Monday 31 July 2017

Stack 'em high

A small team did a vital task today - reloading the empty sleeper wagons.

But first, a joyous news item - Santa came early this year! What did he bring us? (see end of the post, we couldn't resist opening the present)

Five of us met at Skew Bridge this morning to assemble a trainload of reject and non-standard sleepers, with which we can lay the up line siding at Broadway north.

An attempt had been made to stack the non standards separately, but over the weeks the piles became rather haphazzard, so needed sorting out again today.

These are the good ones, we still have say 180 of them. But in between were some left over SHC style sleepers, and here you can see Dave P squeezing the Telehandler between the piles to pick out the ones we now want to use.

The whole supply train was down at Skew Bridge. It's easier to manoeuvre it that way, rather than splitting it up for the day. The class 73 is almost round the bend, in sight of Gotherington station.

The jumble is a pile of rejects; we still need to sort these out. A job for Wednesday, if we can get a Telehandler driver. Today was strictly a loading excercise.

And here we go, 120 sleepers already stacked, and it isn't even lunch time.

Knowing how many we had to go at Winchcombe, we left some of this wagon and all of the second clear for them. Neil then took the train to the PWay sidings at Winchcombe.

At Winchcombe, the supply train was parked by the bracket signal while stabling arrangements were discussed. The appropriate roads were then set, and here you can see the class 73 begin to pull the train forward into platform 2.

Then it was hunt the sleeper in Winchcombe yard. There were many odds and sods dotted around the yard, and the Telehandler shuttled about assembling forkloads in fours, enough to stack on the bogie flats.

This picture will give you an idea of the 'easter egg hunt' that we did. Can you see the Telehandler? Well, just about. Let's hope the tyres stay intact this time (they did).

Lunch time.

We had noticed on earlier occasions that there was a very nice pair of benches by the C&W shed - what were they for?

We tested them, and found that they were comfortable, and gave a superb view of the activities in the yard. So that's why!

Driver change over after lunch - Bob and Dave.
A huge cube of rubber pads for sleepers

After lunch we went back to work, passing by this cubic metre of rubber pads for sleepers. We are assured that all will be used on the extension. Wow!

The Telehandler delved ever deeper into the jungle, but did extract, slowly, a whole wagon load of additional sleepers, which will suit us nicely for our siding at Broadway.

Here's the train, now (almost) fully loaded. We put on 290 (+/-) sleepers, not quite full but enough for the job in hand.
Neil then reconfigured the supply train by extracting the empty rail wagon and parking it in the PWay sidings. The other wagon with a handful of new rails remaining is still part of the train.
The shorter supply train was then taken up the extension. Hearing this, Bob and Dave P cadged a cab ride to see what the Saturday gang had achieved - it was new to them.

Waiting for the supply train to pass Hayles Abbey Halt, it struck us how green the halt now looked.

We are still strimming and (selective) weed killing here, to eliminate brambles from the newly sown grass.
Not long after, the class 73 trundled by with 6 filled Dogfish and the 290 sleepers loaded today.

It crept up the extension-in-progress at a snail's pace and finally arrived at the railhead at Childswickham. The sleeper wagons were so parked as to enable unloading from the side next Saturday. This photograph is quite rare, you don't see many trains up here (yet). This is probably the first time a train has ever been up here, so savour the moment.

Here are the newly delivered sleeper wagons, right at the end of the rails.

Broadway goods shed is just behind, and a glimpse of the station footbridge can be made out in the distance.

Then it's back on board, to take the Dogfish back to the limit of operation.We will shortly be ballasting the next stretch of 1000m of CWR for tamping and stressing.

Dave gives a friendly wave to your scribe - he has to stay behind and drive home in the car. No cab ride then. Byeeeee....

Ah yes, and Santa's present for us? What's in the sack then?

A set of 12 inch cast aluminium letters for the BROADWAY running in boards. One of the 'A's didn't come out well enough in the casting process, and we have replaced it with a bottle of delicious Hayles Fruit Farm apple juice, which is very fitting as the Hayles gang had many a happy stay there. The other 'A' will be delivered with the second set.
These replica letters are based on actual letters that were lent to us by the Cheltenham Area Group, by some friendly volunteers at the SVR, and a handful were bought at auction. It wasn't easy collecting a full set, but we got here in the end. Thank you all for helping us with the loan of your letters, you will get the originals back very shortly now.

Saturday 29 July 2017

The first turnout takes shape

Despite the holidays, our team has grown in size and we had plenty of volunteers today. It must have been the doughnuts last week that brought them in, but - haha! - there were none today.

Diesel day today. This was the view from the mess coach window. This green class 37 is certainly a success, and this first train of the day was well filled. The diesel enthusiasts even got a first class coach in the rake - special treatment!
How do you know how far appart to lay the rails?
While loading up the Landie, Alan exchanged a few friendly words with a curious stationmaster. Always happy to help with a smile. Then it was time to set off for our destination - Broadway north.

According to this plan it is back to front...

Here we continued to lay in the first turnout on site.

And we have  plan! We have a drawing for the turnout, which is fully reversible (so that you don't need two drawings), but do we want what's on the drawing, or its mirror image?

Nigel explains how it will go in.

This stretcher bar explains where we got our turnout from - LAV SOUTH.

LAV NORTH will go at the southern end, and so doing will complete the loop at Broadway.

A third turnout, off the loop, will give access to the siding.

After quite a lot of wriggling and levering, we got the first switch into position.

Having it on top of the sleepers allowed us to position those further. They are of course all numbered, but there's nothing like having the original switch on top to show you where everything is meant to go.

The sleepers were approximately one bed out of position, so all had to be barred up by one, once the switch had been lifted a little higher to allow the sleepers to be pushed around underneath it.

Here the sleepers at the the station end are being sorted out. Steve and Paul are on the jacks, while Nigel gets ready to pounce with the bar.

Once all the sleeper positions are satisfactory, we get the nut runner going to tighten up the chair screws. Not all of them though; we need a bit of flexibility so that the whole unit can be nudged later into its proper shape. If everything is done up tight first, it won't nudge (experience has shown...)

The nut runner is quite noisy, so it's earmuffs on, and everyone else stands well back to watch the show. Just to be sure, we all had earplugs in too. Eh? You what?

Then it was time to sort out the 'dink' in the turnout. It had a distinct leaning to the right, but we soon sorted that with the help of Steve's bucket. Now it's nice and straight, as it should be.

I'm pushing - are you pushing?
This end also has to fit. Alan, Paul and Leigh are on bars to make sure that the inch wide adjustment does not result in an overshoot.

With the dink sorted out, and all the chairscrews fully tightened down, it's time to pull in the clips with the Pan puller.

As we've only got half a turnout here so far, this is achieved quite quickly, but the end result is very satisfying.

 Steve is the lucky one with the first rail vehicle over the tracks laid so far. Just checking....

Of course there is a more official way of checking that everything is in shape. And the verdict was: It is. Job done.

Well, not quite, because having pushed all the sleepers up by one, we were one more short at the station end.

No matter, Steve soon got the next one along and lifted it under the end with the void under it.

We won't go any further for the time being, as that would make the turnout wider, and we don't want to hinder our access to the siding alongside.

There are still plenty more bits to fit to this turnout.

After a brief lunch - raspberry sponge, and a walnut cake were on offer today - we started thinking further ahead. Next would be the siding alongside, so this needs rails putting into position. Here Steve is seen dragging a pair northwards.

We dragged up 4 pairs of rails, as a start to the siding which will be laid from here. The sleepers will be laid backwards away from the far end, and the rails lifted in one by one as the JCB retreats.

Having completed the job for today - getting the two switches in - we broke up early. One group repaired to Peasebrook Farm to to some more track straightening, while another went to Stanton to examine a potential candidate for the second buffer stop.

Here you see the gang heading off to do those two jobs. The half completed first turnout is now nice and straight, and buttoned down tight.

The Landie follows with the tools, and allows us to see the start of the loop turnout, looking the other way towards our northern boundary.

On the way back to our cars, it's rather fun to dialogue with the Broadway gang. A bit of mutual ribbing, and a chat to see how we each got on.

Today BAG was mostly engaged on turning bricks into:

... wall !  And with the dry weather we had, they were doing really well. This is the final portion of platform 1, and the infill they are doing will link '1A' to '1'. They achieved three courses today, which is very good. All pointed up too. And we are continuing to use reclaimed, original blues, not concrete or preformed elements. This not only looks more authentic, it's cheaper too - all our bricks have been recovered by our own hands, and we only have to pay for the mortar. The bricks they were using today came from the Avonmouth turntable pit. Others came from a sewage works at Wisley, and another big lot from two walls at Taunton station. Many of the reds came from the derelict MR railway stables at Ashchurch.

A bit more on that wagon in the goods shed.

Coincidentally, after posting a picture of the interesting wagon in the goods shed last week, your scribe was invited to offer advice to the Caravan Club about a corner in the shed with some history about Broadway station. During a tour of the shed, we were shown the wagon and were able to discover more of its purpose and history.

This is it. It's a beautiful horse drawn caravan in varnished wood and simulated brass beading. It is thought to be the first ever leisure caravan, purpose-built, in England. It is fully fitted out inside, with a stove and a bed for one person. The accompanying coachman slept underneath it!

'The Wanderer' was built in 1885 by the Bristol Wagon Works for author and retired Royal Naval Surgeon, Dr. William Gordon Stables. Shortly after receiving it, Dr. Gordon Stables took it on a huge tour from his home in Twyford all the way up to Inverness. Must have been a hard ride, look at those tiny wheels.

In 1907 the Caravan Club was formed, and Dr. Gordon Stables became its first Vice President. Although Dr. Gordon Stables died in 1910, 'The Wanderer' remained in the family until 1961, when it was bequeathed to the Caravan Club. It was eventually fully restored and since 2013 it has been exhibited at Broaday in the newly acquired GWR goods shed.
It's a unique exhibit, and certainly worth seeing.

This is the goods shed today. It's very well looked after, we must say.
In the foreground is the slope on which 3 sidings led down to a weighbridge by station road.

This is the huge sliding door which closed off the access from the road side. Neither the GWSR sheds at Winchcombe or Toddington still have this door, so it's quite a survivor.

We like the grille in the middle. You want what? To come in? We'll have to think about that....

This talk about the goods shed is a good occasion to mention the only piece of paperwork pertaining to Broadway station that we have ever found. It can be seen on display at the Broadway Tower. Unfortunately we were unable to see the original - if anyone can arrange this for us, we would be delighted, but in the meantime you'll have to make do with this photograph of a photograph.

It's a bill for 7/6d from 28th August 1907 - three years after opening - for transporting a horse from Broadway to Gloucester. The goods agent W.A White has thought it useful to add a comment that it is unusual to send the horse to Gloucester for sale there, and promise to pay the railway out of the proceeds! Luckily everything went well, as there is a receipt stuck to it dated September 6th.

If anyone else has any paperwork relating to Broadway, do let us know. A photograph of it would suffice, just something to have for our records. Email: breva2011 (at)

Wednesday 26 July 2017

Spreading ourselves thin

The Wednesday gang was about the extension in three different places today.

Camera coverage was mostly with this gang, which was working at Broadway north to resleeper the buffer stop we placed there.

This being only a buffer stop (and, we hope, a temporary one) we used some of the better second hand sleepers that came out of last winter's relay at Winchcombe. Eight were loaded on to the red Transit, and were unloaded at the end of the line, literally. Our property ceases at the fence in the background, then the empty trackbed, owned by another, carries on to Honeybourne.

The first job was to remove the chairs from the second hand sleepers. Yours truly is used to SR chairs with 3 chairscrews per chair; in this, the GWR region, we have 'through bolters' with only two bolts holding the chair on. This is fine, until you need to get an old one off. The nuts on top of the chair are mostly seized solid. Underneath you have a steel plate, which likes to revolve if you try to take the nut off the other end.

Our solution to the seized nuts was to cut them in half, then knock them off with a hammer. Crude, but effective, if a little tedious.

Note the GWR chair, from 1946.

Once the nut is off, you are not home yet, as the bolt is then stuck in the sleeper. To get this out you use a (SR!) type chair screw and try to hammer it through.

There were few volunteers for holding the screw while Paul swings the keying hammer at it, so he had to both hold the screw, and wield the hammer.

The now naked sleeper was then pushed under the buffer stop, which was equipped with special wide chairs to support the pairs of rails on which it rests.

Consternation - it won't go under! This means yanking it out, and digging the sleeper bed deeper.

Finally, when the sleeper is in its intended place, it can be drilled to accept the new chair screws, which are screwed in from above.

Trying to start the nut runner resulted in a snapped pull cord, and for extra enjoyment the drill bit got stuck, and then detached itself from the drill. All part of the fun.

Hallo, Dave? Dave ? Is that you?
Amusing anecdote for the day:

To start with, Rick was on his own at the buffer stop, no sign of sleepers or the rest of the crew, led by PWay section leader Dave.

Solution : Call Dave on the mobile and ask where he is.
Rummage in pocket for mobile. Discover that it is switched off, explaining the perplexing lack of inward calls.
Rummage for reading glasses. Reading glasses have only one lens, but still work.
Find Dave in the  list of names, scroll down, scroll down, ah: Dave!
Dial Dave.  Dave answers. A reasonably long telephone conversation ensues, in which he is asked for his whereabouts, when is he getting here, will he have the kit with him.

It takes Rick several minutes to realise that the apparent puzzlement at the other end is caused by the fact that he has dialled Dave the retired schoolteacher, and not Dave the PWay section head! 

 At the end of the afternoon we were pleased to be able to say that we had licked the old buffer stop into better shape, with a good set of sleepers under it. A number still need replacements for broken chairs, which needs a good poke round the yard at Winchcombe to see what we have.

The other job that still needs doing is that it needs plating up to the running line.

Here we have a clash of cultures, where second hand flat bottom rail meets bullhead section buffer stop. We think the latter may even by a lightweight 75lbs / yard, instead of the usual 95lbs, so will we be able to source some transition fishplates for that? It's a very unusual combination.

Beyond the bufferstop is our fence, then the overgrown trackbed, all the way to Honeybourne.
A second gang spent most of the day in the Peasebrook Farm area, where the track needed to be fettled and sleepers straightened. The Landie could not use the vehicle crossing just off camera to the right, as it isn't finished and the angle is too steep for it, with its low rail wheels out front. So the gang picked up their tools and walked it.
A loaded ballast train is ready to be dropped, once the track alignment is +/- satisfactory (the tamper will fine tune it)

At short notice today we also received the visit of two crews from Haigh Rail, as they had an unfilled slot in their diary, and that suited both of us! We had 6 welds that they could do for us, which will take the completed, fish plated / alternately welded track up to the bridge.
They day was brooding, with heavy clouds and occasional heavy downpours, just as forecast (unfortunately).

In this section of track with alternating welds and fishplates (120 foot sections) the fish plates are on, and here one of the Haigh Rail crews is heating the first weld of the day, with the familiar 'Vee' of flames shooting out of the top of the moulds.

They had a new form of crucible with them, seen here, which didn't spit and crackle as much as the other ones used to. Here the reaction is in full swing. Afterwards the crucible could be lifted away with a gloved hand, thanks to its insulating properties.

The second of the two gangs was located nearer to the Childswickham Road bridge, and is seen here attaching the moulds to the next gap to be welded.

The goods shed and Broadway footbridge can be seen in the distance.

And finally...

Pete Hooper, an avid reader of the blog, and user of the Caravan Club site, has sent in some photographs of the former Broadway goods shed, in its new life as a shower block for the club.

This is the Cotswolds side, which for us PWay workers on the trackbed, is never seen. The original heavy sliding door is still there, and the building is in excellent condition, having been very well looked after by its new owners.

Inside there is some lovely new tiling in white brick shaped tiles (left) and the former goods wagon road has been fenced off, but is still accessible via some new steps, that lead to a games area below.
The BROADWAY totem in the background is a replica fantasy of course, as our line didn't have these totems, but it does somehow look the part.

The second half of the lower road is occupied by a beautifully lacquered caravan. Must be an LNER caravan then...