Wednesday 30 August 2017

A day trackside

A day trackside can provide the opportunity to photograph the PWay gang at work, and - get some great loco shots from unusual positions. This is what happened today.

We are still waiting for timbers for the second turnout at Broadway, so today was mostly spent sorting out sleepers that where highlighted on Saturday in the Winchcombe area.

This track defect is where, you say?
Wanna buy a fresh Gherkin? We got 'em.

One of our members is also a DMU driver, and he was able to report back first hand about a rattling noise reported by a neighbour near Little Buckland. A loose SHC clip seems the most likely culprit, but we went up and asked him to get back to us with an exact location (20 yds north of the 6 1/2 MP).
It's handy having people with two roles, it really helps communication.

Then we all went off to Winchcombe to attend to several sleepers reported worthy of replacement there. This is not so straightforward as it sounds. You need to find some good quality second hand ones, from a big pile that may already have been sifted for other purposes. Here is the gang having a major sort out, from a pile whose origins go back to the tunnel and Didbrook relays some months back. We have good quality re-useable, gardening quality, and scrap.

Having dropped half a dozen sleepers off along the stretch of track in question, we were able to start the job. All the sleepers that needed replacement had chairs with 'through bolts' on them. This is bad news.

Here is Andy with the nut runner, having a first go at releasing the nuts on top. When not seized, the whole bolt will spin round, including the big square washer underneath, so it's impossible to undo it.

Those that won't go have to be cut. That means getting the genny out of the GUV van, starting the second genny in the GUV to operate the electric winch to let the heavy generator down, and back up.

Once you've cut the nut on top right off, you're not out of the woods yet. The end of the bolt still sticks out through the chair, so it needs to be hammered through. Any volunteers for holding the drift with their bare hands? Thought not, so we had a go with an adjustable spanner. Brave John, can you see him wince?

While we are busy doing this, Jules keeps a careful lookout for us for any passing trains, as today is a normal operating day, and there are three trains about, all of them passing this stretch. They get a very clear yellow signal to slow down. Mind you, they are already pretty slow here, as often as not the home signal is on anyway.

The DMU trundles by, our colleague John L at the controls. Has he found out about where the rattling sound is yet?
This shot shows well how Winchcombe is in a bowl, surrounded by the Cotswolds Edge. The size of the new visitor centre among the other buildings is very clear here.

When the DMU returns a few minutes later there is a hasty exchange of shouted information about the possible rattling issue at Little Buckland. Doesn't sound too bad then. Driver John hangs out of his cab to talk to Dave.

A few moment slater and we are interupted again. When the DMU reaches Toddington, it releases the steam hauled train, which comes back south again.

Dave and John seem to have lost interest in it by now. A 100 year old loco coming by? Yeah, whatever.

It's that the locos crawl by, because the home signal is on. Suddenly it's off. The loco crew open the regulator with a whoosh, and now Dave and John look up.

The passage of 2807 releases the road for the crossing Pacific, so now we are interupted by P&O chugging out of Winchcombe. Again the track gang stands back to admire.

Trains gone, we can address those sleepers again. The main issue here sems to be that they have split. This is just as well for us, as without this, it is almost impossible to get them out. They have to be broken up on site to release those through bolts.

Here is Dave trying vainly to wriggle out one of the bolts. With a bolt in place digging into the trackbed underneath, it is nigh on impossible to drag the sleeper out of its bed with the nips.

Here are the first two we got out. Not much left of them now.

And then 35006 again. Seeing this heavy monster, we are glad that we are changing the sleepers for decent ones. The train of 7 carriages, soon 8, seems to stretch into the distance without end.

Train gone, sleeper out. Four gang members bring up a replacement sleeper, which will be pulled in and fitted with the easier AS1 chairs that have three screws in them. They can be released from above, that's not too difficult to deal with.

Now it's 2807's turn to steam by. You can see from the exhaust that the temperature is now lower than it used to be. In fact it has been drizzling all morning, which has a single advantage - it makes for a fine, steamy picture.

The tender says it all: GREAT ! It really is great to see these 100 ton machines rumble by so close up. That's what you get as a member of the track gang. You get to lean on a bar too, very relaxing, and you look busy as well.

Lunch time now. It's nice to be at Winchcombe, because you can sit round the table and benches at the end of the Coffepot and have a good natter. Then something strikes you about John's hat:

Er, John, don't move now, but there's a wee beastie on your hat. You had to admire John's courage, but he didn't move a muscle. Cool as a cucumber he was (or maybe a gherkin). The dragonfly preened itself for us to admire.

After lunch, more sleepers, and more locomotive action.

Isn't the zoom lens a great invention? 35006 seems to steam right out of the hills here.

Then you get the wide angled lens, which makes it look like a really long train. But it was a really long train too.

We stand back and let this beautiful machine glide by. 2807 has drawn in from CRC and is waiting for the road to clear in the background. Busy busy busy.

And there she goes! The road is clear and Toddington is still 2 miles away. The regulator is cracked open and she steams by under the home signal.

I'm praying - are you praying? Yes, but are we facing the right way?
Mid afternoon, and we're a couple of men short. They have drifted off to the telehandler, where an intermediate greasing up session is due. This is facilitated by a brand new grease gun that actually works (whoo - hoo) but there is still a very large number of inaccessible places to attend to.

Meanwhile the sleeper replacement gang is still at it, trying to break the sleepers in half, this being the best way to get them out, without jacking the track up, which is discouraged when spot resleepering.

We changed 5 out of the 6 sleepers we set out to change today. Not bad, given the circumstances.

Back at Toddington to take the tools and scrap back, we were met with a surprise. Foremarke Hall was being winched on to a low loader. Where is it going to? Old Oak Common, where there's a last beano before they knock the old place down. It's only for a day, she'll be back again soon.
We sent our loco there absolutely spotless, well done those cleaners.

In the background, 35006 is manoeuvering to get back on shed, after a good day's running. One in, one out.

Here you can see just how shiny she is. What a great support crew they have.

Afterwards we took the Landie down to the 2807 coach to unload the 10 throughbolt chairs for them. They collect those chairs, unuseable here, to turn them into boot scapers. We noticed, next to some LMSR and BR (W) ones, a couple of genuine GWR ones. Those will be extra, we take it?

When you go on holiday with your steam loco, don't forget to take the key with you.

Finally, a little interesting oddity out there:

Here's a loco shed for a local narrow gauge railway. It looks quite convincing, doesn't it? But it's made out of two sea containers! Now that is a clever bit of disguise, and a sign of someone with some imagination. Well done, that man.

Saturday 26 August 2017

Out on the line

No extension work this Saturday, as we are waiting for an order of timbers for the second turnout at Broadway to arrive. It should be here within the week though. We also need to fill a void where the turnout will go, and for that 100 tons of fresh ballast have arrived. Just need to dumper it to the site now.

Meanwhile there is a list of developing track defects that we would like to attend to, as we can't just ignore them and build the extension instead.

Here is one of our valliant track walkers, in casu Tony.

He is armed with a picnic, a can of yellow spray paint and a spanner. With the spanner he can do up loose fishplate bolts, and tap the plates in passing to see if they are broken.

All the defects are highlighted in yellow, and noted down on a sheet with a description and their location.

Different trackwalkers for different lengths note down their defects, which go on a master sheet - ours, to Winchcombe, covered 4 pages. A lot of it is small stuff like a missing key or a loose chair screw, we write down absolutely everything we spot during our regular walks.

The list of jobs started with one right in the platform but, astonishment, there is a train with passengers parked right there. What??? All we can do is wait therefore, until it leaves.

Next to the DMU, there were two steam locos out and about today, and here is the biggest one, P&O, reversing on to its train.

It's quite a noisy one, the open draincocks are deafening when they hiss past.

One bench seats only 4 gangers, so a second bench was occupied with more of us, further along.

Pete inspects the contents of the wheelbarrow, which is full of the bits and pieces we know will be required, as per list for our section. It's heavy stuff.

Even the DMU driver's getting impatient now, when is it going to leave? Signals, green flags, bell codes are all required before it can finally set off for Little Buckland.

Finally the gang can jump on to the track, even as the DMU is receding into the distance.

It's a broken fishplate here, which is easily removed. There's a choice of new ones laid out on the platform. Unfortunately, there are many different types, especially in this area, a stretch of track laid in the very early days.

Once through the station, we're on the southern side, and by now P&O is about ready to leave. On platform 1 Tim is just chasing out a loose key, to be repaced by a more modern Panlock one, which is less susceptible to falling out.

We're all keeping a careful lookout of course, and eventually it's time for the train to leave and we all step aside to let it pass. Should make a good photograph, that giant Bulleid passing in front of our gang.

That's what you thought! It must be in there somewhere though.

Then it's back to fishplate repair, the one marked out in yellow. Notice the bucket of grease in the foreground, we'll explain about that later.

The GWSR being a busy sort of railway (one reason why people come to see us, there is lots going on) we soon step aside for an incoming train from Winchcombe, this time headed by 2807.

Still in the same area (it gets a lot of use, and hence more issues than plain rail along the line) we get the DMU pulling out, after two trips up to Little Buckland. Now it's a trip to Winchcombe.

This shiny powercar is the one in our picture at Winchcombe last time, pressed into service after the other one suffered from an intermittent engine fault. This was being attended to in the loco yard as we worked.

Of interest to the specialist, this is an original GWR check rail chair, with a wooden key still in use on the right. Originally all the keys were made of wood. Then they were replaced by the coiled steel ones on the left, aka Mills keys. You can just make out 'GWR' on the left.

After drawing in with its train from Winchcombe, 2807 ran round its train and is seen here advancing past the signal box and on to platform 1 to couple up again.

We had another interesting activity on the side, which was to check the levels of the two tracks leading up to (or out of, for some) the diesel shed with roads 10 and 11. These are relatively recent, received only an initial packing and levelling, and are now due to be concreted in with an extension of the apron round them. For that they have to be perfect of course.

Nigel and Jack determined the height differences, and sprayed the results on to the sleepers in orange, on the right.

In the background is the main gang, on their way with the list of jobs in the direction of Didbrook.

At lunch time we celebrated Nigel's birthday - it comes but once a year, which is a shame, as the fairy cakes were free for this momentous occasion.
Graham carefully considers his options, as armfuls of tea are being brought in the background.

After lunch, and with diesel shed road measurements duly taken, we split into two gangs, with the second working towards the first from Winchcombe.
Here the first gang has worked past the station confines and progress is a little more rapid now, until the DMU caught up with us again.

We're approaching Didbrook here, and we're now out in the country. One of the big advantages of this job - good countryside, and good company. Well OK, two advantages then. (Shades of the Spanish Inquisition sketch here, for Python afficionados)

We're expecting the DMU back from Winchcombe next, so John here is keeping a good lookout for it. (this is the same John as in the photograph of Cadbury No. 1 in the platform, recently posted on the Early GWSR Flickr site, and in the same pose with his back to the camera).

You can see the picture in question here:

Here's the DMU back from its mission to Winchcombe. It stopped at Hayles to pick up 3 passengers too.

A new fishplate is being fitted here, as Ade holds one half of the old one in his right hand. Mostly they are just cracked, but this one has broken right through. It will be replaced by a special 'deep skirted' one, seen in the foreground.

Here the lads are knocking off an old pair of fishplates (they can cling on quite tenaciously). Behind is the picturesque village of Didbrook, then the Cotswolds Edge.

Once the defect has been repaired we need to cancel out the yellow paint. The bucket in the earlier picture, filled with sticky black grease, comes into play here. There's a call for 'pass the Tippex' and then the thick black grease is painted over the yellow paint and hey presto, it's gone! No more track defect.

We keep a careful eye open for trains, and have a lookout with 3 flags, ready to stop any train, or to caution it if so required.

Tony's on this duty here.

The last train of the day trundles by just as we are packing up. We give them a cheery wave; of course we all know each other, we're a team.