Friday, 23 December 2016

The last hurrah

Yesterday, Thursday 22nd December, our mammoth ballast laying push came to a successful conclusion. We had one 'last hurrah' with two dumpers going, and lots of ballast delivered. We got rid of it all.

Here's our starting point, first thing in the morning. We're at Pry Lane bridge and John has just tipped the first load. It was a lovely crisp, sunny day and we've been very lucky with the little rain we've had, so it's been a real pleasure to be out here and work.

After John's first tip, Steve is there with his unmissable JCB, giving the old trackbed a final smoothing, and helping the tippers work out a line which will take the track slowly over to the other side.

More birds of prey hovered over the embankment today. First that motionless hovering Kestrel, then this one, which looks like a Buzzard.

It was quite windy today, which they enjoy as they can soar without expending much effort.

We rolled out the Terram some more. Starting from Pry Lane bridge it needs to take a new course, slowly moving away from the Malvern side edge.

Just off the right is the sewage plant. Now that we are working downwind of it, the smell has suddenly become noticeable. At least it's doing a good job protecting our rivers.

In this picture, zoomed in, you can see us now clear of Pry Lane bridge and making a bee line for that blue fuel drum in the distance. That's our marker point for reaching the other, Cotswold side. From there onwards we follow the down side in a gentle curve up to the next bridge, No.2 at Childswickham Road. Somewhere in the middle Steve will install a lump of ballast so that road vehicles that follow the track can cross over the the Malvern side. The unused track position on the railway is used quite frequently by PWay, S&T and drainage gangs.

This 'drone' photograph (actually taken standing on the bonnet of the 9T dumper) shows the recently ballasted future trackbed sweeping round the start of the curve leading into Broadway and over Pry Lane bridge. All these piles still need levelling out to the right depth.

The same shot from just south of the bridge shows us gradually advancing northwards during the day, now heading off towards the fuel drum on the right hand shoulder.

This picture, taken from the bottom of the embankment gives you an idea of its height (well, allowing for the wide angled lens distortion). Almost certainly all the material for this embankment would have come out of the cutting between Broadway and Collin Lane, north of Broadway. It would have been excavated by steam shovel out of the cutting and taken down here by contractor's railway in 1904.

Here's John returning from Pry Lane and about to cross the Childswickam Road bridge. The current ballasting excercise will stop a few yards short of the bridge, until the rail has been moved to its final destination on or near the Broadway station site.

After lunch, disaster! More ballast arrived, but so did the flatbed to collect the 9T dumper.

The bigger dumper was going off hire today, and was being collected early as it was a cross hire and had some way to go, back to its final owner.

Just then, the next lorry load of ballast was reversed in.

This left yours truly without wheels, but John was able to forge along regardless, getting to the 'coal face' with increasing frequency as we got closer and closer to Broadway. In the setting sun you can see him approaching the end of the line of ballast dumps in the distance.

The light became increasingly orange as John achieved the final dumps of this year.

We rolled out the remaining Terram towards the fuel drum until there was none left. The last of the ballast at Broadway was then dropped on it, and after 8 nonstop days of work we drew a line under it for this year.

How beautiful is that - the blazing sunset and the sewage plant? John drops the final load for 2016.

We did 145 yards today, and left ourselvs a final 200 yards still to go up to just short of Childswickham Road bridge. Two days should see that completed, a job we will do in early 2017.

The setting sun lights up the tower of St. Michael's church in Broadway, with Broadway tower above it on the Cotswolds' edge.

Two pints of Stanway please!
Now for that final reward - a pint of local real ale. Cheers, guys!

See you next year, and have a happy Christmas and a great 2017. Remember us when you write out the next cheque, we need your support to get to the end.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

A good day

A day of good progress today, helped by ballast deliveries, reasonable weather, and the repair of the second dumper, thus re-doubling our capacity. Great stuff.

First trip of the day found the 'coal face' well clear of the old PWay hut, and the suspicions of a curve to the right veering off.

This is the start of the long, long curve that goes right up to the Childswickham Road bridge, past the goods shed, through Broadway station, to stop only on the approach to Springfield Lane bridge.

On the return journey, a sight ot cheer the eyes - the tyre repair people were here, and busy changing the defective rear tyre of the smaller dumper. At last! This took them until tea time, after which we were two. Tea time also gave the opportunity to sell a quick replica lamp post - people are leaving their Christmas shopping very late, it would seem.

After tea, a conflab with Steve about the route the Terram needs to take.

It needs to be hard up against the bridge pilaster here at Pry Lane. We're not there yet, but you need to take aim from some distance away.

Then, finally, the second dumper growled into action, and here it is with John on board bringing the first load.  Our productivity saw a big increrase today. Not only are we running two dumpers again, but the distance to the 'coal face' is reducing all the time. With what we have laid so far, the saving is about 500m that we no longer have to travel on each trip.

Here is John dropping one of his loads, with the Terram roll nearly all used up. Steve had to go off in the JCB and get two more rolls, which should see us through to Thursday.

By mid day, and with a bit of photographic licence thanks to the zoom lens, you can see us now well into the curve and approaching the bridge.

We also had the visit of some luminaries from the PWay team, who came to see for themselves what progress was being achieved.

Wednesday is one of the two PWay working days, and they came up in the road-railer Landie to chat to Steve about future plans. The next project, after Santa trains wind down, is the relay of the Winchcombe - Greet tunnel section. This will include moving the southern Winchcombe turnout further south by two coach lengths. The job is pencilled in for a period of 8 weeks, after which work will resume on the extension.

With the shorter travel time to the dumping site, there were moments when there was a 'queue' at the loading area to get your dumper filled.

At the end of the day, we had shifted everything that was there, and another 5 loads are expected tomorrow, the last of the season.

At the end of tomorrow the dumpers will go off hire for the festivities.

Here John sets out with another load of fresh ballast, attacking the slope up to the trackbed with gusto.

Will it fit your garage / in between the gate posts? It always does.

After lunch, an opportunity arose to make this nice record shot. Again, the zoom does compress everything, but you can see where we have been and where we still have to go. In fact the whole site is on it.
In the foreground is bridge 2, over the Childswickham Road.
In the middle distance is John's dumper, having just crossed bridge 3 over Pry Lane and discharging his load on to the freshly rolled out Terram, marked in white. This side of him, the trackbed has been scraped by Steve, making it wider and fresher looking.
From its location in the picture, the Terram will cross over from the right hand side to the left, in order to pass through the left hand (Cotswolds) opening on the bridge in the foreground.
The other (right hand) opening was going to have track on it, but this idea has been put on the back burner to save cash in the first instance.

At the 'coal face' too there were moments when there was a queue of dumpers, here following a discussion with a member of the Broadway gang who walked out to see us.

Shorty afterwards, with both loads discharged, you can see the ballast pile approaching Pry Lane, which is our target for the pre-Christmas session. It looks like we will achieve this, maybe even exceed it.

Stepping back a bit towards the PWay hut that we passed two days ago, you can see the ballast pile coming off the straight from Little Buckland and starting into the curve towards Broadway.

The view the other way, south, shows Steve levelling off the ballast pile, and creating a useable platform for track laying. At this point we had the 6T dumper bringing the ballast, and the 9 tonner working with Steve to carry away any excesses, which were also dumped at the 'coal face'. Light started to fade at this point.

At the end of the day, the Terram actually reached Pry Lane bridge, although not quite yet the ballast drops - we need two more, but it was getting very dark.

Notice the little row of stones Cotswolds side to keep the cloth on the deck.

The wind then fell away just as forecast, to be replaced by rain, also as forecast. Oh well.

Our last picture of the day. Not such a beautiful sunset this time, as there was no sun, and the rain was drifting over from Dumbleton hill.

The last two drops did materialise after all, so now here we are at Pry Lane. Mission accomplished, but we have another day tomorrow! It was judged that we had achieved 60% of the total length to be ballasted at this stage. So 40% to go to get us to bridge 2 at Childswickham, but over a shorter distance to run.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Go fly - a kite !

It was a challenging day today, in more ways than one.
The tyre repair company didn't come, so our carrying capacity was nearly halved, with one dumper down.

This of course is the moment that vast amounts of ballast are delivered. Arghhhhh!

We received 14 lorry loads of the stuff today, and with another 5 due tomorrow there was a worry that we might not clear enough space for them to drop it. In the end it worked out OK, and the 9T dumper rode up and down no fewer than 15 times.

The 9T dumper performed faultlessly (after blowing a tyre with a loud bang last Wednesday) and Steve was soon seen loading it even before the first rays of the sun peeked out over Broadway hill.

There was no sign of Adam though. He then called in to say that an attempt had been made to break into the contractor's Transit he had been using, and while the theft attempt failed, the perpetrators ripped out all the wiring from under the dashboard.

We had been waiting for Adam to bring more fuel, so in his absence we eventually had to go ourselves, stopping at Toddington to collect 10 gallons. After this delayed start, ballast moving commenced, but an hour late.

Here is the end of the Terram, as seen first thing this morning. You roll the Terram out a bit, then drop your ballast load on it. Today there was a complication - wind. Roll out the Terram, climb back on the dumper, put it into gear - now the Terram has billowed out of place. Climb back down, find some stones...

The wind seemed to die down as the sun came down. It felt very cold without the sun, but at coffee time, and in sight of the sewage plant, the sky turned blue and it became quite pleasant. Not such a bad day after all.

Here is the dumper, parked up so that the Terram can be rolled out a bit more. Oops - need a new roll here. Where is it?

Returning empty to Broadway, we find that another lorry has turned up.

Annoyingly, the first lorry of the day (very early, way before your alarm clock rings) dropped his load short, leaving a large gap at the rear of the long pile, and as the last lorries came, not enough room at the front.

We persuaded this one to bypass the long pile and drop a bit more at the back.

What was fascinating today was the sight of two Red Kites. They were wheeling and hovering in the icy breeze, over the edge of the embankment between bridges 2 and 3. What they were doing was not clear - a Sparrohawk hovers and from time to time drops down to catch a mouse. While the Sparrowhawk could hover almost motionless in any wind, the Kites seemed to be more frisky, flying in and out, wheeling on their wing tips, never in the same place for any amount of time. They did not drop down to the ground at all. Won't get fat like that then.

Have you seen a Red Kite in close up before? In this zoomed in cut out, you can see the 'V' shaped tail, and red colour of the body. Magnificent creatures.

Seen from above as it wheels around in front of the camera, you can see quite striking colours in the tail, body and wings. We are very lucky to be able to witness these.
A gull and several crows tried to bother the two Kites into leaving, but they would not be swayed and continued patrolling our embankment.

After lunch, Adam finally managed to get to us, and this allowed Steve to split off and continue widening the trackbed. There needs to be enough room for the Terram, and a roadway down the side. Many small saplings are pushing up on the shoulder of the embankment, and these were ploughed away. You can see where the track used to lie by traces of rust in the old ballast.

At the end of the day - the sun goes down at 15.30 already - we had just about done another roll of Terram, or 100 yards. You can see the old PWay hut as a small dot in the distance now, with Pry Lane bridge now approaching behind the camera. At this point we are level with the sewage works grounds.

Looking north at the end of the day, the ballast droppings have reached a point just over 100yds from Pry Lane, just about visible in the gloom here between the end of the Terram and Steve on the JCB, returning back to base.

We would quite like to reach Pry Lane bridge before Christmas, then do the rest to Childswickham Road bridge in the new year.

Even the ballasting team has a family !

Here's another atmospheric end of the day shot. You can make out the pilasters of Pry Lane bridge in the foreground, then the white roll of Terram marking the end of the ballast drop today, and further along the PWay hut where we were 2 days ago. Right at the back, on the other side of Peasebrook Farm bridge (No. 4) is the PWay train.
With the sun going down, the temperature drops rapidly and it was only 4 degrees as we left for home.

The last rays of the sun catch the windows of the signal box at Broadway, and the gantry of the bracket signal. There are no lights on in the box, it's all the reflections of the setting sun.
The van in front of the box belongs to the S&T depatment, who were working at Broaday today.
Great !

We expect to be working on Wednesday and Thursday this week as well.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Past the PWay hut

Another gloomy day today, with mist to start with, so much so that you could not see the destination with a dumper full of ballast. Just follow the trackbed then, that will get us there.

 It's quite pretty really, this mist. On the way back from the first load, the Cotswolds Edge could be seen peeking out from the mist over Broadway village. Can you see the dark stripe in the middle of the mist? Amost spooky, that.

Two things influenced our activity today:

The puncture on the 6T dumper, seen here with a completely flat tyre. We were down to one dumper all of the day.

The tyre people came to have a look, but decided the damage was so great a new tyre was needed. That will happen tomorrow at the earliest.

This is the sort of reinforcement steel that caused the problem. It sits under the surface, with a sneaky bit sticking out which slashes the tyre. As everything is brown it's virtually impossible to see.

The second thing that influenced us was the ballast deliveries.

Six loads had been ordered, and at the start of the day one was already there, with a second load just being dropped.

Very cheering, that. Now we can get on with things.

The second lorry hadn't left yet, as the third one turned up. Now you can see why we had to increase the size of the gate, and the turn-in outside.

It's all go here!

Unfortunately the third lorry was also the last one. Some problem with the crusher, we heard.

More deliveries have been ordered for Tuesday and Wednesday.

With only 60T of ballast delivered, but only one operational dumper, one problem sort of solved the other. It meant that up to lunch time we could ferry new material out to the coal face until the stock was exhausted. After lunch, we could level the piles taken down last week.

Here's a view of the site near the start of the day. The darker piles at the rear are those of Friday. Saturday was a Broadway day. Today, Monday, we resumed after leaving a gap, which we would fill with an expected excess at the far end.
The fencing material is for the field below on the left, and the gate is for bridge 4 at Peasebrook Farm. There's more to a track extension than just laying sleepers and rails; we also have to meet our responsibilities towards our neighbours. This is mostly drainage and fencing.

After 7 trips down to the coal face the 60 tons were all used up.

Here is Adam filling the dumper one last time (today).

The focus of activity then switched to the southern end of the piles, where Steve was doing a great job in pushing out the piles so that an 8 ins bed of new ballast on Terram was achieved. This is then ready for laying the track.

The excess is scooped off and into the 9T dumper, whose bucket is the same width as the JCB's, so that's very handy for filling.

It is then reversed up that track and re-dumped at the northern end, extending this further even though we've run out at the level of the stockpile.

The previous picture was taken with a zoom, which makes the goods shed look  really close.

This picture was taken with a wide angle, which makes the stretch of ballast already dropped look almost infinite.

All this bit still has to be levelled off by Stevie on the JCB. We did about 150 yds of it today.

At the end of the afternoon, in the falling light, we were well past the PWay hut, and as well as the 150yds levelled down south, we had extended the ballast in the northerly direction by another 100 yds.

All in all, we have done about 300 yds of ballast so far. The good news is that with every trip fom the stockpile, that is now 300 yards less that we have to travel, so gradually work will accelerate.

Here is Steve filling the dumper one last time today. As you can see, the PWay hut is now behind us, and we are approaching the sewage farm. Pry Lane bridge is our next 'objective', if all goes well.

For a change from lots of pictures of gloom, mist and ballast, here's a historical picture of a freight train passing the Broadway goods shed:

It's a picture taken by John Diston in 1959. It's of a freight train from South Wales heading north, and the location is near the Childswickham Road bridge. John had the opportunity of stepping back here because the embankment is wide at this point. Behind the loco you can just see the top of a telegraph pole. This was a very tall one, as it was planted down at the bottom of the embankment (where all the rubble is now) but the wires stayed more or less level with the track. There used to be allotments here; the word is that the allotment holders gradually gave up because with all the people using the railway's private road here, a lot of their produce kept disappearing...

The loco 90166 is a WD, built in 1943 as WD 7182 and scrapped in May 1965 after a fair career of 22 years, with a last shed of 36C Scunthorpe Frodingham.