Monday, 19 March 2018

Ice road ballasters

A special today, a call for a quickie ballast train. Just wait for a phone call first thing, after Dave has checked that we can see the track at all. We could, the snow has mostly blown free.

Ballast will not run out of the Dogfish if frozen, but we reckoned if we loaded and dropped it the same day, we should be OK. And there are only 2 days before the first (volunteer) special train, so we need to get our skates on (if you see what we mean, we are not in Holland here).

At Stanton Stevie was filling the Dogfish in whole and part loads.

More ballast was due later in the day, in case we decided on a second drop. The snow was the same as before - deep here and there, absent in other places, not too bad really.

With the hoppers full, we climbed on board the ED and propelled out to Peasebrook. Nice and warm in the cab there, absolutely freezing wind outside though.

Due to insufficient ballast here initially, and the subsequent tamping/lifting activity, the sleepers ends are visible here over about 100 yds. This gives no sideays support to the track, which is continuously welded here. You can see the sleeper ends sticking out in the picture.

The handwheels on Dogfish are stiff in the best of times, but today was really tough. We needed a side drop, whereas previously centre drops had been made, so the wheels for the sides had not moved in quite a while. Plus, it was freezing outside, and this embankment is probably the coldest place on the whole railway. It's windy!

Well, we got this wagon open, so here goes.

The icicles under this chute give you a demonstration of the temperature this morning. We got the wheel turning on a second wagon, but nothing happened! We gave it a 'rough shunt' but still no joy. It seems while the ballast was certainly loaded today, it was from the existing pile and this was ice cold inside, and full of blown snow. From an investigation of another part empty hopper we could see that the snow had collected near the bottom, with the top of the load dry.

We emptied what we could, and repaired back to Stanton for a reload, this time with ballast delivered the same day.
While Stevie worked hard in the digger, the droppers repaired to a local hostelry and consumed hot, warming curries. Just the thing.

After lunch, up to the Childswickham Road bridge, where there was a slight dip and some more shoulder work needed.

If you can read this, you will see that we have a staff for the section now! It's true then, we are going from Toddington to our new station at Broadway.

The drop in the afternoon was much easier, and we achieved what we set out to do, reinforcing the two thinner sections identified. The newly delivered ballast flowed just fine.

We also took up some bogie flats, which will be used in a sweep up train later on. The wagons were parked at Broadway north, ready for next time, with one frozen load still intact. Yes, we did remember to close the hopper door again. We trundled through Broadway, where we were cheered by a small gang.

On the return, we had a non-stop run from Broadway north down to Stanton. Could have filmed that, for the driver's eye view fraternity, but the ED windscreen is a bit fly blown. Maybe next time.

At Broadway itself several large loads of aggregate have been delivered. More work for Stevie - this will be spread out over the station approach to make it a bit more presentable for opening day. It's not wasted, we need infill here in any case.

We made use of our visit to Broadway to hand over the replica door plates made specially for the station. All but one have the pre-grouping moulded rim (later it became plain). We leave you to hunt out the one that is a bit more modern. Don't tell though, it's the best we could do. These plates are hard to find and need a lot of time and patience. They are all replica castings, so not worth collecting, we should warn.

The TICKETS plate was found in the estate of one of the original founders of the GWSR in Willersey. You have to ask yourself, where did he get it from? Which is the nearest station to Willersey Halt that had a ticket hatch?
The 'IN' was a donation, and was used by the little foundry we use to make a sister 'OUT'.

More plates will arrive tomorrow, to cover each door in the building.

While on the subject, since the GWSR has no genuine cast iron BEWARE of TRAINS notices anywhere, we decided to have replicas cast. For some reason they are quite hard to find, so if anyone else has experienced this and would like one, we might be able to arrange more. The first 8 are being delivered later this week, 4 for Broadway and 4 for CRC.

Finally, your blogger came across an amusing historical artefact the other day, which you might like to see:

It's the composition of the royal train from Gosport to Ballater at the end of August 1900. If you click on the image, you may be able to make out who travelled in each of the 14 vehicles, with HER MAJESTY in the long three axled bogie in the middle. The engine, however, is not further identified, although each carriage is. What a piece of history from times gone by.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

A day away

A morning at a local auction today. Mission: to bid for a GWR wooden WAY OUT with finger sign.

It was to go here, but sadly the modest budget of two GWSR volunteers was easily outbid, and we didn't get it. It cost the lucky buyer over £500!

At least we had the opportunity to sit in a nice warm room over a bacon roll and cup of tea, and chat to a former BR fireman about Honeybourne West Loop.

On which subject, a question: Does anybody have any reminiscences about this short lived set of sidings? We would be interested in some material for a forthcoming 'Cornishman' article.

We shall keep our eyes open for any similar signs at other auctions, and in particular the pointing finger, and any GWR 4 inch letters, unless someone knows of some? We do have a number of boards for Broadway now, bought and indeed donated over the years, but not necessarily the right ones. We could do with more. Once the bustle prior to opening has died down a bit, we shall give these some further thought.

Another item that would be fun to have is a GWR drop case clock for the booking office. One sold today for £1800 and again this is way over our sort of budget.

But we also had a success:

This is a railway tool shed of a well known, corrugated iron design. It was offered to us by its owner and was located in the Honeybourne area, not far from the railway. Its railway location was somewhere in the Evesham area, and it was originally painted black. On the door is a little brass worksplate, which we scraped clean to reveal:

Samuel Taylor, Manufacturers, Birmingham.
We would guess the date of manufacture around the start of the 1900s, and they were a common sight around any railway installation. Interestingly, there is a Samuel Taylor Ltd, with railway affiliations, still trading from Redditch, and this company dates back to 1899, so a connection there is possible.

The inside of the shed was in good condtion, and it still had its little shelf. At first we took it to be a lamp hut, but internet research shows that lamp huts had a vent on top to evacuate any fumes from the fuel. This was a railway tool shed.

The first idea was to move the hut as is, using a lorry with a HIAB. The heavy rain we've been having put paid to that, as it would deeply rut the lawn and the lorry might well have got stuck, so removal switched to Plan B: dismantling and removal in kit form.

This proved to be less difficult than at first thought, as it had been disassembled once before and rebuilt in its location in the picture. Most of the nuts and bolts were still loose enough to be unscrewed, with the exception of 3 that we cut through with an angle grinder, powered by an extension lead dangled from a window by the friendly donor.

After just a morning's work, the hut was laid out in kit form on the front lawn.

Now to ring the lorry company, could they come straight away, by any chance?

Indeed they could.

Here it is loaded on the back of the lorry. All of the pieces were of such a weight as to be able to be carried by two people. In this way it would have come by train from Birmingham, and perhaps the last half mile by horse and cart, for assembly on the spot. Neat.

As discussions over the donated hut progressed, as potential site for its reconstruction on the railway emerged: CRC2. Due to the race traffic and the need to remove the hut within the week, it has been stored in a temporary location on the railway, from where the Friends of CRC will pick it up.

Here it is in storage. A neat little parcel, an item that will make our GWR railway a little more realistic.

Tarmac story.

You will have read that the Broadway platforms were tarmaced earlier in the week. Here are some additional photographs taken during the two day operation.

The station approach was a maelstrom of lorries, dumpers and forklifts. The tarmacers started early, and by the time this photograph was taken the footpath was already done. The actual approach road and the station forecourt need further work done on their respective levels, and this will be done (and paid for) at a later date.

This very chunky tarmac laying machine, weighing 12 tons, didn't manage to get on to the southern part of P1 due to tight clearances, so made a start on the northern half first.

That bucket in front opens out when the hungry beast is replenished. Behind is a roller, and we hoped that it would miss our cast iron lamp posts. It did.

At the end of the first day the tarmac had reached haf way down the northern half and the supply of tarmac on site had run out.

The next morning no fewer than three 20 ton tarmac lorries were parked up the road, it was really busy.

The tarmac people had returned with a smaller tarmac laying machine, and this successfully negotiated the tricky bend on to P1 south.

Here is the forklift bringing in a supply for it.

In this picture you can see that the platform is partly done, and the forklift is filling the wheelbarrows for the areas around the lamp posts that were done by hand. At the back the roller is busy making everything nice and flat.

All this could be observed from the signal box - in great comfort. A signalman always sees to his comforts first, the signals however won't be working for a while yet. The kettle, an essential part of this scene, is off camera. And so are the biscuits.

Looking the other way, the S&T gang was actually very busy indeed. Here they are, posing outside their pride and joy. The current job now is to get the rodding stools in, no fewer than 67 being required along the up line. The cribs in the foreground have already been dug out to receive the signal wires emanating from under the box.

Slowly the tarmacing machine and its forklift supply shuttle moved past the box along P1.

Here is the smaller machine, freshly supplied with a load of hot, steaming tarmac. It only just fits alongside the lamp post, behind which a strip has already been done by hand. The men worked very quickly and efficiently.

The corner bit was a bit tricky, as there was an inspection pit in an awkward spot.

This area was also done by hand, the laying machine having vacated the platform a few minutes earlier. The new gates were taken off their hinges and parked by the building on the left.

Then P1 south was finished, a very creditable job here. But P1 north was still to do.

Here the larger machine was used again, as access to this part of the platform was easier, through the site of the future canopy overhang.

On P1 north the tarmac layer slowly reverses towards the footbridge, leaving behind a smooth surface spread out by means of an archimedian screw in the centre, and guide rails left and right.

The larger dumper was used for this stretch, and you can see it here dropping a final bit at the end of the run, which ends just this side of the footbridge. The rest will be left for the slab laying team to fill in.

Here is the job done, with just a 9m gap left in the foreground. This will be filled with more slabs as in the foreground, and will constitute the floor of the circulating area under the canopy overhang.

Only a few days later the gap left open had been filled by the slabbing team - they really work quickly. All the platform is now complete, you can walk right through from one end to the other.

The rougher area on the left is where the footbridge steps will come down.

Just 5 days before the first volunteer train runs.

Out front, the Heras fencing has been removed to reveal the Edwardian lady unencumbered at last. The gap in front of the kerbs has been filled in temporarily, to give a level surface for the opening.

Finally, a lovely composition photogtraph by S&T member George Bryant, using a photograph of the test train with Foremarke Hall a few days ago, and an original photograph that he took on 29th August 1962:

The original B&W picture shows 5026 Criccieth Castle with the down Cornishman. The Broadway signal box used to stand behind the buffer stop, up against the wall. It closed on 10th October 1960 and was soon demolished.

The telegraph pole visible on the left was absolutely enormous. It stood at the foot of the embankment and was almost 50% longer than visible in the picture.

Back to PWay work next week. Check out today's icy work on Nigel's Flickr site:

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Nuts and bolts

Race week ! Didn't we know it too. A delivery of a lamp hut from a garden to CRC cancelled because of traffic, two steam hauled trains in the platforms at Toddington, and lots of well dressed folk descending from buses in our car park. Very smart they looked, and determined to enjoy their day. We will certainly give them a brilliant start.

After tea, our first job was to lift the nut runner into the back of the Landie from the new Toddington south turnout. Punishment for the easy times with tea and doughnuts. We crossed a member of the loco department bearing - a tray of mugs of tea! Great minds clearly think alike.

As the Landie sped off to Broadway with its prize, we took a coupe of photographs of the locos getting ready for the race trains. It's really quite an event.

Dinmore came in and dragged Foremarke Hall past the mess coach (craning necks...) and then it was P&O, also in steam, that came out of its stable. We got a wave from John in the cab here, before it moved off to the yard throat. What a great machine.

It's a bit unusual to see two locos, both with At The Races headboards together in one picture, but here they are by the signal box.

Dinmore was coming, and P&O was going.

I guess this is what we volunteer for, just look at these magnificent beasties.

Here's Dinmore Manor up close with Toddington Signal box. They look rather good in BR black. (ouch - who threw that stone?)

Here are the two At The Races locos, with Dinmore moving up to its train and P&O near the coaling area for a few extra bucket loads.

But enough of these distractions, there is hard, physical labour to do.
We are now at Broadway south, the Landie has arrived with its heavy load, and a smaller number of 4 men have dragged the nut runner off its deck and on to its carriage. Now to start it.

But it would not. We tried all combinations of choke, petrol and speed settings, but no joy.

Only one thing for it then, we check the fishplate bolts by hand using large spanners (right) and pull in a few recalcitrant Pandrol clips (left).

A small gang of two went all the way to the northern headshunt to put in 3 missing bolts. The second and third are being addressed here. They gave us endless trouble, it took most of the day to get them in, due to the big difference in the rails between the worn FB on the headshunt and the very ancient bullhead on the buffer stop. We did not want to pay for a special fishplate for this junction, so we winged it with an old bullhead one, and drilled a large hole for the final bolt to fit. That was the tricky bit.

As soon as we took the fishplate with three bolts in it off to redrill the hole, the rail dropped by a couple of inches.
This meant that to refit the plate once the holes was enlarged we would need a jack, but there wasn't one at Broadway. Just our luck.

After giving Rick above some guidance on which way up to hold a shovel, we passed this gang of two still on fisplate bolt tightening and headed for the Landie to get the jack, combined, why not, with lunch in the mess van.

More of us were clearing a space here at Broadway north for the barrow crossing, which needs to sit on a stretch of track that is free of excess ballast.
The blue clips show where the barrow crossing will be located. The bits for it are already there, just off camera on the left.

Although we protested that we were off to Toddy to get a jack, the others believed we were off to lunch and followed us. So OK, we were off for lunch. Might as well combine the pleasant with the useful.

After lunch the TB2 nut runner was working. Congratulations to the unknown mechanic that got it working, but there it was, on the job. That shortened the time taken considerably, and all the fishplate bolts in the area had that extra turn done to them.

The TB2 machine came right up to the buffer stops at the end of the P2 siding. This machine can do up fishplate bolts with a good helping of useful torque, and it can also do chairscrews. Having found a few of these that the portable 'animal' didn't manage to drive all the way home, we also ticked that job off the list.

At the end of the day we were finally, finally able to insert the fourth bolt on the two fishplates by the buffer stop. What a lot of effort that went into two small bolts.

We pushed the trolley and the nut runner all the way back to the Landie, where a tired but happy gang managed to heave it back on board.

While the Landie returned to Toddington, we had a quick look at Broadway station to see progress.

All 4 platform benches are now visible in this picture. The 100 year old GWR wooden bench has come up from Winchcombe after an expert resuscitation by the brilliant C&W carpenters, and in this picture it is parked in the dry at the far end. Note that it must not be moved by carrying it with the arms, as they will get pulled off. Wise words from friends at the SVR, who sold the precious veteran to us as a wreck.
The centre two scripted benches are now fully assembled, while the third one in the foreground is still a work in progress.

The 1904 picture below shows a bench the same as the one repaired by C&W under the P2 canopy at Broadway.

Note also the lanterns on the lamp posts are edge on to the platform, in response to some that wonder why we do this.

Our last picture shows Neal fettling one of the 4 crowd barrier posts that will stand in the booking office. The replica casting required a lot of his metal working skills, as it did not possess the stabilising ring at the bottom that it should have, and so we had 4 of them made separately out of mild steel.
Neal here smoothed off the surfaces to be mated, and then bolted the disk on from underneath. His left hand hides a steel shaft that will be resin bonded into holes already drilled into the booking office floor. Finally the steel disk will also have 3 bolts of its own, so the whole structure will resist the push from the crowds to buy our tickets.
The posts will be painted in alternating layers of dark brown and light stone, to highlight the details. The tops of two will be joined by a special replica wooden bar made for us by - the carpenters at C&W. Aren't they just masters of their craft?