A good day today, with plenty of progress towards Broadway. We had the messs coach and van up at Peasebrook, two bogies and a Conflat with sleepers, and a fresh load of new rail. All the tools of the trade, now for the muscle.
We had the availability of both the Telehandler and Steve on the JCB, but not both at once - well, in the morning, at least. This is because a small group split off from the track laying gang to drop in the big rubber pads for the next foot crossing (we did one at Laverton south, this path crosses between Laverton north and the curve at Little Buckland.)
The laying in of the crossing pads didn't take very long, and soon both machines were working. Here Alan is bringing the next supply, while Steve has set up with the chains, ready to swing the sleepers into place. This method is much faster, and also more accurate.
Well, it's fast until you meet a sleeper covered in mud, so that the holes are blocked up. What have we got to poke it out with? Mike tries out his Swiss army knife, with partial success. Better was Paul's offering - a heavy screwdriver, and a lump hammer. That worked OK.
Here's the clipping up side of the laying team. Paul and Bert Ferrule are really practised in this, in seconds the beam is attached to 4 sleepers and Steve can lift away.
The set of 4 is lifted up and swung over, then finally guided into place with loud shouts of 'Malvern' or 'Broadway' to tell Steve which way to inch the load. Then it's plonked down, the clips removed, and the spacers taken forward for the next set.
The only way to be sure is to measure the space between the hoops, and their height (this determines the thickness of the pads)
It was different. Only 3mm, but that counts. It has to come out, which is a time consuming nuissance. You then get an odd sleeper lying beside the track.
While Alan is away, you can see that we have now advanced beyond the trees by the farm. We are here next to the field adjacent to the sewage farm.
We spent the rest of the morning laying out sleepers, and this is how far we got at lunchtime. The yellow rape field is the one next to the sewage farm, our next 'milestone' if you like. This is how we measure our progress. After the sewage farm, Pry Lane bridge.
Small talk in the mess hut reveals that one of us worked in the Walls ice cream factory many moons ago, another helped to pack the ices as a holiday job but then became a teacher, while another worked for Cadbury's. They were allowed to help themselves to as much chocolate and ice cream as they wanted, but the desire to do this soon waned. Can you blame them?
This double activity did mean that there was a ballet on the trackside, as the JCB dragging rails crossed with the Telehandler ferrying sleepers up and down.
Here Alan is waiting patiently for Steve to come by with another rail, one which was on a lorry only Monday this week. We work quickly here, you know.
While we wait for Alan to come back with more, there's a moment available to sort out this sleeper. It's a wrong 'un. Too big. Useable, but only with others like it. In the absence of the JCB, now dragging rails, the only way to get it out is to bar it. Can be done, but it's awkward.
This picture shows the point reached at the end of the day with the laying out of sleepers.
We laid 212 of them today, above average for a day. We felt pretty happy with that, especially as the same team also dropped in the foot crossing pads. Given that the Conflat also had two stacks on it, we laid about half of the supplies today. We will try to empty the second half next Saturday, so that the bogies can be taken back for refilling.
While we did a good job on laying out sleepers, we also managed to drop in 6 pairs of rails.
In this picture Steve has just arrived with the last pair of the day. All we need to do is drop it into place and put a few clips on.
Following the additional ballasting earlier in the week, the regulator will come back in early May to sweep the northen half of the second section to be stressed. Stressing itself has been booked for the second half of May. Then comes another mega day of clipping up 1000m of track fittings.
The section of trackbed north of Broadway (not in GWSR plc ownership) suffered a bridge strike this week at Weston Sub Edge.
Looking at the remains, it appears that a lorry, possibly carrying plastic pipes (several are visible in the cess) left the road surface, ran off the tarmac and hit the bridge pilaster.
The above is from personal observation of the remains only, so if anyone has any actual facts, we'd be interested to hear more.