Friday 3 February 2017

Final two days of ballast removal.

Thursday saw Haigh Rail come and finish off the welding in the cutting at Winchcombe, and next to them, the removal of spent ballast from the down line.
Friday, today, saw the completion of the spent ballast removal excercise. We think about 400 tons of it were shuttled south to the new access road, now part constructed (more spent ballast needed).

The top of the big dumper makes a useful and once only vantage point, so enjoy the unusual view! Coming down with a full load to turn at the bracket signal, we pass the Haigh Rail teams. A supplementary weld is being prepared in the foreground, while on one of the last welds to be done is taking place in the background.

We follow Steve down to the small area that is left for turning round. It's getting cramped round here, with all that rail laid.

Smoke is pouring out of the mould where the combustion process has just completed.

Picture by Andy S, with thanks

The supplementary weld required is this one. As you can see, the molten metal did not completely fill the joint. This is because some of our rails are worn ('GWR - 12/1936') and the moulds do not always fit perfectly (a sealant is applied to the gaps, but still).

Here some of the molten metal has run out of the bottom or sides, leaving an insufficiency at the top. This can be rectified though.

In order to close the gap by arc welding, the two rail ends are first heated with a gas burner, with this interesting hood.

The gap was then expertly filled with weld - you'll have to take our word for it, because we can't photograph that. Even a brief accidental exposure to the flash can leave damge to face an eyes for days.

The rough weld, thermic or arc, is then polished perfectly smooth and flat by this mobile grinder.

And this is the result - perfection! When the wheels pass over this, they cannot tell the difference between solid rail and former joint.

No more dropped joints, no more crippled ends, broken loco springs etc.

Here's an overview of the relay site, taken from the new platfom 1 extension. There are two extra lengths of rail, then the repositioned turnout (under reconstruction). Then the long straight, already relaid, up to the tunnel. Only 2 volunteers were on site that day, but we don't stand still ! There is a deadline after all, and after that we want to crack on with the extension. The first job there will be to complete the ballast bed to the Childswickham Road bridge, possibly later this month already. Plus  a first stretch of ballast regulating and tamping.

You want what? Suspension on this? Nah....
Around mid-day the welders had finished, and we helped them take their equipment back to their vans. Then it was back to digging out the spent ballast on the down line.
This picture of the front of the 9T dumper shows how rigid everything is. There are no springs or shock absorbers, even a horse drawn buggy was more modern than this. The wheels just bolt straight on to the drive shaft under the frame.

Caution - wide load.
On Friday we continued with the ballast removal, now in the area between the signal and the tunnel.

We shall ignore the request to obtain a token.

We can report with some pride that both dumper and JCB passed this very narrow spot more than 100 times, and we didn't hit the boards once.

Negotiating the drain covers repeatedly was less successful, alas.

While the dumper is very wide and squat, the JCB has a much narrower wheelbase and eventually the inevitable happened, one of the concrete covers did fall in the pit. Sorry, Andy P!

Feeling a bit guilty about this, we returned to the scene of the crime and hoiked it out again with a chain. It is now more or less back where it belongs, phew.  It's all because that track is starting to change sides from up to down, and room is very limited here.

During the gradual clearance of this down line, we passed the concret base of a former PWay hut.
Now wouldn't that be a nice little project to recreate? (It's under all those sleepers, with a tree growing out of it)

Here's how far we are with that new access track at Gretton.

It started at the level of the railway above left, and is now about half way down the slope to the field at the bottom, Working Lane being beyond that field.

We think we know of another source of spent ballast on the railway, so could continue if time permits.

A contractor was working on the embankment slope with a flail, temporarily stopped to let us closer. Nice driver too, the next time we came with a full load, he had bladed it flat for us. That's very friendly.

This shot, taken coming out of the tunnel, shows that we have nearly finished the job of clearing the down line. Just a few more scoops to go. It has started to rain, and it got much more windy. Conditions were miserable; your blogger got a wet backside despite wearing new Goretex overtrousers. How is that possible? Is Cotswolds rain special?

A moody, almost doomladen picture with which to finish. A brief spell of sun is soon overtaken by racing clouds, heavy with moisture.

Better weather tomorrow though, when the full gang will be out and all efforts directed at getting the turnout back together, and perhaps even the last of the plain rail in. Watch this spot !

1 comment:

  1. Excellent progress. House points all round. Hope the weather holds good for Saturday for you. Regards, Paul.