Saturday 28 April 2018

The war does not stop for rain

The war in the Cotswolds hit our activities hard today, rather limiting what we could do.

It was wet, again. Yesterday too. When will it finally be summer? Today and tomorrow is our Wartime in the Cotswolds event, so the line was busy with 3 steam hauled rakes of 8 about, and the DMU on a shuttle to Broadway, after first doing a run to CRC. It came back packed.

Motive power for the day was provided by P&O, Dinmore Manor and 2807. Here is 2807 just coming to a stop by the Winchcombe home signal, while members of the gang are sorting out the GUV. As we couldn't work on the track, we decided to have a day of sorting and tidying at Winchcombe. Sadly, our mess coach could not follow and with the whole of the Toddington station site taken over by the event, we had to retreat to Winchcombe and busy ourselves in the yard.

The coaches were well filled, we noted. It was a good day for sitting in a train with a bacon butty and a mug of tea, and watching what others were doing in the rain. Every window had faces peering down at us.

Meanwhile, we rationalised the yard, which had become a bit of a dumping ground after all the materials coming and going for the extension works.

Bags had split, excess stuff brought back and dumped, fishplates separated and all mixed up.

Here we are putting plastics into a dumpy bag. There are so many that it was found quicker to shovel them like sand.

The camera continues to play up, today taking several photographs which then failed to appear in the gallery. So one of the spy adding some bullet holes to the tail end of a 'shot down' Me109, and another of him scurrying along the Winchcombe platform looking furtive. Some of the ones it did please the camera to put in the gallery are now on this blogpost, so enjoy the little it gave.

After a while an invisible whistle sounded, and we all trooped off in search of warmth, dryness, and tea. The Coffeepot had the promise of all three. As it was still early, there was room for us and we did not really inconvenience anyone (customers come first).

Here we are camped outside the Coffeepot. We got the tea and the dry, but not the warmth. But at least you get a first row seat of the action. The station was very busy and we admired the ingenuity of some of the wartime paraphenalia. There was even a pill box, and a platoon of drilling soldiers (a platoon has 4 soldiers in it, right?). Seeing the drill in action, we wondered if it was alright for a soldier to scratch his nose while sloping arms... probably on a fizzer, that one. More practice needed.

The tea got cold if not drunk immediately, so we threw it down and resumed sorting out the yard.

Alan on the Telehandler shuttled dumpy bags about, and after a while we had a better idea that in future we would be able to find something, if we wanted say a pair of fishplates for a broken set. Lifter (specialist) fishplates are now in the GUV, and straight fishplates in the MOGO for example.

Neil waved Alan close to this stillage of chair screws, but then complained that no one came to help him throw the heavy bags off the pallet.

Well, we didn't ask Alan to stand this close, now us others can't get in, much as we would like to lift heavy bags of fishplates. Sorry, not our fault, the will is there though. Make do with that.

Zey vill not recognize me now, despite the GWSR jumper under my coat.

There was a lot of hilarity when the spy - not wholly unknown in PWay circles - came to enquire if we knew of any tank or ammunition depots in the area.

With the vital information carelessly leaked to him, the spy made off with a victorious smirk in a CRC bound train.

A war victim was found in the verrandah of a TOAD brake alongside the platform. He was quite convincing, and even showed a passing resemblance to our head of department, what with that bottle of intravenous Donningtons being infused into his arm.

For lunch, no mess coach, just sandwiches and a ringside seat. We got damp from above, and indeed below, thanks to the wet bench. Except for Dave, who sat on a bag of fertiliser. Is that better now?

2807 in, Dinmore Manor out, there was hardly a moment's rest at Winchcombe today. Tokens were exchanged on the move. What a slick operation we are.

And off she goes again, Dinmore on her way out of Winchcombe past the carriage shed and our damp picnic.

We packed up at about 3pm, after a last look round the yard for what might prove to be future work there. It's difficult to do work on the running line though, as there are no sufficiently long spots for us to do any more extensive work such as track replacement. That will have to wait until November.

Here's 2807 just leaving the station limits with 8 on. Have to open the regulator a bit for that.

Haven't we come a long way. In the picture above the train is so long at 8 coaches that you can only see the first 6 in the frame. The heavy freight loco has real work accelerating this round a curve on slippery rail.

Photograph by Chris Roberts.
Now look at what we ran in 1985, half a year after opening. An industrial loco, with 1 on ! The weather, naturally, was the same though.

We can give ourselves a big pat on the back, and bless those early day pioneers.

Friday at Broadway

Another rainy day, but there we have a canopy! No cafe yet though, we are working on that.

Three of the 4 BEWARE of TRAINS signs are now up. We have also had an order large enough to do another production run, so if you are interested and want to join in, drop us a line at breva2011 (at) These production runs will be irregular, as we need a minimum total order of 4 to make it worth while taking the original back to the foundry.

Here's the third cast iron sign, at the north end of P1.

We still want to move one of the lamp huts to its original position by the footbridge steps, so this post has not been fixed in concrete, just in case it is in the way of the manoeuvres.

Now, back to a bit of history.

Here is that wonderful 1904 picture of all the ladies waiting at Broadway for their train to arrive from Honeybourne.

Three things are still needed to recreate the 1904 look:

- GWR lettered poster boards. There is one on every available wall space in this picture.
- The V boards over the doors. These are currently in progress. We will have, in the order on the picture, REFRESHMENT ROOM, BOOKING OFFICE, LADIES ROOM and GENTLEMEN.
- The lanterns under the canopy.

Good news on the latter, they have arrived!

Thanks to a great supporter of the Broadway project we have been able to liaise with a heritage specialist and a hand made lamp workshop.

After a lot of study of the above picture and others along our line we finally managed to work out the details. The lanterns have been faithfully copied, and fitted with an electric light inside. Real gas was a step too far though, and it appears that acetylene gas does not burn very cleanly either.

The lamps include the gas pipe from above, a replica flexible joint in the middle and a beautiful little chimney on top of the white lantern glass. The station name BROADWAY appears in etched glass below.

There are a total of 4 lanterns in this sponsorship, three for the main building and a fourth for the building opposite on P2. They are located between alternating trusses. They will be fitted Friday next week.

The generous sponsorship also includes the manufacture of two larger hexagonal lamps. If you look carefully, you can see one at the foot of the steps, to the right of the WAY OUT sign. It hangs under the northern canopy extension. We now have an agreed layout for this canopy extension, which will provide a very welcome dry circulating area at the north end, very welcome in rainy weather like today's. The footbridge steps will end inside the canopy extension. We hope to make a start on the steelwork soon.

Wednesday 25 April 2018

A cracking day

No Maitre d' Paul today - no doughnuts! Fear struck the modest number of volunteers that turned up nonetheless. What would we have with our tea?

Biscuits! That was the answer. Unfortunately, sometimes you can have several answers to the same question, and this is how we ended up with a table full of them.  Great minds clearly think alike.

The double chocolate ones proved popular, until Peter arrived. It was his birthday - many happy returns, Peter - and to celebrate, he brought 4 packets of doughtnuts as well.

This one is empty, Peter!
Now we didn't know which way to turn. Eventually we had to defer the consumption of several of them to lunchtime, but we did complete the job.

Work today:

- Fishplate replacement at Gotherington (4 volunteers)
- Moving sandbags into position for the wartime event (8 volunteers)
- Shovelling ballast at Broadway. (1 volunteer)

The fact that the majority of the volunteers quickly put their hands up for sandbag carrying may surprise, until you learn that they are filled with sawdust. Not so heavy after all. On the other hand ballast shovelling at Broadway recruited but a single voice, but Robert continued doggedly from shovelling last week, and thanks to this admirable determination he is making good progress there.

We will be based at Toddington for not much longer, soon our mess coach and tool van will return to Winchcombe.

Today then we glimpsed the start of a new development for Toddington, the very first preparations for the new messing facilities for the loco department. Here their compressor hut is being moved to a new location, to vacate the space where the new extension will go on the end of the goods shed.

After loading up the Landie with tools the gang of 4 fishplate replacers repaired to Winchcombe to load up appropriate fishplates. Our regular track walkers draw up excellent fault reports which tell you exactly what to repair, and where. So we knew from the start that we would need, for example, a 1/8th inch lifting plate for FB rail. It's no use going out to the sticks to find that you have brought the wrong one.

The first address was MP 16 at Gotherington.

We have a number of vehicle access points along the line, and this is one of the more discreet ones, at the end of a winding lane.

From the top, there is a majestic view of a straight piece of track all the way to Bishops Cleeve.

On the left is the defective fishplate, which has developed a crack. The track walkers have spray paint with them to identify the one with the problem, and this makes it easy for us to find them.

This is the baby. There's a crack from the top, and another rising up from underneath. Before the use of CWR we laid our track with second hand rail, and this means that the ends can show signs of wear, as in this case. It is second hand, after all.

Changing the fishplate is quite quick really, just 5 minutes is enough. We can do that between trains. What takes longer is preparing for the job, and finding exactly the fish plates we need to replace the cracked one with the same.

The next one was in the same area, a bit further north at Gotherington loop. As the track changes from single to double track here, we couldn't drive the Landie any further so had to carry the heavy gear the rest of the way.

Another quick change here, just inside Gotherington loop.

Weighted down with a keying hammer in the 4 foot is the fault report, which we need to consult to see where exactly the next one is located.

Unfortunately we were then subjected to a rain storm which ruined the paperwork, so had to find the third one from memory.

As we were putting the tools back on the Landie Foremarke Hall drew in from CRC, and gave us the chance for this drone's eye view.

On the way back, we found this cap by the lineside:

It's a green Marks & Spencer cap. If you have a 'large' head, it could be yours. We took it back to the office to await it's owner.

Next stop: Prescott. Another cracked fishplate by the road underbridge. And another shower. Everything is wet here.

This is the sort of weather we were having today. Large thunderous cells, which were heavily laden with rain and hail, and this one even showed a flash of lightning. We're in Greet here.

The cells came and went, and we managed to finish this one off in the sun as you can see. Unfortunately the replacement fishplate we took with us proved to be too small, so we put the new one on as a temporary fix and made a mental note to come back after lunch with the correctly sized one.

On the way back to Toddington we stopped off at Winchcombe to locate the bigger fishplate, which, after a lot of rummaging and pacing around the site we eventually found.

As we waited to cross, Foremarke Hall got permission to enter the station.

After lunch we kept our promise and returned to Prescott to replace that new fishplate with a bigger one. We let the DMU pass, before crossing the trackbed. How fortunate we are that we have a double width trackbed. It makes it so much easier to access almost any stretch of the line with heavy materials.

Later, we saw Foremarke Hall here too, with one of those dark thunder cells in the background. This is the now empty sleeper depot at Skew Bridge, Gotherington.

Last thing in the afternoon we went to replace the fourth cracked fishplate, which was found at Broadway on a track walk only last Saturday. How's that for service!

Again there was a heavy shower. We replaced that one PDQ, then had the opportunity to film Foremarke hall leaving the station with its heavy train:

Monday at Broadway.

Yours truly went to erect GWR signage but ran into an Asparagus celebration. On this non-running day an entire 8 coach train had been chartered to mark the start of the Asparagus season. On offer was a return from Broadway to CRC, and it was heartening to see how quickly we were being adopted by the local community for their celebrations.

Passengers were bused in, an a whole fleet of Morgan cars was parked along the station approach in brilliant sunshine.

On Sunday the station was bedecked with English flag bunting, and a bunch of giant Asparaguses (Asparagi?) was planted around the station.

It was perfectly clear what the celebration was about !

The fully booked train was waved off by Gus Asparagus, in full costume including green wellies and a green beard.

How that must have itched...

The train then set off for CRC, where further celebrations took place.

The public was invited to purchase tickets by the organisers, and did so in large numbers. The train was a great success, even making the local TV news.

At the end of the afternoon, with everyone safely back and the train now empty, Foremarke Hall took the ECS back to Toddington.

A quick Google check on the headlamp code here reveals this to be a
''Parcels, newspaper, fish, meat, fruit, milk, horsebox, cattle or perishable train composed entirely of vacuum-fitted stock with the vacuum pipe connected to the engine. Express freight, livestock, perishable or ballast train partly vacuum fitted with not less than one-third vacuum braked vehicles connected by vacuum pipe to the engine''
Perhaps the perishables were the Asparagus? A great day, in any case.

In between times we had a successful afternoon fitting another GWR 'BEWARE of TRAINS' notice. Neal drilled the holes again and with some difficulty we excavated a 2 1/2 foot hole through ballast, clay and old bricks into the northern corner of the P2 platform.

The crew of Foremarke Hall had the decency to pass by slowly, so that we could take this picture of the newly erected sign in a proper GWR environment.

We erected a fourth post at the northern end of P1, so all that remains to be done now on this little heritage job is to complete lettering the other two cast iron signs, so that they too can be bolted on, probably on Friday.

There are also high hopes that the long awaited canopy lamps will arrive that day. It all depends on the courrier, so don't hold your breath, but it could be that special day.

Saturday 21 April 2018

It's the heat, you know

Hot today! We put on the sun protection cream and all the jackets came off. It was hot in the mess coach; we flung the doors open. Soon it will move back to Winchcombe from whence it came. It was (perhaps) our last day at Toddington.

Outside in the morning sun Foremarke Hall was having her back scrubbed. Normally you see this only in the zoo, in the elephant house.

Foremarke Hall was heard to sigh with pleasure (or was it the class 20 starting up?)

The Green Goddess stuck her nose out of the shed door to see what the sunshine was like.
Such an immaculate machine in a beautiful deep (British racing?) green. Love the 'Ferret & Dartboard' logo on the side too.

On this hot day we decided to Kango pack the main line point at Toddington south, and clean up the site, in particular of its many chaired up sleepers that had been thrown to one side after stripping out lengths of plain track for the two new turnouts. BTW, we heard that they are expected to enter service in October, there still being quite some S&T work to be done on them, including the fitting of sole plates and two point motors, which will be interlinked.

An early shovelling session, while it was still cool, took us to one of the yard turnouts where this interesting arrangement of very old chairs was found.

Note that the two chairs are triangular (presumably this allows two of them to be fitted in an area with little space) which is very unusual.

You can probably make out the 'GWR' on this end of the lower one. The other, sharp end was dated 1883!

To top it off, an antique oak key can be seen securing the rail to the chair. This was once how all rails were secured to chairs, and today such keys are made of steel (to varying designs).

We stopped to let the early morning steam departure for CRC go by. Diana and Mike look on, after acknowledging the whistle. Dinmore was in charge again.

The sleepers being in a big bundle of 'Pick up Sticks' we dragged some of them out with nips, but others were upside down and the chairs, now underneath, prevented any dragging even by the strongest among us.

Here Mike and stalwart Steve (who joined in March 1981 he told us) roll over one of the sleepers, so that the 'Animal' can be used to loosen the chairs.

Meanwhile others still had youthful playfulness within them, and they can be seen here engaged in a game of 'cat's cradle' (remember that from the school playground?) with a totally jumbled up extension lead for the Kangos.
John, waiting to cut the engine
Graham, waiting to wave the flag

To protect the two men busy packing the main line turnout with Kango hammers we had Graham on lookout, and John, wearing an impressively determined look, was posted by the genny. The Kango hammers are noisy and the best way of alerting the users is to cut the juice!

Out on the main line we had Neil and Steve L, our two strongest gangers (although by no means the youngest) working the electric Kango hammers under the crossing, where some extra consolidation was required (after observing trains going over it).

Behind them, the Cotswolds Edge.

Graham watched over them, ready to wave the yellow (or even the red) flag at a moment's notice. Unfortunately the rattle of the signal betrayed the arrival of the passing train, John cut the genny and Neil and Steve L hurriedly vacated the scene, leaving Graham with nothing to wave the flag for.

Darn !

Here it comes. It's diesel hauled, with a pink timetable this part of the season and thus one steam and one diesel hauled train out and about today.

Bit by bit we cleared those sleepers. They were walked to their respective piles by teams of four on two nips. The cast iron chairs were put on pallets, and we mulled over the idea of a clear up train, which would allow us to take all this back to Winchcombe in one go.

We didn't have Stevie today (not enough work for him, but also the absence of doughnuts this morning could explain his non-arrival) so the rails where they blocked the removal of sleepers had to be moved by hand. Here one is being jacked up to allow the removal of the trapped sleeper underneath.

Following a request from the NGR chaps we took three loads of second hand sleepers down to them. They saw them in half and make twice as many.

At the end of the day the site had almost no sleepers left on it. Loose rails still need picking up, and the stacked chairs on pallets need taking to Winchcombe.

After a hot start to the day, it clouded over at lunch time and a short but heavy shower caught those that left the mess coach early for more punishment. The rest of the day looked rather gloomy, as you can see in this picture of Dinmore returning from CRC.

At the end of the day pretty much the whole gang decided to treat itself to an 'on the cushions' ride to Broadway and back. We can highly recommend the 'Return to Broadway' ale, made by a local brewery with our own label of the Cornishman racing through the station. Do give it a try.

Friday at Broadway

Friday saw the erection of the first of the replica GWR 'BEWARE of TRAINS' cast iron signs. They were sponsored by two volunteers to recreate the heritage look. We hope you approve.

While the trackbed was still bare bullhead rail posts were dropped off some months ago at the 4 corners of the platforms. Here Neal is drilling one so that the cast iron notice, not yet painted, can be bolted to it in due course.

A first post was already in situ on the end of P1, so we set out to dig in the second on the end of P2. The warning notices accompany the barrow crossing that will go in here.

We dropped the post into its new hole, and filled the hole with concrete. As this went off, we returned to P1.

Here is the first cast iron notice in place. Looking good, more GWR atmosphere here now. Now to wait for a GWR engine to appear.

We have had these notices specially cast from an original purchased from a kind supporter. They are the real deal, very heavy. We would consider casting more, if the demand is there. CRC also purchased 4 and if you or your railway are interested, drop us a line at breva2011 (at)

Any profits go to the railway and may be spent on further heritage material.

Elsewhere on site on Friday two replica GWR gate posts were being erected at the northern end of the station building.

This was the original entrance to the station, but as we have opted for two doors in the booking hall, this will now become a side gate.

In the picture below you can see how people queued up to use this gate to get on to the platform and access the booking office from its sole, platform side door.

Note how the queue stretches right down to the bottom of the station approach. The train waiting in the station, in 1904 still the terminus for the first 5 miles built, will take them on an excursion to Stratford on Avon, on the second day of operation.

A few hours later the posts were bolted down, and the single gate hung. It was once a double here. Our property today extends only to the corner of the footbridge tower. Beyond is now the driveway to the Station House B&B. (compare with the area of the forecourt in the 1904 picture)

Professional plasterers have been at Broadway for the last few days. In this picture they have plasterboarded the walls of the cafe, and are skimming the ceiling. Soon we will be able to remove the scaffolding for good, and the full size of the cafe will become visible. (very similar to the Coffeepot at Winchcombe in fact).

During the day we received two visits from Dinmore and a rake of 8. Friday may be a non-running day, but that is only as far as the public is concerned. Engineering trains can arrive at any time for example.

Here is a shot of Dinmore come to rest at the end of platform 1. It looks as if the rails stretch on all the way to Honeybourne, the future maintenance containers are almost hidden.

After running around its train, Dinmore receives its headboard again -


One of the carriages was filled with candidates and their supporters, and the bar was open. That sounds like a good innitiative. The hungry cast iron notice fitters received a left over Danish pastry, which went down extremely well !