Saturday 30 March 2019

The sun has put his hat on

Friday at Broadway

A beautiful sunny day, just right for working outdoors on the footbridge steps.

This was the job: fitting heavy duty timbers to the roof hoops. This is the first bit of carpentry on the steps, and together with a number of cross members these will support the corrugated iron sheets that go on top.

Neal had his full carpentry kit with him, and here you can see him marking out the angle between the intermediate landing and the lower half.

Once the angle has been marked out, the end of the timber is cut to fit with the router, and a few odd bits chopped off with a chisel.

Things don't always fit first time, so a little planing is required for the final fitting.

The scaffolding put up is on three levels, following the roof line of the steps.

Once again, although this is a non-running day, we were visited by a train, in this case a photographers' special.

While the scaffolding gives an unusual view, it is straight into the sunlight at this early time of day, so apologies for the poor quality of the shot.

Then on to the top half of the timber, which is bolted on very securely to the roof of the centre span.

The underside of the sheets is still in primer, so there is more work here to be done.

Thanks to the elevated top level of the scaffolding, we can get an unusual view of the interior of the centre span. In its original position at HIA this footbridge (like many others of its type, although not the one at Broadway) had half height windows along the top edges left and right. These stopped the rain from blowing in and sitting on the treads, with nefarious effect.

The draft plan of the canopy team is to get the steps finished by the end of the current running season. However, you won't be allowed down the other side as platform 2 is not ready for passenger use.

At the end of the day we had one side of the P2 steps done, and made a start on the other side.

It's a bit of a confused picture this one, all scaffolding poles and planks. In there among them are the timbers we fitted today. They echo the stringers underneath.

The view from P1 is slightly clearer, you can just about make out the two parallel lines, one in wood and the other in metal.

The low, late afternoon sun shows off the beauty of our canopy. The rays of the sun shine through the Victorian green hue of the glass panels, and throw shadows of the riveted ironwork on the walls. There is no-one about.

The canopy extension which will go on the left will have this glass on both sides, making for a very airy circulating area, lit by a big, central hexagonal gas lantern. This is being sponsored by a supporter of the project. It will look brilliant!

Saturday at Toddington

It was hot! How do you know this? The short sleeves came out in the mess coach, it was like an oven in there.

We had a great turnout of 15, and two jobs to do: Kango pack 6 sleepers overlooked by the tamper at Toddington, and beef up siding Nr. 1 there, which has had some defects on it since the day it was laid back in the 1980s.

At Toddington the yard lamp recovered from Dumbleton was getting some tlc, as it is about to be installed in the yard. Great news.

What's so unusual about the loco shed? It has no locos in it! The running season is now well under way.

The two sites selected for the two GWR yard lamps are shown in the pictures above. One by the water tower, the other nearer the yard throat. Two pits for the foundations have been dug out.

We have also settled on a definite design for replica lamp tops, and are ready to order their manufacture, which will take 3 months.

Chris and Neil start to free up sleepers marked with an 'X'.

Siding Nr. 1 is a bit of a misnomer, as it is not used to stable anything, but is the main approach road to Toddington station from the yard throat. It is very busy, used by every loco coming off shed. It follows +/- where the up line used to be.

About 25 sleepers have been marked for replacement, and a full review of all the fishplates used, most of which have only 2 bolts.

Before removing any of the rotten sleepers, we had to let the DMU out, then the road was ours.

Replacement sleepers are second hand of better quality, to save on costs. We piled a day's supply on the trolley and pushed it from site to site.

Later in the day the first steamer came out of Broadway, with Foremarke Hall leading. The sun shone brightly but the air was still fresh, leading to this nice plume of steam.

This is a typical fishplate that needs attention. It has only two bolts ( permissible, but we prefer four) and you might notice that there is also a step to the next rail, so a lifter is needed here.

Here it is, with the new fishplate fitted, and 4 bolts. The track laid in this area is among the very first ever laid, and there is all sorts of stuff out here, from a time when we were grateful for anything we got get.

Steve, who worked with us today, was there when Siding Nr. 1 was laid back in the '80s, and he mused somewhat ruefully that he was paying the price today (heavy digging out)  for the mistakes made then. But it was all we could get at the time, and it has served for 30 odd years, after all.

Another issue we had with these fishplates is that some gaps were large...

... and others small, so that we had to loosen this rail and knock it back a bit.

When the gap was right, finally, we couldn't get the fourth bolt in (remembering that before it had only 2) and the reason for that, we found, was that the 4 fishplate bolt holes had different spacings between them. Would you believe it! No wonder this one had only two bolts fitted back in 1982.

In order to save on car journeys we shared the journeys to and from Winchcombe, and here 4 of us were in Steve's 1972 VW camper van, quite an experience. It has a long history with the early days of the railway, sometimes serving as an early mess coach!

Foremarke Hall returns from Cheltenham

After lunch one of Dave and Diana's friends came to visit us in his private plane.

He seemed pretty pleased to see us, and as we waved to him he gave us a little aerobatic performance, which was rather breath taking.

At the other end of our recent relay a small team addressed the 6 sleeper area that hadn't been tamped when the tamper recently passed by here.

This packing job was done with Kangos, powered by the generator on the trolley.

That's another job ticked off the list.

Get a grip, Chris!

On Siding Nr. 1 we continued with sleeper replacement, a very slow job. Particularly the digging out of the sleepers first thing was back breaking, and we decided to stop after doing 6.

In the afternoon we pulled out the old sleepers, although some people did it wrong, and only pulled out half a sleeper at a time.

The easier part of the job was getting the new (well, second hand) sleepers back in. Steve and Mike are at work here, more sleepers await their turn on the left. We did the 6 we dug out; there are 18 more to go for next week, as well as lots more fishplates to correct.

As the shadows began to lengthen the last full Broadway-Cheltenham train rumbled by. Occupancy looked good, especially as we had 3 trains out and it was still very early in the season. The Broadway car park was also seeing good use again.

Wednesday 27 March 2019

Whoops !

Whoops ! We missed a post on Saturday. This was due to a 3 day mini break to Scotland, of which more later.

First, back to the matters in hand on the railway.

Friday at Broadway.

We're waiting for the scaffolders to arrive, so that we can make a start on the roof of the steps, and other woodwork related to them.

In the meantime we are putting up the spearhead fence and cast iron posts along the forecourt, to complete our frontage up to the B&B.

The spearhead panels have long feet (in a slight departure from the original) and here John is digging out a hole for one of these.

The feet will stand in plastic tubes in this area, and in the picture Neal is cutting one to length, before settling it down into the hole John dug.

Three holes were required. The first inches below ground are difficult to dig through, as you have to break through the slagstone blinding the GWR laid in to keep the underground clay at bay.

Once through the slagstone you are into the solid blue clay, and here Neal's auger comes in jolly useful.

A smaller hole needed here? Neal has a smaller auger. Of course.

At the gate end Neal drilled the holes for the bolts that will hold the first fence panel in place.

These gate posts, cast from a pattern specially made for us, a very useful. They are multifunctional, and can be used to attach either gates or spearhead fencing panels. Or even act as a newel post, which is what we are doing at the bottom of the steps.

Just before lunch we had enough holes dug for a test fitting.

What do you think of it so far?

Two panels were placed with their feet in the two holes dug. They were removed again later, so that we could clean and paint the two rails for the cast iron bridge notice.

The blue tube in the middle is for the canopy end post.

Hi there!
Monday is a non-running day. Until a train comes in, here for a fire and drive experience. Nice to have the platform free of people, but it won't be long. The season has got going again, and so far, so good.

Yes, Hi There! Nice to see you too.

Having cleaned the posts with a wire brush, we put on a protective coat in the afternoon.

There, the first 3 panels are in. They do round the frontage off beautifully. Now Peter of the Broadway gang will measure up the actual distance remaining, and will make the last two panels to fit. These are both one-offs, including the return to the left which ends in the last post by the tower for the bridge. One day it might go further, along the back of the platform.

Wednesday at Manor Lane

Our PWay train brought to Manor Lane by the Winchcombe yard shunter.
Today Wednesday was our last chance to do any fishplate greasing on a non-running day with the Wednesday gang. As we have a lot of kit to get out we asked for the train to be brought out, which saves a lot of loading and unloading with the Landies. As a result, we did exceptionally well today, three quarters of a mile!

It's a lovely view of the Cotswolds; but turn to the left and the advancing housing estates are just 2 fields away.

We commented on that last week, and here is a picture.

It's a long road with a 25Kg Animal stretching your arm.
We had a team of 12, and allowed ourselves a little luxury by splitting that into two groups of 10 (fishplate greasing) and 2 (correction of minor defects along the loop).

The track walkers produce an excellent report which details precisely where even the tiniest fault can be found. One of these was a report of a fishplate fitted upside down (years ago, it must be said) and this was located at the north end of the loop. We loaded the heavy stuff into a wheelbarrow and pushed it as far as we could, but the nearer we got to the target location, the harder it got to push, so eventually Dave picked up the heavy Animal and just lugged it to the site.

A wrong'un, obviously upside down, see.

Arrived on site, we looked and we looked but couldn't find the upside down fishplate, which was spray painted to help us.

Eventually we made a phone call, to discover that the location was the other north end.

Well, who knew. With that vital piece of information we found the plate soon enough, and put it the right way round without problems.

Job done, now for some broken plastics.

Next, several broken plastics on the list. How long do these things last, we wondered? They were all replaced with new without problems, even this one, worth a photograph because the issue is one we have never seen before.

The plastic 'biscuit' isn't broken at all, but hanging half off to one side. How on earth did it get like that?

Our little team of two deals with an upside down fishplate

After lunch we united and became a team of 12, except that two gang members dropped off, so the greasing team stayed at a net 10 volunteers.

We started by the PWay train stabled in the far distance, can you see it?

We had the three vehicles out, a TB2 to undo, the trolley with the compressor and the greasing unit, and the second TB2 to do the bolts up again. Three men on each, and one to 'prep' the bolts with a large spanner if they were too stiff.

Some of the nuts were really very hard to undo. Too much for the power of the petrol TB2, and too much for the spanner too it seemed, as a lengthening of the leverage was required by means of a bar stuck in the end to get this one off. Plus two men to pull on it, Jules and Paul.

But, mission accomplished, and we got this one loose too.

Greasing the CWR breather at the beginning of the CWR section.
We were a bit under time pressure, but were very keen to reach the outskirts of Bishops Cleeve, where a section of CWR started. How good it would be if we could tick that off. Then, beyond the CWR through the former station, it is just a short hop to CRC to complete the entire railway.

With just half an hour to go before our train was due to be picked up again, we finally reached the breather.

We had just done three quarters of a mile, from the PWay train parked way back at the beginning of this long straight. We felt good.

Time for a 'selfie' of the proud gang. Here we are then:

Martin, John R, Jules, John B, Robert, Dave D, Paul and Dave P. 
Alan and Mike could only do half a day, so didn't make the snap.

All that remained then was the long trudge back to the train, three quarters of a mile. This stuff certainly keeps you fit.

Saturday - Monday in Scotland

If you love trains and good food,you might enjoy this: a three day mini break by private train to Fort William and back. It's called The Statesman.

The luxury train is made up out of 7 Mk2s in Pullman style, a Mk1 full kitchen and top-tail haulage by two class 47s. You eat and drink all the way there, and all the way back.

The train is based at Crewe, but started out from Milton Keynes.

To keep the carriages fully watered up there are occasional water replenishment stops, such as this one at Penrith. This is an opportunity for a quick visit to the front to see which loco is pulling the train.

Here it's 47 593, with the beautiful name of GALLOWAY PRINCESS. Despite the 14 hour journey, she remained immaculate throughout.

In Scotland you are welcomed by a pipe band, here at the start of the West Highland Line.

On arrival at Fort William, the train reverses and hence the leading loco is the other class 47, D1944, CRAFTSMAN.

Another immaculate turnout, here in BR two tone green.

The scene is Glenfinnan viaduct, on the way to Mallaig.

From the viaduct you get a moody view of Loch Shiel, with the Jacobite Glenfinnan monument just visible on the shore on the left.

The return journey is also in the care of D1944 CRAFTSMAN. The train paused briefly on this stunning curved viaduct leading to Rannoch station, with the snow covered Highlands in the background. It's only March, after all.

Loch Treig allures with its black, peat laden water, just under the distinct snow line a short walk up the mountain.

Elsewhere there is just emptiness and wild nature.

Thanks to the train, you get a brief view of this secret landscape, here off the horseshoe viaduct.

A final glimpse of The Statesman, here at the lonely outpost of Rannoch. There's a half hour to photograph your own train, while it waits for a regular service to cross.

Now it's back to earth with a bump, and fishplate greasing today. But it's good to be among friends again on the gang. Custard doughnuts today too, a real treat.

If you like the class 47, you might be lucky and glimpse our very own 47 376, which carries the name FREIGHTLINER 1995.