Friday 15 December 2017


Alas, not !

Due to the snow earlier in the week, the whole timetable had to be moved along by 3 days, and only a very small group of volunteers could handle that change of dates (and had forgiving wives).

Wednesday then, a normal working day for the gang, saw us out in force prepping the last 1000m.

Thursday was the new stressing and welding day.

You'll have to bear with us for using a 'stock' photograph (we have stressed 3 times in the last year) but with a bit of luck we should be back to real time photography this Saturday, as the new camera arrived, at last, this very evening. Not a moment too soon! It is currently being charged, then your blogger will need to find a spotty teenager to tell him how to use it. The new camera is in fact a smartphone; let's see how long that lasts. Anything over 6 months is a 'win' over the Canon Ixus with the telescopic lens that is so sensitive to dust (check) knocks (check) and pocket fluff (also check). It's a rough life out on the Pway, and the camera was a sensitive little flower. It died. Again and again.

So, most of the snow has now gone and we can see the track again. The welding crew arrived safely from quite some distance away, and after checking the exact length of the job and the temperature set up the hydraulic pulling apparatus.

The whole apparatus is portable, you just clamp the arms to the 2 rails, start the surpisingly small generator and off it goes.

For the detail buffs out there (We know you are there) the distance to be pulled was 205mm, and the temperature of the rail was 5 degrees Celsius.

Mick measured the distance left between the two rail ends, allowed for the thickness of the weld, and then an appropriate piece was cut off to fit the gap to be pulled (almost) shut.

Just a small slice had to be cut off, then everything was ready for the pull. This went very easily, blink and you could miss it. We don't just stand and stare, there are other jobs to do while this goes on, and the next time you have a chance to look, they are getting the welding kit out already.

For the March stressing session there is a video on YouTube here:

It's just 3 minutes of a rail end creeping along at snail's pace, and we hesitated to publish it for fear of getting a lot of 'dislikes' for a boring video. In fact the piece has now had over 5.000 views, and numerous 'Likes', with only one person a bit disappointed with the speed of the pull (or so it seems by his 'dislike')

The little genny manages an amazing pulling strength - 350 tons of pull it does! The pressure in the hydraulic hoses is 7000 PSI, so it's no wonder that an apparently immovable object can be stretched by 20cm. In the picture they are levelling the two ends so that they are perfectly parallel, before setting up the weld.

Still pulling the whole show tight, the ends are heated with gas burners, ready to receive the molten metal from the combustion process.

In the meantime, all hands on deck for the rest of the gang, including anyone spare from the welders, as the 4 rail ends now have to be clipped up as fast as possible to secure the stressed rail. Yesterday the welders went north for 3 lengths, while our little PWay gang of 5 (!) went south, fully clipping up this minimum length as fast as we could.

Then the pot with the chemical reaction went on, was lit, and for a few moments there are sparks, bright lights, smoke and an impressive orange glow as the molten metal drops into the mould.

The original idea then was to assemble a gang of 40 volunteers, mess coach and loco on site, to do a super-mega-clippathon the next day. There were going to be so many volunteers that lunch would have to be in two sittings.

You wish.

What actually happened was that the day after the stressing and initial securing of the stressed rail was today. Only six (!) volunteers managed to come out and help. A quick cup of tea in the mess coach, huddled round a portable heater, a mince pie stuffed in your pocket for later, and we set off in the Landie and a couple of 4x4s (the Buckland entrance is very boggy after, it seems, someone dug a trench across it and only loosely backfilled it). On site we split into 3 teams of 2 and clipped up what we could.

This picture, taken in March, shows what we did all day. On your hands and knees, trying to get the plastics into gaps that were too small, and then hammer in the SHC clips or pull in the pandrols, depending on the sleeper type. Because we were not 40 but only 6, the best we could achieve was a minimal securing of the rail, being one sleeper in every 4. The pressure was on, as the extension train at Childswickham is due to be recovered on Tuesday, and the train must get through!

At the end of the day, working under a bright sky with an icy wind whistling from left to right across the tall embankment at Peasebrook, we did manage to do it. Such a relief. The track should now be useable by a works train, subject perhaps to a final inspection. Every 4th sleeper is fully secured, all the rollers are out, all the pads are in, all the materials distributed.

What now remains to be done is to clip up the bunches of 3 sleepers we didn't do today. Fortunately this is not urgent, and can be done bit by bit.

We retired home, creaky, to be welcomed by a hot cup of tea and a crumpet with strawberry jam. Who could ask for more? Not to mention the tremendous job satisfaction of having achieved the minimum clip up, with a minimum gang. We did it!


  1. Excellent job, well done by so few for so much!

  2. You all earned your tea and crumpets.

  3. Well done from me as well.
    And as one of your "detail buffs" I am relieved to know that my calcs still work as they should.
    Now try it at 03.00 in a morning.
    Only joking.
    Well done once again.

  4. Good that you managed to get that last bit of CWR mostly finished despite the snow last weekend. I've got suspicions that the weather is only going to get worse from here on for some time due to a La Nina going into effect.

  5. Had a thought. how about a portable kitchen (caravan), for those more inaccessible places for the rail kitchen (BG), and when being far from where the kitchen is. A caravan could be pulled by any vehicle with a tow hook and hot food could be served at lunch time. I'm sure that a reasonably priced caravan could be found and purchased. Just a thought.

    Anyway, well done to those who did manage to turn up for stressing of the 1kM of track (and associated work). Not nice weather at the moment, with icy winds. Regards, Paul.

  6. Yes, St Blazey is right (as usual), but the GWSRY could, by now, if they wished, have done a quick cosmetic repaint of the GUV, and made it available to our brave volunteers as a makeshift mess van.

    Lack of imagination in high places is what I call it.

    As S.E.Bebbington has already commented, You have all earned your tea and crumpet, though at my age, and as an old bachelor, I would be happy to make do with a nice pot of tea.

    Go on, you brave lot. Do what you can, when you can, weather permitting.

    Peter Wright

    1. The GUV!? No we bloody couldn't! It only arrived less than a fortnight ago. A quick sand down and a repaint would take at least 5 weeks, the GUV would need more than that. And the paintshop is currently fully booked until April-ish, at which point we may get to it. We do have other things to do too; getting a second disabled coach ready for opening to Broadway along with winter maintenance is at the forefront of our minds! So some might call it lack of appreciating what else is of importance...

      And in any case, I see that today the class 20 took the P'way coach and tool van up to Broadway anyway.

    2. Oh Alex. Really. Keep your hair on !

      It was just a suggestion. O.K. The C&W have other things to do right now, besides renovating the GUV. Right, I've got that.

      And, no, I'm not in any way criticising the C&W dept. (which I'm sure has more than enough work to do.)

      I see from Jo Roesen's most recent post that the PW train made its way to Childswickham road bridge, complete with a jam sponge cake ! I'd no idea they had got that far. So, all is well, it seems.

    3. The joys of internet communication, no tone, intonation or body language!
      Alex :)

    4. Hello Alex.

      No, I can't do body language at my age. But I can still enjoy a bottle or two of good old English ale, or a bottle of wine, in good company, of course.

      This always makes for good conversation, including agreements, disagreements, or whatever, with a bit of bad language thrown in.

      No. I agree.
      Internet communication is not the same, is it.

      Well, I know several good hostelries in Broadway. And I might be there in the new year. So, who knows ?

      Merry Christmas.