Monday, 28 September 2015

Exploration of the Broadway embankment

The extension is coming nearer to Broadway!

For this week, a substantial 45T excavator with an extra long arm was hired in to dig 15 trial trenches into the embankment at the level of the Cravan Club, or former goods yard.

At 8am, the substantial digger was parked outside the entrance to the permissive footpath. Check out the size of that jib!

During most of the day, your blogger was at work at CRC2, but Broadway is on the way back and this allowed a quick visit to see what they had achieved so far.

The excavator had manoeuvered up to the top and was digging a series of trenches into the embankment, which is pretty substantial at this point, as it once held 4 tracks. The two central ones held the main running lines, and on each side of them there was a siding. The area of the siding next to the goods shed has been sold off, leaving the space for the two running lines and a siding, Malvern side, next to it.

This is one of the first trenches dug. In the foreground there is rubble from the Mythe bridges at Tewksbury, then the trench gets shallower towards the top, with a solid clay bottom all along.

The next trenches were somewhat deeper, in a quest to determine the level of the clay underneath.

A great deal of ash was removed from near the top.

These are the second and third trenches, rather deeper and with evidence of red ash from something like a steelworks or a foundry above the clay. One has filled with water, which however drained away after a short while.

This picture shows the main line trackbed quite well. The Malvern side siding was on the right, with the goods shed siding, sold off, to the left behind the trees.

Looking the other way, we can see Broadway station in the background. The excavator has dug into the Malvern side siding area, to ascertain what it is made of.

Looking down, accompanied by a contractor, we can see the height of the embankment, and the length of the trench being dug. A video of this happening is here:

The deepest trench dug so far was the fifth one, seen here. Clay is in the middle, ash in front of the excavator. No water here though.

The excavator is here for at least all of this week. With 5 of the 15 trenches already dug, progress was good, helped by the dry weather.

Once we know how this embankment is constructed, conclusions can be drawn and any corrective measures considered.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Second day of track laying

A near perfect day for track laying today - warm, not too hot, blustery, skidding clouds racing across the sky.
Today was the day we dealt with the Warflat with the 160 sleepers.

Here is the gang at work beyond Laverton. The Warflat is on the left, with the telehandler next to it, then the flats with rail, and to the right by the haystack is the railhead. The flats have been pushed out over the previously laid 5 lengths.

More than half of the sleepers brought in have already been unloaded with the telehandler shuttle. It is standing on the end of the former head shunt - here is the exact beginning of the new rail laid.

Here is the telehandler, driven by Alan, carefully picking off another load of sleepers. I hope you've got 8 there Alan, because 7 is an uneven load and needs an extra lift with the frame at the railhead.

 Just before lunch time, the guys were on the third new length. You can see the rail head approaching the start of the curve to Little Buckland. A pair of new rails has just been dragged up, ready for installation.

In the foreground, the undrilled rail ends are being clamped together, ready for welding.

Readers are reminded that the track is only partially clipped up at this stage, until the welds have been made and the track stretched.

Some of the rails were stored in the centre of the track, and were dragged down carefully to the railhead.

Although we use a set of frames to space the sleepers, there is still a final adjustment that is required, which is done by crowbar as in the picture. In particular, we need to avoid that the joint is on a sleeper, as is the case here. That sleeper needs to move along a bit.

This is how the sleepers are lifted in. When the lift starts, the sleepers wake up and dance about like mad. They are then brought into line by means of the white frames in the picture. Just before the final drop, instructions fly in the direction of Steve, the JCB operator - Malvern, Cotswolds, Winchcombe, and yes, sometimes Broadway.

Once 26 sleepers are in place, the rail is lifted in. A little last minute work with the bar will push a recalcitrant sleeper this way or that, so that the rail drops into its allotted place. This used to be so much harder with bull head rail and the old cast iron chairs.

Here is a sleeper that was overlooked by the quality control at the selection stage, but rejected on site.

Can you see why?

Answer at the bottom of the page :-)

Then it was lunch time.The next supply of sleepers makes a useful lunchtime bench, but, would you believe it, two gangers have brought their own, very comfortable fishing chairs. The wagon with the rail on makes a good shelter from the wind, which is cold when you are sitting still.

And now it's time for Mrs. B's famous cake, only 50p for unlimited helpings. I managed three.....

A Rhubarb filling today, if I'm not mistaken. Yummy it was too.

Nigel has been told to wait his turn.

After lunch, more sleepers and in the wake of the track layers, the rail ends are being clamped up here.
John brought an umbrella, an unusual accessory on the Pway. What could it be for? Well, this is how you push a fish plate against the rail, with out bending over. Got yours yet?

Here is Neil in full sleeper juggling mode.

It takes a bit of experience to know just where to put the end of the bar and your boot, so that the concrete sleeper creeps forward the number of inches required, shouted at you from a rail's length away.

Behind him is the Cotswold edge. Beautiful, isn't it? Count yourselves lucky, dear readers, that you can't smell with this blog (we do our best, but...) because the field behind had just been sprayed with pig manure. Didn't we know it too.

By two o'clock, we were running out of sleepers to lay. Could have done with two Warflats of them really, maybe next time? Walking further up the extension trackbed, this is what the railhead looked like at the end of what was laid today. We had laid 5 panels, and most of the sleepers for a sixth. The point reached was by the footpath crossing, a few yards into the curve towards Little Buckland. Yes, we are off the long straight!

The clouds massing in the distance bode little good.

You'll be wondering what it looks like from here in the other direction, and this is what you can see from the mid point of the curve- the telegraph post by bridge 5, Little Buckland. Just over the bridge is our first target, 800m of track laid.
On the left you can see that the clearance gang have moved forward along here. They have almost reached that telegraph pole.

Then came a pretty substantial shower, nearby Dumbleton Hill was almost invisible with the rain. A number of us sheltered behind the JCB, and one of us - ahem - even climbed inside. Cosy here, Steve's world.

This morning you laughed at my umbrella, but you're not laughing now !
Only John continued working in the rain shower, laying out the SHC clips on every other sleeper, for temporary clipping up. Stalwart stuff!

Thanks to John's tireless working through the rain, those clips were all laid out once the sun came out again, and here we are clipping up every other sleeper in rapid fashion.

The last picture of the day. Here is the new rail head, and looking into the curve leading to Little Buckland. We could have finished this panel, except for two sleepers that were a bit off.

Oh yes, so what was wrong with the one in the picture? Did you spot it?
One of the loops was a bit bent. The RH one, it leans inwards.

Takes a keen eye, but spotting it at this stage avoids a lot of unnecessary work later on, once it's bedded in under the rail.

The next track lay date isn't known yet, but might be in say 2 - 3 weeks. More concrete sleepers have to be unearthed from the undergrowth and loaded, then the train moved northwards, in between running normal trains and essential maintenance. But it shouldn't be too long now.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Getting ready for more track laying

The three panel gap made to allow the slip repair has now been filled again. Today, a first PWay train ran over it once more, bringing a new load of 160 sleepers on a Warflat. This is one small load of several thousands that we have in store at various locations around the railway.

The gap is closed again, PWay trains can run.

Here is the Warflat that arrived this morning. There's quite a bit of work behind this pile of neatly stacked sleepers, as they have to be dragged out of the undergrowth (the difficult ones first), sorted out for broken or defective ones (some of the hoops can be subtly bent, which makes it impossible to insert the clip once on site) and then stacked with the telehandler. Then it's waiting for a day with no trains, usually a Monday as today.
The wagons have also been shunted, with the Dogfish out by the loop, then the Warflat - ready to remove once empty - then the flats with the new rail, ready for laying.

Here is the railhead now. With the 160 sleepers just arrived, we can lay 7 panels, which should bring us up to the foot crossing at the beginning of the curve by the trees. Spacer boards at the ready!

The Saturday gang have been quite busy on other jobs in the meantime, such as relays in the loco yard and maintenance on the running line, but there is a window this Saturday, when it is hoped to lay down the 160 sleepers, and perhaps even some track on top. Watch this space ! We can expect more relays on and off, to fit in between bouts of essential maintenance.

Also on the extension, drainage and fencing gangs have been hard at work. This is less spectacular and often unnoticed, but equally vital as the rails are. We need to keep the infrastructure well drained, and respect our engagements vis-a-vis our farming neighbours.

 Here is an impressive line of new fence posts, leading away from Laverton bridge.

Further along towards Little Buckland, the gang is putting up the actual fence itself  - first a rabbit proof small link fence, then the larger stock fence on top. Contractor's vehicles and the flats with rails are on top of the embankment.

On the Malvern side the contractor putting up the posts was busy, just under the reinstated slip and new trackwork. The white line marks the new drain at the foot of the embankment.

By the Laverton bridge gate, the entrance to the mystery culvert has been found, partially dug out, and the head wall rebuilt.

Finally, how the other half works:

On the Cotswold side, an enormous caterpillar tractor was hoeing the field in a huge swathe. It is rather reminiscent of the Ukrainean wheat fields.

My farmer neighbour once let slip what he listens to in the sound proofed, air conditioned cab of such a tractor - Richard Clayderman.....

On the Malvern side, things were rather more small scale.

What was he doing there?

We should be able to file a new report after the Saturday relay.