Saturday 30 November 2019

Several sites today

Thursday at Toddington.

A quick visit to Toddington yard, just to take a measurement on the top of the yard lamp post, so that the frog on the new six sided lantern will fit correctly. We don't want to find it doesn't fit on the great day.

What a day to chose though. It was absolutely bucketing it down, you can just see the edge of a big black rain cloud over the Cotswolds Edge in this picture, taken from the little platform leaning against the post.

P&O is in steam, and despite the non-running season, the shed was a hive of activity.

To the right of the loco shed you can now see the roof of the goods shed extension, in bare wood.

We took a picture of the goods shed extension, but it was so dark on Thursday that better pictures were taken early on Saturday, so that you can see the progress in a better light.

Mess room from the unloading road, under a perfect sky.
Goods shed extension, from the signal box.
Detail of one of the replica arched windows. It's looking good!

This picture of the new mess room extension was taken from the signal box steps, the same as the previous one a few weeks back. You can make yourself a sort of time lapse then.

The trusses are in, and the brickwork is up to the top of the windows. It won't be long now before the building is watertight.
Current loco mess coach

This is the current mess room of the steam department, and has been since the year dot. It's a Mk1, possibly a BSK.

We've not heard any plans of what is to become of it, once the new and much better mess room is opened, and quite soon, by the looks of it.

Back on Thursday in the dark, out on the apron in front of the shed was a kit of parts for a steam locomotive.

It looked rather like an Airfix kit, and this is the stage where you consult the instructions, and they say: make sure that all the parts are there.

Actually its 2874, rolled out on accommodation bogies for shotblasting and painting of the frames.

Then pictures taken, quickly out of that rain, and back into that nice warm, dry capsule that is your car.

 Friday at Broadway.

An ice cold start to the day, with liberal scraping of the car, which is currently parked outside as the garage has become a bit of a GWR poster board manufacturing workshop.

It was just about 0 degrees when this morning picture of the station was taken, with a low sun highlighting the signal box through the pine trees.

We thought we'd let that sun rise just a little bit more, and allow P2 to be lit and perhaps dried out/melted a little.

Then we went off to our 3 different little work sites.

This is yours truly's. It's 7 of the timbers prepared by C&W, now getting their first layer of undercoat.

Under the canopy a growing workshop was evident, where picnic tables were stained, benches painted and today, the balance of the timbers from the joiner at Willersey were first knotted, the primered during the afternoon.

By that time, the sun was already low again, and definitely thinking about dropping over the horizon.

As he can't do any of the woodwork while we are painting the timbers, Neal is carrying on with his Odyssey of fixing down the treads.

He's a lonely figure up there....

Neal has now completed the P2 landing, turned left and started down the P2 steps.

One tread at the time....

Neal is on tread No. 4 of 28 on this side here.

At the end of the day - it gets dark quite early in the afternoon - he was on tread No.6 out of the 28 along this staircase.

From up on the footbridge you could just about make out John on P1, primering away in the afternoon. He didn't manage to finish his, much larger, pile today, and in any case there is a second coat of primer still to come, the first one being a very thin one, to get the paint well into the grain.
Here's the sun from rail level. The photograph doesn't quite do it justice, the scene was very golden indeed as the sun slowly set behind the signal box.


An ice cold start again, and very slippery road conditions.

This delivery driver with a mini digger for our Isbourne site contractor made it here OK.

There's ice everywhere, and that remained so in the shadows for most of the day, even if the sun shone elsewhere.

The cold did seem to make it difficult for people to get out of bed this morning. We aim for a 08.30 start on the PWay...

This is 9am in the PWay mess room. Where are they all?

Oh, here. In the pantry, where it's nice and warm. It's like a good party, the place where it's happening is in the kitchen.

If you go in the main room, it's a heck of a lot colder, and if you sit down, you realise that the little warmth there was, that was all in the upper levels, so that once seated, you are at 0 degrees, on your own.

Back to the pantry then.

There's a toot outside, and that means a locomotive! A betinselled 9466 steams its way past the Winchcombe bracket signal, to deliver the rake for the first Santa special. The Santa season has kicked off again, at last some more income for the railway. Costs don't stop, just because the trains do.

Not long after, the first Santa train was followed by 2807, a surprise as we thought we had heard that the services were going to be run by the two tankies we have.

Great steam effects here, with an air temperature of only 1 - 2 degrees C. Rods down, just right for the photographer, and one of the last chances to see 2807 before she is withdrawn for an overhaul.

The PWay gang took the opportunity of this crisp, bright day to go to the embankment south of Broadway to continue sweeping ballast off the sleeper ends. That keeps you warm, but it is just as well, as there is a nasty wind that sweeps over that embankment there.

Yours truly was unable to attend, as the 76077 AGM pretty much took up the middle of the day. More of that later.

Meanwhile 2807 readied itself for a return to CRC with satisfied (or frightened to death) children from the first special.

Standing here on a deserted P2, it was very atmospheric to see a steaming train with the heating on, and the mournful sounds of a brass band wafting over the tops of the carriages.

Here is the train, a few minutes before departure, with the fireman struggling with a stiff and ice cold vacuum hose to reconnect the brakes after the loco had run round.

The last couple of pictures are from Toddington again. We had a delivery of cotton sheets to make, for the department's oily rags wheelie bin.

This is Peckett 'John', looking a lot better after the new smokebox was lowered on to the frames. Outside are pieces of the boiler and firebox, much of which will be completely new (well, certainly the barrel and the firebox sides, as far as we could make out, perhaps more still.)

During this running season a few scarce volunteers from the RATS team are doing a repaint of their exhibition coach, the only actual GWR coach on the whole railway.

The OCEAN MAILS inscription is new, and we rather took to it.

Saturday 23 November 2019

Gotherington return, please.

Friday at Broadway

Friday we were off to Willersey. The joiner has worked quickly, and in just a week we got all our timber back.

Here we are loading it all back on the truck again.

The joiner still has the Usk door. There, slightly more extensive surgery is required, and he has recommended a new frame. It will be ready shortly though.

Back at Broadway, just a mile down the Honeybourne line trackbed, and we need a place to store and treat this timber. We lost the use of one container, which has been turned into a spearhead fencing manufacturing base.

Our alternative storage site then is the roof of the station. We're going to have to treat and paint all the wood up there. There's plenty of room though.
In the afternoon we had 3 visitors from the big railway. They showed a great interest in the HIA bridge, and with their questions they were at the right address with our Neal.

Footbridge? We have the original plans here... No photographs though, they are secret.

After some vigorous painting (in container 1), applying preservative (up on the roof) and reaming a last tread for the P2 upper landing, we treated ourselves to a cup of tea and a biscuit.

The paper on the table is a draft design for the P2 building. No, you can't look yet - it's still at the discussion stage. But the build is in good hands.

Saturday at Gotherington

It was a day out on the track. We were off to Gotherington skew bridge, where the refurbishment works a couple of years ago have settled down and left a couple of dips in the track.

We needed to get the big guns out - all the Duff jacks we could carry, and then the bonus of the slew jacks, which are fiendishly heavy, as unlike the Duff jacks, they are made of solid steel.

The principal culprit at Gotherington was this insulated joint, right by the bridge. In the picture Bert Ferrule is examining the joint, while the gang of 10 today get out the remaining tools needed here.

We kicked off with a row of the slew jacks, dug in, while Bert Ferrule walked off to eye the operation in from a short distance away.

On my command: Pump !!!
The slew jacks lifted and pushed (where have we heard that slogan before?) and had to be dug in a second and third time until we got the desired effect.

When the track and curve were back in the right position, the gennie was started up and Dave and Bert Ferrule got the Kangos out to hammer ballast into the voids that the lifts created.

Behind us we heard the sound of strimmers and a flail, which was the drainage gang in operation in and around the skew bridge yard.

We don't often meet, it's a 15 mile line, after all.

Wonder what they were up to?

After a while the gang split into two, with a section on the Kangos, and a second further along, clearing sleepers of the excess ballast left after the bridge repair works.

The weather was drizzly but not too cold, so bearable. We returned to the mess coach for warmth, tea and our snap. Some lucky ones found a left over breakfast doughnut, and ate it quickly before any other interested parties had the chance to put their hand up. Gotta be quick in this game.

How on earth do I get the shovels over there?

After lunch the forecast rain seemed to hold off, so we ventured outdoors again, but this time for more shovelling just south of Winchcombe.

The Landie brought a whole load of shovels and ballast forks to the kitchen end of the station building, where a locked gate prevented the supply of shovels reaching those on the trackbed desperate to use them.

The wicket gate was locked with a combination padlock instead of our standard key, but after reflecting on possible codes we had the idea of trying the code for the main gate. That would be logical, and it worked too. Open Sesame...

Shovels began to reach shovellers.

Armed with the necessary shovels, it was a bit of heigh-ho, heigh-ho, as we walked up the trackbed to the bracket signal, where too much ballast had been observed.

We spread out and started shovelling, there was nothing for it.

It's not the best activity, straight after lunch, but on the other hand it does combat that tendency to gain weight at our age.

We slowly worked our way up to the tunnel, and it is true that the track looked a lot neater after our passage and more importantly, the fixings were visible to our track walker.

Dave (with cap) is a wizzard at finding cracked fishplates. He must have shares in the manufacturing company where we buy our replacements...

This is a new one, not very obvious to the casual observer, but Dave spotted it nonetheless. It's just a single break (as opposed to both fishplates) and will be replaced before the next operating season starts.

Shovelling ballast requires a lot of energy and despite the drizzle several started to shed coats and hats. Tony here is in bare arms, and it's the last week in November!

The fishplate in the foreground marked the limit of what we were going to do today, so you can see the relief in Tony's face as he can finally stand upright.

We're gearing up to assist with the drainage repair work on Stanton viaduct, and we should know more about the modus operandi soon, for the work due to take place in January.

PS We found a BMW car key on the trackbed, just by the Greet Road bridge. The fob is Dick Lovett. We are mystified how it could have gotten there. We don't recall seeing it on the way up after lunch either.

Saturday 16 November 2019

Careful with that shovel, it's a delicate instrument.

 Friday at Broadway.

Quite an exciting day really, as we went to Winchcombe to pick up the blue truck to take the timbers for the footbridge sides for shaping to a local joiner in Willersey.

The first stop though was Broadway itself, to unload a small number of long 4.8m timbers, which Neal can handle himself. These will be turned into those distinctive crosses on the sides that support the panelling.

The timbers are quite heavy so two of us took them for that long walk down P1, over to the other side and into one of the containers.

On the way back to fetch the second, we met Neal with one entirely on his own.

Must be younger than us....

Then on to Willersey, just a short mile further on. It's a lovely little village, with a duck pond and two pubs. Willersey halt was a short walk away, and it must be the nearest village to the whole Honeybourne line. What price DMU shuttles to Willersey?

 On the Willersey industrial estate, just a stone's throw from the site of Willersey Halt, we met our friendly joiner, Steve Warren (no relation to our well known JCB driver though). We unloaded all the timber, to reveal an old door. In fact, it's the original door from the Usk weighbridge building, which is in reasonably good shape except the bottom few inches where the rot had set in. Steve will tidy up the bottom of the door, and repair the bottom end of the frame for us.

Here is the Broadway timber and the Usk door, all piled up inside the workshop.

The timber will be moulded quite rapidly, Steve thought, and we can pick it up again in a week or so. This is excellent news, as on the footbridge we are running out of work, unless the timber for the sides turns up. Then we can start brushing on the preservative and painting it.

Steve is a man of many talents, we discovered. Just look at these newly made moulds for brick specials. The bottom one says 'Twin ended profile copers' - we have never seen one of these in action before. The new moulds are made 10% bigger than the original bricks inside, to allow for shrinkage.

The bricks are going to be made by a local brickworks a few miles away, and are destined for a Victorian latticework brick wall. It's a very delicate structure, most of which is constructed out of the quarter circles in the second mould from the top. We were amazed.

On the way back to Broadway, our journey took us past here:

 This is the Honeybourne line bridge over Badsey lane. Broadway is 1mile to the left. The former halt was right next to the bridge.

Note the flood - just like at Little Buckland - and a car on the other side is about to be recovered by an AA truck. There's an enormous lake and a clear ruler up the side of the bridge indicating the depth in the middle - here 1ft, too deep for cars. From the 'tidemark' on the ruler, it was 18ins deep earlier.

Back at Broadway John completed painting the last bit of the centre span ceiling. That job is now done, and not too soon, it is cold and damp and draughty up there.

As something to keep the bridge dry the roof of the footbridge is a complete failure. The treads on the centre span were absolutely soaked this morning, and the water will be sitting underneath the treads, and affecting both the steelwork below and the wood above. We really ought to put the windows back in, those that the bridge had at HIA.

Neil has now reached the P2 tower.

Saturday - also at Broadway. 

A dry day at last, and no trains to get in our way. Well, at least not on the Broadway extension, specials were running today south from Toddington. After a round of doughnuts 9 of us set off for Broadway, where shovels and brooms were dealt out. The regulator had been past here, doing good work with excess ballast, but now the sleeper ends and clips were covered, which is not handy for the track walkers.

As we set off, we had a quick look at the switch, which is now repaired and back in service.

Now - in November.
Then - in July

Here are two 'before' and 'after' pictures. All is working well again.

We took a shovel each and set off for an area of excess ballast.

Mike got the short straw (or was it a long one?) and ended up with a large supply of brooms.

We don't think productivity actually increases, just because you have more brooms than anyone else...

Here we are, kicking off by the new bracket signal. There wasn't so much to do here, it was an area where we could warm up for the main task further along.

Are we shovelling all the way to Cheltenham?     Yes!
No clips visible, sleeper ends buried.

The above two pictures show the extent of the job, with on the left the excess ballast swept from the four foot into the cess by the regulator, but burying the clips and sleeper ends in the process.

On the right the ballast has been shovelled off the sleeper ends, and the clips freed from their cover of stones.

 We soon reached the signal post signifying the end of station limits, and here there were areas of surplus and areas of shortfall, so there was some walking around with shovels to try and equalise the two.

Beyond the station limits signal the excess ballast was a lot more copious, and the team slowed down.

After the many months of measuring, most of us were somewhat out of condition. This is healthy exercise, after all.

The lure of the mess coach is strong.
 For lunch, we returned to Winchcombe to attack our sandwiches. If you are lucky, there is a doughnut left over from the morning session.

'You shovel like this'.         'Oh?' 'Ah?' 'Really?'
After lunch, work seemed a lot harder, with all that food consumed. Bert Ferrule remained keen as mustard, but the rest of the gang seemed more cautious and took a great interest in his technique.

One keen gang member worked so hard that he broke his shovel.

You wouldn't think that was possible. It's a steel shovel, what can go wrong?

Sunset over Cleeve Hill
At the end of the day we reached mile post 5 1/4, or a quarter of a mile cleaned during the day.

We felt pretty good, and it was great to see that gang out again, doing what they know best. Good for cameraderie, and for that feeling of satisfaction when you drive home, tired but with a sense of achievement.