Saturday 31 August 2019

Holidays ahead!

The annual holiday is ahead, so this Saturday post from along the line will just be a quickie.

We had a good sized gang of 10 out today, still on measuring the track and its components. We started here, just south of Hayles Abbey halt, the bridge of which you can make out in the distance.

2807 headed the first train south out of Toddy, that important train that gets all the eager passengers from CRC first thing.

2807 crossed the class 26 at Winchcombe, where the diesel had gone to collect the third rake to take it back to Toddington to start its day. There were 4 locomotives out today, for the three rakes of carriages.

Presumably 4 locos for 3 rakes is because there is some sort of revolving door at Toddington, to give the push-me-pull-you trip to Broadway a variety of locos. It mnakes for great changes of traction for the enthusiast.

The repaired switch was due to be returned to us yesterday, and next Friday is pencilled in to put it back in place on the southern turnout at Broadway. Having lots of locomotives on the Broadway leg is great for variety, but they have to be paid for and one could speculate that the hire costs for the extra locos may well exceed the cost of repairing the switch!

We worked our way steadily south from the curve south of Hayles, and with 10 guys on various measuring instruments progress was faster than recorded so far (this was the 5th session).

Here we are about half way down the Defford straight (so called because the initial military type track laid here, since replaced, came from RAF Defford aerodrome) and this time it's 35006 that trundles by. With the green timetable today trains ran like clockwork every hour, so we didn't need a timetable to work out when the next one was due.

At the sight of a very large, ominous looking rain cloud, and a forecast front moving over us for an hour or so at lunch time, we decided to return to the mess coach for our picnic lunch. It it was true, not long after there was a short but tremendous downpour. We missed it, so there.

In the morning then we did the whole of the long Defford straight, and after lunch we kicked off from the outer home to do Chicken Curve.

Here we were able to admire 2807 under a fine sun, which had come out again after the rain cloud moved on.

The fourth loco out today was the class 47, which you can see here pulling out of Winchcombe, just as we were coming off Chicken Curve. Winchcombe and home was in sight!

At Toddington the class 47 crossed with the class 26, which returned 20 minutes later, as we were on the home straight into Winchcombe yard.

The total surveyed today: one mile! Our best day so far. We were well pleased.

The main gang hitched a ride on a train to CRC at the end of the day, while your blogger hastened home to pack his suitcase - there will now be a 14 day gap in the reports here, but everyone is allowed a holiday once a year.

See you again soon.

Saturday 24 August 2019

Measure once - er, twice.

Saturday along the line

What a splendid day to go out along the line and record our track. The sun shone brightly, and there was almost no wind. Balmy days indeed.

Eight of us met at Winchcombe, had tea (but no doughnuts, due to a delivery problem) and then headed for Toddington south.

On our way north to Toddington we crossed the first train south, here splendidly headed by that grand old lady, 2807, in her last year before overhaul.

We resumed last week's track recording at the Toddington southern turnout, and worked our way further south towards Didbrook and Hayles.
Competitive contact lens hunting

We parked the Landie at Didbrook 1 and walked north, returning slowly with our tape measures, track gauge et al until we met again to recover drinks, which were much needed in today's heat.

This was our starting point at the south end of Toddington. As Alan measures the length of the rail with Jim off camera, Bert Ferrule paints the number of the rail into the web, so that Nigel can record everything on the spread sheet.

We worked quickly and efficiently all day, pausing only twice an hour to let the three trains through.

Today we had 47 376 with one set, 2807 with another, and the re-sprung King with the third.

Here we are at our first refreshment stop, near the Didbrook 1 bridge. It offered no shade, but Didbrook 2 looked promising in the distance. It was in 1981 in the very early days of track laying that John Lees opined the famously gloomy words: 'We'll never get past Didbrook 1!'

Well here we are, having laid track all the way to Cheltenham and then to Broadway, measuring track at the same Didbrook 1 bridge as if it was the most normal thing in the world. We've come a long way.

A bit further along, and we were interupted by King Edward II, running tender first and in his last week on our railway. If you want to see this large GWR locomotive, get your skates on, as we will have to give it back soon.

Lunch was taken at Didbrook 2 bridge, one of the few modernised concrete ones that we have.

After lunch we carried on, stepping aside here for the class 26 as it was approaching Hayles Abbey halt.

It was so hot in the afternoon, it felt as if we were working in the desert.

Bleached skeletons lined our path.....

We're guessing a fox here, unless someone knows better?
As we reached Hayles Abbey halt we passed the half mile post of our work today. That seems to be what is more or less achievable in a working day.

Actually, we ploughed on a bit further, until we got to a change from Bullhead to FB rail, which we felt was a got place to stop. It can easily be found again next time.

The King graced us with its presence one more time, and we got a friendly wave from the fireman too.

Rather than take another picture of 2807 passing through, we recorded a video. You can hear the locomotive blowing off as it rounds the corner, and then it chugs away merrily down the Defford straight and on towards Winchcombe:

Early GWSR days at Broadway.

We're still posting 'early GWSR' pictures taken by John Lees, mostly of his participation in the reconstruction of our railway since 1981. These pictures are in the form of slides, and each one has to be scanned, then cleaned and adjusted with Photoshop (colours fade or change, bugs get crushed, scratches and dots proliferate after all these years). It's a long and tedious job. So far we have reached picture 1084, and the whole album posted so far has had 9394 views.

And yet there is another box of slides to scan, and possibly another after that. It's probably unique in our history, but how do we preserve it? None of us are immortal. For the time being all this history is up on Flickr, but that is now no longer free after a change of ownership, and there is now a £40 annual cost to keeping it going.

We really need some sort of archive on our railway, perhaps combined with a museum. As people get older and generations move on, things get lost or are forgotten. It's only by pure chance that we stumbled across someone who actually remembers the inside of one of our stations as they were. Toddington is much changed inside, and so is Gotherington, the only two surviving original stations of the Honeybourne line.

Posting the most recent scans of John Lees' slides we saw that he had recorded clearance work at Broadway in 2007, the very earliest steps towards the rebuild of the station that opened in 2018 but that is still being rebuilt today.

Due to domestic commitments there won't be a canopy gang report for Friday or Monday, so this is a good opportunity to show what John saw in 2007.

To put his clearance pictures into perspective, we're kicking off with a picture taken by former Broadway resident Brian Parsons:
Photograph by Brian Parsons
Brian cycled down from upper Broadway to the station site on 23rd May 1964, just 6 months after the station was demolished. He found GWR Pannier tank 3775 galloping through the station site with a down freight. The little tank engine was built in 1938 and was based at Gloucester.

To the left of the smokebox is a pile of rubble and a hollow, all covered in grass. This is where the P2 waiting room used to stand. You'd never know that a station used to be here, that gave up to 10 people employment and housing. A couple of loose bricks in the foreground betray that something used to stand there - the station building.

Now it's a small world in the Vale of Evesham...

We just mentioned that only one person can remember the inside of our stations - Helen Carver, who was the daughter of the Winchcombe stationmaster.

She mentioned that her brother Douglas started his railway career as a fireman (finishing as a diesel driver at Warrington) and she gave us a little cameo of him standing next to his engine at Evesham.

It was that same Pannier tank No. 3775....

Was he perhaps the fireman on that day in May 1964?
Next, we move forwards to 2004, and the same area at Broadway looked a lot more overgrown. The trees are much higher, 40 years later. (the station building used to stand on the right, while No. 3775 was photographed a little further back on the left).

And now we wind the clock forwards another 3 years to 2007, when the John Lees photographed the first clearance undertaken there, in preparation to the start of works in 2009.

The smoke obscures the site of the P2 waiting room, but the bent tree on the left can also be seen in the 1964 picture.

Clearing the undergrowth and dead trees was quite hard work. Here is the PWay gang, also Mark from the loco dept (foreground) heaving away like billy-oh at something heavy down the embankment by the bridge.

All this went on a nice fire they had for themselves in the middle of the trackbed.

The gang can be seen here from across the station road bridge, half of which was cleared of ballast at the time to reveal some sort of clay tile surface.

A close up of the cleared section of the bridge on the down side, looking south.

Just a few yards further the trackbed is completely overgrown again.

All this was very tiring, so a cut down tree makes a useful bench seat for a while.
From L to R: Paul, Bernard, Stevie, Glyn, (?) and John.

An interesting shot was taken here from the site of the old Broadway signal box. You can see its steel foundation ring, on top of deep brick pillars. The petrol station in 2007 sold Texaco petrol (today that is now Harvest) and 12 years ago the original cast iron gate posts, and new gates made by C&W, were still in situ at the bottom of the station approach. They were pulled out during the station rebuild and not re-used at Broadway, a sad loss of originality.

44 years earlier Tom Toohig took this picture, on which we can also see the petrol station.

This was the view from the station road bridge in 1963. The petrol sold then was Esso.
The road, and remember that this was the major artery A44 which ran right through the middle of Broadway until the bypass was built, looks so tranquil.

An original gate post can also be seen on the RH side of the road. This is gone too, now replaced by the entrance to the Caravan Club.

It's amusing to see how close the furthest petrol pump was to the hedge, and how, once you had filled up, you had to dodge some advertising signs and bump over the grass between a telegraph pole and a lamp post to get back on to the road. Hey-ho, and who complained?

Here's Stevie in his trusty JCB having a root around the P2 foundations. Although BR demolished them down to the ground (you can still see a lump of blues as you come up the station approach footpath) there were still one or two rows below the original ballast level.

Later we would grub out the lot, and replace with new, deeper concrete foundations. It's made up ground here, so better to build something solid.

After Stevie had pulled out what he could, the goodies - piles of chunky imperial engineering blues - were put on pallets for cleaning later.

Finally they were used again too, on the P1 side where we started.
The last picture is particularly interesting. We're further north here, looking back at the station site. In the foreground is a catch pit which marks the edge of the down line. The gap behind it and up to the wall, is where the horse dock was. This was flat on top; in the picture you can see earth piled up on top of it, right up to the edge. Before we bought our 15 mile section of the line BR sold off the horse dock approach to the owners of the station house, and they used it to widen their garden, and build a garage and new drive (which is today's main entrance to the B&B)

Today the north end of P1 runs up to the catch pit in the foreground, occupying the few yards of horse dock you can see in this picture.

More pictures like this can be seen on John Lees' Early GWSR Flickr site:

Saturday 17 August 2019

Bent switch

Friday at Broadway

.....with a difference, the PWay gang and a couple of S&Ters came to replace the bent switch at Broadway south with a plain rail. An unusual and interesting exercise.

First thing, the class 73 came up from Winchcombe and brought the length of plain rail that was to be fitted. It also brought the two S&Ters - normal people came by road, by Landie, or in Steve  L's historic VW camperbus.

The first job was to remove the fishplates and chairscrews holding down the bent switch and its attendant stock rail.

It wasn't a big job, and it was good to see many had made the effort to come out on a non-working day (for the PWay group, many of whom also hold down a normal weekday job) and so we all pulled together, even assisted by two of the Broadway canopy gang.

The switch was soon loose and can be seen being lifted out here by Nigel in the Telehandler.

The base plates for a switch and a plain rail are not the same, so new base plates had to be fitted.

Bert Ferrule had his eye close to the ground to supervise Ade, who was knocking each base plate this way or that, to get them all perfectly in line.

Neal was itching to help too.

The length of plain FB rail sourced from the Winchcombe yard was then taken off the bogie flat and brought round to the site.

Here it can be seen next to the switch that has just been removed.

All this was very interesting, and luckily we had a viewing platform, which was slightly elevated for that maximum view from above.

Next it was 'measure twice, cut once' as the plain rail was cut to size to fit the gap exactly, minus half an inch for the two fishplate gaps.

Ade does the cutting, as Neil has another look at that damaged switch.

Once the right length the plain rail was lifted into the gap left by the switch. Piece of cake really, and the weather more or less left us alone, despite the dire forecast.

The bent switch is on the bogie flat here, ready to be taken away for specialist repair.

It wasn't just bent, it was also 'nibbled' where the wheels of the King climbed over it. After all, if you are going to run through a turnout, you might as well get the biggest locomotive you have.

All this is perfectly repairable, but it's a lot of wasted hours for the team that really wants to get on with the normal job.

Straight on only, please.

Here's the plain rail in its place, all clipped up already. The viewing platform is down to one last viewer, a sign that the job is nearly over.

In the meantime our trains to Broadway will have a locomotive front and rear, a more expensive arrangement but one that we hope will not take too long. We now have a way forward, and the switch is out. It will be sent away for repair on Monday.

Meanwhile, back at the farm.

The canopy team was a man down today, due to a funeral. The two remaining ones loaded up the last 10 painted boards into the centre span, and did a few odd jobs such as painting behind the dagger boards - where it was still dry, despite the increasing rain which was making its presence felt.

We also had a sort out of the risers we have in hand for the treads. Some material was unfortunately lost when it was decided to burn all the woodwork from the steps saved from HIA, but a few representative pieces were smuggled under a tarpaulin, and saved for future inspection.

The P2 scaffolding will be removed on Monday, so we cleared that too. We have now done all we can from the scaffolding, so it can go off hire.

While litter picking along the platform tracks - more wet wipes dropped down the toilet, while the train is waiting in the station - we found this cap. It's not entirely new, so may belong to a member of the loco crew?

We have now found two watches and two caps! The second watch has not (yet) been claimed.

Saturday - take a survey!

Got me doughnut, got me tea, do I have to work as well?

Saturday was an interesting day as we met to work out how to do a complete survey of the track assets of our railway.

Survey or not, the day always starts with jollity and doughnuts. Steve dropped in for a visit but suspicion soon deepened that he was only there for the doughnut and chat, as long walks turned out to be on the cards for today.

The starting point for our survey of the line was to be the breather north of Stanway viaduct. Tricky to reach by car, so we opted to take the ECS from Winchcombe to Toddington.

Motive power for this trip was 47 376, the FREIGHTLINER loco. It had come to Winchcombe to pick up the rake parked outside our mess coach. Six of us got on, the seventh (ahem) was offered a cab ride to Toddington, which was hard to refuse. The offer included a tour of the engine compartment. Now that is interesting.

Nearest the cab end was the room with the blower motor, and on the right, one of the fuel tanks.

Don't shoot us down if we haven't got this all 100% right, it was the first time on board a class 47, so show a little leniency, if you please.

Note the tiny door into the next section.

Space quickly became an issue.  There isn't any!
The decision by the designers to squeeze what is effectively two engines side by side into the very modest British loading gauge meant that you had to shuffle along sideways to get alongside.

Look how the crew member has to stand sideways on in order to stand there at all. It's not a place for claustrophobics.

This is the main generator.

The class 47 has a 12 cylinder engine, in two banks of 6. However, rather than link the two rows of 6 cylinders with a common crankshaft in a 'V' formation, the 12 cylinders are stood side by side in two rows of 6. They are linked by gears. That makes for a wide construction, hence the lack of space for humans.

The rooftop windows were a good idea.

At the other end is the auxilliary room - not much more space in here either, so we didn't visit. Looks dark and oily.

Much more friendly was the roomy cab, with the usual controls and even a telephone (which we suspect sees little use, given that we all have mobiles nowadays.)

While abroad, yours truly would get calls from a friendly driver on a freight locomotive, using the on board mobile. Once we missed his call, and tried to call straight back. We got a recorded message from a reproving female employee telling us not to call the driver on board the locomotive while he was driving it!

A vital piece of equipment in the 47 cab is the hotplate for mashing up. So now you know what the second man is for! Notice the strips which you can use to grip the kettle, so that it doesn't jump around when the loco is riding over rough track. We saw the same installation in a class 14.

We trundled cautiously over the high Chicken Curve embankment. It has a permanent 10mph speed restriction on it. It felt pretty stable from the class 47; less so when bowling along in a Landie along the sloping ballast.

Hayles Abbey halt was passed, still looking good.

You could also feel the beneficial effects of all the packing of the joints we did a few weeks ago along the Defford straight, which was happily confirmed by the loco crew.

We trundled into Toddington, where the second man gave up the token to the waiting signalman leaning out of the window.

Our ECS train came to a halt at the north end of P2 at Toddington, where the 47 was due to run round.

On P1 the class 45 was waiting with its train for Broadway.

We needed to get out here and walk the rest of the way to Stanway.

As we were going to walk up the track, we informed the signalman, but also the driver of this next train out, just in case. It's good to communicate.

Minutes later, as we were approaching the Toddington north carriage siding, the Peak pulled out for Broadway and accelerated past our little gang.

As trains can't run round at Broadway at the moment, they are topped and tailed, and the tail end of this train was provided by King Edward II.

That tender is a lovely blue, isn't it?

We were then able to walk up to the north end of the viaduct in peace. We stopped at the breather, marking the start of the CWR northwards.

The information we are recording on our track will be quite comprehensive. It includes type of rail, wear, length, type of ballast, sleeper type, fixings, chairs, fishplates, adequacy of ballast etc.

Although our line has a full set of quarter mile posts, we also marked each rail with a number.

This was done by spraying on a panel, and then removing the paint for the number. This made the number stand out really well, but wore down Bert Ferrule's finger. We advised him to use a different one after a while...

We were soon on the viaduct itself, which affords magnificent views of the Cotswolds edge and the nearby farm below.

Another view was of wet wipes discarded from the train. This is disheartening to see, as they are made of artificial fibre and do not rot down. Normal loo paper or paper towels pretty much disintegrate when they hit the track, but these fiendish wet wipes last for ever. More were discovered at Broadway between the platforms. Hence a plea - please do not use wet wipes, and certainly do not discard them from our trains into the countryside. They are bad for the environment.

Back to more pleasant things. The King is back - long live the King! Here it is slowing down for the 10mph speed restriction into Toddington. And the team has just reached mile post 9, still measured from Honeybourne.

We did about half a mile of our 15 mile railway this morning, ending by the turnouts at Toddington north. We will do the double track between the platforms at a later date, as well as the turnouts themselves.

We stopped to let 2807 head off for Broadway.

Lunch was taken back in the mess coach, as that is where Mrs. B's cupcakes reside. Can't miss those.
After lunch we returned to Toddington, this time by car, to continue the track survey south, starting at the signal box.

The new loco mess facility works are coming along nicely.

Some blocks have been laid and the many services that run underground are being laid out.

There was no work today though, as it is the weekend.

This new mess block, attached to the goods shed and showing a similar style - at least along the trackside - will replace the current trusty mess coach used by the loco crews.

Here it is, Mk.1 TINA.

Does anyone know its proposed fate, when the new mess block is opened?

In the afternoon we surveyed the new length of track laid during the last closed season, starting outside the signal box. Much of this is already recorded, but we went though the process again.

We got to the end of the stretch we relaid, by the southern turnouts that we also put in place.
The Peak, returning from Winchcombe, is just running over the same stretch here.

While returning through the loco shed, we came across this rather splendid class 26 No. D5310, now on the Langollen railway.

During our diesel gala it was failed with a defective bearing in the No.2 traction motor, and here the bogies have been removed and the traction motors taken out. Very impressive.

Lastly, the walk through the loco yard shows one of the two GWR yard lamp posts recovered, refurbished and re-erected in the yard. This one has a new ladder and platform.

We are now waiting for the manufacture of the big 6 sided replica lamp tops by a specialist manufacturer.

It's a slow process though, much patience is needed. Drawings have to be created and there is a 12 week lead in period too.

In the meantime, why not enjoy some more of John Lees' early pictures of the GWSR trackwork? About another 80 or so have been put on the Flickr site, now reaching the 2007 period.

You can see the latest pictures here: