Saturday 28 December 2019

Walking is good for you.

Saturday at Gretton

We were filled up with Christmas spirit and food, so it was time for some exercise, and good companionship. Exercise does you good.

We met at Winchcombe, and split into two gangs. One went to load new wooden sleepers on to the bogie flat we cleared last week, while the other team took the two Landies to the southern tunnel mouth to change a cracked fishplate.

Dinmore passes under 3 arch bridge
On the way north from our access point at Skew Bridge we passed the first train south - post Christmas trains are now running to 31.12, and they look quite well used too. It's an opportunity for steam heat and hot chocolate.

The plan was to head back north all along the trackbed from Gotherington to the tunnel.

We had some heavy kit in the back, so transport was most desirable.

We got quite a long way, almost there but for 1/4 mile when rapid progress per Landie was halted in its tracks by 'someone' (you know who you are, Stevie) digging in a signalling cable at the Royal Oak.

Steve had stopped digging this trench when services resumed, but will continue later next week.

The second Landie also stopped of course, and we had to struggle on while carrying the heavy impact wrench, the replacement fishplate and other weighty gear.

Luckily we happened across a wheelbarrow half way, so that was borrowed and used to carry the two heaviest items.

'Track walkers' but they don't usually walk out with pairs of fishplates on their shoulders.
The repair was soon done. If all goes well and the tools are on site, changing a pair of fishplates can take just a few minutes. Not so quick of course if the fishplate is stuck on due to very cold or very hot weather, or a bolt is seized.

We had two steamers out today, and this DMU, which we let pass before resuming our trudge back to the two Landies (and Tony pushing a heavy barrow uphill over ballast).

Dinmore Manor with the first train north from CRC at the Royal Oak.
As the last few hundred yards back to our transport were interrupted by the trench, we waited for the train crossing the DMU at Gotherington, before walking on through the 4ft to the signal.

We then reversed the Landies about a mile along the top of the embankment, pretty high at this point.

That's the hamlet of Gretton up ahead. It's halt was by the tall tree on the right of the track.

There's been a lot of welcome clearance along here, but only along the side of the track where no new housing has been built.

The view from the same spot, but looking back.

As the railway's property line is along the bottom of the embankment, we were surprised to see this Wendy house and fence along the top.

On the right is the site of the former Gretton halt, marked by a wider area of embankment. Part of it has been seeded with grass and shrubs planted.

On an earlier visit last year we saw two children playing here, and on being challenged they vanished back down the slope into a garden.

This property has its own access gate to the embankment, recently rebuilt in steel.

The site of the former Gretton halt gave us the opportunities to turn the Landies around.

Gretton halt must have been quite useful once, as there is a fair bit of housing around it, as well as a church and a pub, since closed.

South of Gretton the embankment slope has recently been cleared by a flail. The machine was still there, working beyond the tree in the distance. The clearance gang was out as well, a great sign of professionalism and enthusiasm.

Not forgetting the drainage gang, out in the same area, and our very own Dave F, who is the track walker for the Winchcombe - Gotherington stretch, and who was out today.

Even the animals were out. Can you see the paw print left by a badger (centre), with some sharp claws at the top, and a soft pad underneath? It was on a badger route that crosses the line.

On the way back we stopped for 9466 as it passed under 3 arches bridge. It was the second steamer out, together with Dinmore and the DMU.

Before resuming our return journey, we waited for the DMU that we could hear crossing 9466 at Gotherington loop. Note the XMAS letters in the route code box.

That was it for the day, just a quick fishplate change, and a further inspection on foot of the rail in the Dixton cutting, where we had a break last week.

Next is our contribution to the Stanway viaduct repair work, which should keep us busy for a few days starting Saturday 4th. After that we will be spot resleepering south of the tunnel, where we marked up the likely suspects  a short while ago, and for which the new, replacement sleepers were loaded on to the bogie flat.

Saturday 21 December 2019

Gimme a break, will ya?

Friday at Broadway.

Heavy rain all day. We plodded on regardless.

Neal under the footsteps roof was only half out of the rain, and kept having to dash to an uncovered area to access his tools to cut and fine tune, before going back up to the steps to trial fit each piece of timber.

Yours truly was safely under the station roof, and largely completed primering the timbers along the top of the purlins.

John was cutting metal in a container, also in the dry.

The idea we've had is to fit a temporary extension to the roof of the steps on P1, to give the exposed wooden treads a minimum of protection while we construct the canopy extension. A lot of that work will actually be at Toddington.

A temporary set of uprights will be clamped to the newel posts at the bottom, and three more corrugated iron sheets laid on top. That's the plan anyway.

For the temporary uprights we're using some scrap lengths of angle we had left over. John cut and welded the two odd lengths we have, so that by lunch time they were the same length.

Neal then came along and drilled a series of holes in them for the clamps. No holes will be drilled in the newel posts.

Here Neal is drilling holes into the strips that will form the clamps round the newel posts to hold the uprights in place.

Today, 20th December, is almost the shortest day, and the sun did eventually appear, but only just as it was about to sink below the horizon. Everything was wet and glistening, and the light thrown on the station building was bright orange, slowly turning to gold. Such a pity there were no trains to go with this. Maybe after Christmas, if the sun plays along.

This is a look into the signal box. The big halo is caused by condensation inside the door.

Here the light has gotten to the golden stage, visible along the rails that glisten in the distance. There should be a lamp top on the end post but so far there has not yet been an initiative to either source or fund these. Perhaps later, when the P2 building is up. We're starting to position ourselves to acquire components for it, such as the heavy duty corrugated iron roof sheets and pieces of the canopy extension on P2.

Saturday in the Dixton cutting

We sprang into action extra early, leaving 15 doughnuts untouched on the messroom table. The Santa specials today were about to start, and we received a report of a broken rail in the Dixton cutting. Now, that is a very unusual occurrence, possibly a first in our 38 years.

A team of 3 set off with the PWay equivalent of a first aid box, being a set of blind fishplates with clamps. These were applied to the break and that made the track safe for the time being.

The Santa event rolled on unsuspecting, and here is P&O emerging out of its own mist with the first special of the day.

Shortly afterwards the light engine for the second train followed. That was 7820 Dinmore Manor today.

While the 'first responders' were out attending to the break, the rest of us dealt with the bogie flat filled with scrap that CRC had sent up. We need the flat empty, so that we can load up new sleepers for our 2020 winter works south of the tunnel.

Dave F was at the controls to day, and is inserting the prongs here so that we can load a bunch of old fence posts.

The sharp eyed among you will have spotted something that would interest the loco dept. here.... Can you see what it is yet?
Dave drove off in the direction of the scrap metal skip with the first load, while we scratched our heads over the next bits. A dumpy bag of razor wire was a challenge, but we are here for challenges. We managed to extract the dumpy bag, and scrap its contents.

The 'first responders' then returned from Dixton, and confirmed that the Santa specials could continue, phew! Our happy customers never knew.

We were also lucky (or have a very effective drainage gang) that the very heavy rain yesterday did apparently not damage the railway anywhere.
This is what we saved for the loco department - two fire irons.  Curious how they ended up under the bridge at CRC, but we confirmed with Toddington that they were indeed of interest, and they will be picked up by a passing engine.

After a quick tea and some of the doughnuts, we assembled the kit to deal with the broken rail with a better repair, that is to say, with a length of replacement rail.

Here is the break. It's an interesting phenomenon, and as we said, new to us. The blind fishplate clamp can be seen on the left.

The replacement length was dropped off the white Landie and the end was cut off by Bert Ferrule in order to have a clean surface. What was left was then measured for length, and the running rail marked at the same distance.
Behind us, at MP 14.III, is the unusual culvert which allows a fast running brook to pass under the track, at a place where that track is a bit lower than the original brook.

The water was running normally, so no worries here.

After cutting the rail the end was drilled. The other end already had the right holes in it.

Tony is on hand with the washing up liquid to lubricate the cutting head.
The loco crews were aware of the repair, so passed by slowly, but when you've got 8 on and a slight slope, you still need a bit of steam on. The crisp morning air also helped to make this steamy picture.

Here's the gang waiting for the special to pass, and it was wonderful to hear P&O's 3 cylinder beat as the train accelerated towards 3 arch bridge.
We were intrigued as to why a modern FB rail should break. A number of small nicks caught our eye along the bottom, and the source of the crack, travelling upwards, was indeed one of these nicks.

They are likely to have been caused by a tamper, but in a life prior to that on the GWSR. Neither of the two adjacent rails was affected. When we laid this track it was in the 1990s, and we still used second hand rails, so the nicks were made during a life on BR. It's amazing though how small a defect can cause an entire rail to fail eventually.

We prepared the replacement length of rail, so that we were ready to jump into action the moment the bobby gave us the line block.

We just needed the return train from CRC to pass (the trains cross at Gotherington) and not long afterwards Dinmore Manor returned with the other rake.

Here too a little steam needed to be applied, leading to an atmospheric winter picture. Although there is a lovely plume of steam, the train passed us very cautiously.

Soon after, the bobby gave us permission and here Bert Ferrule is cutting of the affected length of rail, ready for the replacement to be slotted in.

The broken rail is removed, in two parts, one large, one small.

Just minutes later the replacement was in, and the gang is seen here fitting the two pairs of fishplates.

The last thing to do was tighten the fishing bolts with the impact wrench, and we were ready to go.

Time taken from permission from the bobby, and our confirmation that the track was back in order, was - 20 minutes!

During our winter working period, we will be replacing the entire 60ft length of rail in which the break occurred. This will ensure that the other nicks we observed will not get the chance to turn into similar fractures.

Job done!

Back at home we completed the clearance of the scrap from the bogie flat, ending with the removal of the non-scrap rubbish that also came with it. On the C&W siding this lovely little brake van train chugged past

That's it for today, but if enough hands sign up, we will be back in a week's time. We're ready to work, if the support is there.

We wish our readers a merry Christmas, and thank you all for your interest, and support for the railway we love.

Saturday 14 December 2019

Saturday along the line

No Friday work this time, due to a doctor's appointment.

Saturday then. Cold and rainy. In fact terrible to start with, and for some reason our Mk1 mess coach had no electricity, so we sat in the dark and warmed our hands on mugs of tea.

 A locomotive passed by in the rain...

After a good hour, it suddenly stopped, so we set off for Toddington. We had two things to do to prepare for our two winter works jobs.

On the way to Toddington, we almost caught up with the rain, which was heading north, followed by the sun, which created this rainbow with the water still coming down over Toddington.

Once at Toddington, we gathered together, walked past the DMU waiting in platform 1 and headed out towards Stanway viaduct.

As we neared the 15 arch viaduct, the evil weather could be seen retreating over the northern horizon.

Strangely enough, the southerly wind was not warm and our weather app announced that 6 degrees C would feel like 1 degree. We could confirm that, as we headed out over the increasingly high embankment, along the Toddington north siding.

Starting early January, we will be lifting part of the track over the viaduct, so that the ballast can be removed, the inspection pits cleaned and, if we got this right, new waterproofing will be added to the arches.

Our role in this essential work is the removal and subsequent replacement of the track.

The purpose of today's sally forth was to measure precisely the position of the track along the centre of the viaduct. When we replace it in due course, we need to put it back in the same position (along the centre line as before) so that the ends still meet. We can't be taking a short cut and end up with an inch too much, or worse still, go wide and find we are a few inches short.

The DMU based Toddington - Broadway Santa specials continued as we measured the position of the track along various points.

Down below us, as someone pointed out, the ground seemed like the first world war trenches, all sodden and brown. Four horses nibbled away at any grass that was still visible.

A short while afterwards the Santa-DMU came back from Broadway, this time facing the sun.

On the way back we stopped to examine a crossing at Toddington North. We keep careful tabs on our track.

No present from Santa for us? That's it, we're out of here!
We walked back through Toddington just as the DMU returned with its happy crowd, each child bearing a large bag of goodies. And it wasn't over yet, as people were seen to be directed to a mince pie coach for more treats.

Before returning to the mess coach for lunch, we had a quick look round the yard. There's always something going on.

The yard lamp post on the left is of course one of the two we rescued, restored and planted earlier in the year. It will add greatly to the period atmosphere of the loco yard behind the shed, together with the water tower.

GWSR yard lamp top in the course of manufacture.
Yard lamp at Minehead

After much discussion with a heritage consultant and a specialist manufacturer of period lighting we have agreed on a design, based loosely on the one at Minehead, and two lamp tops are being made as you read this. We hope to be able to mount them, and finish off this delightful little heritage project, within the next couple of weeks.

The frames of 2874 were out in the sun, on their accommodation bogies. They have been shotblasted and painted in a makeshift tent, already removed again.

 A very interesting scene was the replacement of the engine room roof on 47 105.

Just behind the A frame the ground has been cleared for a concrete base, which we understand will support a new diesel tank.
We had a quick peep into the diesel shed, which was open and with one road cleared of locomotives.

A member of the department was happy to show us this large block of machinery - Leigh has put his hand to show the size of the pinion - and this turned out to be a refurbished traction motor from the 'French' class 20 that was dismantled for spares. The lid of the commutator was taken off to reveal everything refurbished inside.

Outside by the diesel mess room was a pair of worn out traction motors, just to show the difference:

The commutator was dirty and heavily worn, caused by the wrong type of bearings fitted when still in main line service.

Then it was back out of the yard and off to lunch, passing by the goods shed mess room extension. In the picture the gable end is under construction, and while the roof is not yet on. It is hoped to do this before the end of the year.

A quick peep behind the containers revealed 4270 returning from Winchcombe, having just returned the token to the signalman, who can be seen looking out of his box, the traditional rag in hand.

Lunch in the mess coach was still without electricity, but at least it was now sunny, so that we could see what we were eating.

After lunch we carried on with the second of our preparatory jobs for the winter works, examining and marking for replacement the sleepers leading away from the Greet tunnel mouth.

The flat area on the left was used as a quarry for the long embankment towards Stanley Pontlarge, and may have been the site of the Greet navvy village. A nearby road bears an echo of this: Working Lane.
Babes in the wood...
Getting there, from roadside to trackbed, was no sinecure. Wasn't there an access point here somewhere?

We also knew of a cracked fishplate in this area, one that we are observing as the crack is still small and manageable at this stage.

Just checking then - no change from last time. Dave F (on hands and knees) is in fact the section track walker here, so he knows his faults. (the railway ones, that is).

Any sleepers obviously rotten, or with evidence of moving cast iron chairs, are marked for replacement.

This area will be spot resleepered early next year, and the whole stretch to Stanley Pontlarge replaced with concrete sleepers at some future date. It will then link up with the remaining track to CRC, which is already fitted with concrete sleepers.

An example of a sleeper that needs replacement is this one, broken upwards at the end.

A single unserviceable sleeper is tolerable at our line speeds, but we obviously need to stay on top of this, hence the replacement programme scheduled.

As the light began to fail we returned to Winchcombe yard.

We're warm up here - what's it like for you down there?
In the station the Santa arrangements were in full swing, so yours truly went round the back on to P2 to see if an atmospheric photograph was in the offing.

It wasn't long before the crew saw the lonely figure in orange, pacing up and down.

Here is the atmospheric picture. Our visitor 9466 pulling up the hill towards the tunnel, with an 8 coach train. Was it worth the wait?


 Some Christmas reading perhaps?

To raise some funds for the railway, would anyone be interested in these fascinating sets of collector's magazines from 1935/36? We have two sets available: On the left, a bound volume two and 24 issues (which make up all of volume 1), and on the right, a complete set of 50 issues, which make up the whole series, but unbound? In 1935 these cost 7d per week.

These two complete sets are available to anyone who would like to make a modest cash donation - contact: breva (at) if you are interested.