Saturday, 20 January 2018

Grimly Fiendish

Wasn't that a cartoon character somewhere? It's how our day felt today - two whole degrees plus in the morning, and one-and-a-half in the afternoon. And almost incessant rain. We ploughed on at Toddington, there not being enough volunteers to form a splinter group for Broadway. We were barely more than a dozen today.

We couldn't park in our usual place by the mess coach, because that space was occupied by the material excavated from the trench for the sewage pipe being dug up the station appoach.

It looks like a big job.

We loaded our gear into Stevie's front bucket. Steve was sitting pretty, high up in the warm and dry cab of his JCB. We mortals plodded to work in the rain.

This was the site at opening today (actually photographed on a nice dry but cold day a few days ago).
The two switches of the main line have been laid in, but are not yet screwed down.

There were two missing timbers at the south end, which need to be longer so that the point operating mechanism can be attached. These were dragged in with nips, and with the rain the already heavy Jarrah sleepers seemed even weightier still today.

Here a short one is lifted into the front bucket of the JCB. One more lifter required...

The correct, much longer timbers were then positioned on top of the switches and dragged in with the nips.

A line was drawn from one end of the turnout to the other, to allow the timbers to be correctly positioned. At the southern end Tony had the drill out and was drilling through the chairs into the Jarrah sleepers. This was also hard work, the wood is very tough, but that's why we buy them!

At the northern end Alan was delivering sets of timbers, which we laid out along the line on the right. There were long gaps between deliveries, as for every two or three timbers he had to drive all the way back to the station car park and pick out the right ones - their lengths are written on the ends, but what it said there was not always true...

Eventually we ran out of space, and it was decided to left the next length out as well. This area will eventually be relaid anyway, and with the crossover going in here it will be difficult to reach, so we could usefully do it now. Steve is giving the rail a good tug, to get it out of the chairs.

With the rail removed Steve returned to lift out the sleepers in bunches. These were taken to one side for revaluation, and those that are really scrap had their chairs removed, in particular the old GWR type throughbolters.

Old hand Ivor keeps an eye on this process.

 Richard here had seen the grimly fiendish weather forecast, and had armed himself with a flask of lovely hot coffee. Just the thing on this cold and rainy day, a bit of hot coffee.

Could I have some of it perhaps?  Er, no!

I say, this coffee is lovely and hot and so delicious, oh yes.

We waited and waited for the next load of timbers, and finally decided that to keep us warm we would form a sort of bucket chain and go and empty a pallet in the background of heavy Pan 11 base plates. That certainly worked, for a few moments we were indeed much warmer.

Another option was to look at our watches to see if it wasn't lunch time.

And it was! Now there's a coincidence. Wearily the sodden wet workers trudge back to the mess coach, where it was warm and dry - and damp, with all the wet clothing being brought in. In fact Chris noticed that when he left after lunch, he was steaming as he stepped outside. Strange phenomenon.

Behind the mess coach at Toddington the class 73 was seen parked in the platform with the empty ballast train.

The date of the next ballast drop is not yet known, but we can do at least another one before we need to cross bridge 1.

Did you know that there is a bridges blog update on the repairs to bridge 1 at Broadway? You can click here to read a progress update:

In a few days we will also post an update on the repairs to bridge 34, the skew bridge at Gotherington.

South of the work site a couple of Warflats have been brought up loaded with sleepers, and the crossing for the turnout we are building.

Black pudding: check. Brown sauce: Check.
The reluctant drill needs a bit of muscle.

While the gang at the switches end was devoting considerable effort to drilling the holes into the tough, hardwood sleepers, Nigel was consulting the master plan which shows him the exact position of every rail and sleeper on this C9 turnout.

Our usual 'Animal' motorised nut runner proved somewhat underpowered on this job, and a couple of us set off in the Landie for Winchcombe to get heavier guns - a diesel powered Stumec chairscrew unit.

This was heaved on to its trolley on the track, but it then resisted all efforts to start it. Mean thing.

We had 3 vehicles on site, a narrow single track road alongside a double track railway. To our amazement a Vauxhall estate car suddenly appeared in the deep mud and wanted to get past. Both Steve and Stevie obliged by squeezing to one side, whereupon same car reappeared again a few minutes later to drive by the other way.


After lunch and a few more timbers fetched by Alan the construction of the turnout was sufficiently advanced to try and position the central crossing, which was loaded on the Warflat as mentioned earlier. This was duly retrieved.

Did you notice those strange bogies on the left? They are huge. What an interesting design.

They are spares for a class 47, we ascertained.

A few minutes later the crossing was more or less in place in the middle of the new turnout, but still needed tweaking into its exact position, as specified in the frequently consulted drawing.

Alan was asked to give it some final prods here and there, and Stevie also lifted it along a few inches. Not bad for a first attempt.

Next we have to replace some base plates on it, and move the timbers under it fore and aft, so that they are exactly underneath a base plate each, ready for drilling. Closure and stock rails will link the crossing to the switches. They are short, and can be lifted in a lot more easily.

Looking north, from above.
Looking north, at ground level

At the end of the day the two switches were fully drilled (see the orange shavings around each base plate), the next lot of timbers located, sorted and laid out, and the crossing roughly positioned on top.

Next week will see us screw the crossing down, and fit the 4 stock and closure rails. We also need to relay the panel of plain track we lifted today, and then the through line will be reinstalled again, but for ballasting and tamping.

Then it's time to start work on the other half ot he crossover, the turnout on the headshunt. This is currently somewhat lower than the running line, and will need to be raised to the same level.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

A ballast train

Non running days.... yes, but that doesn't mean no trains at all, as we found out today. We keep busy, the railway doesn't stand still.

Arriving at Toddington we were met by this tent... where the frames of 76077 stood last week.

A very neat arrangement, that tent will contain the dust generated by the mobile sandblaster.

Wish we could take a peep inside.

Ah! The door is ajar, and two boilersuits had the same idea. We peered inside.

Work is really starting on the Standard 4, see for yourself.

Apparently the shotblasting will be completed by the end of the week already. Fast work!

It was a slippery morning, with patches of ice all round and tricky frost, especially on the sleepers. Just a quick look then at the signal box. The scaffolding is now at roof level, with kick boards, and we can now see that the box is getting a new roof. The windows at this end have received a coat of primer too.

Hello, Mum ???
On the roadway leading into the station a contractor was digging a long trench along the Malvern side. This is to realise a long held wish to beef up our sewerage disposal system, which wasn't really built to receive 100.000 users. In the trench a new pipe will be laid to take the sewage we generate up to a mains sewer in the road, from where it will flow by gravity.
It would have been useful to take out the disused GWR level crossing post while they were at it, but it seems the post was fixed to a very large lump of concrete, so no can do.

After tea and doughnuts (sadly now spaced out one bag per table, so no repeat of last week's animal like scrum) we divided into three teams. One went to Winchcombe to plate up 30 hardwood sleepers with Pan 11 base plates for use when we replace the track over Gotherington Skew bridge, currently being worked on. Another team of two took a generator on the red Transit to Broadway and then worked south, cutting off occasional bolts that stuck vertically out of the sleepers in an unfriendly manner. The last, and biggest team went to Peasebrook.

One kilometre of track has a lot of clips in it, so this week once again we resumed our Clipathon. Even a board director was seen in action here. Talk about getting your hands dirty.

What do you mean, you want a lightweight bar, made of Aluminium I suppose?

The Landie was started up next to its pile of snow at Toddington (yes, it's still there, but now looking somewhat shrunken and dirty), and, passing via the site safe at Broadway, we drove it with all the tools down the trackbed to where the gang had assembled.

So all along the 1km length, three out of 4 clips still remained to be put in. Eventually we reached the pulling point in the middle here, where the sleepers had also dropped and gotten pushed around a bit.

This picture gives you an idea of the exposed situation of the embankment at Peasbrook. There was a stiff breeze, and with an air temperature of only 3 degrees C, the windchill factor was painfully felt. Never mind that it was sunny, it was still freezing out there.

After a while there was a distant toot, and one of those 'non running' trains appeared round the Little Buckland bend.

It was the class 73 with the first of two ballast drops for the Broadway end of our extension.

It trundled by gingerly, on its way to Pry Lane, where the previous ballast drop had ended several weeks ago, and which was also the place up to which the line is currently tamped.

With the train now manoeuvering in the far distance we paused to take stock. At this point we had done about 400m and were almost at the central pulling point. Behind us a lovely, neat row of clipped up Pandrols, ahead of us a jumble of materials and sleepers not quite in their place.

It doesn't seem to take very long to drop 120 tons of brand new ballast as the train, now empty again, soon returned. Check out the neat row of clips here. This is a stretch we just completed, phew ! Note also the heavy Duff jack, which is needed for the most difficult of cases. Given the expected train movements today, we couldn't use our trolley, so the old jack was carried along, bit by bit. Kept us warm though.

Around lunch time we reached the centre of the stretch. Here the sleepers had been pushed a bit to one side, to make room for the pulling machinery and afterwards the welders. One offending sleeper was dug out and levered along a few inches, to even out the spaces, the back filled with ballast. All looks nice and neat now.

After lunch a second ballast train trundled up, and this time it stopped. Your blogger seized the opportunity to clamber on board and join the gang discharging at Childswickham. Just for the pictures, y'know. A service to the public.... back soon.

The first drop took the ballasted track from north of Pry Lane almost up to the Childswickham bridge.
Here we see the second train parked at the end of the first drop, so that the doors can be opened and the plough wound down. The Broadway goods shed is in the distance.

The train then slowly reversed towards Broadway, leaving fresh, damp ballast in its wake. You can see a video of this second drop here:

Reversing slowly up to the Childswickham Road bridge.
Just before the bridge a technical stop was made to check that everything was going to fit, and then the drop resumed over the bridge itself.

Lee is working the fifth hopper doors here, while Andy on the ground is directing Neil in the loco, so that the train stops when the final wagon has completed its discharge, and the plough has heaved a proportion of the content over the rails.

In the foreground you can see that initially the ballast just drops between the rails and stays there; the shark coupled to the front of the loco then completes the manoeuvre by heaving the surplus ballast over the rails.

With the drop complete, the train comes to a stop a few yards short of the goods shed. You can see that here the drop has not been sufficient to cover the sleeper ends in the foreground.

Got another Dogfish full, see.

A pow-wow is held. Lee has a trump card up his sleeve (all magicians have this), which is the sixth Dogfish, which he didn't open. Now it comes into play, as we give the last, insufficient stretch a little top up, and then the quantity dropped looks right.

A view behind us, showing the untamped track undulating into the distance, and the shortage of ballast (at the time) in the foreground. Clouds race across the sky, the puddle is frozen.

Here's the end of the day look towards Broadway. This is where today's ballast drop ran out, and from here to the southern turnout one more train load will be required.
Work on repairing the bridge is said to be well on schedule, so we hope that further ballast drops right into, and beyond the station, will resume soon.

In the station itself the pits for the canopy overhang supports (on the right) and the intermediate staircase landing (on the left) have been excavated, and two out of three fitted with shuttering for the concrete. At the end of the day Neal was measuring carefully from the building itself to ensure the columns will be exactly in line with the rest of the canopy.
The bottom of the stairs will be supported by two newel posts in the form of ball topped gate posts of the era, for which we have a pattern. Their foundation holes will be dug (on the far right of the picture) once the first three holes have been filled with concrete, to avoid thin walls between them and the subsequent risk of collapse.
While we don't currently have any funds to actually build the canopy overhang, it is now clear that we have an agreed design at last, and one that will achieve very nearly a full length canopy overhang (6m out of the original 7m). That's an excellent compromise, and it will look right. The circulating area under it, illuminated by a double row of Victorian style glazing and a large replica hexagonal lamp, will be the cherry on the cake at this end of the station.

On the way home in the Lndie we stopped to take this picture of the work we did today. We started on the far side of the underbridge just visible near the end of the row of trees on the right, and ended up well this side of the pulling point. We are hopeful of completing this job next week. Weather permitting... at least we were in the dry today. Mustn't grumble.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Demolition starts

..... of Mrs. B's cherry flavoured sponge cake?
......Paul's doughtnut pile?
..... a stretch of main line for a new turnout?

The answer may be all of them (just to cover our options).

On arrival at Toddington today we were delighted to see the kit of 76077 laid out in the car park, no longer on the wagons on which they were stored up the north headshunt. A sign of things moving at last.

The jobs for the gang today were:

a. Start work on the winter job, i.e. the construction of two turnouts at Toddington south, and
b. Further work at Broadway on the list of outstandings to be ticked off there.

The Landie would bring round materials.

Off went the brave little Landie to Winchcombe, to find a supply of junction fishplates, some 'E' clips (smaller) for the barrow crossings and some blue (reverse) clips, where normal Pandrols don't fit, eg proximity to a fishplate.

In the foreground is a crossing for the first turnout at Toddington, which was later loaded on to a Warflat ready for transport there.

The Toddington gang requested that we bring a Permaquip trolley with us. We dug one out of the lineside grass, broke it into two halves, and got Alan to bring it to the Landie for loading.

That didn't go so well - Landie too small, or Permaquip trolley too big. One of the two, anyway.

Option B was selected, which was to load both halves on to Alan's forks, so that he could drive up the trackbed to the site at Toddy south. How lucky we are to be a former double track line.

We took a socket for the nut runner at Toddington, and on handing it over found that the team there had already stripped the rails from the area where the turnout from the mainline to the yard is to be situated.
The headshunt on the right will have the second half of the new crossover, but is a bit low so will need to be raised, for which the wagons parked up there need to be moved. They carry, we ascertained, a class 37 engine, and another from a class 47. Big stuff, apparently an engine capacity of 220 Litres, as big as your garden rainwater butt.

The sleepers from the plain line were then dug out by Steve, one by one. He later graded the area too, ready for the new timbers for the turnout.

Can you do that bit over there?

At Broadway, the gang was on the case already, ticking off the outstanding issues one by one. In the pictures they are drilling holes to screw down some base plates that were changed earlier. There was also more clipping up, finding the right clips that were not always available on the day the track was laid.

Another outstanding job was to finally bolt on the new check rails on the loop turnout north. To complete that job, we had to order a supply of these square spacers, and from the shavings there you can see that these base plates also had to be drilled and screwed down.

The two gangs met at Toddington for lunch, which gave the opportunity for a second look to see how far they had got at Toddington south, before returning to Broadway for the afternoon.
The plain line length had been completely stripped out, graded, and here Alan is getting a supply of timbers, which were being laid out to support the new turnout.

From above, you can get a good overview of the job in hand. The main line turnout will go in the gap just created, while the second turnout into the headshunt / yard access will go approximately where the trolley is parked on the right.

Here's how far they got just after lunch. This is the start of approximately 50 timbers, getting increasingly longer.

Lookijng north, you can see Alan in the Telehandler emerging from the storage area on the left, with the last of the plain timbers.

The longer ones were only recently delivered, and were still in the car park - they took rather longer to fetch, one by one.

Speaking of the Toddington car park, here is the other side of the frames of 76077. They are being prepared for transport to a shotblaster's, after which they will go to Loughborough for reassembly (of the frames)

Each of the component parts was labelled with its weight. Very neat. This pony truck weighs a ton and a half - did you know that? You can see how it pivots around a pinion at the end on the left, helping to steer the locomotive through the curves.

At Broadway the gang stopped to hear the rivetting (ah-hum) tale of how and where the canopy overhang will be constructed. It's Neal's brainchild. It will be supported by a further arched purlin, as visible in the building itself, top right. There will be a double row of glazing, and a sponsor has offered to pay for the big hexagon shaped lamp that lit the covered circulating area here.

It really was a very riveting tale. Take a seat, why don't you?

Pete sits outside the gents' toilet, which has just received heritage style floor and wall tiles.

We had a peep inside - isn't this great? Red clay tiles on the floor, and white, brick shaped tiles on the walls. There will be 3 cubicles on the right at the back, 3 wash basins with legs at the front on the left, and three urinals immediately on the right.

Then it was a diet of fishplates, one after another.

This one here's a temporary one. It's a complicated situation - a junction from worn flat bottomed rail on the left to new bullhead rail on the right, with different rates of wear, so the fishplates also have to achieve a lift from the worn one to the new one.

It's this junction plate that the Landie went to fetch from Winchcombe.

A junction place from old technology (bullhead) to new (flat bottomed) is quite common, but one from used modern FB to new old fashioned bullhead is never seen - rare as rocking horse droppings in fact, we were told.

The rare junction plate goes on.

The sad end of the story was though that the lift achieved by the fishplate was slightly too much, so it all had to come appart again, and the temporary plate was put back on.

Drat !

But the one on the other side was a perfect fit, so at least that's that job ticked off.

The afternoons are getting longer now, so there was still a remnant of sun in the sky as the gang loaded up the tools on to the trolley and took it to the far end of the station for the next job. The rays of the sun reflected off the tops of the rails, and you could see the curve through the station, with still a bit of a kink at the far side of the bridge on the down line. The ballast train has been removed, and may well come out again, reloaded, later next week.

The last job for today was by the southern barrow crossing, which was quickly finished off.

To close, a happy new year from the Extension Blog to all our readers. May your year be as exciting as ours will be !

Our new year's wishes are conveyed by this splendid shot by local photographer Brian Parsons, who caught the Cornishman thundering past the Broadway horse dock siding - then already lifted and the crossover taken out - on a snowy new year's day at the end of 1962. The winter of 1963 was in full session, but it did not stop the railway. We were tougher then. Snow or no snow, we're going to Penzance !