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.


  1. Ah, new houses by the railway. I wonder how long it will be before somebody starts complaining about the noise of the trains. A new development of flats was built on the site of the old Banbury Merton Street station a few years ago and it wasn't long before some fool tried to take Network Rail to court over the train noise! Karma has a way of dealing with people like that and before long Chiltern Railways built a multi-storey car park between the flats and the railway, thus spoiling the view for him (such as it was) and stopping the noise at the same time!

    Oh, and I'm curious - why should that property have an access gate onto private railway land?

    1. If you mean the houses at Gretton on the other side of the embankment where the trees have been left, then those houses have been there for many years (1970s/80s) so some while before the GWSR relaid the track there.

      Regarding the gate, it shouldn't, unless the property owner has permission from the GWSR! The garden shed looks a bit big too for a smallish garden.

  2. 1, Barn Close, Gretton, appears to be the property where the Wendy House is constructed. The WH looks weathered & long established, but I'm mildly amused it has not been noticed before.

    The property in Church Row, Gretton, with the oversized, block built shed is shown on Google maps, at the foundations stage. Perhaps the house owner is a builder? There was an unusual six wheeler Land Rover on the front driveway in 2010.

  3. The Wendy House and fence at the top of the embankment at Gretton and the gate at the bottom need to be cleared before someone tries to claim the area as theirs and not ours!

  4. Re. the Wendy House, perhaps you could suggest to them that the GWSR has a history of embankment slippages, and point out that the owner of the land is liable for the massive costs of repair I think the embankment would then be rapidly vacated!

    1. That's a fun idea, sell off the sides of the embankment with clauses that they must be maintained to railway standard by the owner!

  5. I would suggest that any encroachment should be "nipped in the bud" ASAP rather than allowed to become established. It can become a very protracted and costly business to remove the occupying "tenants" years after the event.


  6. There's a lot of encroachment on railway land all the way along the line - including at least two more illegal gates at Bishop's Cleeve, installed by householders so they can walk out onto the railway.

    One gate has been in place for years, the other was installed this summer. Look out of the window on the Malvern side as the train goes through Bishop's Cleeve and you'll see them.

    At Southam Lane the neighbouring landowner has been steadily extending his fences onto railway land for years, digging away at the cutting side as he goes to create flat ground inside his new, illegal, boundary. Now buildings have started sprouting up on railway land here.

    South of Hunting Butts Tunnel, on the disused section of the line owned by the GWSR, fences have vanished and the trackbed has become a footpath. Developers working on the new housing estate alongside the line at Pittville removed the railway fence and re-shaped the embankment, presumably as some sort of landscaping attempt. As we know, the railway earthworks are not necessarily all that secure, so it seems crazy to allow anyone to indiscriminately dig away at them. It does make me wonder who would be responsible if that embankment slipped and engulfed the houses.

    I wrote to the then-chairman of the PLC about all this back in 2016. I did not get a reply. Since then the encroachments have continued.

    It's a ludicrous situation. The railway's one big asset is its land, and it seems incredible that the company should simply allow anyone to steal it. It also places the railway in a rather precarious legal position, since it is a requirement to maintain secure fences. Those illegal gates would be enough to get the line closed down if the Office of Rail & Road found out about them.

  7. I imagine encroachment is a problem for many heritage railways (and even the big railway). Is there a common solution that others know about? Perhaps the Heritage Railway Association knows of such occurrences and how best to counteract them.