Wednesday 31 May 2017

Welding and stacking

Two teams today - one at Peasebrook on the extension, the other at Gotherington in the sleeper depot.

We met in the mess coach, which appears to have received the visit of some uninvited individuals, as we found one of the doors open on arrival and a fire extinguisher partially discharged. Fortunately, no real harm seems to have been done.

We then split up to repair to the two locations.

The Peasebrook team looked after the welders again, who came to weld up the rail recently laid, which continues to motor away from the stretch that has now been released for general use. While the track layers are nearing Pry Lane, the welders today started from bridge 4 at Peasebrook Farm, just visible by the white handrail on the right of the picture. The number of welds achieved by the two teams on site (only one in the picture) was 12 at the end of the day.

Meanwhile, team 2 at Gotherington, a 'gang of four', attacked the shrinking pile of jumbled sleepers with vigour. The current daily record for sleepers stacked is held by the Saturday gang at 200.

Here Martin carefully inserts the forks into a gap near the middle of the pile - how many sleepers would he catch?

It is a bit like fishing. Here he has caught six - a respectable number - but the sixth one is a wobbler and looks like falling off. These then invariably rotate so that on the next visit you find them lying end on, a tricky job for the Telehandler with its fixed boom.

Foremarke Hall trundled past into Gotherington today, with a nice 'Cathedrals Express' headboard.

An hour later it was the turn of the DMU, and now the left hand pile looks astonishingly small. Remember the photo with which you were asked to guess the number of sleepers left? That pile has almost gone here. The next one also looks quite small now....

When it was Bob's turn in the Telehandler, he had the pleasure of extracting the very last sleepers from the left hand pile, which has now officially gone!

This is what it now looks like, without the pile alongside the running line. Four piles left, where there used to be five. And there isn't much left in the second pile either.

We did 100 sleepers before lunch.

Lunch was taken sitting on the bridge, from where we had an A1 view of all the trains passing by. Foremarke Hall accelerated out of Gotherington with some gusto, which was very enjoyable to hear.

Another DMU run, as the team considers whether we should have a go at clearing the second pile as well. Some of the sleepers there have rolled off into awkward positions.

With yours truly as lookout, it was possible to take some fine photographs of our Hall, here slowing down through Three Arches bridge as the train pulls into Gotherington.

As we dug into the very rear of the piles into what some called the jungle, we found this sleeper with a defect (or is it?) that we hadn't seen before - a tree root had grown right through the Pandrol hole! Unfortunately we didn't have any tools with us to try and extract this.

With still half an afternoon left, we ploughed into the remains of the second pile as well.

Bob here is fishing around in the jungle for those sleepers that have rolled off the top and right into the back.

The DMU pays us another visit, but we are now one row removed and feeling more comfortable with the extra distance between us.

At the end of the day, and with a little gentle persuasion to Bob, we cleared the second pile as well. We left a little later than usual (Andy P whizzed by with a beep-beep in the red Transit on his way home, and so did one of the Peasebrook crew, also on his way home) but with a big feeling of satisfaction - 194 sleepers stacked ready for loading, two sleeper piles completely cleared, and a total of 414 sleepers in stacks of 20 on site. Now where's that extension train?


A question arose the other day: What was the line speed of the Honeybourne line in BR days?
We asked a former steam driver for you, and this was his reply:

I’m not exactly sure about the line speed. But I’d say it was around 80mph. (The Birmingham - Swansea Dmus were limited to 70). At the South end of Greet Tunnel there was a speed limit of 50mph around the curve. The Cornishman with a Castle would certainly be doing 75 to 80mph most of the way between Honeybourne East and Cheltenham.

So it was a pretty fast line, but that is to be expected, as it was a very late build, and has an easy profile and large radius curves. It would be interesting to know what speed the iron ore trains were doing. We have a photograph of a 9F with such a train, and it looks quite fast. Former residents at Broadway told us of vibrations that affeted the laths in the ceiling, and a gas mantle that fell out as these heavy trains thundered past.

Soil nailing progress
The soil nailers at Broadway had gone home at the end of the day today, but from the pictures you can make out that they have covered approximately two thirds of the area they are going to do.

Progress looks good,  and the weather has certainly helped.

They are currently working by the goods shed, and the first third or so has also been completed with the caps and the wire netting.

Saturday 27 May 2017

A kettle in sight

A cold, breezy day today, very welcome after the heat yesterday but after a while, uncomfortably cold - some had to go and get their jackets, who would have thought of that? It started OK, nice and sunny....

Here's where we left off, before the new sleeper supply was shunted up. The rail wagons have been brought right up to the railhead, while the sleeper wagons are where they were last time - quite a long way away now - as we can't get at them on the high embankment on which we are working until the Childswickham bridge.

This is your gang for the day, just 13 of us. The size suits us, there is a job for everyone, and we don't get in each other's way. As we wait for the stragglers to arrive, we have a good cup of tea (or two).

We have new neighbours here, we're right next to a stable, and this is - a horse.

We said a cheery hello to each other.

To start with, there is a strap removal competition. Mike on the right calls out the 'ready-steady-go' and then we're off. There are 360 sleepers here; why the Conflat is only half full we didn't know, otherwise the number would have been 400. Perhaps it's a weight thing; 40 sleepers is 10 tons after all for the little 4 wheeled Conflat.

Here we are, all assembled at the current rail head. For those in the know, it's about 3/4 along the rape field just before the sewage works on the left behind the trees. We're now well away from Peasebrook Farm (and that horse).

Alan has been dispatched to collect the first load of sleepers from the supply train. It's miles away (well, maybe the best part of half a mile) and you can just about make it out in this picture as the dark shape on the track.

The rail wagon in the foreground contains 20 rails still. More have already been ordered, for delivery on June 12th. No pressure then...

Here's another view of the same thing, from the other side. The dip in the middle is bridge 4 at Peasebrook Farm. This area is due to be welded at the end of the month. We will be using CWR up to a 'breather' (expansion joint to the laymen) at Pry Lane bridge, the next one along, after that it will be one weld every other joint.

To start with, we have to hang the hooks on the spreader bar. It's the same thing every time, which hooks goes where? We can't leave them on, it makes the spreader bar too heavy to carry. These hooks are 'handed', there is a right way and a wrong way to put them on. And, no, it is not sufficient to just turn them round the other way.
The team puzzles over the arrrangement, until Bert Ferrule brings sound advice.

One small team sets off towards Broadway with an essential task: determining the exact line the sleepers will take. They hammer in these battens, and for the shorter distance by the sleepers we use a rope, which is pulled forward (in a rather satisfying way) every now and then.

Is that a curve we can make out? Is that really the start of the curve into Broadway station?

Alan then arrives with a respectable pile of sleepers, 12 in this case. Nigel gives directions as to where they are to be stacked for a short while.

To save time while the JCB was elsewhere occupied, we did a couple of stacks 'on the side' as it were. Later, when the JCB was back and the Telehandler took a long time to get to us with the next load - the distance from the sleeper wagons getting longer all the time - we used them up again. In this way we made rapid progress today, which was very pleasing. And all this while Gala was in full swing, we didn't even go and look (although bits of it came to us, as you will see in a moment).

Then off we went, laying.

The hooking up team steps well back as the jumble of sleepers leaps up from the stack, and dangles into a sort of shape.

Instructions to Steve for the jib movement are:
and a new one we heard today:
Oh heck, we'll have to bar it...

We did 160 sleepers by lunch time, which could well be a record. An early start, good weather, a plentiful supply and two machines with no hitches/punctures contributed to this success.

In the background is the rape field, with in the bottom corner the hedge around the sewage farm - we are now next to it.

Boosted by the laying success before lunch, we decided to lay in a few rails as well. There were 20 left on the wagon, enough for 10 lengths (260 sleepers).

But what's this in the background? Steam? A kettle? A surprise gift to visitors to the gala was the part opening of the extension. The stop board has now been moved to just beyond Little Buckland bridge, and what you see is the 'Laverton' shuttle (now the Buckland shuttle?) in the form of GWR 1450 and its auto trailer, just setting off for Toddington again.

1450 and the auto coach? What does that look like on the new extension? Here they are, just setting off again from the new stop board. On the far right, the mess coach, so the extension gang is not far away. We have given visitors as much as we could. Next stop, Broadway!

As the little tank pulls the coach back south again, we see an angry sky over Cleeve Hill. This was about to hit us, after a promising sunny start.
Our cars are parked on the wide bit by Little Buckland bridge, it's the only place we can use to get to where we are working. But it is now increasingly far away from the rail head. We are scratching our heads over a new place to park, further up the line.

Back at the rail head, we surprised ourselves by how far we had come. Here Steve points out to Dave the different areas of the sewage farm, a place where Steve has actually been on a maintenance job, so he knows it well. Further back is the spire from Childswickham church, it's a new vista for us every day.

In this picture you can see the distinctive tower of the sewage farm, and how close we are now to it. One of the last two rails goes in here. At this point, we have laid an amazing 240 sleepers, an excellent result for a day's work.

The last rail for the day is dropped in. We used 18 of the 20 rails left on the wagon. The last two were dragged off and laid on the ground, so that we can now say that the wagons are clear, and ready for the next load.

During the day, Leigh did an excellent job of temporarily clipping up the newly laid rails, ready for the welding team.

Dave and Neil help by lifting the rail ends to the correct height, so that Leigh can do up the special G clamp bolts. In the background is the Cotswolds edge, with Broadway village just out of sight on the left. The barns in the middle are alongside the B4632 which follows the line.

The railhead today, with 240 sleepers laid, and after 18 rails laid in. This gives 9 lengths built today, or 164 metres. Of course it all needs properly clipping up still, and welding, ballasting, regulating, sweeping, laying out clips and pads, stressing, welding, clipping up finally etc etc etc etc etc.......

On the left the Pry Lane end of the sewage farm, and the sweep of the ballasted curve into Broadway. By the end of the jib of the JCB you can make out the pilasters of Pry Lane bridge, which we should reach next time. This is also where the breather will go, then it's a change to more fishplates again.

This picture at the end of this rather dull and windy day shows exactly what we laid today. And we are definitely on the final curve, there's no mistaking that. The track has started to swing left.

The team is loading the tools back on the Landie here. Broadway goods shed can be glimpsed at the rear. We're on the curve.

And finally: More kettles!

Yes, a real, big train on our extension. Topped and tailed by a main line steam loco, the train has drawn to a halt by the new stop board on the right. The leading loco is standard visitor BR 76017, with a 'Red Dragon' headboard. There's a head at every window, and no wonder, the extension to Little Buckland opened today.

Tuesday 23 May 2017

The Broadway canopy goes on

Bet that surprised you, you didn't know that was coming...

Well neither did most people, it was a snap decision when the loco team learned that they could not use the Toddington car park to make the trial assembly due to a field out of commission for the gala. So it was decided last minute to take the whole lot to Broadway and see if we can assemble it on site. And they did! It looks brilliant. It took all afternoon, but all 6 trusses are up, as well as the 5 ridge purlins, the ones with the beautiful arches.

Tomorrow the steelwork will be further bolted together, and next week the crane will return to lift in the purlins and fascia boards, another day's work.

Because of the scaffolding, it's a bit hard for the man in the street to see what has happened, so here are some photographs of the work that went on this afternoon. It's an exclusive, hot off the press.

Vic Haines came to Toddington this morning and loaded two lorries with all the bits you saw on the Hayles blog yesterday.

Here they are outside the station, with the purlins unloaded, up against the building, and the trusses being lifted one by one on to the steel framework inside the bricks.

It was a race to see who would be ready first - the bricklayers, or the team manufacturing the canopy. In fact the loco dept won by a short head. A few more rows of corbelling remain to be done.

The issues of transport, and assembling the canopy on site were solved by a single vehicle - the crane lorry from Vic Haines at Pershore. They did an excellent job for us today.

The 6 trusses were lifted on, starting in the middle with trusses B and C.

You can now see how far the canopy projects out over the platform in the foreground, and the scaffolding recently lifted takes account of this.

The second truss is lifted into place here.

The weather was so sunny that we became hot and thirsty, and our visiting Finance Director unexpectedly opened his dusty purse to offer us all a drink of lemonade. It was very welcome.

Once the first two trusses were approximately in position, the first ridge purlin was offered up. This connects the two, and confirms their positions.

While we were craning more trusses into position, a member of the crew - there were only 4 of us on site - already started drilling the holes to bolt down the first trusses we had put down.

With the third truss in place, the second ridge purlin could be lifted into place. the canopy was starting to look like something. It was a heart lifting moment, to see this actually being assembled, after so much heartache and discussion. It will look magnificent.

A conflab ensues on what is in its place, what isn't and what is/is not vertical.

It all went extremely smoothly. Only a single piece of angle had to have 1/8th inch shaved off the end to make it fit. It's an amazing testimony to the savoir faire of the small team in the loco dept. Congratulations, guys !

The different elements were initially G clamped together, until everything was properly wriggled into its place and the positions confirmed.

Soon we reached the northen end of the canopy, as truss 'A' is lifted into its place on the end. Beyond this is the canopy overhang, which conncts with the bottom of the footbridge steps.

Besides verifying the positions of the trusses in terms of the 'I' beam running around the top of the building, Neal also checked to see what the platform side overhang was doing in relation to the edge of the slabs below. We see him here dropping a line down to make sure it was all OK.

Now looking back south, with the truss 'A' behind the camera, we can see the ridge purlins in place on trusses B and C, and once again Neal checking with a level that everything is in its place.

A few moments later, the ridge purlin between trusses A and B was also located. You can now begin to see the lovely row of arches on this traditional rivetted canopy; that's what it was all about. There is going to be  a row of glazing with traditional coloured glass all the way along here.

Looking north again in a brilliant spring evening sun, you can see the arches striding along the ridge of the canopy.

Here we can see Neal with the mag drill following on with the gusset plates, which hold the ridge purlins on to the trusses. There'll be a lot more of this taking place tomorrow.

As the sun started to go down, the final truss 'F' was lifted into place at the southern end of the new canopy. You can see a lovely bit of corbelling brickwork on the corner.

Because of all the scaffolding in place around the top of the building, it's a bit difficult to give a good view from the ground of what is going on up above. Here is a shot from the site of the old viewing platform, which has just been taken down. You can make out the southern end truss, sort of.

This shot is from the signal box steps. Still not great photography, but you can see the last ridge purlin being lifted into place at the southern end. The whole of the canopy assembly is visible here. Still to come, as mentioned earlier, are the purlins and fascia boards, which hold the ends together.

Back on top, we can see a close up of the last ridge purlin, which has just been lifted in.

There's a whole row of steelwork up here now, and more to come next week.

A last look at the final ridge purlin going in.

Those arches are just amazing, and it's almost all been made in house, by our very own people.

The fascia boards will go on to the ends visible in the foreground here.

You can see all this during our open evening on Friday, and we'd love to see you and show you what we can. Do come.

Soil nailing progress.

Good, steady progress continues to be made here. The machine is steadily working its way along the embankment, and as of this morning, was a bit over half way along. There are no major issues as far as we know, which is a relief.

Here we see the machine with completed nails sunk on the left, and new nails laid out on the right. The sites of the nails to be sunk are marked out in red. The bottom row has already been done.

In this area at the beginning of the site the nails have had their caps put on, and the fence like matting has been laid out over it. This is what it should look like at the end.

This panoramic shot gives you the impression that the machine has almost finished, but that's a trick of the (camera) eye. Where it's standing is a bit over half way, but still good progress.
A bundle of 'nails' (actually hollow tubes) can be seen in the foreground; also the pump for pumping up the cement slurry is visible, together with its compressor.

The road along the bottom has dried out again, thank goodness.