Sunday, 30 October 2016

What matters most

A good gang of 16 turned out to lay more track today, no doubt drawn in by the prospect of a hot meal of sausage, chips and a vast quantity of baked beans cooked by Jim back at Winchcombe. All this washed down by strong tea, and a generous supply of Mrs. B's excellent almond and cherry sponge cake.

By the description of the lunch in pride of place on the blog, you will no doubt realise what it was that counted today. But BTW, we also laid some track... Well, an army does march on its stomach. A Frenchman may have said it, but it's true. We were happy campers, once fed.

The start of the day was very misty, so you couldn't even see the target. Broadway goods shed is shrouded in low clouds. The first new set of concrete sleepers is lifted in.

When you lift them off the pile or off the ground, they jangle around a lot (a ganger thought that if they ring clear, like a bell, then they must be sound) so we fit these white spacers to calm things down a bit.

Once the load has stabilised, Steve gets instructions like 'Malvern', or 'Toddy', and sometimes even 'Broadway'. Left and right to you and me, but it does depend on which way you are facing, hence the geographical terms used..

Then there's a shout of ' INCOMING'  and you better get out of the way PDQ, because here's Alan with another load of eight.
Saturday we were very well coordinated, because both JCB and Telehandler were there, so one lifts in, while the other goes and fetches more. We are a well oiled machine.

120 sleepers were lifted in today, taking us well over the Worcesterhire county boundary. We also came to the end of the SHC equipped concrete sleepers, and started on our supply of the more modern Pandrol type. Well, that's a milepost only for the initiated.

Once the sleepers were down, we dragged up 8 rails to lift in and make 4 track panels, which gives us an 80 yard advance. This picture shows how flexible a rail can be, if you lift up one end. This in answer to a comment enquiring after a picture. They're quite floppy really, even though they are of a heavy duty standard.

The rail slips along quite easily along the tops of the sleepers.

Arrived at its destination, it is lifted into place and 'encouraged' into the seats on the sleepers with a couple of crowbars.

Laying the rails is really the easiest of the tasks; placing the sleepers on the other hand is quite slow as they have to be inched around with crowbars until they all exactly line up. Despite the JCB, manual labour still has to finish the job at the end.

When the new rail has successfully bedded down, it has to be pushed up against the previous rail.

A small gap is left, and we have found that one of the SHC clips makes a perfect gauge for the distance. Next week this gap will be welded shut.

Here the JCB gives the new rail a little nudge - ''12 inches to go''. A voice wants to know if those inches are metric? They probably are, but after Brexit.... our time will come.

Towards the end of the session, this picture shows how far the the railhead has advanced. It's quite a long straight line from Little Buckland curve now, you can barely see it in the distance. The initiated will see that the nearest few sleepers are now of the Pandrol type. The gang await the JCB with the last rail before a retreat to Winchcombe for lunch.

Peasebrook Farm underbridge! It's just a short walk now. Two members of the gang have strolled up to our target and enjoy the view. This was one of the 5 'Bridges to Broadway' that were refurbished, with, inter alia, brand new handrails and pointing of wing walls seen in this picture.

The last shot of the day, showing Saturday's railhead and Peasebrook Farm bridge with the end of the currently ballasted section now much nearer. Broadway goods shed is hiding in the trees on the left. Don't be fooled by the compression though, that is still a long walk away.

 Here's a birdseye view of the railhead on a map, updated as per Saturday. The red line shows the track laid so far, not forgetting the removal of the Laverton loop as well. Starting from Laverton, we are just under half way to Broadway Springfield Lane. Our current property boundary is at the top of the map.

One of the pleasures of working on the railway is the privilege of being able to see the running of trains at close hand. It's always a thrill to see a big loco rumble by, especially if the train is filled with happy, fare paying passengers (as it was yesterday). Here the gang is walking back through Winchcombe yard, tired, but with a hot lunch just a few more yards away.

We play our part of course - who can resist waving back at the happy children on a 'Steam and Scream'? There seemed to be some at every window. Do they stop in the tunnel and turn the lights off? That should get them going.

What next?

The tamper is now on its way. As you read this, is should already have arrived, and it will start work on tamping the extension, starting at Laverton loop as was. During the week it will work its way northwards as far as it can, in readiness for stressing the rail. The Dogfish have also been reloaded for another ballast drop.

Within the next couple of weeks work will start on preparing a ballast delivery area at Broadway, and then the ballasting of the trackbed back south to Peasebrook Farm bridge can commence. There are still a few odd jobs in between though, so schedules may vary (the usual disclaimer may apply)

Broadway snippets:

The production run at the foundry casting the replica GWR lamp posts has now stabilised, and we are seeing arrivals at a rate of 3 a week at the moment.

Here Keith and Dave ponder the weight of the next two posts to be unloaded. In fact it can be done with 3 men, and we now know the tricks.

Shortly after, the next lot of three were ready for planting. In the picture, they look rather like the guns of HMS Victory!

These posts have now also been planted, and this completes the sponsored replica GWR lamp post scheme. Platform 2 is now fully equipped. All 10 have been successfully funded, manufactured and delivered. It's been a great achievement and a real boost to the authenticity of the atmosphere here. We are very grateful to the sponsor of the pattern which triggered the initiative, and to the 10 sponsors of the posts.

The tops will go on later, so that they are fresher nearer the opening. Platform 1 is on hold, as it is obstructed by several containers, although the 4 southernmost ones have been fitted.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Three days

Things are happening quite fast on the extension for the next couple of weeks, so here's a report of the activities over the last three days.

The Wednesday gang were busy at Buckland, determining the location of the northern CWR anchor point, clipping up track laid and even laying the track to a point just over the Worcestershire border.

The latest position of the rail head can be seen in this picture...

...and in this one you can see some of the marking out for the anchor point, which is 5 panels long.

The welders will be back next week to do another 20 joints, such as this one.

More track will be laid beyond it, as we need some storage space for the supply train. That stretch will then be the jumping off point for the next big push forward, beyond Peasebrook Farm bridge.

A small gang returned to tidy up ('tweak') the second half of the curve past Little Buckland bridge.

Here is the 'threepenny bit' curve at the start of the day. It has a 'ding' in it (specialist PW term) but is the 'ding' wrong or is it the straight? Steve walks the site and places various strategic pebbles on the rail.

As the track is already partially ballasted here, larger means such as the front bucket of the JCB are used to shift the track a few inches at a time. This works really well, compared to the Duff jacks used a few years back.

At the end of the morning the curve looks much better (the tamper will give it the final polish, these adjustments only being made to facilitate and speed up its task) and we award ourselves a cup of coffee.

The curve also has to be in a good place as ballast is due here on Friday, ready for the tamper to pass during next week. It's a tightly choreographed timetable, with sometimes barely a day between steps, yet it's almost all volunteer led.

Happy with the curve and that it is ready for the ballast drop, Steve moved on to the stretch beyond Peasebrook Farm bridge to start grading the next stretch of 'virgin' trackbed. It will take us to Childswickham Road bridge.

This is a fill in job between track laying and drainage work, but it's the start of the next push and it has already had two sessions of work on it at the time of writing. Soon we will be laying the first ballast bed along here, from a new base at Broadway.

Bright and early Steve was down at Stanton to spend just under 3 hours loading up the ballast train again, which was standing next to another large arrival of fresh stone from the Forest of Dean.

The lorries come at irregular intervals, but have an early, pre-dawn tendency. It looks here as if they came even as Steve was busy loading the Dogfish, as there is lots still to load. Neil has brought the Class 73 up from Toddington, and we are ready to propel out to the extension.

The supply train is once again in the way, but how far can we push it up the newly laid track? Careful checks are made to ensure that the train does not get pushed too far, that all wagons can discharge, that there is nothing in the way of the plough, the hopper doors are cracked open to respond immediately on command, and that all the fishplates and clips are there.

Job done (it doesn't take long), the ballast train slowly retreats, drawing the plough, now reversed, along behind it to reveal the spleeper tops to be visible to the tamper crew.

We have now ballasted right round the curve, and started on the straight towards Peasebrook farm..

This shot shows the extent of the ballasting at the end of the job today. The supply train is standing on the fly fished section, which will be welded next Wednesday. In the distance the hopper train retreats back to Stanton for a further afternoon's loading.

Tomorrow more track laying will take place.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

More rail goes in

The track laying gang returned on Saturday and pushed the railhead almost to the Worcestershire border.

The gang isn't just laying track though, it also had to attend to a number of reported track defects on the running line (we inspect this very frequently) and on arrival at Little Buckland the first job was to further 'tweak' the curve further round, so that another ballasting train could discharge its load. You can see a beautiful curve here, up to a point where it becomes straight. This next bit will be addressed later in the week.

The gang was then able to lay 73 more sleepers, and with the JCB back in action, a further 10 rails were dropped in, i.e. 5 more panels.

The supply train was then propelled up as far as it would go, out of the way of 'tweaking', welding and ballasting going on behind.

Here is the train at its northernmost point so far.

It was a misty morning when these photographs were taken, but for a moment the sun came out, to reveal the glory of the Cotswolds countryside.

The rails left on the two bogie flats in the foreground carry enough rail to bring the railhead to Peasebrook Farm bridge, where the ballast ends in the distance.

Looking the other way, we can see exactly where the railhead is now, as the yellow post in the right foreground marks the Worcestershire county border.

So much for Saturday. Monday saw an appeal for a small group to help discharge the ballast train that Steve had filled up during the morning.

Steve is rather taken aback by a medical tale.
Three volunteers were able to join Steve and Neil, at the controls of the class 73, to push the newly loaded train up the extension.

As we slowly trundled up the newly laid line, John regaled us with a stream of dubious jokes, the mildest of which informed us of the address of his local policeman at:

999, Letsby Avenue.

Ouch !

Finally we arrived at Little Buckland, driver Neil commenting that to get to the railhead seemed to be taking longer and longer.

Well we jolly well hope so too.

John is walking towards the spot where the first drop will commence. The pipes in the foreground are for additional drainage near Pry Lane bridge.

We clamber on board the Dogfish, to crack open the chutes, to make sure that they will open at once on the command.

Under a large dust cloud the train is propelled towards Broadway, with the plough from the Shark sweeping the ballast from the four foot into the cess and six foot. £3000 is spent in 3 minutes....

Job done, the crew close the hopper doors again, and clamber down to rejoin Neil in the loco. The newly ballasted stretch is quite short, just up from the bridge to the front of the loco.

Finally, the ballast train moves up to the supply wagons to couple up, and draw them off the fly fishplated newly laid stretch, so that this too can be welded. You can see the temporary fish plates under the wagons.

The word is that there'll be another ballast dump at the end of the week, prior to the start of tamping next Monday. All this in preparation for the stressing of two stretches of CWR and installation of associated anchor points.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Ballast over the bridge

Thursday and Friday saw two extra days' work on the extension (next to the usual Wednesday and Saturday gangs).
On Thursday, a small gang came out to 'tweak' the track laid up to and over Little Buckland bridge. The curve wasn't quite consistent enough, and there were various bumps in the curve that needed ironing out. The JCB makes a good 'iron'.
Remember the days when it was done with jacks and 12 men with crowbars?
Here you can see the 'before' at the beginning of the day. We're standing on a curve, but at the moment it's a straight, with a sharp turn on to the bridge.

After a day's work on this, it now looks much better:
The curve is consistent, and runs right through the bridge. Of course the tamper will make the curve perfect, but it can only do it in small increments, so this is why an approximately correct curve will save a lot of time.

The tamper is coming in a  week in order to level the track (not the final tamp), so that the CWR rail can be stressed. In order to allow the tamper to work, the newly laid track has to be provided with an initial pass of ballast. This is what we did on the second day.

Our train of 6 Dogfish was parked at Stanton and filled this morning by Steve, our friendly contractor.

We had enough material for two loads of 6 wagons; by the end of the day it had all been loaded and dropped. We were very pleased with the result. More deliveries are coming.

By lunchtime, under a crisp autumn light, the ballast train ventured up to Laverton, and then carefully on to the extension.

The first area to be ballasted was the final bit of the former temporary storage siding beyond Laverton loop.

With this first train, we completed this job, and then moved on further up, to where we last dropped ballast a few months back, on the actual extension itself.

You can see a film of this train, taken from the rear cab of the class 73, here:
Because of the wind, be ready for some noise but as we slow down for the far end it becomes quite reasonable. The train sets off from Stanton and heads up to the former Laverton loop along the operational bit at normal speed. It then slows right down to pass over a wide (temporary!) joint near Laverton bridge, and then slowly travels up the recently ballasted temporary storage siding stretch, until it enters the curve at Little Buckland and comes to a stop to await instructions for the drop up to Little Buckland bridge.

Sharp ears can hear the moan of the traction motors (like an old tram) and the typical noise of the air compressor.

The train comes to a  stop at the end of the previously ballasted section, and Steve drops the Shark plough.

We fit the nose of the plough with an old tyre, as this helps the plough to sweep out the ballast from the 4 foot on to the shoulders. This tyre gets a lot of abuse, but is amazingly resilient. No wonder they are so hard to recycle.

We need the 4 foot to be reasonably clear of ballast, so that the operator of the tamper can see the tops of the sleepers. At this point, we are only dropping ballast in the centre. Other runs in the future will complement this with runs along the shoulder, and in areas where the track has been lifted out of a dip.

Unlike earlier in the week, we did the runs today one Dogfish at a time. Here's one that is open and discharging. The one to the right of it is already empty.

The Shark follows on behind, pushed by the class 73. You can see the tyre on the tip of the plough, embedded in the ballast. At this point, it's about to set off, so no ballast is moving yet.

Neil then slowly reverses the train, under the guidance of the two gangers on the right. One wagon discharges, and the plough spreads out the result.

Here the train is into Little Buckland curve, and is being waved on by Lee, who also gives the signal when to open the next wagon.

It doesn't always go to plan - some of the operating wheels are very resistant, needing a second man to heave them into the open position.

The result of one of the drops can be seen through the cab window of the class 33, as it travels back round Little Buckland curve to get the second load of 6 hopper wagons. The track already looks quite straight, which is the pleasing result of the 'tweaking' done yesterday. It took all day, but it was worth it.

In this view from the veranda of the Shark you can see along the tops of the Dogfish ballast wagons. The furthest wagons have already been emptied, and these last two are ready to go.

On the right is the parapet of Little Buckland bridge, and in the distance you can see the supply train stabled there on Monday. We're nearly at the end!

John takes instruction to open his doors. Almost on the bridge!

Having arrived at Little Buckland, the first ballast rain ever to come here, the ballast plough deals with the last of the droppings, just as we bump up to the supply train. It's actually a bit in the way, too close. It needs to move further up.

Earlier on this blog a viewer wondered if we could capture a photograph of the class 73 on Little Buckland Bridge, and today we are pleased to say that it was indeed possible to do so. Patience has paid off.

Here then is one of the very first trains to cross the bridge, 40 years after the line closed. (OK, it's not the very very first train, that was the one that brought the sleepers :-)  ). But still a remarkable moment.

The £850.000 raised to this day have brought us so far. Will you contribute to make it to the end? We still have another £400.000 to go...

The final picture of the day shows the train absolutely as far as it can go on the rails laid so far. You can't go any further, sorry!
Broadway goods shed peeks out from behind the tree in the distance.

The class 73 has propelled the supply train right up to the end of the track laid, so as to clear the line in the foreground for further 'tweaking', more ballast and to allow the tamper to do its work up to and over the bridge.

Tomorrow then will see additional track alignment, and perhaps also some track laying into the sleepers laid last week. More ballast will then be dropped into the additionally aligned section, ready to give the hired in tamper a maximum to do during its visit.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

A new delivery

On Monday a small group of volunteers managed to load the Warflats again at Gotherington. Stevie's JCB wasn't available yet, so the Telehandler was used. The reach is slightly less than the JCB for the topmost row, but hey, we have another two wagon loads of sleepers!

Mid afternoon on Monday Neil trundled the loaded wagons back past Hayles, ahead of the 6 empty Dogfish. He then stopped off at Toddington to pick up the two loaded rail wagons with the latest delivery.

All 4 supply wagons were then pushed up the extension, and at the end of the afternoon on Monday they were parked up just beyond Little Buckland bridge. This spot is about as far as the welders have got; it is also conveniently wide for easier unloading of the sleeper wagons with the Telehandler.

Here is the job ahead - lay these rails through the Glos / Worcs border by the bushy tree on the left, and up to Peasebrook Farm bridge, about 500 yds away from the current railhead. The farm has the white gable end visible on the right.
We have enough new rail for the job, but will need another wagon load of sleepers to get us to the current end of the ballast. More ballast is also on the way, to finish off the former Laverton headshunt, before we can head north with the drops.
Don't forget all the rail has to be lifted still, put on rollers, stretched and firmly clipped down again.