Wednesday 28 February 2018

The beast from the east hits us

Minus 6 degrees in the middle of the night, and the forecast for the day was that the temperature would rise - rise - to minus one at lunch time. How spoilt were we? Gee, thanks!

Can I have - one keying hammer, two lifters, and equaliser and a jack please.
Nothing for it but to wrap up and get stuck in. No warm carriage shed for us, no canopy above us, and the job has to get done because the number of working days left can now be counted on one hand.

Yesterday the ballast train was out. Broadway urgently needed additional ballast, after the tamper used it up and left voids.

Luckily (or perhaps not) the train was already partly loaded. They took the train to Broadway, opened the hoppers doors and - nothing happened. The ballast was one big frozen lump. Well, we sort of knew that, so we loaded up the empty Dogfish and used the ballast immediately. Got the job done, regardless of the weather.

We took one crew to Broadway to shovel some of that extra ballast into low spots and accompany the tamper, while the main gang went to Gotherington.

The jobs here were to finish off the last 18 SHC clips (just not quite enough time on Saturday) but mainly to get ballast in for the tamper tomorrow.
The 'drone' was out agin today, this time with operator Jonathan. It looks quite pleasant there, but it felt unbelievably cold, especially on the fingers, as warm gloves are not good working gloves for this sort of work.

Have you got a certificate for using that hammer?

First thing was just to polish off that clipping up job.

With the proper tools (the yellow sleeper lifter being wielded here, and the 'equaliser' to line up the sleepers the final few mm) the job went pretty quickly.

Peter has the lifter, Rick swings the keying hammer, while Dave - well, someone has to oversee the job, haven't they?

A bit further along, and look what happens to the colour when a snow cloud comes overhead. They were tipping in the ballast with the Telehandler, and spreading it around and under the sleepers by hand.

A bit more here, a bit more.....   WHOA !!! You can make life so much easier for the shovellers if you tip in the right place.

Peter garnered himself the job in the nice warm cab, and dug into 40T of ballast with gusto here.

When a load of ballast has been tipped, the shovellers spring into action and spread it around, in particular under the sleepers, as the track has been lifted with the jacks to get more material underneath. The bed was a bit too thin for our liking (risk of hitting the bridge deck with the tamper tines if too thin).

A pause in the shovelling is announced, while Steve next to the sighting board follows instructions from behind the camera for a bit higher, another bit...
The tamper will formally tamp this area tomorrow, then the bridge is fit for use again.

If the activity at Gotherington looked quite sunny in the morning, look how the weather changed after lunch! You can barely see the ballasting gang in the distance. In the foreground Steve is tidying up the site by loading the very last of the sleepers here, those that were really too bad to use, even in sidings. Thanks for the picture, Jonathan!

After lunch, a visit to Broadway to accompany the tamping crew and give them a lift back to their car at the end of the day.

Lovely sun here, as very slowly the regulator hove into sight and passed us by a in a great cloud of white dust.

Below us, activity in the future car park. A contractor was sprucing up (is that a good word for trees?) some of the remaining trees at the bottom that had unhealthy branches. These were cut up and turned into chippings.

Above again, the regulator slowly whirled its way along the new fence, heading for the former goods shed.

The coming of the railway back to Broadway figured this month in the Caravan Club magazine, and they are delighted. It will make their site even more popular.

Walking ahead of the regulator a bit, we found this area at the southern end of the platforms which yesterday received a bit more ballast. Of course in the middle is not where you want it, but rather along or just outside the rails.

After the slow passage of the regulator the same place looked like this in mid-afternoon.

Very neat, with plenty of ballast just where it should be.

Here's the machine just trundling along the platform, seen by the signal box. In fact it made two passes, the first one here somewhat faster as it was pulling a plough to get the worst off first.

The back end of the regulator is modular and the 'ploughshares' can be adjusted to any of a number of angles, including two not so visible in the four foot. They heave the material outside the rails, where the outer ploughshares give it another push further away.

Another neat trick that it does is to lift up one plough unit in order to avoid an obstacle. In this picture you can see the LH unit raised up, as it is about to pass the raised catch pit, which it does not want to hit (and destroy). Beyond the catchpit the plough unit comes down again, a bit like a lady lifting her skirts to walk over a wet puddle.

Here is a sideways view, not seen so often. This versatile machine was the first production model, and already quite a hit with its many features. Larger and even more useful models followed though, and a regulator today is as big as a Mk 1 carriage.

You can see a big one in action on the KESR here:

With this final pass the little machine completed P1 and then reversed back to the southern tunout, in order to come down the P2 road, where it regulated the siding up to the up line buffer stop.
That completed the tamper crew duties at Broadway. They have one more day's work to do for us (Gotherington for example), and the tamper unit will then depart for the next job on Friday.

The completion of the tamping at Broadway coincided with a dark cloud appearing over the northern horizon, and this is what it contained.
It began to snow heavily.

Where was that regulator again? Oh, there. It was actually being driven towards the camera, in order to hook up with the tamper and return to Toddington as a pair.

Here Broadway station is almost completely hidden in snowflurries. Remember all those lovely golden scenes in the evening sun? Well, this is what you can get in winter. The station approach to Irkutsk, you might reasonably guess.

On its way back home to Toddington, the tamper here was caught at Laverton on the Broadway extension. Soon there will be steam trains along here. There will certainly be some on 21st March for volunteers, but possibly earlier for a test run to check everything out, date to be decided on (and it isn't tomorrow, have you seen the forecast?)

By the time the tamper crew were taken back from Toddington the same evening back to Broadway,  the station was clothed in snow, but he golden evening sunshine had returned. It was never far away in Broadway, the station with the magic light.

Saturday 24 February 2018

Back to Toddington

A lovely winter's day today - ice cold but sunny, and our faces felt burned at the end of the day. But still the need to wrap up with that strong, icy wind all day long.

We'll kick off with this picture of the tamper and the regulator parked up at Broadway. The job is pretty much complete here now but for some additional ballast requirements her and there, and subsequent re-tamping of certain bits. The track through the station looks really good now.

However, we were not at Broadway but the other way, at Gotherington. The relaying of the track over the bridge was not quite finished on Wednesday, so we had a lightening visit there to finish off the job.

Here are the concrete sleepers being lifted in at the northern end.

The remaining sleepers were soon all down, and here Steve L is eyeing them in so that they are in a straight line ready for the rail to be dropped back in.
We are now using new Pan 11 base plates with Pandrol clips, whereas the base plates and rails were spiked down before.

Stevie was with us and after dropping in the concretes he lifted in the rail. It all went surprisingly quickly.

From above in this 'drone' type view you can see the track back in its place.

There's a bit of clipping up going on. That was the slow bit of the operation. The Pandrol clips go in quite well but the SHC clips on the concrete are the devil's own work, as the sleeper has to be perfectly aligned underneath, and it never is.


Here is an 'end of the day' shot, although it wasn't the end of the day at all. It was lunch time. We had almost completely finished. There are just 9 pairs of SHC clips to put back in (foreground) and then of course we need to drop ballast in so that it can be tamped.

Stevie was wandering round, looking a bit deflated.

Oh noooooo, it was his JCB that was a bit deflated. No wonder. Out of his cab Stevie was ill at ease, like a fish out of the water.

Then Toddy for lunch.

The class 73 with a partly loaded ballast train was parked in the platform. This cold weather could well pose a problem for us, as when it freezes the ballast in the Dogfish becomes one solid lump and won't come out when you open the doors.

Another interesting thing at Toddington was painting progress in the tent housing 76077.

We heard that the frames will leave within a few days, and that the boiler will be parked out of the way at Broadway in the new siding there.

It is hoped to complete this locomotive in 5 years, but we'll need to put our hands in our pockets because there will be an appeal for funds to do so. So get ready to help.

In the afternoon the whole gang resumed work on the second turnout at Toddington, which also needs to be done.

While we were away the first one was fitted with these very sparkling new insulated stretcher bars. Neat.

More turnout components have arrived on site. There's the crossing in the foreground, and two switches were brought down from Laverton on the flat wagon, one being visible on the ground just next to it.

This is a tricky job, as the distance between the tracks is not standard so we don't have any measurements for the placing of the crossing. It is all done by eye and experience.
Here the crossing is roughly put in place, and then 'tweaked' this way and that until it looks right.

The excess at this end is then cut off, and a couple of long timbers placed under the centre of it

Steve had already prepared a ballast bed, and Alan brought in the timbers in the right order (the size of each is written on them, which helps a lot).
Once a timber has been pulled under with the nips, the different base plates, also marked individually, are brought up and inserted between timber and rail. They are so heavy (up to 60 Kg) that the best way of moving them along is with a bar. Also, there is very little on them that you can grip with your stiff, cold fingers.

We have a drawing of what the whole thing should look like, and it gives all the dimensions of each component, so we now exactly what to go and get next. This we consult for each sleeper and its bits.

There are no instructions though, and no little hexagonal Allan key....

As the ends of the crossing diverge again, we can move from a huge double base plate (the 60Kg one) to little individual ones, as here.

Looking the other way, you can see in the foreground the area of the main part of the turnout, for which the switches have been roughly positioned left and right. But we always start with the crossing in the middle, and work from there.

Towards the end of the afternoon, with shadows lengthening, you can see that we've done pretty well, as this is starting to look like a (second) turnout already.
We're waiting for another sleeper to come here, and have little chats. You get to know each other quite well. 'My wife says I'm a miserable old g*t' said one, whereupon another replied 'She's pretty perceptive then....'. All part of the fun.

It was sunny today, but quite windy, as you can see from the smoke billowing out of the Peak being started up, and going horizontally instead of upwards. Wonder why they are doing that, there are no services?

Looking back at the loco yard and shed, you might be interested in this picture taken from a tad higher up, i.e. from the top of the flat wagon. There are a number of sidings on the right of the yard, while further to the left you access the diesel and steam loco shed. There used to be a three way point from Ashchurch there, but that has gone again. A lot (probably all) of the early trackwork has been replaced over the years.

If you haven't done so yet, take a look at John Lees' 'early GWSR' photographs here:
and you will see all the work that went into the early yard sidings, using well worn components recovered gratefully from places like Dowty Ashchurch and DOWMAC in Quedgley.

While tidying up our tools we were impressed to see Steve L carrying the very heavy rail cutter box all by himself. Steve is no spring chicken, but his physical condition is superb. It's probably all that PWay work he has done over the years, he is one of our veterans from the earliest days.

Later Steve confessed that the box was in fact empty, it just looked very heavy. A case of bringing the box to the rail cutter, rather than the heavy rail cutter to the empty box.

Here's our end of the day shot. You can see the orange coloured timbers neatly laid out under the crossing, which is pretty much in its place but not yet screwed down or plated up to the first turnout. That will be for next week.

A bit of diesel interest at the end of the day, as the Peak ventured out from the yard almost all of the way to where we were working. What an interesting piece of machinery that is, with an unusual pair of three axled bogies and an extra axle in front. Built at Crewe in 1961 it says, so quite a veteran now.


And now for something completely different. And much younger too:

It's a photograph taken by a volunteer friend in Holland who's a main line steam driver there. It's the new Vectron locomotive just acquired by Deutsche Bahn and introduced into The Netherlands. These locos can work in both Germany and The Netherlands, despite the two countries having two completely different current supply systems - AC in one, DC in the other.

There's 8600 HP in just one of these two locos - big muscle on two axled bogies. Admire in awe!

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Day two tamping at Broadway

It was touch and go this morning, what report will you get, Gotherington, or another tamping day? Well, this is what makes working on the PWay so exciting, you never know what you will get.

We met in the mess coach at Toddington, where there was a large contingent waiting for tea, some with idle hands.

It seems that this steam locomotive - could it be Foremarke Hall - is about to fall into a void of ballast in the track. But then out again, on the other side, we read into this.

Clive held forth - he's good at this, holding forth - about the Gotherington job of relaying the track across the bridge, for which we got the green light a week early. An opportunity then to make up some time. The trouble was, Clive was due to accompany the tamper crew today, and next thing you know, some other mug sat in that juddering thing today - yours truly, again. Clive was off to Gotherington instead.

So you get a Broadway tamping report today. As the team was quite a large one today, a smaller gang was split off and dispatched to Broadway to shovel ballast. Here they are, filling the voids between the sleepers created by the tamping yesterday. Is that what the misty cartoon was about?

The tamper arrived from Toddington, yours truly by car instead, so that he could take the crew back by road at the end of the day, leaving the machine in the platform at Broadway overnight.

The first job was to measure by hand the height of the track vis a vis the platform edge, and determine which was the highest spot.

The tamper then did a measuring run, and afterwards slowly worked through along platform 1. The Cotswolds side tamping bank first had to be moved inside a bit, in order to stay clear of the platform edge.
How do you reckon this works then?
The noise of the tamper engine, the hydraulic pump and the vibrating tines resulted in a clatter of falling tools at Broadway, and a collection of curious volunteers who all wanted a closer look at this big yellow machine.

Some found that a shovel made a useful prop against which to lean while studying the workings of this strange, noisy machine as it slowly passed.

There were occasional stops to service this 40 year old machine, and we see it here paused by the signal box as one of the crew guides it past the recently dug stormwater drain connection in the centre of the track.

Here's a shot from the steps of the signal box as the tamper slowly makes its way past the station building. It's eleven o'clock at Broadway, and there is no one about....

A deserted platform at 11.05, tea time, as the tamper is lit by the light passing through the canopy glazing.

Looking behind us, you can start to see a straight road on the left, and a wobbly one, still to do, on the right. That will be for tomorrow.

The view from inside the cab of the straight road just tamped and aligned through the station.

Will it be finished on time then?
Just before lunch, and with the tamper juddering away in the distance behind the camera, the ballast shovelling crew wander into the platforms to see how the station gang is going on. Neal tells it to them like it is.

After the first run through the platform on the down line is complete, the tamper crew re-measure by hand the height of the track as now packed. A few low areas subsist, principally due to insufficient ballast in those places. We were very conservative when dropping ballast here, with the idea that you can always drop a bit more, but you can't take it away. A second pass is decided on.

After lunch the tamper measured up the headshunt stretch, and then returned to start work by the turnout.
The ballast gang have decided to start filling in voids here, having done the area of the southern tunout as far as it was possible. There's always time though to pose for the photographer.

It was fascinating to watch the tamper play around with the tamping banks and individual tines in order to consolidate the northern turnout here. It was quite a ballet, and tricky to perform without hitting anything and ruining one of the tines on the downstroke.

At the start of its measuring run we caught the tamper parked right up against the buffers of the headshunt here, which we reckon was an 8 or 9 coach length from the inner home signal. We shall see in practivce what it can hold.
As we worked our way slowly along the headshunt to its northern end the light began to fail and it quickly got dark. On the left the track is done; on the right is for tomorrow.

This is the end of the day shot, taken from Springfield Lane bridge. Just a few more yards to go for the tamper, then it's the end of the road, unless we extend to Willersey halt a mile away. The green fence on the left has turned orange in the setting sun.

But of course this isn't the only thing we did today, the main gang was working at Gotherington.
Last week we took a look at the bridge repair site, and took a few shots to give an idea of the job facing the gang today.

The contractors had almost finished the job, with just a bit more ballast to lay down on the bridge deck.

On each side you can see 4 rails representing the 2 panels taken out on each side. That would be the job for today.

The track stops on the left, then there is a 4 panel gap, which here has been refilled with ballast and was being rolled. The road on the right is now for vehicles; once it was the up line and express trains came past here at 60mph.

On the other side the original track resumes and is soon in the confines of Gotherington station in the distance.

Here's a useful overview of the whole site, seen last Friday. The rails taken out are parked in the four foot, while the wooden sleepers were discarded and these will be replaced with new Jarrah ones. Concrete sleepers remain in place up to the deck itself.

Looking the other way in this 'drone's eye view' you can see Skew Bridge sleeper depot (now completely empty) and the line heading north towards three arches bridge.

Thanks to a local cub reporter Jonathan, we can show you pictures of the relay work today.

The vehicle road on the left has been finished, and sleeper laying has commenced on the down line on the right with bright orange hardwood sleepers.

These are brought in by Dave here in the Telehandler. The Jarrah sleepers are too heavy to be shifted anything more than a few inches by hand.

The line of new sleepers soon stretched into the centre of the bridge, with no difficulties encountered. That is a relief, so everything so far is going smoothly and we are one week ahead of schedule too.

Soon the other side of the bridge was reached. Dave brings in the last few sleepers, which are spaced out by the white boards in the foreground, brought down from their former duties on the extension. It's not a minute too soon either, they are completely worn out now.

The old sleepers are stacked on the left here, as Bob and Clive use the 'animal' on a set of bullhead chaired sleepers in the  background, purpose unknown as in this area we have FB rails. Perhaps that is why they were doing it discreetly round the corner.

Finally Steve laid in the rail again, an easy job for him as he could simply stand on the adjacent up line to do this.

That's it for today, a job on two fronts and great progress on both.