Saturday, 18 November 2017

Through, and out of the station

A surprise visitor was found this morning in the car park at Toddington:

It's newly arrived 5526, a visitor from the South Devon Railway. What a classic branch line engine, such elegance. She was built way back in 1928, and has now done more than a million miles in traffic.

After inspecting the visitor, we had tea and biscuits, and then set off for Broadway.

Here Steve was already on site and busy dragging up rails for us.

We had quite a few sleepers left from last time (without rails laid in) so the first job was to do just that.

The weather was pretty awful today. No one seemed to anticipate it, but we had a steady and very wet drizzle that lasted all day, without let up. We got soaked.

We alternated the laying in of rails, first with the Malvern side and then on to the Cotswolds. In this picture we are laying the last panel in front of the station building - soon we will be through.

The rain got so bad that one unnamed gang member even got out an umbrella. Well, the Broadway gang was working indoors, so why not us? You can't do much track laying while holding on to an umbrella handle though. Pass me that... oh, never mind.

Much hilarity resulted from this little 'incident' (we don't seem to have accidents any more, although this looks very much like one) where the reversing Landie suddenly wouldn't go backwards any more, even though the accelerator pedal was firmly pressed down.

Ah, that could explain the lack of backward progress.

Now what?

No problem though, we only find solutions!

The Landie was hooked up to Steve, and its driver told to drive forwards, its back end hanging in the air.

Who did this, who is the perpetrator? Tim put his hand up.

He then said that he was going to Singapore immediately, although it was not clear whether that was out of shame, or to glower at us triumphantly from under a tropical sun.

More rails were brought up by Steve, here crossing the site of the future southern turnout. Double track will continue up to this area, after crossing the bridge.

The rails laid in continued relentlessly throughout the day, here in a neck and neck race to the end of the platform. The building has already been left behind.

The rain continued.....

In the hope that it might stop while we had our lunch, we decided to break a bit early. The cake siren sounded, and the gang marched en masse down to the cabin (we recommend - it has a new heater!)

The Pway gang is so tough, a number even sat outside in the drizzle over lunch. Possibly it was because the fastest among them grabbed all the seats inside in the warm. Mrs. B's cake tin in the middle here was exposed to the gentle autumn rain, but not for long. It was swiftly emptied.

Car parking is getting very difficult now at Broadway, what with the trackbed up on the embankment largely occupied by ballast bed and vehicular traffic going up and down.
Luckily the big pile of trackbed scrapings at the bottom was removed by Adam and Steve, and taken up the station drive for re-use. In this way 5 extra spaces were created, which were gratefully employed today. It's still crowded though.

This is the latest view on top today. Steve has put up the new fence aloong the edge of the embankment on the left. Sleepers and a pair of rails wait to be used. Everything is black and slushy. There was even a complaint that the Landie was dirty - now that must mean really dirty.

Having laid in as many rails as we could, we had to resume laying down sleepers.

With the exact spacings here a bit in question over the last few days, we are careful to get the measurements from the platform edge just right, here using our track gauge.

The BROADWAY running in board and signal box now form the background to our work.

In this picture the loop road has almost reached the end of P2. Steve has squeezed in on the down line to lift in another pair of rails.

Pete is thinking about stuff. Sometimes it's good to stop and reflect on things. Where did I leave that corkscrew last night?

The rail going in here gave us a lot of trouble. At first it went fine, after all the sleepers were eyed in to give a nice straight line along the open chairs. The rail went in OK, except for one chair, where it decided to hang. The usual method for recalcitrant rails, a speedy bang on top with the digger bucket just gave us a loud 'clang' but didn't shift it.

After watching us struggle with this rail from inside his nice warm and dry cab, Steve eventually got out - yes, really! - to give the situation the benefit of his 30 year experience with the GWSR.

Some hearty whacks with a keying hammer were prescribed, and effected. They didn't help either. Hmmmmm....?

The final and successful diagnosis was a burr under the second hand rail we were using. Moving the sleeper in question along a bit eventually solved the problem, after the rail was lifted out, and back in again. This time it did indeed drop down.

You can't beat experience with a book.

As we were laying in a curve, the inside rail was starting to overtake the outside one (well done that spotter in the last blog post) so Nigel stepped in with the disc cutter to even things up.

This allowed us to lay another 24 sleepers, enough for the up line to reach the southern platform end.

The first rail of the last panel today has just been lifted in here.

With both rails in on the last panel today, you can see here how far we got today, in one of the wettest days we've had so far.

There are just 48 sleepers to lay on the down line, to bring both roads to the platform end.

We're not sure just what we laid today, it's something like 7 or 8 panels, a brilliant result in the conditions.

Here's an end of the day view of the track now through the station.
Signal box, track, station building, footbridge... it's all there now. This is pretty much what Broadway station will look like. The track still needs fettling and ballasting of course. We'll do that when it's joined up to the running line.

Looking the other way, the double track is laid past the buildings and seems to stretch into the distance.

Of course there's a gap of a couple of hundred yards to close still, and a turnout to be laid.

Broadway station with double track

At the end of the day the bedraggled PWay volunteers trudge back to their cars. We were wet and cold, but triumphant.

Broadway station track is almost done, just the gap over the bridge to fill now.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Out into the country

One of the unseen jobs on the railway is accompanying the tamper crew on one of their days up the line. A member of the PWay gang accompanies them each time, for the purposes of liaison and local knowledge.
Tuesday was one of those days, when our contractor B&R took their Plasser & Theurer 07 out on to the Broadway extension.

The 07 is open to hire by any railway, so moves about from job to job. This week it was based with us.

The first job of the day was to refuel it. The tamper has a high revving diesel engine, which amongst other things runs a hydraulic pump that propels it along and operates the tamping tines.

The job for the day started 150m south of Little Buckland bridge. This is actually on the recently lengthened operating section, but as the track settles down in use, you have to come back and correct it here and there.
From here the tamper travelled up the line to Pry Lane bridge, measuring as it went. It does a recording, prior to the job.

Then it came back to do the 150m south of the bridge. In this zoomed in picture (which exagerates the defects) you can see that a couple of twists have appeared.

Here is the 07 on those twists, which were easily removed.

If you look carefully, you can see a low bit between the tines and the front bogie. This is lifted as the machine moves a long, a bit it a time, and tamped, a bit at a time.

The wheel just in from the right lifts up the rail, and then the tines descend, and vibrate the stone in under the sleeper in question.
The spot between the white marks was actually the pulling point for the second 1000m of CWR, and hadn't been tamped before, hence it was a bit lower than the rest.
The operator sits in a small gondola suspended under the machine, just off to the right. All he can see is two sleepers, directly ahead of him. A second man sits in the cabin, and makes sure the machine doesn't (very slowly) run over anything.

This is one of the driving ends. Bob (the 'B' in the 'B & R track services') is setting up the machine on the track recorder, after one of the measuring runs. On the right are two dials which show the attitude of the machine.
Not visible in the picture: the microwave and the kettle! You are out on your own here. We didn't even stop for lunch, these are hard working people.

The screen of the track recorder shows various attitudes, and also top left in red the distance still to be travelled to the end of the measuring run.

That was handy in the dark, as we couldn't see where we were... a beep tells you that you have arrived.

Looking forward now, we have reached the stop board, signifying the end of the operating section, and the end of the first job.

The second job was to (re-) tamp the last of the three 1000m CWR sections after an additional ballast drop. That's now ahead of us.

Behind us is the curve north of Little Buckland bridge, a job just completed. Doesn't it look good? The back of the stop board is on the right, so in the foreground is the start of the next length of CWR.

Can you imagine that iron ore and coal trains hacked along here at 60mph?

That would have scared the wildlife. Well, we did anyway. Here are three roe deer galloping away from us across a field, their white back ends hopping up and down.

They gathered at the top and peered back at us, as we slowly ground along with a steady drone.

A bit further along, and we have reached, on the left, the sign representing the Gloucestershire-Worcestershire border. Broadway seems miles away here. Well, one mile anyway. The problem (for the PWay gangers) is that our railway is one of the last ones to be built in the UK, and was laid out for fast running. There are many long straights, unlike some of our colleagues in the industry, who meander and wriggle through narrow valleys. Inside the train you don't really notice this, as the Cotswolds hills and stone cottages slowly drift past. Very pretty.

Here's a picture you won't see very often, as the tamper approaches bridge 4 at Peasebrook farm.

There is new fencing all along here, and the bridge is private. Once the line is up and running, steam locos will be pulling away here, as it is uphill.

The tamper slowly crosses over bridge 4 at Peasebrook farm. The Cotswolds edge is behind it, and the clouds are gathering in a winter sky.

Another unusual view, as the tamper slowly works its way north to Broadway. This area is quite inaccessible, unless you arrive here by tamper. It's so slow, you can get out, walk back to the bridge and into the field, take the photograph, back to the bridge and up the track, and the tamper is still very much where you left it before. It takes 3000 tamping movements for one kilometre, and today we did one and a half. It took all day.

Another job for the second man is to warn the operator of any difficulties up ahead.
Here in the foreground we have the next pulling point, midway in the new CWR section. The rails here are only held together by temporary fishplates and clamps.
Further along is the breather (expansion joint) another thing to look out for.

Past Peasebrook farm now, and Broadway is in sight. The start of the long curve through the station can be seen in the distance. It's starting to get dark. No matter for us, we just follow the instructions of the track recording machine.

A 'space ship' at Peasebrook
With only another 300m to go at dusk, we decided to press on regardless to the end. This meant that we did not have to return to the job to finish it off the next day, when the regulator was due to come here. Worth the extra couple of hours.
The tamper here has paused for a bit of TLC. All the kit is on board, so it doesn't take long to fettle it from time to time. Good moment to take a moody picture too.

Finally we reached the end, the beep came and told us so. We were at Pry Lane bridge (bridge 3) although you'd never know it. We had a full beam on, so you could just make out the pilasters in the gloom.

To make the tamper fit for travel back down the line, the tines and measuring wheels have to be retracted again, and secured.

The next day the regulator came out and swept the same section. It is now ready for the final preparations for stressing.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Along the goods shed

Wednesday's gang was out in force today, with a key question posed at the start of the day to sort out those not up to speed - where was the mess coach?

Anticipating eagerly our tea and biscuits this morning, and an invigorating pep talk from Dave, we screeched to a stop outside the mess coach - that wasn't the mess coach. It had transformed into a chocolate and cream Mk 1. Huh? A surprise repaint? An upgrade for the PWay gang?
No such luck. Our coach had been secretly moved to elsewhere.

Elsewhere turned out to be behind the loco shed. Fine for views of Dinmore being steamed up, not so good for walking the heavy lifting bar from the goods wagon over 4 tracks and a fence to find the nearest point where you could park the Landie.
Oh well. It's an innitiative test.

We heaved the lifting bar into the Landie, followed by a heavy basket full of its 8 chains. Then off to Broadway goods shed to allow the JCB to lift in the last 80 or so concrete sleepers on site.

We were beaten to Broadway by Andy and Paul who, undeterred by an absent lifting bar, set out to lift in the 80 sleepers using just a simple chain, one at a time. They were well set when we arrived, having done almost half already.
No matter, take back the lifting bar, heave it back over the fence and the 4 tracks into the goods wagon, then go to Winchcombe and get supplies.
Yes, sir !

A good rummage round the GUV at Winchcombe produced 8 sets of temporary fishplates and their clamps. We then filled the rest of the load space with PanLock keys in sacks. These were stored in a dumpy bag on the ground. When we had finally emptied the dumpy bag, Doug in the Telehandler kindly offered to lift the entire dumpy bag on the Landie for us. Great idea, but about 15 minutes too late.

The rest of the gang at Winchcombe were fitting wooden sleepers with Pan 11 base plates, while Doug in the Telehandler was busy reloading the extension train which had been parked here for us.
Lots of logistics to think about. We still need more concrete sleepers at Broadway, to complete the lay by the goods shed.

We took the Landie to Broadway, loaded with the fishplates and clamps, as well as a generous supply of Panlock keys for bullhead rail on wooden sleepers..
At Broadway the station gang and PWay gang were within sight of each other. Only 100 yards perhaps now separate the two ballast beds, as you can see in this picture. In the distance about 80 sleepers are being laid out for today, all that remained on site.
The vast pile of ballast scraping from in between the Broadway platforms has now come full circle, as almost all of it was dumpered from the car park back into the platform area, where it is an ideal and cheap infill. Here the Broadway gang are adding a final layer on to platform 1, which has settled somewhat from when it was first back filled several years ago.

Having off loaded the PanLocks by the platform railhead - where another PWay gang was keying up Saturday's work - we took the rest of our cargo to the southern rail head, so that the loose rails laid a week ago could be plated up. This is a temporary arrangement, as the rails here still have to be drilled, or welded up, alternatively.

Meanwhile, the laying gang today were coming to the end of the 80 sleepers left to lay. Here Paul is holding off one of the final sleepers, while Andy measures the exact distance required from the fence.
Paul reminded us gleefully that the sleepers had now reached the goods shed itself - it's true !

The dear old Landie was then asked to do yet another journey down the line, this time to fetch the rail saw, so that the rail ends arrived here could be sawn off square. As we are working on a curve, the outside rail slowly overtakes the inside one, hence a periodic adjustment.
After the ends were of equal length, the first rail length today was lifted in.

As dusk started to fall Andy and his gang were just lifting in the last of 3 pairs of rails laid today. The rails too have now reached the goods shed. We still have enough prepared ballast bed for another days laying here, before we reach the general area of the southern turnout.

After we took the tools back to Toddington, a member of the loco dept. pointed out to us that the GWR yard lamp had now been stripped and painted. It was in the shed.

Here it is. Sorry about the colour, but it is seen here in the evening, under orange arc lamps inside the shed. It is painted light and dark stone, with the raised pattern specially picked out.

Now to plant it by the water tower.