Saturday, 22 November 2014

More rail is delivered

On Wednesday the second half our our 800m order of rails was delivered to Toddington. The 40 rails came delivered over 3 lorryloads, and were unloaded at Toddington on to two E.L.K. bogie flats.
The first load of rails is unloaded at Toddington

Andy Smith stacks them neatly on the ELK
Afterwards, the new rails were taken up to Laverton, where they will remain loaded, ready to shunt them nearer to their final position on the day.

 At Laverton this morning the train of empty hoppers had been shunted on to the extension, with the two ELK leading, nearest to the 'front line'.

This is a view of the two loaded ELKS out front. The recently cleared Malvern side of this fairly high embankment is on the left. Clearance continues in the distance. The gang has reached a foot crossing, and has turned around and is going back down the Cotswolds side, towards the camera.
Here the clearance gang have just started the day's task, on the Cotswolds side. Despite the drizzle, they soon had a good fire going.

In this view back towards Laverton, you can see the clearance guys working on both sides at once. The PWay train stands on the headshunt in the distance. You will get good views from here.

Both men and women work on clearance - why not join them, it's healthy ! I have added a link to their site on the right in the list of related links.

Clearance will continue here for another month or so, before the JCB comes back to grade the trackbed. If time permits, the PWay may also deliver a few more concrete sleepers before the end of the year. Actual track laying will take place once the operating season has started again. For the PWay now is the time to do those trackside jobs without those nasty trains getting in the way all the time. They have been cutting out crippled rail ends, and are currently replacing the user crossing at CRC.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Lineside clearance progresses

Before the topside track clearance continues, the lineside clearance along the embankment needs to progress towards Little Buckland bridge. Fortunately there was a great turnout on Saturday, and they made good progress. If anyone else would like to join, they are very welcome, don't hesitate! You can work at your own pace, so it's not too onerous, and there are 3 ladies on the job too.

The 'before' picture, almost all bramble here.
Besides a team of people cutting, dragging and burning, the lineside people also have a small flail - like a small tractor - which is excellent at munching brambles. Some of its handiwork can be seen below, in a view back towards Toddington:
Extension trackbed looking south

Burning the thorns
This view above, taken Saturday, shows the Malvern side being cleared, and the bramble disposed of. As someone who has had a few bramble scratches in his life, I can say that this is a very satisfying sight!

This morning your scribe went to Laverton and just short of the bridge found this view - a PWay train of hoppers in the loop. The countryside is very beautiful here, with the distant hills shrouded in morning mist.

The reason I went to Laverton was because I thought I caught a glimpse of a new vehicle on the headshunt, last time I drove along the road to Toddington. And it's true - there it is, a RECTANK filled with concrete sleepers. Beyond it a well wagon with more, and the ELK used to bring the first shipment of new rail. Another is expected tomorrow, to complete the 80 rails ordered in the first round, to take us to Little Buckland.

Just up the line is the current railhead, and even today there was a two man gang on clearance.

The picture above shows the point reached on Saturday, a foot crossing at the start of the curve towards the bridge. The Cotswolds side of the embankment has not yet been done, but a start was made on Saturday, and they will be working back towards Laverton loop. This will open out the view of the hills, which, as a passenger, is one of the big draws of our line.

A little further down the line we saw Stevie Warren unloading a second ELK of old Bullhead rail. With the two vehicles the loading on Wednesday will be easier, and the rail can stay on board for the foreseeable future.

Steve is now occupied with the replacement of the user crossing at CRC, but will return to the extension in a month or so to complete the track level clearance to Little Buckland. If time permits, more concrete sleepers can also be brought up - this is a fill in job, not so urgent, but there are lots of them to come!

In summary therefore, this is the order of play:

- Lineside clearance
- Trackbed clearance
- Ballast spreading, on terram
- Laying out sleepers and rails
- Track laying to Little Buckland.

A second stretch can then be considered, later in 2015. Completion to Broadway will need further funding! Luckily our wallets will get a year's respite. I must say, it was rather satisfying to contribute to the Bridges EIS scheme, and then get money back from the government.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

More Clearance

After unloading the rail on Thursday last week, Stevie Warren continued clearing the trackbed on Friday. We walked the extension trackbed from Little Buckland bridge, to see how far he had got:

Little Buckland, now with signage, looking south. The new pilaster caps are good.

On Little Buckland bridge, looking south.
 Immediately south of the bridge, the track reverts to its original, overgrown condition, with just a footpath in the middle. There is a thick layer of humus, brambles and the remains of horse gallops, installed by an adjoining landowner a few years back.

After Little Buckland, the trackbed describes a gradual curve to the left. About half way along this curve, we reached the end of Stevie's clearance. You can see that it's not just trackbed clearance that is required, but also on the embankment. You couldn't tell the line is on an embankment here, the brushwood is so thick.
Continuing round the curve, we reach the straight. If you open the picture separately, you can see the bogie flat in the distance on the Laverton headshunt, and - a dog walker, with three dogs.

Turning back the other way, the point reached by the trackbed clearance appears again, half way round the curve:

We measured out the bit that still needs to be done - 350m on to the bridge. Not that far, really. Coming round the curve again, here is Little Buckland bridge from the south:
The trackbed crosses over the bridge and then straightens out for a long stretch to Childswickham Road bridge, after crossing Peasebrook Farm bridge and Pry Lane bridge on the straight:

If you zoom in on this picture, you can actually see Broadway good shed, in red brick, in the distance.

For those not familiar with the area, the extension can be seen on the map below. I've had a lot of help and suggestions from different readers, and I'm really grateful for that. A real 'community' thing! The most interesting one, and most workable for me, was a scanned 1953 O/S map, which is now copyright free. It shows the line with the stations still open, and I've drawn a line in red to show the progress of the trackbed clearance. As clearance progresses, I can update this until Broadway is reached, and then start again for the actual track laying next year.

The scale is given underneath in miles (above) and yards (below).  GWSR ownership of the trackbed extends up to the overbridge just visible north of Broadway station, so that is how far track needs to be laid.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Rail unloading

The first delivery of 40 rails has now been taken to Laverton and unloaded on site. This enables the bogie flat used to be returned to Toddington, ready for the second half of the total shipment. This is expected in a fortnight.

In the first picture we can see approx. 20 rails unloaded the previous day lying in the four foot, with the still half loaded bogie flat in the background. Right in the distance you can see a hopper wagon PWay train parked on Laverton loop. On the right is the embankment partially cleared. It's quite high in this area, and certainly long. In fact the majority of the line between Laverton and Broadway is on an embankment, which is why the 5 'Bridges to Broadway' are all underneath.
The JCB takes the weight.

Carefully draw the rail off the wagon - see how flexible it can be.

Gently allow the end to drop on to a tyre, to avoid damage to the sleepers.
In these three pictures, you can see how the rail was unloaded, using a JCB. The skill demonstrated by our contractor Steve never ceases to amaze, which is why some of us refer to him as 'Stevie Wonder'. He has done this many times before, and knows the railway better than most. After all these compliments, we hope his hat still fits!
The start of clearance beyond the railhead

A jawful of undergrowth.
Once the unloading had been completed, Steve returned to the job in hand, which was to clear the trackbed of surface greenery and contaminated ballast. In the foreground Nigel and Dave stand by the actual rail head itself. This section was laid to works train standard only when the loop was built, and will be re-visited to reach the required running line standard in due course. It represents a length of approximately 300m. The new rails, still to be laid, represent a length of 800m, so Little Buckland bridge will be reached after approximately an initial 1100m of extension. What the rail head looked like a year ago you can see in this picture below:
Laverton headshunt in 2013.
All this greenery is being taken away by the JCB and a PWay track gang along the top, and by our clearance dept. along the sides.
The view towards the extension

In this view, we are looking from the bogie flat towards the railhead, which is located where the JCB is standing. The last few yards still have to be cleared of grass. Beyond the JCB lies a further straight stretch, followed by a long curve to the right which leads to a straight commencing at Little Buckland bridge, the current target for track laying.

If you stand at Little Buckland, you can just about make out Broadway goods shed in the distance! Current thinking is that we will reach this in three lots of track laying, of which the first is in the process of preparation. It's a bit over 2 miles in all.

We have often said the the cost of reaching Broadway is £1.5m, divided into three items:

£500k for the bridges
£500k for the track, and
£500k for the station.

Item one is now funded, and almost complete too.  The funds for the rest are not yet in place, although the brilliant 10% surplus from the EIS share issue gave it a good start. Our GWR Trust is also busy fund raising, and the railway itself, after recovering from the Chicken Curve slip, is now also in the black and generating a certain surplus. However, this cannot all be directed at the one project (the extension) as there are many other competing priorities, such as the development of Winchcombe yard for dry carriage storage etc. Next year the funding picture will get clearer.

In the meantime, a number of readers have written in with suggestions for a map, one of which ought to be useable. It will need a bit of trial and error with MS Paint. Many thanks for your offers of help, and indeed interest! While we wait, the map in the link on the right is pretty good already, for those not familiar with the area.

The next posting should be possible when the first lot of concrete sleepers is brought on site. We already have what we need, but they need taking out of storage, sorting out, loading etc. This might take a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Welcome to the new Extension Blog!

Your scribe, a volunteer at Broadway but a PWay man at heart, thought it would be interesting to chart the course of the new extension from Laverton to Broadway. It's still a bit early - track laying is actually expected to start in Q2 2015 - but the giant is starting to stir himself already, and there is news to report. So down to Toddington, where an arrival was eagerly expected:

Whoa - what's this, we didn't expect 2807! How is this expected to mix in with our expected arrival?
Entirely powered by gravity, GWR heavy freight 2-8-0 rolls down the slope under its own 'steam'.

Too fast for some. Whoa, there, no closer, we are expecting an arrival.
Your scribe was detached to the main gate to work the numbers and let the visitors in.

Our visitors came from Scunthorpe, but were based at Cockermouth. They were hungry, it was a long trip. Any chance of a snack around here? The Flag & Whistle had a light on, and inside - bacon butties, and a choice of cakes ! Heaven. Nice guys, at the GWSR!

And what did our visitors from Scunthorpe bring? 40 tons of new 113lb FB rail for the extension! It's the first of two shipments of new rail for the extension, and the 'starting gun' for this blog. We're not going to lay the rail straight away, there's a lot of preparation to do first, but as you can see, we are getting ourselves into gear. The new rail is being off loaded on to a long bogie flat, to be taken up to the railhead.

It's a happy day for those closely involved for the job. Rob, John, Nigel and Lee enjoy the moment. How can we afford this, you may well ask? Well, as announced during last Saturday's volunteer meeting, we met our share issue target, and our generous shareholders even contributed a 10% surplus. Brilliant! Just what we needed to kick off the rail purchase. We have the sleepers, so we are go!
In the background you can see a second delivery lorry, and a third was on its way. And that was only half the shipment. The other half - 40 more rails - is expected in a fortnight. In total 80 rails, enough to take us 800m from the current railhead right up to the first of the five bridges to Broadway - Bridge 5, Little Buckland. It's just about ready too. Lack of funds precludes us from buying the whole lot in one go, but patience is a virtue and little by little we will get there. Keep buying those shares - the EIS scheme may have finished, but it doesn't stop you buying normal shares.
Here we can see the rail being unloaded with a HIAB on to our own bogie flat. The rail is so new, it isn't even rusty yet.

So what's the plan? Ideally, we would like to work on the extension, once the running season has started again. That way, we can concentrate on running line maintenance in the off season, and move on to the Broadway extension, once trains have started to run again. Makes sense? In the meantime, we can prepare the extension machine - sorting out the rolling stock for the PWay, purchase of an initial stock of rails, clearing the trackbed. Lineside clearance dept. is doing the embankment sides, while the PWay and a contractor are clearing the trackbed on top of the embankment. This means clearing the greenery, and scraping off the contaminated (by soil) ballast. A membrane will then go down, and fresh ballast placed on top, to a sufficient depth to receive the concrete sleepers.
The first stretch to be addressed will be from the current railhead - a few 100m beyond the end of Laverton loop - up to Bridge 5, about 800m in all. Once at Little Buckland, the Laverton headshunt - initially laid in a rudimentary fashion to stable PWay material not currently in use - will be upgraded.
The intention is to lay the whole of the Broadway extension in CWR once it is complete.
At Broadway, current intentions are for double track all the way from Childswickham Road bridge to Springfield Lane bridge. In this way, when you stand on the platform at Broadway, you will see double track all the way... it will of course revert to single track for the actual running line from Broadway to Toddington.
The double track at Broadway will take the form of two loops, laid end to end.
We are the only GWR double track main line in the country! A USP by definition.

I hope to update this new blog whenever news comes in. Initially this will be from time to time, but once track laying starts, the frequency should increase. I'm relying on the PWay gang to keep me supplied with news and pictures, so keep them coming, guys!

Thank you for watching this - we can't do it without you ! 500k raised - you are brilliant :-)