Saturday 27 October 2018

A riveting blog post

We had a leap in the temperature today - from minus 2.5 to plus 2.5 degrees! Whoo-hoo. It was a bitter and damp day, and in the afternoon we were at first treated to sleet and later to solid rain.

Luckily we were able to work in the carriage sidings at Winchcombe, which was close to home and near to a bit of tea and warmth.

Despite the miserable weather - as it later became - our trains were well patronised and with two locos fitted with steam heat - Dinmore Manor and Growler D6948 - we were able to keep our customers warm.

Not us though - we had to work to keep warm. This was OK, as long as you didn't stop.

We thought that perhaps a handy and relatively swift job could be the replacement of some sleepers in the carriage sidings that were very dubious indeed. They were laid, second hand already, some 30 years ago now.

Here David is just setting off with a trolley packed with our tools and materials for the job.

We hadn't got far to go in term of yards, but in terms of track miles.... it was backwards and forwards, until we were finally on the rear side of the sidings in question.

During this the C&w shunter trundled up and down with lots of different carriages. The track layout here does not seem very rational, and there was much 'zig-zagging' to get to where you wanted.

This is a view of the C&W yard from the Toddington end. The whole yard is serviced by the one entrance on the right, where the Telehandler is standing, so you can imagine the shunting required to get to the back road on the left.

There is an option being considered to put a carriage shed here, over the three roads on the left.  There is a considerable depth to the stretch of land to the left, so it could be a good place where all 3 rakes of 8 could be stored in the dry. However, other projects competing for the limited funds we have explains why we haven't made an immediate start on this interesting and useful idea. We are not rich, despite the clear success of Broadway.

The road we need to resleeper is the middle one, the one to the left of the group of three.

Removing the rotten sleepers here was surprisingly easy, as there is no ballast! That saved a lot of time and effort and was a great relief. It also made us far more productive; we did 12 sleepers by the end of the day.

Here David is removing the chair screws from a sleeper we are going to replace, as Paul and Jim look on.

In this picture you can see the issue reported by the shunters from C&W - some of the sleepers were so bad that their remains could be pulled out by hand.

We hasten to repeat that this is a back siding, used for parking stock awaiting restoration, it's not a passenger running line

At first David was going to pull this one out with the nips as is usual, and then he thought, I can just pull it out with my bare hands. Note that it's also a throughbolter, but undoing that seized bolt is no issue here as the sleeper has split in two.

And this is another picture from the days when a quick fix and second hand materials were good enough for an old siding round the back - staggered joints, and the flimsiest fishplate we've ever seen - cut in half, with only one bolt! But good enough for a storage siding.

Because this siding had at some time in its life been slewed intact, most of the sleepers were also askew, and with the passage of time the stresses this imposed on the cast iron chairs meant that many had broken in half. Makes removal that much easier though.... we put the new ones in straight, sorted out most of the others.

Before lunch we did 6 sleepers, and zig-zagged them off back to the Telehandler, where they were exchanged for better ones.

After lunch and as the steady rain started, we did 6 more.

The C&W guys were so grateful, one even came out and helped us push the trolley. Very friendly that.

Here's a better view of the siding we improved today. At the back of it is an unusual vehicle - a 6 wheeled milk tanker, in the livery of the local Cotteswolds dairy. It bears an inscription that it was repainted by the Tewkesbury YMCA in 1997, and today in 2018 it could do with another refurb. It's a very interesting and not very common railway goods vehicle.

Having completed the replacement of 12 sleepers, all the ones we had brought, we were about to retreat to the mess coach for a warming cup of tea when we noticed a bit of a dip in one of the first joints of this siding.

We thought we'd have a quick go at that dip, in passing as it were.

We put it up on some bricks and then packed it with anything we could find in the area.

It did the trick, the line looked much more level when we did finally go home.

Gretton slip - finale.

The work is now complete, as forecast last week. The contractors have reinstated the site, and it looks pretty neat.

Our outside correspondent Jonathan has sent these pictures for you:

The top edge of the slip, with slip repair and new fencing.

The bottom of the former slip, with our line just beyond.

The ditch from the field, thought to be the source of the washaway which caused us the slip. Very neatly handled; it now drains into a concrete pit.

Fencing at the top, with the concrete catch pit and in the distance the home signal (in GWR parlance, other refer to it as the outer home) just outside Greet tunnel.

Just to the right of the picture above; the corner of the two fields involved.

Reinstatement of the temporary road leading to the site. The Royal Oak pub is at the back on the right.

An exit to the Gretton road, with fencing and gate.

Contractor's vehicles parked up, ready for collection.

A riveting story

Friday saw a large crowd gathered at the entrance to the yard, and Dimore Manor simmering away by the pit. These were participants in a fire and drive day.

It was an ice cold morning, with the sun just peeping over the Cotswolds Edge. The temperature hovered around 5 degrees C but in the afternoon there was a furious rattling in the loco shed. That wasn't due to a bunch of hard working volunteers, but due to a hailstorm. Winter is definitely on its way.

Inside the loco shed there was evidence of the next step to Neal's measurements on the centre span last week.
The stringers have had their ends welded on, and each has 5 holes drilled in the correct place, as determined last week. We can now be sure they will fit.

Friday there were 6 of us, Neal having recruited 3 extra volunteers Jeff, Tom and Baz to carry out the all important preliminary riveting.

The first job was to see if the rivets would fit into their allocated holes. Some didn't. The holes were good enough for the temporary bolts, but not for rivets, which are a bit fatter.

Neal therefore took to reaming a number of holes out with this air powered drill. That sorted them out OK.

John waiting for the first rivet
John was rivet heater today, and Tom rivet carrier. We each had a crucial job in the team, and by the end of the day we functioned like an well oiled machine.

Here's rivet going in, heated to bright orange.

We're doing this with a compressed air hand held rivet gun, with a compressed air powered stop block on the other side.


Here are the first 4 in place - aren't they neat? They're not going to move any more.

Once we had done the first 'T' shaped section we parked it to one side. We did 14 rivets on each one. The remainder will be done on site. Three more 'T' shaped sections stand in the background.

John in the background has just started heating the next one, while Tom here has grabbed one in the tongs and is making a dash for the beam.

Stand clear - it's hot!

With a bit of a wriggle the red hot rivet is aimed at the hole.

It's not that easy to get it in. There are 3 layers of steel to get through, and often it catches on the inside edge of one of them. Wait too long, and the rivet goes cold and stiff again, and gets stuck.

If you think you have got it right and properly lined up, it's OK to give it a tap with the hammer.

If you judge that wrong, it bends and gets stuck in the hole.

This time we did it right. Jeff on the right has the air powered stop block, while Neal has the rivet gun on the left.

Now to lock the stop block in place with some air pressure - there's a shout of 'air on'.

As soon as the air is on and the stop block jammed into the channel, Neal jumps into position and hammers the rivet head to seal it in. There's a short burst of rat-a-tat-a-tat.

At the end of the day we had done all 4 of the intermediate landing supports. That's 56 rivets, all faultlessly placed. What a team ! Don't forget Baz, who off camera cut all the required rivets to the correct length. They're all different, you know.

Here's one we did earlier - and missed. It's a case of good rivet, and bad rivet. Bad rivet caught the edge of one of the 3 steel sheets we riveted together, and jammed. We hammered, it bent. Then it's a case of getting it out as fast as possible, before it cools down too much and gets stuck. Ya gotta be quick in this game.

We had a great and very successful day, completing all 4 intermediary supports as we had hoped.

Next is riveting the cleats on the stringers. For this we would like to use the 'Squeezer', that giant magnet shaped thing suspended from the A frame. We have to borrow that from a generous supporter, so here's hoping we get it on time. We have until the end of the year.

Oh, and if you want to see a video of the Growler growling, look here:

Saturday 20 October 2018

Food fight

Only 10 volunteers today, no doubt due to conflicting duties with our very successful food fight - er, fair. Indeed, one of the PWay gang is actually the mastermind behind it! We coped, but it's more fun when there are lots of you.

It was an early start this morning. Actually, it was a usual start this morning, but the days are getting shorter quickly and at the time of the 08.30 arrival by the mess coach this morning the sun hadn't even appeared over the Cotswolds Edge yet.

Lots of people were already about, and our food fight - er, fair - is now such an event that it is spread out over 2 sites, with a DMU shuttle in between. It was well used too. We had a heavy 3 train timetable today to cater for the demand.

As we arrived, two very kind souls had already made a start on renovating the newly revealed stop block at the end of the siding we shifted last week.

Here they are buffing and polishing the rusty old rails.

Skipping to the end, here is what they looked like at the end of the day:

An amazing conversion. Two visitors wanted to know if it was a new one. Well, almost new. It turns out that the mystery stop block polishers were from a friendly neighbouring department. Thanks, guys!

At Toddington the big guns were out. Eight coaches and a pacific express engine on a former GWR main line. What more could you ask for?

After collecting the token for the section to Winchcombe, 35006 P&O allowed itself a little crack on the regulator and on this crisp sunny morning it slowly accelerated away from Toddington box.

As the 8 coach express accelerated away, a class 47 diesel rumbled into the station, ready to take the next 8 coach train out. It's all go here.

Rather humbled by these big machines, we packed our 'animal', sleeper drill, jacks and shovels into the two Landies and set off for the Toddington south turnouts, where we were to finish off the timber replacement started last week.

With yet another steam loco girding up its loins in the distance, Bert got the big disk cutter out and cut off the bolts holding down the rotten timber under the switches of this turnout.

We pulled out the old timber. As the timbers were tightly interlaced at this point, we split it into two halves, which we pulled out in turn through a small gap.

The remains of the old timber, a softwood one, can be seen on the back of the new Landie next to the new one on the left. It's compost now.

The new timber was then drawn off the Landie.

Note that Steve on the right is not getting involved. Last week Steve was on the nips at the pulling end, and when the other end of the timber hit the ground with a heavy thud the shock went right up his arm, and Steve was seen hopping about and saying things we can't report on this nice blog.

A couple of faint toots (why don't the owners of the class 47 repair their air horn, the feeble sound of it does not strike fear into the hearts of people in its way as it should) told us a diesel hauled train was coming, so we gave it a wave and stood to one side as it rumbled by.

Out with the old...

The new timber was pulled in and bolted down. That left us with three piles of garden quality dirt. We decided to shift these to one side, and replace them with nice new ballast.
... and in with the new.

Not seen on the photographs was Alan, who brought the Telehandler up from Winchcombe with a bucket load of ballast, and who shovelled the whole load out (almost) by himself into the buckets you can see here being carried across the tracks.

Behind us and down below there were various hisses and toots as the NG gang prepared themselves for a busy day.

Further up by the station we had the privelege of watching a down Cornishman come in to Toddington, hauled by Dinmore Manor (OK, not a castle, but you could almost believe it).

The GWSR is a great railway, because on a special day like today it can be really busy, and at Toddington, if conditions are right, it looks like double track too.

At the end of the day - a short one, but we had completed the timber replacement at Toddington - we took a look at the new space created by the stop block moved to one side at Winchcombe.

The Usk hut is planned to go in the top corner on the LH of this picture, but some people pleaded for it to be nearer the platform, in the spot delineated by the 4 stakes.

Slip repair at Greet.

Work has continued here apace, and the contractor should have finished at the end of this week.

The embankment slope has been waterproofed to stop the lubrication of the clay.

Along the top edge the ditch has been reinstated, but rather than an open ditch as before the contractor has opted for a perforated pipe at the bottom of the ditch, covered by ballast.

The junction with the new ditch joining, which caused the failure of the embankment side, can be seen at the top.

This is the view the other way, in this case looking south.

A close up of the drain cover where the two ditches meet. The rainwater is taken down to the track drain from here, and then away to the lowest point on the other side of the track, where a small stream emerges.

The site was on the edge of a field and at the end of the works the temporary access road is being landscaped by the contractor.

The other end of the access road, which emerges next to the Roayal Oak. Both the farmer and the Royal Oak have been very helpful in allowing us to repair the slip across their land.

Broadway footbridge steps.

The fabrication of the metal parts for the new footbridge steps is now pretty much complete at Toddington.

Prior to sending the half assembled parts away to be zinc plated, some of the items will be rivetted together at Toddington. This will save time at Broadway.

There is no money this year to buy the steel for the canopy extension, sadly. Unless that money is found, the canopy extension parts will have to be manufactured next year, and assembled at the end of the 2019 running season.

Neal was at Broadway on Friday to measure up for the gussets that will be attached to the ends of the stringer. The holes in those plates need to match the existing 6 holes in the centre span exactly. Neal took one of the 4 gusset plates in question with him, fettled it so that it fitted around the welds up there, and then drilled it.

Drilling the 6 holes was tricky due to the lack of space for the mag drill, but in the end and with a bit of ingenuity he did it.

We then walked over to the other end to test the holes there.

This is the current view of the footbridge from up there. There is some rainwater penetration and it could do with a row of half height windows along the tops of the sides, as it once had at Henley in Arden. The holes along the top edge of the sides are still there.

Neal explaining the layout of the station from above. On the bottom right is one of the fixing holes for the former windows, which would have protected against the prevailing southerly rain.

Looking down on to P2 you can see the foundations of the bottom of the footsteps, and the intermediate landing support. The hole beyond that with the brushwood in it is the site of the former waiting room.

This side also had a rivetted canopy, with a canopy overhang. Fortunately the footbridge tower on this side is in line with the corner of the building as it should be.

The fence on the right has been completely renewed by a contractor over a length of several hundred yards, another area of expense that is rarely in the public eye.

A view from the footbridge to the north today. At ground level the new S&T point rodding and signal cable runs were very evident.

A view of our station building in the sun, and with its new modesty screen at the south end. Platform 2 looks much better, now that the concrete cable troughing has been removed. Spearhead fencing, tarmac and lamp tops are still required on this side, but that's for another budget.

Evesham Road car park.

The main car park works are almost complete now, with the exception of the entrances. These are to be built by a different contractor for the council.

The picture above shows the middle section. There is a fenced off footpath down one side, and the surface has been finished off with permeable slabs to allow rainwater to soak away, instead of adding to the flooding woes of Broadway Brook.

Looking right a bit, the parking area in the centre (above picture) makes way for a grassed area of some length. The purpose of this grassed area, which must surely cost quite few parking places, is unknown to your blogger.

This is the railway's renewed track access road. It's got a nice new gate at the bottom, and a bit of a new surface too. At the moment we're having to access our trackbed as far away as Little Buckland in order to drive a vehicle and supplies to this spot, so to recover our access road is a big relief. It should be available in the new year.

This overview of the whole car park shows how it's just about finished, leaving the bell mouth for someone else still to do.

Broadway by night - returning home after a late night heritage group meeting, we found the bridge all lit up. In fact it's not separate lighting, but a very reflective material that reacts well to a car's headlight. Certainly at night, you can't really miss this bridge (if you know what we mean).

More Early GWSR pictures have been posted on the Flickr site. You can go straight to the current page with this link:

We're now up to 466 photographs, and the southern end of Greet tunnel. More to come in due course.