Saturday 25 August 2018

Laverton mission

Back to a proper strength gang today, welcome back Leigh and Mike! With a decent sized gang of 12 we can achieve a lot.

Stevie was back on top of his game, as he is delighted either by the return of David and Diana, or a full bag of doughnuts. Paul and Jim know the truth...

The job for today was to continue stone blowing all the dropped joints at Manor Lane, but an urgent call came in to see to a new dip just north of Laverton bridge.

We loaded up the stone blower using the Landie's little hydraulic crane. Handy thing, it is.

Then to inspect the site at Laverton.

Here it is. Can you see the dip? No? Well you need a track gauge to see it, but we found it OK.

It's more obvious when you are on top of a 100 ton locomotive.

First we sent a flag man some considerable distance away with a flag to wave at approaching trains. See him? He's right at the back there.

Your truly was second flag man, nearer the work site.

We had a supply of new stone blower's ballast today. It was nice and small, just as it should be. How far would it go under the sleepers if we blew it in from the end? We did an eye level test.

The result was spectacular! We dug a second hole in the 4 foot to see if it got that far. And it did, brilliant. The red arrow shows where the stone blew out again about 3 feet further along, just
what we wanted.

Now aware of what our new supply could do, we opened up all the sleepers ends over most of a length. We did the Malvern side, and for good measure, a few of the Cotswolds side as well.

Then we watched 2807 do a run over our work, and we were happy to see that there wasn't any movement.
Diana found a great place to relax, with a bag of crisps and a mobile phone. What more could you want?

Job done at Laverton, we loaded up the stone blower again and headed for the mess coach at Winchcombe for a light lunch.

But not before a final candidate to test our track levelling capabilities - 35006 P&O.

Luckily, we passed. Got a friendly wave too.
We drove south and stopped at Winchcombe, noticing that the Fowey china clay van now sported a smart soft top. How clever - that's authentic, and also protects the bed from water ingress and decay, as we haven't got anywhere to store these restored vehicles once C&W have outshopped them.

After lunch it was our second job, or otherwise the one we had originally intended to do.

It was another stretch of stone blowing at Manor Lane, Gotherington. There is a very long stretch of dipped joints here, caused by stone that was too large (and easily compressed) used when this stretch was relaid.

As it was bank holiday weekend there were no fewer than three steam hauled trains out today.

Here is 2807 just about to cross the site. We've downed tools for that. Sometimes that is easier than flagging the train down, when you have reached a natural pause anyway, such as when you have just finished one fishplate and are about to move on to the next.

Although you could see the works site from a mile away we had two flag men out.

This is the nearer one, Tony it was today.
Time for a little chat

We have to bring our own stone with us, always a squeeze in our little Landie.

Today we had half a dumpy bag full of the stuff, and filled the rubber buckets from above so that Diana and Neil could supply the stone blower from ground level.

At the end of the afternoon we had done another 5 dips, but still have about a dozen to go before we have done our stretch here.

Our heaviest loco rumbles past and Nigel keeps a careful eye on the sleepers to see if any still move after we have packed them with the stone blown underneath.

Everything seems to be satisfactory.

Broadway bits

By special request Neal came to Broadway on Friday to sort out the wood for the 4 ten foot scripted benches we are making. Because these 4 will have to stand outside we needed a more durable wood than those that stand under the canopy.

We have gone for Sapele, and it feels very solid and looks like a good choice. We gave the dimensions required for the planks and the feet, but only the planks arrived. They were too long, and there were no feet supplied. This was odd, until we realised that the feet were still part of the long planks and that it was up to us to cut them off.

This was preceded by a lot of head scratching and measuring, until we had the chop saw cutting everything exactly to size.

After that Neal got his router out and rounded off all the edges. Although he travelled quite quickly around each plank it took quite a while as there were 16 planks for the 4 benches, and each plank had two sides as well as 2 ends to shape. Then came another 12 feet on top of that.

All the wood is currently being painted. We've taken delivery of 6 of the 12 bench ends and they have now been fully painted. 6 more are expected early September and the 4 new benches should be ready about mid-October at the current rate of progress.

There's a visitors' book in the booking office at Broadway and we thought we'd share one of the many complimentary comments with you:

Despite initial scepticism that people would appreciate the high standard that we have tried to achieve with this station, it is clear that people do notice, and appreciate the quality of our near replica from 1904.

It is worth taking the care. Quality is never regretted afterwards, and it lasts. It is our duty to show people what our heritage was like, and they clearly do appreciate it. Let's continue at this high level. It's now clear that we can achieve it, and what a wonderful feeling of pride we derive from it afterwards too.

A last look at the car park works below:

It was humming with activity, and apparently already in use, as there were several contractor's cars parked in the middle of it.

Monday 20 August 2018

Stirring up a hornets' nest

Stirring up a hornets' nest - what's he on about?

You'll have to wade through the usual news first.

We made a determined effort to complete the fishplate greasing north of Toddington today. It's not that there was that much to do, but it's a very awkward site to get to. With today being a non-running day there were two rakes of coaches in the platform, so the only access was via Stanton and then a long push.

Here we are at the farm crossing below Stanton, a good place to unload the heavy TB2 machine.

We then headed south, under a possession. The trains weren't running, they were being washed. People often remark how nice our coaches are, and this is one of the reasons why. We are very fortunate that we have a team that does this.

The usual small gang of 3 was augmented today by the most welcome arrival of Mike. We had a change of MO too, and today decided to use just the one machine, to both undo and tighten the bolts on each plate. This took slightly longer, but was much simpler.

At the end of the day we had done Toddington North to the breather, the start of the CWR towards Broadway. This means that the stretch between the breather and the Greet end of the tunnel is done. If all is agreed we propose to work south from there next time. It won't be next Monday though, as that is a bank holiday and trains will run, even on our usual rest day of Monday.

While passing trackside through Toddington we noticed this interesting inscription on the abutment of the bridge.

Can you make it out?


A loco stop mark from some past event?

After a picnic lunch at Toddington we checked out a loco crew report of a noisy turnout, and there were indeed a few defects such as loose chairs and fishplates that we could sort out. That's for another day though, perhaps this Wednesday.

For collectors of GWR cast iron chairs, here is also an unusual one. It's extra small, so that two can fit on a single timber. It's stamped GWR and looks old.

In the Toddington area there is a lot of curious stuff from the very early days, and this is our oldest stretch of track, being laid first in the 1980s, with second hand stuff from all sorts of sources.

Some of it is now getting life expired, and will be the focus of our winter works at Toddington this year.

Footbridge steps work

During lunch we had a quick peep into the loco shed. There were just 2 cars parked outside it - Neal's and John's. Both were working on the steps.
Today work was focused on making the longer cleats for the landings. The cleats were cut to size, and in this picture you can see one being drilled for attachment to the stringer.

'Here are two we did earlier' they declared with pride.

This is the same piece of stringer on the original from HIA. The row of rivets at the bottom is where the cleat is that was manufactured new today. You can also see how the landing stringer was attached to the two longer, angled ones, left and right. As you can see the treads are made of wood and were found to be in such good condition (also very heavy, a good sign) that we kept them for future use.

There was only time for a very brief look at progress today, so we can't say what it was that they were cutting here. It was long though, the other end went out of the open door, and it was heavy too, your blogger was immediately roped in to help lift it. And he only stopped for a look.

We finished off the last few fishplates at Toddington north, loaded up the Landie and headed for the exit at Stanton yard.

Last week we noticed that the container was ajar. This is the old, leaky one we used at Hayles and today there isn't much in it, just Stevie's fencing material. If the door was open, that must be because Stevie preceded us and was working somewhere down the line.

On Saturday we heard the true story behind the open door. Stevie had stirred up a hornets' nest, a real one too! While making his escape, poor old Steve was stung 3 times.

Very, very cautiously we approached the open door and peered inside. And there it is! A classic, cone shaped nest, bigger than a football. The little dot on it is a hornet just going home at the end of the day.

And no doughnuts with us on Saturday either. It was a hard week for Stevie.

BTW, a further lot of photographs from John Lees' collection has been scanned, cleaned and posted on the 'Early GWSR' Flickr site. You can see the next lot here:

Saturday 18 August 2018

Stone blowing, part II

We had a record (well for the current season) turnout of 15 today, what a jolly party it was. Old friends dropped in, and new ones were made.

We were surprised at Winchcombe this morning by this pretty little freight train.

Not everything copper capped is Great Western.

The absence of doughnuts this morning (how did that happen? Stevie was most disappointed) was counter balanced by the news that our department had been awarded a modest budget to try and acquire a second Landie, one with a longer wheelbase. This is great news, it will help us do two jobs at once, and also enable us to transport sleepers around. The deck of our current Landie is very short, and that is further constricted by the little crane it has. So not much room up there.
Now to try and source a good one that fits our budget. Watch this space!.

Here is our valiant little Landie as we all know it well.

We loaded it up this morning with the kit for stone blowing, and as you can see you couldn't get another postage stamp on it. We need more load space, and something with 4wd that won't spin its wheels in the ballast.

Then out to Manor Lane, where the actual stone blowing, made possible by the cribs we dug out last week, was due to take place today. Not before Nigel and a small team of 3 went to replace a broken fish plate, a deep skirted one too. Maybe a hangover from the mighty King that we had a few weeks back?

Here is our veteran PWay man Steve eyeing in the jacks, which have been placed in the shallow holes we dug under the fish plates last week.

Listening to some people's tales, it seems the very hot weather was quite off putting for some, hence the larger team again now that temperatures have reduced back down to a pleasant 20 degrees.

After lifting the track with the jacks the voids start to appear below the sleepers, and a final detail before stone blowing is to carefully remove any remaining big stones that might be in the way of the jet nozzle.

Our big pacific was out today. The GWSR is the ideal line for it - long and straight, in fact a former main line railway.

Today's red timetable is very handy for our lookouts, as there is a train every hour, at the same time. They cross at Gotherington too, so we have two in quick succession, then peace and quiet for 45 minutes. Stone blowing can proceed without interruption.

Well, until 2807 returns, fully loaded with passengers now, from CRC. Nigel has the flag out to warn the driver to reduce speed. A green one held aloft then tells him when the last carriage has safely passed.

We had our lunch early as we ran out of stone to blow, and three volunteers went to our little yard at Skew Bridge to get some more.
There is a long concrete wall here, believed to be part of an earlier repair to a slip on the Malvern side of the embankment. It makes a handy picnic bench, although some nonetheless bring their own folding chairs.

Cake was very interesting today: lemon, with poppy seeds. We tried it carefully, and soon came back for more! Mrs. B's two cakes were consumed entirely, in fact the last few pieces had to be defended vigorously for the three that had gone to fetch more stone.

Neil is contemplating his tea. Perhaps it has a strange taste, like the tea brought by Mr. Pugh to his wife in Under Milk Wood:

Here's your arsenic, dear.
And your weedkiller biscuit.

But before Neil could put his finger on the exact taste, we had the pleasure of a visit by 4270.

Some of the lifts were quite high, so we used up quite a bit of the larger sized stone that we had delivered erroneously.

We then completed the fill with the regular smaller stone, of which we still had a small supply. Where necessary we completed the stone blowing by some hand tamping with beaters.

The dips should now be eliminated, and the track securely packed underneath, preventing any movement up and down when a train passes over the top.

We all had a good look when this one rolled by. No movement visible, good! Mid afternoon we had run out of stone to blow, more should arrive by next week.
It was rather quicker to dig out the cribs, than to stone blow the 8 voids that are revealed at each joint. There is still quite a bit more to do in the direction of Bishops Cleeve, so we'll be back here next week.

Step construction

Construction of the Broadway footbridge steps has started in earnest. On Monday the supply of channels was cut into approximate lengths, and on Friday the same small team returned to continue with the fabrication.

The roughly cut lengths of channel were each cut precisely and cleanly with this bandsaw.

It's an amazing machine. Your blogger has only ever seem a reciprocating saw in a loco workshop until now, but this modern one has an endless circular blade which whizzes around and makes a quick and very neat cut at any angle that you desire.

As the footbridge steps go up at an angle, and have a platform half way up, the ends have to be cut at precise angles to get the right shape of the stringers when they are assembled.

This is what the stringers should look like, like an elongated 'S'.
These are the original steps from Henley in Arden. They support the treads, as well as the pillars for the canopy over the top of the staircases. Because at HIA the steps stood away from the station canopy, the rain got in at the bottom and the steelwork here was badly decayed. You could put your fingers through the web of the stringers. At Broadway we will have the canopy overhang here, which will keep the bottom of the steps dry.
The steps at the front have had the woodwork removed, whereas at the back it is still in place.
The cast iron HIA columns have been kept but will not be used, as they are too short for the canopy overhang that rested on them at Broadway. New columns will be fabricated in the same style.

As we cut each piece of channel to the right length, Neal constantly checked the angle of the cut, as that will be crucial when they are joined together. The angles are not all the same, so it's quite complicated to keep tabs on them all.

It's a great pleasure to work with someone who is so good with his hands, and wonderfully at ease with this work.

We have a full set of drawings, made up for the manufacture of the new steps and also because they are not identical to the old ones. There is a slight difference in the height for example.

At the end of the day we couldn't resist the temptation to just lay everything out and see if it fitted, and take some pictures.

So here are the 4 stringers, 12 pieces in total. Everything is cut to size, but not yet assembled. You can now see what they are meant to look like, just like the ones in the HIA picture above.

Here's a view from above. John on the right has cut and drilled the cleats that support the treads, all 96 of them. It requires great patience. In the picture on the left a few sample ones have been laid on a stringer to show how they will go. The cleats will be rivetted in place with 2 rivets each, then welded round to ensure that there is no water ingress from behind. We will also have the new steelwork zinc plated, again based on experience where it rusted before.

The last picture today is a shot of the Broadway car park, this time seen from the Childswickham road end. The brown scar against the embankment marks where there was a spoil heap from the Little Buckland bridge repair and this has now been removed, revealing the embankment as it should be. At the same time a much bigger car parking area here has been revealed, and now covered in stone.

One of our trains is just pulling into Broadway above.

Before you go, don't forget to check out our work at Usk on the Heritage blog:

At Winchcombe today work started to clear the ground where the materials recovered from the Usk building will be stored in the first instance, close to where the building will be re-erected.