR New Visitor centre. How to do this is explained below:

Aviva Community Awards - A good start but we need more support

The voting for the GWSR Visitor Centre at the Aviva Community Awards has got off to a good start, at the 7th November the GWSR New Visitor Centre at Winchcombe Station has managed to collect 2,298 votes but that is far short of the 13,669 that the Clubhouse Balcony Restoration, Golden Hill Sports Hall Bristol has managed to secure.  

The Railway is looking for a £25,000 grant towards the estimated £75,000 cost of fitting out and furnishing the new Visitor Centre so please help us get a step closer to winning one of the grants by registering and then voting on at
Voting will close on 18th November 2017 with the winners being announced on the 10th January 2017.

Please encourage as many people as possible to vote for this worthwhile project

Your vote can make a difference for us!
As my young son once said: 'Some's not much, but lots of somes.....'

Finally, we need to clear the trackbed at Broadway north, and among the items in temporary storage there are two cap stones for bridge pilasters.

They are from the Mythe bridges at Tewkesbury, and too big for the pilasters on our line. They measure 5ft x 2ft, and one is inscribed ' Recst. 1910', so they are quite attractive.

We would be happy to cede them to another railway for a small donation, otherwise they may be offered to a reclamation centre.

Note also that at Broadway we are looking for about 100m of granite kerb stones (or parts thereof, we have 20m in store). They are a classic 12ins x 6 ins in size, so if you know of any available, then please get in touch. If we don't find any, the alternative is concrete kerbs, which we would rather not do.

Thursday 3 November 2016

Tweak and drop

A quickie today, tweaking the track, ready for an afternoon ballast drop.

First thing on a cold and now frosty morning, we came to tweak this track and get it as straight as possible for a planned afternoon ballast drop. In the background you can see the next bit of trackbed, destination Childswickham Road bridge, starting to be cleared of vegetation.

Tweaking done, our contractor Steve moved further north and resumed clearing the next bit of trackbed. In the very far distance is the curve at Little Buckland. The trackbed is in good condition, but covered in regrowth, and not level. Not problem for the JCB though.

As proof that we are slowly moving north, here is a first work picture of bridge 3, at Pry Lane. This, unusually, is a brick built bridge and although in the 'Bridges to Broadway' refurbishment programme, it needed very little doing to it. It's in excellent condition. Steve is just crossing it for the first time.

Topside, this was his view. Not zoomed in this time, and the goods shed looks a bit further away, although we are nearer now.

After lunch the class 73 arrived, and it was back to the railhead. The supply train was propelled up the newly laid extension, dings and all, as far as it would go, to liberate this stretch for the ballast drop.
There's a quick pow-wow - where to stop, which brakes are on, which wagon do we drop first.

The supply train is propelled up on to the most recently laid stretch.The red flag marks the furthest the train may go. The wagons have to be well out of the way so that the ballast train has room to do the drop - you can see where this will be. In fact it just fit the space - last time, we were unable to drop the 6th wagon, as we had reached the others parked at the end.

John came down on the loco, and is here seen in charge of one of the wagons.

On the command, he opens the shute, and within a few yards the whole load has fallen through the middle and into the 4 foot. It doesn't take very long.

As the train slowly proceeds, the next wagon's doors are opened, and the next. You're like a monkey up there, on, wrench the wheel, off, on to the next, quick quick.

The wagons empty with a roar and a jangle at the end, and the Shark follows behind grinding and squealing as the plough rides over the top of stones trapped under it. Steve directs the operations.

Neil follows on in the class 73, keeping the pace as steady as possible, with the plough screeching away just in front and generating large clouds of grey dust.

We're almost at Peasebrook Farm now, the white boards mark the railhead as of this morning. Maybe another 200yds to go.The rail for it is in the second wagon.

The gearbox of the tamper has been successfully removed, and we are hopeful of resuming tamping next week - fingers crossed!