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.


  1. Your evocative photos at Broadway would look good as Christmas cards for the railway. Nice blog, thanks, and I hope you enjoy your Christmas break, Terry

  2. Your broken rail repair would better some professionals! Thank you for the hard work you all do for the railway and very warm Christmas wishes from a fellow shareholder.

  3. Best Christmas wishes, Jo. Hope you have a pleasant time and I look forward to seeing all the progress you and the other volunteers will undoubtedly make in the new year! Your blogs are very much appreciated.

  4. Let me also endorse all the above, from another share holder. Enjoy the break.


  5. Many thanks for all the blogs in 2019 - they are much appreciated by us shareholders who cannot visits regularly. Here's to a successful 2020!