Saturday 20 January 2018

Grimly Fiendish

Wasn't that a cartoon character somewhere? It's how our day felt today - two whole degrees plus in the morning, and one-and-a-half in the afternoon. And almost incessant rain. We ploughed on at Toddington, there not being enough volunteers to form a splinter group for Broadway. We were barely more than a dozen today.

We couldn't park in our usual place by the mess coach, because that space was occupied by the material excavated from the trench for the sewage pipe being dug up the station appoach.

It looks like a big job.

We loaded our gear into Stevie's front bucket. Steve was sitting pretty, high up in the warm and dry cab of his JCB. We mortals plodded to work in the rain.

This was the site at opening today (actually photographed on a nice dry but cold day a few days ago).
The two switches of the main line have been laid in, but are not yet screwed down.

There were two missing timbers at the south end, which need to be longer so that the point operating mechanism can be attached. These were dragged in with nips, and with the rain the already heavy Jarrah sleepers seemed even weightier still today.

Here a short one is lifted into the front bucket of the JCB. One more lifter required...

The correct, much longer timbers were then positioned on top of the switches and dragged in with the nips.

A line was drawn from one end of the turnout to the other, to allow the timbers to be correctly positioned. At the southern end Tony had the drill out and was drilling through the chairs into the Jarrah sleepers. This was also hard work, the wood is very tough, but that's why we buy them!

At the northern end Alan was delivering sets of timbers, which we laid out along the line on the right. There were long gaps between deliveries, as for every two or three timbers he had to drive all the way back to the station car park and pick out the right ones - their lengths are written on the ends, but what it said there was not always true...

Eventually we ran out of space, and it was decided to left the next length out as well. This area will eventually be relaid anyway, and with the crossover going in here it will be difficult to reach, so we could usefully do it now. Steve is giving the rail a good tug, to get it out of the chairs.

With the rail removed Steve returned to lift out the sleepers in bunches. These were taken to one side for revaluation, and those that are really scrap had their chairs removed, in particular the old GWR type throughbolters.

Old hand Ivor keeps an eye on this process.

 Richard here had seen the grimly fiendish weather forecast, and had armed himself with a flask of lovely hot coffee. Just the thing on this cold and rainy day, a bit of hot coffee.

Could I have some of it perhaps?  Er, no!

I say, this coffee is lovely and hot and so delicious, oh yes.

We waited and waited for the next load of timbers, and finally decided that to keep us warm we would form a sort of bucket chain and go and empty a pallet in the background of heavy Pan 11 base plates. That certainly worked, for a few moments we were indeed much warmer.

Another option was to look at our watches to see if it wasn't lunch time.

And it was! Now there's a coincidence. Wearily the sodden wet workers trudge back to the mess coach, where it was warm and dry - and damp, with all the wet clothing being brought in. In fact Chris noticed that when he left after lunch, he was steaming as he stepped outside. Strange phenomenon.

Behind the mess coach at Toddington the class 73 was seen parked in the platform with the empty ballast train.

The date of the next ballast drop is not yet known, but we can do at least another one before we need to cross bridge 1.

Did you know that there is a bridges blog update on the repairs to bridge 1 at Broadway? You can click here to read a progress update:

In a few days we will also post an update on the repairs to bridge 34, the skew bridge at Gotherington.

South of the work site a couple of Warflats have been brought up loaded with sleepers, and the crossing for the turnout we are building.

Black pudding: check. Brown sauce: Check.
The reluctant drill needs a bit of muscle.

While the gang at the switches end was devoting considerable effort to drilling the holes into the tough, hardwood sleepers, Nigel was consulting the master plan which shows him the exact position of every rail and sleeper on this C9 turnout.

Our usual 'Animal' motorised nut runner proved somewhat underpowered on this job, and a couple of us set off in the Landie for Winchcombe to get heavier guns - a diesel powered Stumec chairscrew unit.

This was heaved on to its trolley on the track, but it then resisted all efforts to start it. Mean thing.

We had 3 vehicles on site, a narrow single track road alongside a double track railway. To our amazement a Vauxhall estate car suddenly appeared in the deep mud and wanted to get past. Both Steve and Stevie obliged by squeezing to one side, whereupon same car reappeared again a few minutes later to drive by the other way.


After lunch and a few more timbers fetched by Alan the construction of the turnout was sufficiently advanced to try and position the central crossing, which was loaded on the Warflat as mentioned earlier. This was duly retrieved.

Did you notice those strange bogies on the left? They are huge. What an interesting design.

They are spares for a class 47, we ascertained.

A few minutes later the crossing was more or less in place in the middle of the new turnout, but still needed tweaking into its exact position, as specified in the frequently consulted drawing.

Alan was asked to give it some final prods here and there, and Stevie also lifted it along a few inches. Not bad for a first attempt.

Next we have to replace some base plates on it, and move the timbers under it fore and aft, so that they are exactly underneath a base plate each, ready for drilling. Closure and stock rails will link the crossing to the switches. They are short, and can be lifted in a lot more easily.

Looking north, from above.
Looking north, at ground level

At the end of the day the two switches were fully drilled (see the orange shavings around each base plate), the next lot of timbers located, sorted and laid out, and the crossing roughly positioned on top.

Next week will see us screw the crossing down, and fit the 4 stock and closure rails. We also need to relay the panel of plain track we lifted today, and then the through line will be reinstalled again, but for ballasting and tamping.

Then it's time to start work on the other half ot he crossover, the turnout on the headshunt. This is currently somewhat lower than the running line, and will need to be raised to the same level.


  1. This is a great effort. Alot of hard work on a very miserable day.
    Was the option of shortening the headshunt evaluated and saving a point?

  2. I applaud the efforts put in today in this awful weather. It's actually starting to look like a point now. Regards, Paul.

    1. Agreed. St. Blazey is absolutely right. It beats me how Jo and his fellow volunteers keep going in such horrible weather. And they're making a great job on the new turnout.

      Well done, gentlemen. And many thanks to Jo for the link to the Bridges Blog . A truly horrifying situation at Broadway. I hope things work out all right. I really do.

      Peter Wright

  3. I was just wondering, if I took my loco off shed, over the new pointworks and off down to winchcome, wouldn’t I be missing a token key from the signal box at Toddington? Or doesn’t it work like that .... :/

    1. It certainly does work like that.....The point on to the running line will be controlled by the Toddington signalman, and he's not going to let you out unless you've got a token from him for the Winchcombe section, if that's where you hope to go. So there'll be no sneaking off whilst everyone's backs are turned......

    2. Presumably the fireman will take the short stroll between the shed and signal box to collect the token just before departure.

  4. How are you all managing to work in this awful weather? and no reports on Mrs. B's cakes for sustenance!!! We don't quite understand why new points are being put in but it still looks like hard work and also being done to a very high standard, so well done the PW Gang!
    Paul & Marion.

    1. If you read the blog entry dated 10 January, you will hopefully then understand why much hard work and money is going towards the turnouts at the southern end of Toddington. Basically it allows a loco to exit the yard without having to back up into Toddington Stn and block it temporarily. Clearly, a loco won't leave the yard to head south without a token as the signaller won't unlock the points. I don't know whether the work is being done to a high standard but I guess so as they are pretty good at it by now! I guess you're a railwayman by trade to be able to say that.

    2. Naturally the work is being done to a high standard, it's the GWSR PWay team at work here :-)
      C9 turnout in good condition, Jarrah sleepers, point motor to be fitted.

  5. Just out of interest, what is a c9 turnout?
    What does the c9 denote

  6. A B C etc refer to the length of the switch rails, A being the shortest. The 7 8 9 etc is the crossing angle expressed as a ratio e.g. 1:7 1:8 etc

    The higher the letter and number, the faster the turnout can be taken, and the larger the wheelbase that can negotiate it.

  7. The original crossover was taken out of use in 2008 ( for alterations to the headshunt for a new approach line to the new David Page shed.
    The original turnout was left clipped in the running line until 2010 when it too was removed (

    The crossover was original operated by a local levers released via Toddington box. The new crossover will be operated from the box and will be motorised.