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:


  1. I believe the 6-wheel milk tanker has been ear-marked for refurbishment soon, wouldn't like to say when, but it's on the radar!

  2. The siding that you gave treatment to looks SO much better.
    Oh...and solid rain = HAIL!
    Regards, Paul.

  3. The riveting procedure looks interestingly similar to the way old Land Rover body panels are held together - with dome-headed rivets that need to be hammered home. None of those new-fangled pop rivets on the old models! The rivets are soft alloy so no blacksmithing is required.

    Before the Esk Valley line (Whitby - Middlesbrough) was relaid a few years ago, much of the track was still LNER bullhead rail on wooden sleepers - and, in some places, ash ballast, which over the years had become amalgamated with the underlying soil, so the track was effectively sitting in the earth.

    At Grosmont there was one such stretch where the sleepers had more or less vanished into the ground. One particular sleeper just wasn't there any more - it had literally rotted to nothing. The chairs were hanging in the air. Astounding to see that on a Network Rail line. Fortunately it got fresh ballast and (second-hand!) concrete sleepers a bit later.

  4. As a member of p.way, on and off, since 1981, it is very clear to me that the early planning has come true. Obtain track from anywhere, lay it well on the mainline and not so in the sidings and get it from anywhere. Build a railway and the locos will want to join us. Then, as we get bigger and better, get new track and upgrade where needed. I remember, being HOD, putting the odd brick under sidings at Winch. All come true and all worth it. Brilliant.
    Garry O

  5. Nobody's fixed the security camera yet!