Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Special volunteers today

We were honoured to receive a visit from Steam Railway today, to lend us a hand with volunteering. Every little bit helps, you might say, but it's good to see the railway press take an interest in our extension.
Toby Jennings and Thomas Bright came down to muck in with the gang, then visit Broadway to see how things were going there.

First things first, a nice cup of tea in the mess coach at Toddington, and, novelty here, some doughnuts brought in by Paul, an idea that has wafted over from the Hayles group. A good idea! The doughnuts seem to have found favour in the PWay gang, if one may believe the photograph. No nasty Dalmatians to sniff at them either.

After the daily briefing, we split into 3 teams:

- Sleeper stacking at Gotherington
- Repair of a joint in Toddington (urgent)
- Work on the extension.

At first it seemed as if only 4 volunteers had turned up. In the mess coach we were puzzled. There was a very large teapot of hot tea, and no one to drink it. Yet we were 20 souls booked on Doodle - where were they?

They were in the yard at Toddington, watching the pride of the P&O group being loaded on to a low loader, with its tender on a second one. The destination is the Mid - Hants. Some distraction for the gang then.

With the distractions, repair and sleeper stacking, we were only 3 to start with at Childswickham.

We decided to equip this long stretch of newly laid sleepers with the necessary pads, so that rails could be laid on them on Saturday.

Here you can see them just completing this task.

The Landie had to go to Winchcombe to fetch materials for the repair at Toddington first, but did finally arrive at the rail head with the rail drilling equipment. Here a sub-team of the extension one set out to continue rail drilling up to the current end of the rails laid. The Saturday team had managed a respectable 9 sets of fishplates mounted, and in the foreground is the next one, the tenth.

An issue we met was that the enormous heat we have had also affected the recently laid rail north of the supply train. A slight buckle could be made out, and many of the rail joints were all but closed up; others now too wide apart. It didn't stop us drilling the holes, but because of the ajustments required, we didn't get many fishplates mounted.

Here we see Martin and Clive prepping the rail drill, which needed a bit fixing to the front.

Then refuelling, and arranging for a supply of cutting fluid in the pump.

The rail drill is mounted over a base plate, which ensures you drill the two holes in each rail end exactly the right distance appart.

You also get the choice of holes for 95lb rail, or 113lb. Of course the hole spacings are different!

After drilling the first of two holes, it becomes apparent that the sleeper is too close to drill the second. You need to move the sleeper. The jack to lift the rail off is 1/4 mile away in the site safe; the Landie has gone to Winchcombe to get more Pandrol clips. One brave volunteer carries the heavy Duff jack the whole distance,  but now we are clear, the second hole is drilled and the fishplates can go on.

Later in the day we get to the 5th and last set of holes to be drilled (20 in all).

Beyond is the gap to allow vehicles to cross, then more sleepers up to the bridge.

That gap for vehicles is in regular use. Here is the Landie, returning from a Pandrol clip delivery run.

The pad laying sub team finished their job, and then turned to laying out Pandrol clips. These were taken off the Landie in bags, and dropped alongside at regular intervals. Not too much carrying here then.

Laying out the Pandrol clips was an ideal job for the team from Steam Railway - here they are, Toby and Thomas, with a bag each. Thanks for your help, guys!

Thomas also helped with adjusting the fishplate spacings. The rail was moved along a few millimetres by using wedges to prise open the offending joints. Clive hovers with the tape measure. You can't wedge the rails back if you overshoot.

A shot near the end of the day across Pry Lane bridge shows the clipped up rail extending into the distance. Just a few more yards to go to the next bridge, and the start of the Broadway goods yard.

Canopy update

The canopy team at Broadway have been on site several days in a row. Almost all of the steelwork is now assembled, with just a few extra bits to go at each end to support the wooden framework at the ends.

Generally speaking, it's been days of drilling holes followed by days of riveting. Yesterday was a riveting day, as tomorrow will be. We've done the easy bits along the fascia board, and have now been along the ridge purlin - the one with the arches - to attach the purlins to each other, and to the trusses underneath.

Although we drill the holes beforehand and fit them with temporary bolts, some minute lateral movement when they are removed for riveting can mean that the holes need further drilling out with the air powered drill.

And this is the result - 4 neat rivets in the support for a middle purlin. This isn't coming apart!

The drilling residue has piled up at the bottom. It does happen that you think a hole is OK, a hot rivet arrives, and it goes only part way in. Stress! Luckily they shrink a bit when they cool down, so if you haven't hit them too hard yet, you can usually wriggle them out again.

We worked our way along the platform side all day yesterday. Here is John on the 'barbie' heating up another rivet. They come in a number of different sizes, so it's best to ask before hand what the riveters want. Is that chairs outside the signal box?

We are now something over half way with the riveting up. Most of the platform side has been done; we still need to do the forecourt side, which needs rather fewer as it it doesn't have a fascia board.

The fact that someone has built a chimney stack right through an area still to be drilled and riveted has made things very difficult for the canopy team here. Now what?

At Broadway north we caught sight of the S&T gang fitting a beautiful finial to the newly erected inner home signal. You might say, should they be using the signal's own ladder? Well, they had that with them in the back of the truck. One thing at a time.

Putting finials on signals is thirsty work.

At lunch time, a set of patio chairs was produced from the locking room, and the kettle was on !

Finally, a little jewel from Broadway-to-be:

Heritage supporters at Broadway found a GWR station oil lamp at a railwayana auction. However, its condition on closer inspection was poor, but to our delight we were able to source an identical (non-GWR) example on Ebay, from local manufacturer Hinks in Birmingham.

You can read a bit more about Hinks here:

The lamp is complete with burner, funnel and white glass shade, and is destined to hang from the ceiling of the booking hall. A member of the Broadway gang has expertly fitted a LED candle shaped bulb unit to it, with the supply wire hidden inside the hoop. Can you see it? It's little accessories like this that will make all the difference.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Mind the gap, please, mind the GAP !

A full crew today, a full sleeper train, and Telehandler as well as JCB on site.
We have a gap to fill at Childswickham. Let's get going, let's attack that pile of sleepers.
The day starts with a briefing at Toddington. Lots of excitement in the yard, almost didn't get in. What's going on?

Ah.... a brightly painted J94.
We hurried out of the Toddy car park and headed for the little car park of our own, at the foot of the embankment at Childswickham.

After arrival at Childswickham, there wasn't much to do while we awaited the arrival of more volunteers, and the mechanical handling department.

Might as well sit down then.

This is where we left off last week, after clearing the supply train of its last 84 sleepers.

After a while, a huge dust cloud appears on the horizon.

A welcome dust cloud, as it signals the arrival of Paul in the Landie with the bits.

We throw out what we need, and leave the rest to the clipping up and rail drilling team further back.

One of the things Paul has brought is the spreader bar. Now we can have a game of guess where the hooks go.

That one goes there.

It has to, because this one is here and that one over there is this way round. So that one has to be that way round.

If you say so Neil.

Finally Alan arrives from miles away with a  goodly stack of 12 sleepers. At last we can get to work.

With Alan comes the sun (we don't understand this, Alan is from Scotland) so things get a lot more pleasant around here, without it being as crushingly hot as earlier this week.

The very last corner of the PWay budget was searched, and a modest amount of money secured for a new alignment rope. It came with free knots.

Pete and Mike investigate these, to see how long we can make this piece of string.

After the team is split into two, half to start fishplating the newly laid rail north of the breather (and end of the CWR) and half to lay sleepers. Finally we can swing into action. We start adding to the 84 laid last time, working back south from the Childswickham Road bridge to reduce the size of the gap we left.

After delivering his load of twelve sleepers, Alan raises a dust cloud as he bounces back down the track to the other side of Peasebrook Farm. We lay the twelve, then have a breather.

The spreader bar is just the right height for leaning on.

Jim and Bert use the time to chat to Steve, who has declared summer officially open by wearing shorts. Does the Met Office know?

Behind us the rail drilling team is busy, but they hit the usual sort of problems you get - the bits get blunt, or they run out of petrol. Now where is that can? Paul dropped it off where?

It's a long walk back from the bridge for Leigh.

In the middle of the day the sky became a bit murky, so we saved ourselves a long walk into the shade and sat down where we were - on the ends of the sleepers we had just laid. We continue to lay back south, and as you can see the line is getting nice and long already - we laid 100 this morning before lunch. The rail dragged off the wagons last week is roughly laid next to the track, ready for lifting in.

A sad omission today were the cakes, due to holidays. It just wasn't the same. Fingers crossed for next week then.

After lunch - more sleepers. Alan now brings 12 every time, which is great.

You can just make out the rail drilling team in the dust cloud. They did well today, achieving 9 sets of fishplates bolted on, which means an impressive 36 holes drilled. No wonder they had a blunt bit.

The welders were also back earlier this week, and a final lot of 40 rails has been ordered for delivery in early July. This will get us over the bridge and into the area of the Broadway goods yard.

The sleeper layers hook up the sleepers in sets of 4, but sometimes you can't get the clip into the Pandrol hole. The sleeper in this picture had been stored upside down, and the holes were filled with baked mud that was hard as mortar. We didn't really have the right tools up on the trackbed to deal with this, but managed to get a clip in by hitting it with a piece of offcut bar. Whatever works.

Here goes a typical load. Everyone stands well back, as the sleepers perform a crazy dance as they swing through the air.

Now this load has something special about it, a rogue sleeper. It's a non standard one, what they call an F40 instead of an F27. The sleeper sorters at Gotherington didn't pick it up, did you? See it?

OK, we'll make it easy for you - it's that one. Didn't spot that, did you? And yet the Pandrol holes are clearly bigger. Your eyes sort of glaze over after you've stacked 200 of them.

It's annoying for the laying gang though, a reject in the middle of the ones your are putting down. You have to lay all 4, undo the first two (they stay in place), then lift the last two back up and spin them round, then lay the last two again, and finally re-clip the unwanted F40 using clips from two different chain positions (the spreader bar doesn't like lifting odd numbers of sleepers) and lift the offending item into the cess for picking up later. We can use F40s, but only with others of their kind.

Towards the middle of the afternoon our line of sleepers laid gets seriously long, and we start to run out of space in the area where the line of sleepers will meet the railhead. It's like Piccadilly Circus here with all these vehicles.

Cue the arrival of our estates manager, in his Freelander. Argh! Is there a traffic light in the house?

Just look how close we are now!

We're going to almost close the gap, and leave one panel open, so that vehicles can cross from one side to the other.

When we resume laying rail (next week) we will skip over the gap, and start laying rail on to the bit in the foreground, working up to Childswickham and over the bridge.

Here is an overview from the back of the Landie, looking towards the Broadway goods shed, and showing most of the sleepers we laid today. Just a few more to go, the Landie is parked by the rail head.
The reject sleeper on the left was dropped there so that we could tie a rope to it, with the other end at the bottom of the embankment where we climb up painfully from the car park.

Here's the rope already in use. Jim picks his way down the slope (as you know, he's only got one arm) while Steve at the top holds it up so that Jim can grab it more easily.

A final load of 12 sleepers arrives, which has to be manoeuvered carefully between the vehicles, the rail head and the ends of the sleepers, and please also in a place where Steve can get at them.

It's a bit tricky setting the load down, as the ground is uneven and Alan has to be able to withdraw the forks without the pile falling over.

After succesfully retrieving his forks from under the pile, Alan retreats to behind the JCB, and Steve moves forwards to reveal the place where the last 8 sleepers will be dropped.

Job done! 225 sleepers laid, the gap between the railhead and the bridge filled, except for one panel. Next time we will lay rail along the stretch where the guys are walking, onwards towards the bridge, leaving an 18m gap for vehicles to cross. Eventually this too will be filled in, and when ballasting, we will drop a bit more here to make a vehicle crossing over the top of the track.

There's also a distant signal due to go in here, we heard.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The hottest day

The Wednesday gang suffered from a number of notable absences today, due to personal reasons. A slightly reduced, but no less willing gang under the leadership of Robert split into three today.

1. To clip up the last three panels on the extension (the hottest job)
2. To bolt down the shelter bench at Hayles (brought their own chairs, sat in the shade and watched the trains go by; it's a tough job, but someone's got to do it)
3. To stack more sleepers at Skew bridge.

The landie busied itself round all three sites, delivering bearers to Gotherington, a generator to Hayles and bags of pandrol clips to the rail head. A report from a  DMU driver and by those there today finds that the DMUs stop there quite a lot, 5 times out of 6 yesterday for example. One enthusiast frolicked around the halt all day long.

We kicked the day off by going up to the rail head via Little Buckland.

We found the sleeper wagons loaded on Monday parked by our current unloading area (which is now almost a mile from the rail head near the Childswickham bridge)

Bearers neatly stacked by the lineside from Saturday's sleeper laying were found, and loaded into the back of the Landie.

Now to go and find the others at Skew bridge.

A gang of 5 remained in the full sun on top of the embankment to clip up the last three panels laid.

We then drove the loaded Landie back down the trackbed and - whoa, what's this? The incredible heat we've been having these last 5 days has pushed the rails out of line here. Luckily it's not serious, this part of the track has not yet been stressed, ballasted or clipped up. Interesting but not surprising that the buckle took place between two heavy groups of vehicles on the loosely laid track - it had nowhere to go.

After arrival at Gotherington we offloaded the bearers, finding that the gang of 4 there had already made a good start. How did we notice this?

Another of the piles of sleepers has gone! Just the one sleeper left there on the edge of the jungle. Quite a few rejects hidden in the back of this pile too.
The next pile is quite small, then there's another big one, and we think a smaller one behind it, but completely overgrown. We'll have to see what is useable when it eventually comes out.

Now on to Winchcombe to get the genny for the guys at Hayles. Seeing all the doors to the C&W woodwork shop open, we stopped by to thank the team there for the very professional job they did on repairing the GWR stationmaster's table for Broadway. It really looks smashing.

Imagine our pleasure in finding that they had also made a start on the GWR wooden platform bench. This was from another GWR steam railway, where it was felt to be too badly damaged to repair. Not for our guys - just look at the magnificient job they are doing on it. These all-wood platform benches (designed to stand under the canopy, you can see one in the 1904 trackside picture of Broadway) are pretty scarce, so we are lucky to find one. Eddy and Colin have made a smashing job of this too, just the planks left to go on it, it would seem.

After dropping the genny off at Hayles, we carried on to Little Buckland, with 200 Pandrols on board for the clipping up gang.

We found the B&S gang by the sleeper wagons, busy building some sort of a framework next to the track. We can't tell you what for, it's a surprise, so you'll have to wait and see.

By now it was getting quite hot - the temperature was 32 degrees C at the end of the afternoon. Here's a view of the buckle in the unstressed track, in between the sleeper wagons and the 6 Dogfish. that will be sorted out when the train moves along, and the track is cut to size and stressed.

At the rail head, we found the clipping up team grateful that we had brought them another 200 clips to do (No, not really, they didn't really thank us for this gift)

Clipping up is slow and tedious. Just look at the seemingly endless expanse of clips behind them. And there's plenty more where they came from.

Our arrival was the trigger for a lunch break, taken in the shade of the trees by the goods shed.

We are now so close to Broadway that we can nip down to the garage shop and buy 5 ice lollies. They were the last ones too ! Hope they get more for tomorrow, we are back on riveting the canopy again, and that gang likes ice lollies too.

The Landie crew joined in with the clippers and had one last push to get the job done today.  The newly laid track is now fully clipped up right up to the penultimate panel - that last one has two rails in the 4 foot and is best done when they have been laid.

Close that gap with sleepers on Saturday? At least it will be cooler then.