Wednesday 28 November 2018

Stormy Wednesday

A strange weather day today - freezing yesterday, plus 13 degrees today, with high winds. But it proved to be an excellent day for another stretch of fishplate greasing. We must complete the greasing of all the fishplates along the line, as it is written into our method statement that we will do this on a regular basis every n years.

All our kit is on the train, and as the current location at Far Stanley is rather remote, it struck us as a good idea to take the PWay train out, and unload the machinery on site. Sadly, in practice this turned out to be impossible, and once again we had the manhandling of the compressor, TB2s, their trolleys a Permaquip and all the ancillary stuff that goes with it.

Now that we have two Landies we can at least take all the kit in one go.

Another slight easement was the removal of a couple of coaches off the rake that is often parked out side our door as it were, so that we could take the Landies right up to the storage vans.

Here we are at the other end, with all the heavy stuff on board the white Landie.

Paul and Lee are setting up the trolleys, which can still be lifted by 2 people.

The TB2s on the Landie are too heavy and awkward really. Luckily the blue Landie has a small crane, which is perfect for this job.

We started at the bridge which leads over this lane. It was used too, even as we watched. It's in a very leafy and muddy cutting and something seems to be blocked.

The three teams out at Far Stanley were set up and ready to go by 11 am. Even with a reasonably early start, it takes this long for the actual kick off on site. By 12.15 again already though it is time to return to the mess coach for lunch. Lunch in the open air on a wet day like today is not really on, and we have no shelter at all on site.

Back at the ranch the white Landie was being loaded with 'garden quality' sleepers. These mainly came out of the Winchcombe relay, and the construction of the 2 new turnouts at Toddington.

We grade them into re-usable on the railway, and garden quality for sale, so there's a bit of pocket money for the company in it.

The Landie then took a whole load of GWR throughbolt chairs up to Toddington, where the 2807 group turn them into boot scrapers. Quite a few were from the earliest GWR period and were stamped '92' and the GWR was engraved, not in raised letters as on other chairs. The '92' refers to the time the GWR finally changed from broad to standard gauge, we were told.

While dropping off said chairs, we were delighted to find work being done on our Pocket Rocket. Here, as set of horn guides is being stripped down. In the background is its boiler, the frames being off site for other work by a contractor.

It won't be long before we will be invited to subscribe shares for this interesting project; a completely original Barry engine, and one which will be extremely useful on our line. Check the Pocket Rocket out on YouTube, it doesn't half go!

As the light began to fade mid afternoon the white Landie returned to far Stanley to recover the TB2s. Great was our surprise when the fishplate greasing gang was nowhere to be seen. Like greased lightening - or at least in a greased manner - they had disappeared from sight. They had completed the very long stretch of straight track at Gretton, gone round the next bend, and here we find them on the Prescott road bridge and part way into the cutting. Three Arches bridge can be seen in the distance, round the next curve is Gotherington. Wow.

Check out this fine weather. Appearances can deceive... only minutes earlier it rained so hard they were going to call the white Landie back early, and only didn't do so as the driver's telephone number could not be found. Again, no shelter on site.

This is the 'doing up' team, always several lengths behind. The undoing and greasing teams were well into the cutting.

Greasing is quick, thanks to the compressor and a pistol grip.

The man on the right has a crowbar to open out the two fishplates, so that the grease can be squirted in.

It occurred to us that the greasing team returned looking rather neat. Where was the grease, had they done any work at all? But of course they had, they must have done close to a mile today.

Well done !

This is today's furthest point of advancement, right in the cutting and in sight of the unusual brick bridge with its three arches. Almost all of our bridges are made of steel, and hence suffer from advanced age and cost us a great deal of money.

It was good to see such a big team out. They were necessary too; everyone played a role and was indispensable. We'll have another push next week, which should take us at least into Gotherington station, and maybe even a cup of tea there? Tea for 12 please !

A quick look at the siding we recently moved shows that Stevie has sprayed the outline of the platform wall in blue. You can see that it has been decided to give it a return around the stop block, and excellent idea. Actual work on excavating the foundations will start at some time next week.

Footbridge steps

Fabrication of the steelwork is complete, and thoughts are turning to galvanising. All the steelwork needs to be taken to Hereford to do this, so we are going to place it on pallets.

Luckily we have a large pile of pallets at the back of the yard, and we sorted out a few useful shapes, such as these long ones. Neal and John are walking them across the yard.

Inside the loco shed the pallets were cut to shape, and some of the cross bracing was taken apart for transport. We also did some degreasing. The pick up is on Monday and by Thursday next week it should all be back. So quick. Then there's the etching treatment and a first coat of primer.

Broadway bits

Work on the car park has resumed:

The same contractor has returned and is now going to finish off the bell mouths. It's two weeks for each end, we learned. There won't be an island in the road, which is a shame, as it would have slowed the traffic which mostly exceeds the 30mph speed limit here, coming as it does down Pennylands bank.

Off site further authentic items are being prepared for fitting to the station before the next season.

If you look at the 1904 platform side picture you will see that the wall of the building has a whole series of posters on it. These were carried on boards, like this one at Gotherington. They are made of T&G with a special grooved moulding around it. This moulding holds it all together.

The letters above are cast and 4 inches high.

A supporter has (with our agreement) given us 4 authentic reproduction GWR posters on aluminium sheet supports. These are completely weatherproof, and thus suitable for use outside. They look exactly right, but won't fade or get ripped to shreds by the wind.

We have a collection of original cast GWR letters (more are always welcome) and we have sent a set of GWR ones to a small foundry to be copied 6 times, for 6 poster boards.

T&G is easily obtainable, but how about the special grooved moulding?

We went to a specialist company in Wallsall, where our moulding shape was measured with this interesting gauge (A pin gauge, isn't it?)

You press it on the shape, and it makes a perfect reproduction of it. And it's not used very often, we were told, so the GWR moulding really is an old and very special shape.

The same moulding will also be used on the production of more V boards at Broadway, such as WAY IN, WAY OUT, and 'WAY OUT over the footbridge'.

It takes quite a bit of research and a lot of time to source all these special letters and materials, but it is happening, and we will have them ready for the next season.

Sunday 25 November 2018

Graffiti special

Two volunteers set out to have a go at removing the graffiti painted on to our bridge parapets last summer. Our Santa Special month is nearly upon us, and we don't really want the passengers to see the offensive language sprayed along our bridges.

Graffiti removal is a new experience for us, so today's mission was a bit of a test case to see which method worked at all, or worked best.

As we started at Gretton, a charity Santa Special e.c.s. passed us on its way to CRC. We may be in the off season, but that doesn't mean no trains.

We had a motorised power washer with us.

Although it took limestone off a concrete floor in a test off site, we were surprised to learn that it did not take paint off bricks. It also quickly drained our supply of water, albeit that we had 8 of these jerrycans with us. We came prepared.

We had a spray can of graffiti removal solution - did you see that at work on the Paddington documentary? - and a small jerrycan of it.

The spray can treated one parapet, but again the power washer was unable to remove the result.

We then tried the next option, which was removal by an electric drill fitted with a wire brush. That did the trick!

A follow up with the power washer did not improve the look a great deal, so we decided to stop after the rotary brushing treatment, which largely flung off the undesirable bits.

Here's one we did earlier. There are still traces of red paint here and there, but whatever there was is now certainly illegible, and looks pretty cleaned up actually, we felt.

David here is removing the letters one by one, with some success.

We think they were applied during the summer holidays. More graffiti in the same style appeared in May next to the new estate at Bishops Cleeve, which is where we guess the culprit is located.

After a while 2807 returned, this time with a train load of happy children (we hope). The destination was Santa's grotto in Winchcombe. Actually, make that 'North Pole'.

Next, the lineside cabinet, equipped by our teenage varmint with what looked like a pair of scissors. A test with a rotary sander was a failure; it was too rough and shined up the metal underneath. Your blogger later returned with a tin of grey primer, which did the trick.

One neater lineside cabinet then. On to the next item.

David came with an impressively equipped van, which had everything in it you might wish to need. It was fitted with extra knobbly tyres, and coped admirably with our somewhat overgrown trackside roadway.

The nearest point to the new housing estate at Bishops Cleeve is this underbridge. The abutments are completely covered in graffiti, so much that removal in the way we did it today was not really on. We concentrated on the top side, which is visible to our passengers.

The abutments beneath are probably best painted over. They have also been protected now by a strong anti vandal fence, which also makes access to the trackside more difficult from there.

Happily our teenage varmint signed and dated his scrawls - anyone know who he is?

This too has now been removed by us, so our beautiful line is now clean again, until perhaps the next summer holidays.

And now back to what we are here for - steam trains ! 2807 is bringing the happy children back to their starting point at CRC.

2807 has shut off steam for the speed restriction through Bishops Cleeve station area.

Saturday 24 November 2018

Back to Broadway

A grey but warm start this morning - great PWay weather!

Broadway today, where a bit more work is needed to get everything right.

As our access through the new car park is not yet ready we entered the trackbed at Little Buckland. Landie one followed new Landie two along the newly laid track.

This signal post is new, one of three just planted. A Fixed Distant? (Don't shoot if wrong!)

There comes a point where the new track swings from one side to the other, and here is where we cross.

Landie two bumps over the ballasted crossing, next to the second new signal post. We'll leave its exact name to the pundits.

All good things come in threes, and so do new signal posts. Here is the third by the Childswickham Road bridge.

Oh, there is a bit of rain about now, wasn't it going to be dry today? Well, it is November.

The job today: replace a short stretch of bullhead rail with flatbottom. It needs a debate though, so here we are holding it.

The two 'BEWARE of TRAINS' notices were put there for a purpose, to warn users of the barrow crossing.

What barrow crossing? Aha, that is where we come in....

The barrow crossing is made out of large rubber sections, and these fit on FB rail. Where the barrow crossing is to go is the southern end of the bullhead rail through the station, so we have to swap a short length of one type for the other.

The offending length of bullhead rail is marked in yellow paint, and then Bert Ferrule can attack it with the disk cutter.

Four strong men good and true then trundle off with the length of bullhead we cut out.

The FB we are going to put in instead sits on Pan 11 cast iron base plates, instead of the traditional 20Kg chairs a bit further along. Both have 3 holes, but of course not in the same place. That would be too easy.

So we need to plug the old holes with spiles, which David here is hammering in as far as they will go. The bits that stick out are then sawn off, so that the sleeper is still flat on top. New holes are then drilled.

Come on, get your hands dirty ! Go and help Pete, who's all lonely by himself.
Then comes the complicated bit (see debate earlier). The existing bit of FB rail to the south has to move up, and take the place of the length of bullhead we took out. There's a bit of 'the piece of string is now right at this end, and now its the other end that is too short' about this. Indeed, a new gap then opens up behind the camera. Once we have all got together and made a gang with the nips and pulled this much longer piece along.

Here the longer FB bit has been pulled north, closing the gap where the crossing will be, but opening up a new one near the bridge.

The bits of bullhead rail we cut out have been dropped in the 4 foot here.

After pulling the longer bit north, the gap created behind is too short to take a new length of rail. The minimum allowed is 15ft, otherwise the joints are too close together.

Bert then springs back into action, and reduces the length of the longer bit of FB we pulled up.

Are you following this, at the back?

With the disc cutter all nice and hot now, Bert jumps over to the down line. Well, not so much jumps as hobbles, that disc cutter is hard work and you're bent over forwards all the time, which is hard on the back.

Bert let Neil take over after a bit. Everyone deserves a rest. Even the wicked.

In this view you can see that the gap on the up line has been closed again, and even fishplated up already. We work quickly and efficiently. Bert is now cutting out the 2 lengths of bullhead out of the down line.

Here both lengths of bullhead rail on the down line have also gone. They're now on the PWay trolley, ready to be rolled away to an easier pick up point down the line.

The new Pan 11 base plates have been laid out in the foreground. They have a flatter profile than the traditional chairs, which allows the rubber crossing sections to lie down flat.

On the right the sawdust tells you that these base plates have had their (new) holes drilled, and indeed that piece of rail is now nicely bolted down into its new position.

To keep the workplace neat, Richard is rolling those two bullhead offcuts to the other side of the bridge, together with the chairs we no longer need (replaced by the Pan 11s).

On the other side of the bridge the offcuts are dropped down on to the trackside, where Stevie can pick them up more easily.

This is also where Stevie has brought the set of rubber crossing mats for the barrow crossing that we are building.

We're going to use a mini digger to transport them to the crossing site, and then drop them in from above. They are surprisingly heavy, for something made of rubber.

While we were dropping off the rails, Dave and Neil prepared for the next job on the down line, which was to drill new holes in the remaining length of bullhead.

The drill head is lubricated with a special fluid that is pumped out of a portable pressurised reservoir, similar to a weedkiller sprayer.

The fluid wasn't getting through, there was a kink in the feed pipe.

Neil is watching Dave intently for any wrong move. We are always keen to give advice when a colleague is doing something wrong.

And, Neil, is Dave doing it all wrong?

Why, yes, Dave is doing it all wrong !

Even Pete agrees, we would do this so much better.

Come on, Dave.

Soon it began to get dark. We came in the dark, and we would leave in the dark. It's that time of year now.

The final gap is measured for length. Next week we will bring 4 lengths of FB rail to fill those gaps. The mini digger will bring them over the bridge, we will fit them, then collect and place the rubber sections.

One new barrow crossing. Well next week, anyway.

Blast from the past:

It's a picture by our very own John Lees, of the spot we were working on today. Except that John took the picture way back in September 1998. Twenty years ago already. He was standing on the bridge - see how rusty it was then - and the view is north.

Today you can see two platforms here, a signal box, a completely rebuilt station, and the centre span of the Henley in Arden footbridge.

All done thanks to our generous shareholders and kind supporters who left us a legacy. Volunteers then did the job.

The young chap, by the way, is Nick Lewis, a volunteer with us for a brief period, who came out with John.