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!


  1. Yes, clipping up Pandrols is feat in itself. Even more-so, when in an exposed location like on top of a viaduct!
    The footbridge looks great with some of the new woodwork on.
    Regards, Paul.

  2. Those tropical hardwoods are confusing, they are hardwood, because they are broad leaved trees and not coniferous that is all. Same with all English trees too.
    Balsa wood is a tropical hardwood, and we all know how soft and un-durable that is.
    Jarrah and Green heart/purple heart are the three main ones they use on the sea defence work where I live, some lasts for well over 50 years on the coast.
    The railway sleeper supplier's will/should know what species they have in stock.
    Get the name and google the woods durability and suitability for your use, simple as that.
    Good luck.

  3. This is really interesting and informative Jo, thank you. Broadway footbridge progress, Stanway viaduct relaying and the workshop extension (looking "just the ticket").
    I can understand the difficulty of obtaining the right quality of timber for the footbridge, if you can find the right quality you're lucky, and then the price can be prohibitive! On top of which we do not have "Corbetts" full lead pink primer paint (Newtown B'ham) which was available 100 years back (even 50 years!). I doubt the hardwood sleepers are bathed in creosote for at least 6 months either. It all makes a difference.

    But, many thanks Jo glad you're recovered, off to meet my consultant on Thursday for an uplifting chat!

    Powli Wilson

  4. Jo, thanks for answering a question that's been lurking in my mind for a while - I doubted if the original footbridge builders went to the trouble that you are to apply preservative and multiple paint coats to the timbers. It hadn't occurred to me that they probably had use of better wood to start off with! Looking forward to seeing the tongue and groove planking going up (assuming that's what the sides basically consist of?)

    1. Yes, the actual sides are made of T&G and the timberwork is an external frame.

  5. A great blog. Thank you. The guys are doing a fine job in trying conditions.