Saturday 15 February 2020

And over the viaduct.

Friday at Broadway.

A dry day at last, so regular work of painting and fitting timbers continued normally again.

Neal has now cut everything on the Cotswolds side, and from the bottom up to the intermediate landing on the Malvern side.

In the picture you see him start work on the last two, upper, sections.

The Cotswolds side has been completely trial fitted in this picture. Actual fitting should happen soon, assisted by a healthy amount of mastic in all the joints and mating surfaces. For example, when this was taken down again, water was found standing underneath the bottom timber in the intermediate landing here. We will try to prevent this.

John and yours truly painted all the white timbers in the picture in undercoat the same day - a second coat is still outstanding.

Saturday with 'Dennis the Menace'.

We said it last Saturday, and now say it again - this is the day of the big storm, but the name has changed from Ciara to Dennis. Same job, different storm, hey-ho.

You have a long walk from Toddy to the viaduct to start with, not so bad because the wind is blowing you along from the south.

We sheltered in the mess coach for a while, but after a decent interval there was nothing for it but to climb out and face the weather.

After the team on Wednesday clipped up the remaining panels from last Saturday, we had just 2 panels left to lay today, before the ends of the track were reunited again. Two panels is not much for us, but the dreaded question was, would the rails fit back together again? Would there be a gap, or an overlap? Surely one or the other, a perfect fit was highly unlikely.

Stevie brought the hardwood sleepers back four at a time, and we laid them 26 to a panel using little offcuts of wood for spacers.

The end was in sight mid morning, but as you can guess from the picture it was raining and the high winds whipped the raindrops on to your face and made them feel like stinging hail. We turned our backs to it.

The penultimate panel was laid in and Neil here offers a helpful and vital foot to Bert Ferrule as the fishplate nuts are tightened up.

Neil had a decent wrap around sort of cap on but it was his, of all caps,  that the wind whipped off and threw up against the cab of the JCB some distance away. Neil went galloping after it, waving his arms at Stevie to cease operations until the vital piece had been retrieved.

Soon the last few sleepers were lifted in, and at this point we were actually off the viaduct already, with a growing sense of achievement. But how about those rails, would they fit back in the space?

With the last few hardwood sleepers laid back in, we had a quick session with the bars to line them up.

It's Bert Ferrule wrestling with the bar, and Nigel, collar rolled up high, who's calling out the directions.

The last rail is in at last - or is it?

There is a quarter of an inch in it - not bad after 11 panels, but it still doesn't fit. What now?

There was a lot of wrenching around with bars to try and prise the two rails apart, but what did it was the simple idea of jacking up the penultimate rail, which due to the curvature created, made it so very much slightly shorter. But enough! The two rail ends popped together, we dropped the jack and plated the ends up quick. Job done. We relaid 11 panels round a curve and ended up with a mere 1/4 inch difference.

An executive decision was taken to leave the job for what it was for today, retire to the mess coach for lunch, and let Dennis the Menace roar without us for the rest of the afternoon.

A little more fettling is required to smooth the curve and take the stress out of the tight joint between the last two rails.
We packed up the tools and pushed the Permaquip trolley back over the viaduct. Looking back behind us - unlike Lot's wife we were not turned into a pillar of salt - we felt pleased that we had got everything back in, with a minimum of complications really. A job well done.

This kink towards the end still needs straightening, rough packing of some hanging sleepers, as well as clipping up the last panel are the next jobs.

The first train runs on March 7th! No pressure then...

We can't go into the finest details of what work is like on a viaduct in a storm with high winds and rain. That would be too personal.

But over in Brussels is a little statue with whom we have every sympathy.

Manneken Pis doesn't like the wind either.

At least we were allowed home at the end of the day. We hung the wet togs up in the garage (they were still dripping even after an hour of hanging in the mess coach), put the sodden boots, gloves and beanie in front of the fire, made a cup of coffee and settled down with a book about the Tuffley loop.


Saturday 8 February 2020

On the viaduct.

Friday at Broadway

Neal was back today fitting and fettling. It's a slow business, this.

What you can't see from the picture is that there are many more timbers that have already been cut to size and are in the course of painting, or re-painting, if damaged by further fettling.

Neal had got to the top of the Cotswolds side and found that a small change at the top had repercussions all the way down again, so today a number of pieces had to come off and be fettled further.

During the blogger's involuntary 14 day absence, the Malvern P1 side timbers were test fitted right up to the top. A picture exists, but ancient telephone camera technology means that the picture is blurred, and can't be transmitted to another device.

So, instead here is a picture of the Cotswolds side being trial fitted. Neal had almost got to the top this mid afternoon.

Last thing we saw was this big diagonal going in. When at last the final cut has been made, we can soak the ends in preservative (3 times), primer them, then the whole piece can be painted in undercoat (twice).

The whole thing looks very laborious, and our suspicion is that when the bridge was new in 1904 it was painted last of all. If that meant missing a few areas underneath, or not painting inside the joints, it wasn't a big thing as in the day better quality wood was used. That had much more resistance to shrinking, twisting, and decay. We however are constrained by cost limits and have to go for the cheapest wood.

Interestingly we are aware of another footbridge project where the timbers are proposed in GRP. It will be interesting to see if that works. In our experience, here at Broadway, each timber needs to be crafted individually, and there is no question of making the components in one big job lot off a production line.

Saturday on Stanway viaduct.

A sunny and blustery day, in preparation for tonight's big storm. Why not spend that day on our highest, most exposed structure? That's the 15 arch Stanway viaduct. Coats on, hats pulled well down then.

Because it is a relatively remote location the PWay train with mess coach has been brought up. This allows us shelter, a cup of tea, and all the tools and materials we need close to hand.

Otherwise, it's a long walk to the nearest station, Toddington.

Here is the opening shot for the day, with 5 panels laid last Saturday and Wednesday.

The blue ballast is the infill added by the contractor around the drainage pits. The orange pipe in the distance is one of the inspection pipes provided during the viaduct work. You can now poke a camera down there and see the state of the drainage pit underneath.

The orange pipes are cut off at the level of the sleepers after the track has been relaid, and provided with a removable cap.

All the tools were loaded on to a Permaquip trolley and rumbled out to the relaying point. A key element of the supply chain is in the form of these bags of doughnuts. We didn't spend so much time in the mess coach, and by the time the doughnuts arrived, we were already raring to go. So they got taken outside, for consumption as we went along.

After bringing the tools necessary for the job, the Permaquip trolley returned to the south end of the viaduct to get the track materials - sets of fishplates and in the stillage, a large mound of Pandrol clips.

The track already extends a considerable way across the viaduct, as new recruit Nick pushes the trolley down the stretch that has already been relaid.

Nick and yours truly spent the day doing this - clipping up the FB rail to PAN 11 base plates on hardwood sleepers, laid about 15 years ago. We did over 300 of these clips. After writing this blog, it's going to be feet up and a beer, phew!

Hardwood sleepers - we bought these new 15 years ago, and look what happened to some of them. On the left, a hardwood sleeper in perfect condition; on the right, one from the same batch with advanced decay underneath. It still has a bit of life in it, so we put it back in, but the short life span of some of the sleepers described as 'hardwood' is rather disappointing.

The main gang was doing the actual relaying, here something over half way across the viaduct. The chaired up sleepers are lifted back in in groups of 4. In the foreground one of the new inspection tubes pops its head out from in between the sleepers.

Once 26 sleepers have been roughly laid down, they are inched left and right under the direction of Nigel, so that they form a straight line (or slight curve in this case) ready to receive the rail back again.

Mid afternoon the rail head was getting surprisingly close to the other end of the viaduct, such progress!

We laid in 5 or possibly 6 panels today, and clipped up 3 1/2 of them. Four panels were laid the first Saturday when we started this job, so we are accelerating.

Looking back the other way (apologies for the  blurry effect, caused by the zoom used in the falling light) and the completed track stretches right round the curve towards  Toddington, as Nick clips up the last few Pandrols before the light went on us.

Looking the other way, the relaying gang felt that the track laid could do with a tweak towards the Malverns. Twelve men good and true should be able to move the track with bars, like they did in those British Transport films of the 1950s. Unfortunately we only had 6 men good and true, and the track stayed where it was.

Back next week then with the sluing jacks.

As the sky grew ever greyer and the wind started to wind itself up ready for the storm we packed up the tools and took them back to the train.

This is as far as we got today - almost there, just two more panels to go. The last panel could be interesting, as the rails have to go back exactly (we measured up the curve before taking it apart) and there is bound to be a small difference, necessitating more tweakings of the curve to make it bigger or smaller.

Goods shed, stop frame style

Finally, a quick shot of the goods shed extension from the steps of the signal box. If you have followed the blog, you should now have 5 or 6 pictures of the extension going up, bit by bit.

The roof is now on, in simulated slates but they do look quite convincing.  The arches, the windows and the brickwork detail are a faithful copy of the existing goods shed. It really looks rather good, and demonstrates that we do have the ability, as at Broadway, to produce convincing railway buildings in a heritage style.

Congratulations to the team that achieved this!