Saturday 29 December 2018

Last Hurrah (for 2018)

The offer was on the table:

Too much Christmas cake? A glass of wine too many? Can't stand the relatives a minute longer?
Come for a refreshing day on the PWay!

Eight of us took up the offer, knowing also that the massive marzipan Christmas cake would make a re-appearance.

It was a mixed traffic special, this last weekend of the year. Class 37 D6948 stood and rumbled next to our mess coach, until it finally pulled out the chocolate and cream rake from its siding at Winchcombe.

We're now just a few days from starting our winter relay exercise at Toddington. We have a road map of which rails we will replace, and which we will keep, on this 600 yard, earliest piece of main line track laid on the GWSR in the early 1980s, south out of Toddington.

A supply of replacement sleepers is on order, but we also need two timbers, which the Telehandler can be seen here loading on to the white Landie.

We drove this up to the south end of Toddington yard, where Steve will level us a storage area for the materials needed for the relay site.

These timbers are heavy, and we were glad we only had to roll them off to one side, where they fell to the ground with a 'boom'.

As we were dropping off the two timbers the first service train drew out of Toddington. It was double headed by our two class 37s. Nice! You don't see that so often, and trains were quite well filled too, which was pleasing for this low season weekend.

The second man here looked vaguely familiar...

Wait, that's one of ours, it's David! Shouldn't he be down here helping us? Well, this is one of the privileges of hard labour on the railway, and also a delayed birthday present. So enjoy.

Foremarke Hall was also out and about today. You can see the loco here on the long curve north out of Winchcombe, about to cross the B4632 under Chicken Curve.

There was also a second steamer out today:

We offer our passengers 'big' engines most of the time, and here it's a Pacific, with the regulator just cracked open to do the 500 yards from the bracket signal into the platforms.

Over lunch we had the pleasure of offering Robin White from the WSR a table in our mess coach to letter the new clock for the Broadway cafe.

Robin is really good at this, the three magic letters G.W.R. went on in a matter of minutes.

The blank 8 day fusee clock was secured via Ebay, and thanks to Robin it will add that extra touch of atmosphere to our 1904 Broadway cafe.

It will open with the next season. With a clock.

Here is the clock, lettered in the pre - 1930s style. (after that, they bore a shirt button logo).

The purchase was made possible thanks to some generous donations from heritage minded supporters, and we are very grateful to them.

It is now being tested to see how long it runs for a given number of turns with a key.

As part of the preparation for the relay starting next week, we also need to move some wagons back into the siding that we relaid a few weeks back.

Here Nigel is removing the Permaquip trolley, which was stuck in the way without a brake handle. No problem, if you have a Telehandler.

We then shunted the wagons back up against the stop block. On the right of them you can see the foundations for the new platform wall.

Construction of the Usk building will probably take place in Q2. We need to do some more drawings for the planning application to go in, nothing major in the way though, just patience needed.

Moving the wagons back a few yards has opened up this view - essential, if you want to get at these spare rails. The best of them will replace the most worn at Toddington.

See you next year!

Saturday 22 December 2018

Have your cake and eat it.

Despite being the last Saturday before Christmas, we had a good turnout of 10 today. The prospect of fine weather and a substantial Christmas cake no doubt propelling extra volunteers out of bed.

We are now gearing up for the winter works starting in January.

A delegation of 4 went up to Toddington to bring further supplies for the relay, while the other 8 pottered around the yard bringing stuff hither and thither.

A bit like a teenager tidying up his room, as it's raining outside anyway.

Here a fleet of 2 Landies has been loaded up and is ready to go.

Outside a mini train of 03 and the two new carriages, on loan from the NYMR, was available for inspection. They are SKs in carmine and cream. Nice.

We went round the yard with the wheelbarrow, putting away bits that were left out after late in the day jobs, and reorganising pallets of stuff that didn't fit or ought better to be over there.

A couple fancied having a go at removing some broken chairs from the sleepers retrieved from the C&W side of the yard earlier in the week.

We also managed to extract two cast iron chairs from concrete sleepers that were lying broken in a pile.

Neil and Mike are using the old fashioned T spanners, as Alan and a pensive Pete look on.

In the undergrowth we found the skeleton of a long lost PWay volunteer. It must be one of ours, as it has a large jaw and a small brain cavity....

In between two Santa services Dinmore Manor coupled up to the two new coaches to try out the steam heating.

Are you sure it's meant to be coming out of here?

As various clouds of steam started to drift out of different locations under the coaches, notes were hastily scribbled to see which were meant to be coming out of where they did, and which were not.

Then at last it was lunch time, and the long awaited moment to reveal Mrs. B's piece de la resistance, her famous marzipan covered Christmas cake.

Yes, there is cake under all that icing and marzipan, but if you cut your slice carefully, you won't have to eat very much of it.

A beaming Nigel looks on as Bert Ferrule examines the marzipan-to-cake ratio. About two to one, we reckon, you've got a good one!

After the soaking we had last week, this makes up for it all again. Marzipan, a tiny sliver of cake, and a mug of tea served by a mate. Happy days.

A message from above then caused us to run out of the mess coach to look at the sky.

The message was from David, our wing walker pilot, who said that he was about to pass over Winchcombe on his way to Wellesbourne.

A small aeroplane duly appeared, but sadly not the Boeing Stearman he usually flies (nor with anyone attached to the top of the wing for 'enjoyment').

David did two circles, but we couldn't really make him out, probably as there is a minimum height required.

He waggled his wings a bit, then flew on.

After Dinmore Manor had tried out the steam heating of the two NYMR carriages, it was the turn of P&O to have a go in between Santa trains. These trains spend quite a bit of time in the platform as its passengers go and visit Santa one by one.

Driver and fireman enjoy the experience of reversing into the C&W sidings for once. What we believe is known as 'rare mileage' by some afficionados.

They did not reach the buffer stops at the far end though, which would lead to severe frustration with the 'buffer kisser' fraternity.

Picture taken by a 'festoon', of course.

Here you have the unusual sight of a Bulleid pacific on the other side of the bracket signal, with the safety valves blowing. Well, the later is not so unusual, the efficiency of the thermic syphons seems to surprise many firemen.

The coach being tested this time is the recent acquisition from Quainton Road. Might as well test the steam heating on that one too, if there is a loco spare for half an hour.

Friday in the loco shed

The three intrepid canopy extension builders were at work again, although one has gone strange and is actually making a yard lamp ladder and platform.

This is what John did on Wednesday: the four sides of the platform base are now welded together, and 12 lengths of bar have been inserted in between.

Nice and parallel they are too. At the top are the holes for the ladder support.

On Friday John started making the bracket that will become the ladder support. It's quite complicated, as it has two arms that face downwards that need to mirror the sloping angle of the ladder exactly.

This is the original from which we are working. How lucky we are to have an original ladder and platform, as they are quite rare. Most ladders seem to have been removed when the yard lamp posts were sold off. On ours from Dumbleton you can still see where one of the bolts was sawn off, rather than unscrewed from the casting.

On the right is part of the new bracket, laid next to the original one to get the angle the same.

A length of angle was used when drilling the holes in the bracket, to make sure they correspond when we actually mount the ladder to the platform. This angle will become part of the new ladder.

Meanwhile Neal completed drilling the first fascia board, and started on the second. The heavy fascia board had to be turned over and lifted to a different part of the supports, necessitating a tricky journey of the forklift through the shed, in between all the restoration work going on in there.

The first of the two lengths of angle were tack welded on to the second fascia board, and then Neal was able to start drilling the many holes, something like 100 per board.

We have had our fingers rapped for saying that every fifth hole drilled is for the rivets. In fact the fifth hole is for a bolt for the structure that will hold on the dagger boards.

Sack cloth and ashes here then. Or as per dictionary definition: 'a display of extreme grief, remorse, or repentance'. Yup, that's about it. Won't make such a basic mistake again.

Neal has picked up some great bargains at car boot sales in his time. As we ran out of metal primer he produced a 5L tin of it. However, there was a reason it was in a car boot sale (no, it wasn't hot) and that was that at some time in its career it had been dropped from a height. The whole tin had a decidedly wonky appearance, and a strong lean to one side.

Having spent quite some time in somebody's garage, all the heavy sediment had sunk to the bottom, where it formed a solid lump. Extensive, plodding stirring of the mass by yours truly offered little relief, until Neal intervened with a kitchen mixer attachment on the end of a drill. The recalcitrant paint was soon stirred into a silky cream, and applied liberally to four more of the 7 lengths of angle we need to prepare for the purlins in the drawing seen last week.

Here is the state of play at the end of Friday.

Four lengths of angle have been degreased, sanded clean, and painted in red oxide.

In the foreground is John's superb recreation of the yard lamp platform. The bracket with the two precisely angled supports can be seen fitted, nearest to the camera.

Behind is the original.

We still need to drill the two holes for the handrail supports, and make the two bars, fitting into the gap in the background, with which the platform is bolted to the cast iron post.


The Extension blog will now take a week's rest. John is off on a well deserved holiday in warmer climes, while the other two celebrate Christmas at home. Resumption of activities will be Monday week, or possibly a week today, if the all the Turkey has already been consumed by then.

We wish our readers a joyous Christmas and a reposing rest over the next week or so, but don't forget the valiant few who a running Santa services right now, an important piece of cash flow that is so welcome at this time of year. Thanks, guys!

Here's P&O off from Toddington to pick up the rake for the first train out of Winchcombe in the morning.

There aren't many pictures of the railway with snow on these days, but here is one captured on 28th December 2009. Snow on them thar hills. Once you would have seen Hailes Abbey rise out in front of them, today it is Toddington signal box.

See you again soon, and have a good one.

Wednesday 19 December 2018

The Yardies

Attendance is starting to drop off a bit as we approach Christmas. We had eight today. Well, strictly speaking one arrived late and two left early, so did we have an average of eight, a mean, a median, or what?

With eight you can still have plenty of fun. A small party led by Peter went to Toddington to drive into the ground along the line to be lifted a number of stakes at intervals, which will give Stevie points from which to measure the depth of the ballast bed.

The rest of us decided to have a go at tidying up the yard where the two derelict coaches used to stand.

The two stop blocks have been removed by their owner, thus releasing much needed parking space. However, he left behind two chaired up sleepers, the first thing we removed.

We then fished out four sleepers hidden behind some concretes belonging to a third party and some wheels.

Peter in the Telehandler took the still useable sleepers over to the PWay yard on the other side.

In the meantime, we started filling the tipper Landie with wood scraps lying round the yard, including this half a tree.

We also found some doubtful second hand timbers that were very long indeed.

Never mind, they will go on the back of the Landie too, unless they fall off. One of these candidates qualified, and we had to cut it in half.

Three wise monkeys returned from the tip, seated in the nice warm Landie while the rest of us tried to prise recalcitrant sleepers out of impossible situations.

This pile of 8 sleepers (how did it get there, together with 2 rails parked at right angles to the former sidings?) was apparently out of reach until Peter suggested moving one pallet of slabs out of the way, and in this way he was able to
s-t-r-e-e-e-t-c-h over the top and just about reach them.

Dave took the chairs off to lighten the load, and then we rolled them forward and in two halves Peter was indeed able to lift and take them away.

Another pile sorted OK then.

There are also many rails, both 60 footers and off cuts, scattered about the site.

We got this small pile of short ones out of the way, but any longer ones need to be dragged, and the yard is so full of parked cars that we can't get a straight line through.

The bucket appreciation society. This seems to be a good one.
After a modest lunch of sandwiches and left over doughnuts we collected round Peter's recently attached bucket.

So where does all the scrap go?

Oh, in there.

We got three bucket loads of heavy scrap out of this pile, which all went into the scrapman's skip. With a hell of a rumble too, it turned heads as it sounded like a nasty accident somewhere here...

Work harder! Or feel my Pilum in your Sternum.

Some of the slower workers had to be gently encouraged to work a little harder.

It's not fair when some of us throw in 20Kg cast iron chairs, and others only nuts and bolts.

These bits of GWR spearhead fencing do come in handy.

After removing all the interesting bits out of the scrap pile, we were left with a massive knot of fencing wire, steel binding tape, telegraph post stay wire and other sorts of lightweight stuff that the scrappie doesn't want.

The lightweight stuff needs to go into a skip for general waste, so when adding to this pile in future, bear this in mind. No lightweight metal.

It soon got dark with the low winter sun behind the long C&W shed.

On the way out we paused in the paint shop to find the counter for the Broadway cafe in a well advanced stage.

Do you like it?

The rear is made of plywood, so it's a bit of a facade for the public.

These spaces are for all the things a cafe needs to operate, like storage, a fridge, stock etc.

There will also be some sort of kitchen top on it.

At Broadway the station end bellmouth is finished, and the contractor is well into completing the Childswickham road end too.

You can see that the principal car parking area is here, with just a very few spaces at the station end, and large green area in the middle.

Originally, this strip of land left over after the embankment was built in 1904 was used by station staff for allotments. It fell into disuse, we heard, after passers by would help themselves to the vegetables that were growing there....

And finally, Tuesday saw the PWay Christmas dinner in the Pheasant at Toddington.

Santa came early for Dave, who opened a large cardboard box to find a 1/18th fine scale collector's model of a Landrover 90. Happiness all round! Sadly, Dave announced his intention to move to the frozen wastes of Manchester this coming Spring (for family reasons, we hasten to add, we liked him really) and the little Landie was our way of saying thank you for leading our little team on Wednesdays with such good humour.

Monday in the loco shed

The dynamic duo, except that there are three of us, continued with the preparatory work for the Broadway canopy extension.

Neal got 'Big Bertha' out and cut the 6 inch section length of new box section into three pieces.

Two will be used to support the canopy extension - remember us measuring the height last time? - and one short bit is left over.

The two future legs of the canopy extension were then brought into the shed by Neal with the small Telehandler.

We noticed this trolley just about fitted through the door, so by rotating the legs through 90 degrees we were able to push them in through the door and onto the trolley.

They were then rolled a short bit and stored on the steel storage rack. This is work for later - cutting to exact size, fitting feet, embellishments to make it look like the original casting, angled brackets at the top, etc.

Neal then carried on with work on the two 6m fascia boards. With one long angle now all drilled and bolted (prior to riveting) on one side, we turned it over and he started cleaning off the surface rust.

John and your blogger scratched our heads over the replacement ladder and platform for the recently acquired, bare yard lamp. Luckily we have one that we rescued earlier from a garden near Leominster which was complete, and that one has been cleaned up and is in the loco shed awaiting the manufacture of a six sided yard lamp top. This heritage stuff is very slow to make, we have been waiting ages for the top to be signed off for manufacture to start.

Here is the platform base, extracted from the depths of the shed, ready for study.

When we put the two posts next to each other, we found to our amazement that one was 2ft longer than the other, the difference being eked out in all but one of the different sections of the cast iron post. Who knew? It means that the ladder we will make needs to be that much longer, or we will have one giant step to start with.

We also got the handrail out. This is made of strip with a rounded profile. Fortunately we have some of this, it's amazing what you can still buy from British industry. But how will we make the rounded corners, and the scroll on the ends? The bottom of the handrail is supported by two lengths of bar which fit into the two holes in the upper picture.

After more head scratching and some advice from Neal - he seems to have been making yard lamp ladders and platforms all his life - we started cutting steel. Progress!

It's always a great feeling when you cut the first bit, like the first sod in digging a railway cutting.

Here the saw has been set up to join the 4 frame parts with mitered joints.

We soon had the 4 sides in angle cut to length, and, on the advice of Neal, we tack welded them together before drilling the 12 holes for the bars that form the floor.

This ensures the bars will be straight and parallel.

Meanwhile Neal was reaching the end of the 6m length of angle. This is rather repetitive work, drilling 50 holes for each one.

He explained that we had quite a few more angles to clean up and paint, using a quick sketch made on the steel plate on which he was working.

The angles need to be riveted together in pairs in the positions indicated. Basically it's the tops and bottoms of the purlins, and the top of the ridge purlin (the bottom is curved).

The 'S' shaped items on the ends are the fascia boards.

The way the angles are fitted is by tack welding them into position, then drilling and bolting every 5th hole, then following up with the 4 holes in the middle.

Slow but steady work.

At the end of the afternoon - it's pitch black outside now - he had done the full 50 hole length of the angle on the right.

In the foreground is the pair of platform frames, now with the 12 holes drilled.

At the end of the day the platform had its 4 sides done, including the holes on opposite sides, ready for the bar to be cut. In the front is the bracket for the ladder to be attached; at the back is an opening through which the post rises and where the platform base is bolted to it.

Finally it's been agreed that the Broadway cafe may have a clock over the fireplace. A suitable 'blank' example has been found, funded by supporters. It is of the right period, and has an 8 day fusee movement, similar to the example in the booking office.

In the picture it is hung in your blogger's garage for testing. Does it really work as advertised (yes), does the pendulum need adjusting (not really, it keeps pretty good time so far) and how many turns of the key are needed for the 8 day run. We shall know in 6 days...

This clock will also be lettered 'GWR', the very precise job in the right ink being performed by the same supporter as the now very realistic looking booking office one. It's really great how these things come together.