Wednesday 31 January 2018

Broadway platform 2 ballast drop

Another filthy, wet start, it must be a working day for the PWay dept. Next year we volunteer for Carriage & Wagon...

We put our wet gear on, in the wet, behind the car. Maybe if we have a lengthy tea break it will clear up?
It did too, someone is listening and took pity on us.

First, tea and doughnuts all round.
So, for 30 days' fishplate greasing, I will get a certificate?
It was a large and jolly crowd, that soon split off into various directions, encouraged by the increasingly sunny clime outside.

Two teams went to Winchcombe, one to load up the Landie with some gear for Broadway, the other to work in the yard - result not known as we go to press.

As we passed through the yard, we couldn't help but noitice the fabulous concrete driveway being constructed.

Here is the finished bit, outside C&W.

It was being laid in sections, and today Wednesday the next section, just south of the C&W building, was being prepared.

Because of all the work and manoeuvering with contractor's vehicles, there is very little space, so the advice is to stay out. Hence the forecourt car park was chocka, and it wasn't even an operating day.

There was quite a bit of debate about fishplates, fishplate bolts and nut runners, until we finally took the Landie off to Broadway, as at 11 o'clock the first of two ballast trains was expected. Bowling along the B4632 at 10.50, we were astonished to see the first one already on the extension, trundling along steadily and us several minutes behind. We bolted up the car park slope to the site safe and fell out of the Landie, just as the ballast train arrived at the goods shed. Phew - made it!

The tools we brought up were transferred to a Permaquip trolley and taken to the bufferstops, where there was an outstanding issue with two fishplates. One gang then replaced and bolted up a pair, and spent the rest of the day adding additional bolts to the siding, and part of the headshunt.

The other gang at Broadway mounted the train and was propelled slowly all the way through the station and up to the headshunt. You can see that another ballst run was effected a few days ago, this drop still being fresh.

The train was shunted right back... right back... not too far, we hoped, that bufferstop can't afford to be buffered up to yet.

Well, at the end of the day it could. Let's hope they are there only in a temporary fashion, and that we can think about the next extension, once we have digested this one.

The purpose of the reversal was to drop the plough, put the (highly professional) old car tyre under it, and sweep the drop made last week.

With the tyre on, the plough becomes that bit more efficient at turning inside surplus ballast to the outside. It saves work for the regulator.

After using the plough, we did several more 'spot' drops along P1, starting as here at the northern end, to get a smooth drop all the way through.

As we enter the platform, you can see that the first Dogfish has already been emptied.

With the train crawling through the station, there is an opportunity to photograph it under the footbridge, in lovely spring colours.

We then made it through back to the southern end, and had a pow-wow about where exactly to drop next, and from which wagon.

P2 was selected, which meant moving the points. All have now had their tie bars fitted, so they are usable, albeit by means of a crowbar.

Not for long though, check out that ground frame that has arrived here. S&T are on the ball.

Then it was back through the station, with the SHARK leading and the class 73 pushing from behind. This is Broadway in the spring. The lamp tops fitted to the posts on the left were taken off again today, and fitted to the remaining empty posts along platform 1. We don't actually have enough lamp tops, and priority for time and expenditure is to get the basic station finished for the opening, which is approaching with giant paces.

As you trundle slowly through the station, you get a grandstand view of the frenetic activities there. Placing of the platform 3x2s was progressing well; they were about half way today, having reached the door to the booking hall. This platform surface quite transforms the look, and it is just like it used to be.

A glance into the booking hall shows that the clay tile floor is almost finished. There's a change of pattern to straight tiles round the edge, and all in all it's very Victorian and very convincing. The white wainscoting at the back will be dark brown; the walls above cream.

Back to the ballast train. We shunted it up to the turnout for the up siding, then slowly did a centre drop, one wagon at a time and without the plough. The final distribution will be done by mini digger, and this modus operandi is used to avoid dropping too much between the platforms, which we want to avoid as it's difficult to cure.
Here the class 73 peers out from under the HIA footbidge, having just emerged from the shadows.

These few images of the train slowly pulling through P2 are all extra large as they are colourful, striking and indeed unique. In future service trains will obscure this view, so feast your eyes now.

A last 'extra large' shot of the train as it passes the signal box. We built this from the ground up, using just an old photpograph, and our knowledge of GWR type 7 signal boxes. Isn't it fabulous? There's still a little spearhead gate to go in on the corner to close off the access to the locking room, and of course spearhead fencing along the replica lamp posts. That's for another budget though.

Here is a little 'before' shot of the bell cranks and rodding leaving the box to head north. We beg S&T for forgiveness, but unfortunately the ballast drop along here rather filled in the channels they had dug through the sleepers to the other side. Sorry ! In mitigation we would like to say that a member of the S&T dept was at the controls of the locomotive.

One by one the Dogfish were emptied along the up line, the last one here just discharging itself as we reached the southern turnout. The down line on the right still needs a load dropping on it, but - we have another Dogfish at the back! How's that for planning.

With the train and the last loaded Dogfish safely back over the southern turnout, the ballasting gang lever the blades back to the through line position. Soon we will be a able to do this with the ground frame.

And there we have it, all done. Fresh ballast through Broadway, doesn't it look neat. It still needs further distributing by mini digger, ready for the tamper to do its job. We have booked it for the 20th.

Mustn't forget the fishplate gang at Broadway though. While we swanned around on the train, they had the hard job of fitting two new sets of fishplates to the down line buffer stop, and adding additional bolts to the up line.

At the end of the day, having run out of bolts, they also ran a site tidy up trolley along the line.

We're not going to leave anything behind.

The trolley ended up being quite heavy to push. On it were two 60Kg base plates for example. It took two of us to shift them.

As we left, we passed the newly repaired Broadway station road bridge.

What part of 'LOW BRIDGE' did you not understand?

Saturday 27 January 2018

The smell of the grease, the roar of the crowd

Medium sized gang today, dare we split it into two? We dared.

The main gang trudged in the rain over to the pointwork being relaid at Toddington south.

We had the generous bucket of Stevie to help us carry the tools the 500m or so. Notice the sneaky puddle into which you will step when you have something heavy to drop into the bucket. Too late ! The squelch will follow you for the rest of the day.

A smaller delegation of two repaired to Broadway on a special mission to check the clearances on the P2 track, so that a ballasting train can safely pass ('safely' here means without scratching Neil's cherished class 73!)

On arrival - whoa! - the bridge is open, and what a great and very striking warning sign it now bears. In fact on leaving Broadway village half a mile away, the first thing you see as you drive down station road is the word 'LOW' in the distance. It should prevent a few strikes, and further measures are being seriously contemplated. It's a bit early still to say what, so let's wait until things are signed.

Between the platforms a barrow of ballast was propelled into the station.

The destination was this mini digger, which had just installed an extra catchpit where the station storm drains feed into the track centre drains.

Even on non-working days at Broadway there is someone on site now. Here Neal is giving the shuttering for one of the canopy extension supports a final tweak so that it sits exactly in the right position. It's wet down there, we are in original clay here and water seeps in all the time. There is a submersible pump to keep things dry-ish; it won't have to work long because the concrete pour is taking place on Tuesday.

On to the track for the job that we came to do.

We have to ensure with this gauge that the rail is at least a certain minimum distance away from the platform edge, all the way through.

It's not the final position, because the proximity to the edge will change when the track is tamped. If the level part of the gauge changes, then so will the upright.

At this stage all we are interested in is a proper clearance all the way through. More ballast trains are in the air, date to be confirmed, but it will be next week.

Most of the track was indeed a bit tight, so we jacked it out an inch or two most of the way along. All in the rain, while the Broadway gang ferried slabs in the dry. We're in the wrong gang here...

At the southern end there is a bit of a kink, caused by the proximity of the catch pit in the centre, and the fact that the track laid followed the platform slabs, which swing away a little here. You can't see that, but they do. We managed about three quarters of the 200m before it was time for lunch in the mess coach. We didn't want ot miss any of Mrs. B's most excellent cake, so hurried back to Toddy.

Just in time, as it turned out. Nigel was already cutting it into slices. If you were really fast, there was actually a choice of chocolate or vanilla. Or both...

Back to work after lunch, to finish off the last 50m or so. Behind us in this view here the track looked pretty straight, but what mattered was that it was always sufficiently clear of the platform edge.

During our work we were intercepted by a security patrol from the Broadway gang. We managed to persuade them of our honest intentions.

We did the whole platform length, except for this bit outside the signal box, which was buried in ballast and could not be shifted by mere mortals such as us. Stevie will nudge it into place on Monday with the mini digger here, no probs.

For the last hour or so we went on to Toddington south, where the main gang was in full swing, in now drier weather. Here is Chris adjusting the length of one of the rails in the crossing.

It all sounded very busy indeed - Telehandler, JCB, disc cutter, rail drill, and 'Animal', at times all going off together. But now you can see how nicely the new turnout is shaping up.

On the right two stock (straight) rails have been fitted, the second with check rails where the gang is standing. It's not as easy to assemble as it looks. Obviously it was a turnout before, but when you fit it with new sleepers and reassemble it from a kit of parts that's been lying in the undergrowth everything seems to have moved a bit.

Here's an example of something that's moved. This base plate was pushed under and on top of the new sleepers, but it won't go any further because the clip on top is interfering with the nut on the check rail. Now the top LH chair screw hole is off the sleeper. We 'put that one in a box' and will come back to it later.

The stock rail at the rear is too long and needs cutting to size, parallel with the end of the crossing. To check the position we resort to Pythagoras and his right angled triangle.

It still works! After all these centuries.

Chris was about to cut the stock rail to size when a warning came from the centre that the crossing was going to be nudged an inch towards Toddington. Just as well he hadn't started yet.

Meanwhile, Jim and Paul were doing up the base plates but found that the bolt for the clip wouldn't go into its holes. Remember that these rails have been dragged out of the undergrowth and through the mud on site. The culprit was eventually found and removed from its hiding place at the bottom of the bolt hole - it was a stone. Of course. Cheeky thing, but we found you!

Four o'clock soon came. The evenings are brighter now; we used to knock off at dusk at three o'clock. Here's a view of the turnout so far - can you see what it is yet? We've got a closure rail and another stock rail still to go, and most of the bits at the far end to be screwed down too. Then replace the plain track by the Telehandler, then start on the other turnout, and associated raising of the headshunt, which is currently lower than the main line. Plenty of fun to go still.

The gang trudges home as the sun goes down. That's not quite right though, as there was no sun, but it got less bright and that light would soon go out. Now to strip off the oily, sodden clothing, and try to keep that car clean too, for the ride home.

To finish with, here's a blast from the past, with a shot of the same area (in the distance). It was taken in 1982 by John Lees, a PWay gang member then, and a PWay gang member today. There must be something about the spirit in this gang to stick with it for so long. Certainly there is excellent cameraderie.

The track in the picture was laid during 1982, and prior to the start of laying the running line out towards Winchcombe, so in this picture the track laid peters out beyond the yard throat. By the big bush, that's where we are working today. It doesn't look quite right, it looks as if in the distance they used a RH turnout where they should have laid a LH one. Means must in those days, we mustn't crticise. You laid what you had, and were glad of it.

Last but not least, here is an interesting BTF film made perhaps in the late 1950s about how track replacement can be (sort of) mechanised.

Hope you enjoy it, as we did. Such nostalgia...

PS Last, last thing: an update on the bridges blog, take a look, as it's no longer on the main website blog list:

Wednesday 24 January 2018

First train into Broadway north

Another grim day, with a storm racing through during the night, and we woke up and went to work in the tail end of it. Very breezy, and rainy, again!

The day started with the sight of this mound of clay outside the mess coach, just where we park. It was being loaded into lorries for removal. Of course we know a trench for a new sewer is being dug up the drive, but that much clay?

Just in front of the toilets was a big hole - too much temptation to resist, we had to have a peep inside. The hole that is, not this big white ball, because that, we were told, is where our sewerage will be held before it is pumped up the road. Ah.

So where was the mess coach? Still in the parlour road, behind that big pile of clay. We hurried inside, to get out of the rain and the howling wind.

It was a modest start in terms of volunteer numbers, but Paul was ready with the doughnuts OK.

Six for each table, and on top of that Paul W had a birthday today, and treated us all to blueberry muffins. Now that is very civilised, what happened on everyone else's birthday? We think this should be a regular treat. There must be more birthdays out there.

We had our tea and dougnuts and after a while Dave stood up to brief us about the day's work. Just as he opened his mouth there was an almighty rainshower on the roof, it was so loud we couldn't hear him speak. At the end of the briefing we are expected to get up and go, but today nobody moved. There were just a few nervous glances out of the window, one of which was leaking badly towards the inside.

Well, someone has to make the first move, and as we went to get the Landie keys we had a quick look into the most attractive worksite on the whole railway today - the shotblasting tent for 76077. It was nice and warm and dry in there, and members of the loco dept. were following on from the shotblaster and starting to primer the frames. Looking good !

On arrival at Broadway we found a huge sign advertising a low bridge - who knew? Well, now everyone will know, no one can say that they didn't. Good move.

The works are ahead of schedule, originally planned for a maximum of 42 days, but the repair has proceeded well. This notice was attached to the Heras fencing, advising of a return to normal by Friday.

Then it was on to the work site. We loaded up the Landie with the tools from the site safe, then proceeded to the clipping up area south of Peasebrook. As you can see from the clothing, it was still raining steadily, and still windy. We split into two teams, one do to the southern bit (SHC clips) and one to do the rest of the northern bit (Pandrols). When the teams meet in the middle, the job would be done. And it was, end of the day. High Five ! That one's ticked off the extension list.

While the clipping up was going on - with a respectable 19 volunteers, at least that's what Doodle told us - the ballasting train turned up mid morning and took 3 volunteers on board.

Here we are in the Shark, at the wheel of the ship as it were. It reminded us of this 1968 hit:
The captain of your ship
Remember that one? Are you old enough? We were.
Of course the big wheel is to let the plough down, what did you think it was for?

The train then headed off for Broadway, to do another run alongside the goods shed.

The purpose of the run was to boost the coverage of the sleeper ends (seen in this photograph) and at the other end of the train, to continue the ballast drop to the Broadway southern turnout.

And of course it's still raining, as you can see from this garden gnome we hired in to open the hoppers.

Broadway's in the distance, see it?

Here we are actually going past the goods shed, with the furthest Dogfish at the turnout now. We'll need another, partial, drop here, as now these sleeper ends are exposed.

We had time to do a second drop, so after a bit of a pow-wow we decided to push on through the station, given that we were released from the prohibition to cross the bridge, as the repair work had been successfully concluded.
To push on through the station, we had to do the drop in the opposite direction, and to get the plough in the right position for it we split the train, parking the Dogfish in the through road, and the Shark in the loop. Then the class 73 retrieved the Dogfish, and attached them to the brake, so that it was at the back.

This meant a lot of to-ing and fro-ing over a turnout that wasn't geared up to be switched yet.

Yours truly was dispatched with a bar to 'throw the lever' as it were, while Neil and Rob secured the blades each time. We got quite good at this, with the practice we had. Luckily S&T are well on their way to producing a ground frame to do this job properly, until one day it will be done from the box.

Then off we went, propelling through the station. Who needs a volunteer's invitation to the first train, when you can do it 2 months earlier as part of your job?
The Broadway gang was busy laying the 3x2s on the platform, a great step forward. But there's nothing like a bit of excitement when a pioneer train rumbles through.

Having guided the train safely through the platform - we bumped into a chair left on the trackbed, what on earth was it doing there - we trundled on past the 'future maintenance facility'...

... and right up to the buffer stops at the far end, where Lee was awaiting us to give signals.

Here we are, parked at Broadway north. Another first! The doors of the hoppers are opened to let an initial rush of ballast out, which stops by itself as soon as the pile reaches the doors. The plough is lowered in the Shark, and then we are off:

As someone commented recently, you can hear the wind on the video, and in the Broadway cutting we are sheltered, so imagine what it's like at Peasebrook. Luckily by this time it had stopped raining.

The class 73 sets off, with the escaping ballast hissing behind it.

Or is it an incoming train from Honeybourne? This is what it would look like.

This ballast drop was a very successful one, as you can see on the left. The train has stopped just short of the loop turnout, good timing here. Next week we will be back with two more drops. Both roads here will be ballasted, in answer to an earlier question.

And here is a driver's eye view of a connecting train coming in from Honeybourne.

The empty ballast train enters Broadway station from the north, correctly on the down line too.

We slowly rumbled through Broadway station, past the goods shed, and once on the tamped part of the extension, accelerated to line speed to drop the Dogfish off at Stanton, ready for reloading. The three volunteers in the cab were neatly dropped off at Toddington in the platform, how's that for service. Just a short stroll to the car then.

As some of you have already noticed, the Flickr site has a new chapter under the 'early GWSR' banner, this time with the photographs of PWay stalwart John Lees. John was not only in from the very first year 1981, he also had a private pilot's licence and decided to fly over the railway soon after, to record the trackbed from above.
How did you fly the aeroplane, and take pictures out of the window at the same time, John? It seems he flew with the joystick between his knees...

John Lees' early GWSR photographs

Enjoy the pictures, they are a remarkable chronology. If you have any further information about any of them, do say so in the comments, that's what they are there for. The first 73 are now up; there will be more. All we need is some dark winter evenings to scan in the pictures, repair them, and upload on to Flickr. Be patient.