Saturday 31 March 2018

Almost there

After the euphoria of opening day yesterday, the plucky PWay team were back at hard, physical work today, in the pouring rain that readers will not fail to have noticed. We tried to draw out the tea drinking session at the start as much as possible, even having a second cup, but sooner or later we were going to have to face it.

Out of the mess coach, and into the puddle, which stretched most of the way up to the yard gate.

It wasn't a good beginning, and worse was to follow, as the Landie could not be started. Of course you find this out only once you have loaded it up with the tools for the day.

Dave is inside and trying out a variety of tweaks and fiddles with the key, as it's something to do with the barrel of the ignition. Neal waits hopefully with a bucket of grease (Just how hopeful were you with that grease, Neil?)

Eventually it did spring to life, and we have no idea how/why it did that. It's just an accidental correct twiddle with the ignition key. Once it has started, it works fine, even later on. Mysterious.

The next difficulty of the day was a puncture on the JCB, and because it was Easter, there was no chance of getting it repaired in a hurry. We made do with the Telehandler.

Out on site at the yard throat we had to step aside almost immediately as Foremarke Hall accelerated by. The weather was foul and the carriages largely empty.

To warm ourselves up (it was 4 degrees C) we had a little clip up session on the straight road leading to the headshunt siding.

These baseplates, extra wide so that they can hold a check rail, were tricky to clip up and needed 3 men on bars to offer them up to the rail, here floating about one inch above the timber.

Meanwhile Neil was busy with the drill fitting the straight rail on the other side with holes through which the check rail is bolted. The two check rails, left and right of the crossing in the middle, make sure that the flanges passing over the crossing don't stray into unintended territory.

With the holes for the check rail drilled, the bolts inserted and hand tightened, it was time to start the 'animal' to really get them screwed in tight.

That was the next difficulty of the day, as we pulled and pulled at it and tried all sorts of combinations of kill switch, petrol tap and choke but the cursed thing wouldn't start. And then, suddenly, it did. Again, we were clueless as to why not for so long, and then suddenly it ran.

Here is a group pow-wow around an insulated fishplate. The second new turnout needs insulating from the first, so we use a kind of plastic lined fishplate for that. Exciting stuff, if some may be believed.

We also had a jolly time with this track gauge, the gold coloured bar lying across the rails. We measured the 1435mm gauge on the straight road leading to the headshunt, jacked it over a few mm to get the distance right, then drilled down.
When we checked the result after screwing doewn, the distance had changed! It turned out that our track gauge is somewhat elderly, and hence a bit unreliable. Luckily we were able to redress the mm lost be redrilling one or two holes, and taking up some slack where the rails were attached to the base plates. All not as bad as it seemed, again a case where years of experience showed what to do when you think you had it wrong.

After the first, mostly empty train the following ones looked rather better, with at least one we observed having a face at every window - that's more like it.

Below us a South African style chime whistle (on a German loco) told us that the narrow gauge line was active, which was nice to see.

On the way back the little Feldbahn engine chugged along nicely with its passengers in tow. Later, just like the big railway, they changed to diesel haulage for the final trains of the day.

Just before lunch Stevie arrived from Winchcombe, where he had been loading some second hand sleepers.
He brought with him some useable ones for us, still with the GWR throughbolt chairs on them. These are for the headshunt connection, which will go in on the left here. David and Richard flung them off the forks, before we left for lunch a short walk away.

As it was Easter, Mrs. B made us a special cake (she spoils us) which had a thick layer of marzipan and 11 marzipan balls on top. The 11 seemed an odd number, and indeed it caused a little trouble as we were more than that, but some were willing to share a ball, or go without.

Mrs. Blogger explained the cake - it was a Simnel cake, and the 11 balls represent the 12 apostles, less one, being Judas, the traitor. Well, it still tasted great! Just in case there wasn't enough cake, we also had a box of fairy cakes made of chocolate rice crispies, each with an Easter egg on top. They went down seamlessly too. You soon forget the rain like this.

After more tea, a little excursion to Winchcombe to get a spare part for the insulated fishplate, and we had the chance to record Dinmore Manor pausing here, with steam heat on.

Now that we are running three trains, they no longer cross at Winchcombe, but at Toddington, and Gotherington. Winchcombe is a little quieter now.

When we got back to the turnouts at Toddington, those sleepers were all laid in and suddenly the whole set looked nearly finished.

Chris was already busy cutting the closure rail for the last bit to the correct length (we hoped).

Then the newly cut rail was lifted in. This bit is back to bullhead, all second hand stuff which costs us nothing, as it leads only to a little used siding.

Then Chris cut the second rail, for the LH side here, also to the correct length (we hoped).

Without further ado the second rail was lifted in, and, hey presto, all the rails in these two turnouts were in their place.

High five !

Well, high four-and-a-half, as one rail wasn't measured so exactly after all, and was a few (but vital) mm too long. There's also still a question of a small height difference.

But we were uncowed, it's only a small difference, with a bit of welly you should be able to shunt straight over that, no trouble. Surely.

Behind us the final timbers were being drilled, and for this you need a bar, a lot of enthusiasm, and some weight comes in useful too. It certainly seems to be fun.

At the southern end the rail was high but the sleepers were low, so it took 3 people on bars to hold the chair in place so that Neil could knock the key in.

As readers may recall, the short stretch of plain track between the yard throat and the start of the new pointwork was shortened by us by 6 feet, and we wondered if the crew of P&O knew that. Well, P&O did just about fit, so today a new attempt was made, this time by two diesel locomotives at once, the class 45 and the ED. That one came down as a FAIL, as the last two axles of the last loco didn't clear the turnout behind them. Even by pushing our PWay trolley along a bit.

Later in the day, a new attempt was made, this time by a single diesel locomotive - that was a PASS. The green Growler is on its way off shed to take over the last train of the day.

Here's the view from the top of the ballast pile of the turnout pair as it now stands. Almost finished, we think.

Looking the other way it also seems complete, and you get a free view of a passing train into the bargain, this time of the third steamer of the day, 2807.

What's still to do then?

- One check rail to fit
- connection to the headshunt, with correction of levels
- a few minor jobs on the snagging list, and...

... a partial resleepering of this stretch of plain track leading to the yard throat, which is half built in concrete, and half in (poor quality) wooden sleepers.

As it happens there are 10 concrete sleepers with chairs in the loco yard, and this is just perfect to resleeper the few yards in life expired wood.

Watch us do this next week then.

Friday 30 March 2018

Opening day !

This was it then, the official opening day, Friday 30th March 2018.

As most of the tickets had been sold on line, there was only a small queue outside the booking office, and one of our volunteers bought ticket No. 14, full price, for a souvenir. That was very kind of him, as he has free travel but felt that he ought to support the railway.

The day started grey and misty, and rain was forecast for later in the day. We were very lucky that it stayed dry for the first two trains, and were able to perform the ceremony without a hitch. Everything went very smoothly.

The first thing we met, after delivering the clock just acquired for the booking office, was BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester doing a live broadcast.

Here they are commenting the arrival of Foremarke Hall, before turning to your blogger and asking him what he thought of it all. Er....

A wall of photographers was assembled outside the gate - you get a view for free here.

Shortly afterwards Foremarke Hall reappeared from behind the train, and chugged past the signal box with steam on.

While the loco went about its business running round ready for the inaugural 09.40 departure, a specially made brass plaque was unveiled by Lord Faulkner of Worcester and our own plc chairman Richard Johnson.

By coincidence, the ceremony was held under the original E Finch of Chepstow  worksplate up in the canopy.

The original canopy was constructed in 1903, and the new station with the authentic reproduction in 2018, 114 years later.

With Foremarke Hall back in front of the train and now facing in the right direction, a small crowd formed at the platform end to photograph it.
The gleaming paintwork on this locomotive is quite striking, it even elicited a comment from a member of the public about it.
The fire on the footplate is burning brightly, ready for the departure in a matter of minutes.

BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester undertook a number of interviews, here with the Chairman of Wychavon District Council Liz Eyre, an enthusiastic supporter of our line coming back to Broadway.

As the fireman of Foremarke Hall leans out to observe the stationmaster and guard of the train, the brakes are blown off ready for departure.

A tight knot of video enthusiasts has formed at the platform end, ready to record every second of this historic departure from the newly rebuilt station.


... and here she - oh no, a huge cloud of steam appears! Everything is shrouded in mist, the videos recorded no more than a white fluffy wall.

And then she was gone... The 8 carriage train accelerated beyond the 10mph speed limit and down the hill towards Peasebrook.

The first train was an exceptional departure, as the next one wasn't due out until 11.20. After a patient wait, Dimore Manor eventually arrived with the second train, which had set off from Toddington in the Cheltenham direction first.

A quick trot down to station road saw Dinmore cross the road bridge on its way to the front of the train. We got a cheery wave from the footplate crew, and it was wonderful to see steam trains running over this bridge again after so long.

In the background you can see evidence of the interest shown in our reopening day - cars stretch almost out of sight. After August we should be able to park in the new council car park under the bridge and on the left, a very short walk to the station. Note that you cannot take your car up the station approach on the right, unless you are a local resident. The very few car parking spaces at the top are reserved for disabled drivers and a handful of station staff. The area on the corner of the building is also reserved for coaches and buses to turn round, so that has to be left free as well.

Talking of which, here is Graham's Routemaster parked outside the station. It shuttled up and down  between the station, the centre of Broadway and the public car park on the Childswickham Road. The bus was certainly well used, an was particularly welcome once it had started to rain.

The next train in, due to leave at 12.20, was headed by Foremarke hall again, and we see it here crossing the road bridge before arriving at the station.

It was quite an unusual view to see it from the bottom of the drive, as it coasted past the old Scots pines along the platform.
At the bottom of the drive were BAG members Pat and Vic on barrier duty, to make sure only authorised vehicles could venture up the station approach. New 'No Entry' signage left and right also makes this clear.

We were particularly pleased to note that the passengers from the third train, after the opening departure with its guests a more routine passenger train, started to walk to Broadway up station road in quite large numbers.

They were soon followed by your blogger on the way to his favourite Broadway pub for a piping hot bowl of warming Chili con Carne, and a pint of local Stanway beer. Bliss !

On the other side of the bridge is the row of parked cars up the road to Pennylands Bank.

Many people cheerfully admitted they only came to watch the inaugural train, so in future there should be fewer of them, and belonging to actual passengers.

Foremarke Hall about to pull away with the third train for the day can be seen here at the southern end of the loop, where the terrain can give rise to quite an imposing portrait of the locomotive. Note that this area is not open to the general public.

This is the moment before departure of the third train out of Broadway, the 12.20.

The intention was to take a video of this train, and we were doing quite well with the new smartphone, until it suddenly decided to do what it said on the box - it rang ! The video came to a dead stop just as the loco was passing. Dang ! Who knew that an incoming call would overrule the camera function?

Nevertheless we do have a video of the day for you:

It's Dinmore Manor with the second train of the day. This one wasn't truncated, so enjoy.

After lunch it was time for an interesting piece of station heritage. The booking hall needs a clock. Unfortunately a genuine GWR drop case clock can fetch anything between £2000 and £2500. While a number of kind and generous blog watchers have offered to help with funding such heritage items, our worry was about the risk of theft from such a public space.

The advice was to buy a similar clock (the same manufacturer also made them for things like schools and factories, but those 3 letters suddenly add £2000 to the value of the clock) and add the letters ourselves. In this way we will have recreated the look, but not (we hope) the risk of theft, as it is not a genuine item.

This was the look-alike clock selected, and purchased for a very reasonable sum. It is of the right period (1900) and the correct, unadorned style.

WSR stalwart Robin White very kindly offered to letter it for us, and was keen to try out the new skills acquired after attending a sign writing course.

Robin did this on the spot (clocks lettered while U wait) which was marvellous! For the font we consulted a local railway clock specialist, and a special matt, deeply cloured (and extra expensive) signwriting paint was used.  We loved the result - thanks, Robin !

After a reviving cup of coffee - it was only 5 degrees C outside -  we had a whim and decided to hang it up straight away.

The pendulum is still at home - this went rather quicker than expected - so Sunday looks like the day it will start to run.

It's an 8 day movement, so if the station staff remember to wind it up every Sunday it will work just fine, nothing more to do.

And there it is. It looks just right.

We also have a GWR route map and some posters for the walls - we will look at these once things have calmed down a bit.

Towards mid afternoon 2807 finally showed its face at Broadway, and the train almost appeared less than full. The heavy rain which was now falling constantly no doubt played a part in this.

This was the very wet view from under the northern end of the canopy. It even rained into the doorway of the Gents. However, this should hopefully soon be in the past, as there is a 6m canopy extension due to go in here, once we have saved up some money for it. It will stretch into the middle of the fenced-off area top right here, and will create a very useful circulating space for times of inclement weather such as today.

Finally for today, our last picture shows the foundation stone of the new building. It's in carved sandstone, and is located half way along the platform side. It records the key dates of the building, just in case you thought it was the original. Every brick and stone, from below the platform foundations to the top of the chimneys, is new in this station. It took us 9 years, and was built entirely by volunteer labour.

Hats off to the Broadway gang then !

PS Is nothing original then? Well, we did manage to incorporate two original finds from the wreckage of the station demolition in November 1963: Two cast iron crowd barrier posts found under the dirt, and one cast iron finial from the P2 Gents modesty screen. Both were used to cast more of the same.

And a final post scriptum - the Foremarke Hall video has completed uploading as this blog went to press.
The video stops suddenly just as the loco is passing, leaving you to stare at the driver, frozen in time.
Don't say we didn't warn you - damned incoming phone call...