Wednesday, 29 November 2017

A clean sweep

Five jobs for the gang today! We couldn't believe it, and buried our heads in the tea and mince pies. Minus 1 degree C too.

But it was true:

- Lifting tackle inspection
- Telehandler refresher course
- Broken fishplate repair at Didbrook
- Sleeper loading at Skew Bridge, Gotherington
- Ballast sweeping at Peasebrook

 Busy, busy, busy. We shall have to spead ourselves thin.

In order to close the gap at Broadway, we need one final trainload of concrete sleepers. As it happens, we have just that at Skew Bridge. Three of us ventured down to Gotherington to load them on to the two bogie flats, which had been parked there waiting for us.

This is all that's left now, and they are not all suitable, so you have to pick carefully. Some are different sizes, and some are broken.

Jules jumped up on to the wagon to be banksman, while Peter continued to hone his growing skills as a Telehandler driver.

Here the first load of 8 goes on.

With 8 being lifted on at a time we soon had the first wagon filled with 128 of them. Ideally, we need 240 loaded, if we can scrape enough together.
This team worked through to lunch time, and ended with 194 loaded in all. Then we handed over to the Telehandler refresher course team, who had their theoretical course in the morning, and needed something to practice with in the afternoon. We left them a few more piles to play with.

The three of us then car shared back to Toddington, where a steaming hot meal waited for us. All 20 or so volunteers came back from their individual activities, to find maitre d' Paul in a steamy kitchen with today's delicious offering. What would it be?

Fish! And you'd better like it, or you know what you can do!

Paul really pulled his finger out today, as we were priveledged to be in the presence of our new volunteer liaison officer Ian Stewart, who came to see what it was all about. We tried to impress. It was haddock filets, with buttered potatoes, peas, bread and butter, tea, and iced mince pies. A cheeky voice demanded tartare sauce and received a swift and stern rebuff, what do you expect for just £2.50.

After lunch it was back to the Skew Bridge sleeper depot. There are hardly any sleepers left now. Do you remember the huge piles that were here? Now you can park you car there. There were once 7000 sleepers here, and we have loaded and laid them all.

Here is the train, now three quarters full. Half a wagon is still available for loading, we left that to the refresher course team.

How does this work then?
After a handover in which we explained what was left and what needed to be loaded / discarded we left them to it. Fingers crossed that they all passed.

Peasebrook farm and the track sweepers next then.

After the passage of the ballast regulator there is a kilometre of track to sweep by hand - two rails, each with two sides. Grab a broom and join in.

The regulator does a fantastic job, but it does leave a line of ballast inside the web of the rail, and in and around the Pandrol clips. When we lift the rail on to the rollers for stressing, the risk is that somewhere some of this ballast will fall under the rail, and then we can't clip it up any more. So better to sweep it clean first. Many sacks of extra Pandrol clips have been laid out, but equally many more are still required too.

The section in the photograph has already been swept, and the little gang of broom handlers can be seen in a knot in the distance. The distance to do seems endless, but they plod on in a steady wind and a temperature only just above zero. Never mind, the job keeps you warm.

Here they are, armd with brooms, shovels and scrapers. No one tool actually does the whole job, so there is a bit of a division of labour going on here.

This shot illustrates what's going on. Nearest to the camera is a bit of rail that has been partly cleaned of the worst of it (a final sweeper will follow) while at the top is the ballast around the web before we have done anything to it yet.

This broom here comes from the blogger's own mother in law - she's a test pilot at the broom factory.

With only one panel left to do (out of 50) there was a sudden consensus to call it a day. It was getting dark, and the constant repetitive action does get to your back in the end.

The last panel shouldn't take long. The concrete sleeper wagons now have to pass over this stretch, then it can be unclipped and lifted on to rollers for stressing.

The stressing itself is due in a fortnight, followed by a mammoth 'Clippathon' the very next day (a Wednesday) in which we need as many volunteers as possible to clip a kilometre of track up again, all at once. Many hands make light work, so do consider joining in to help.

We hope to get all the rails to Broadway laid by the end of the year. Ballasting, tamping, sweeping etc requires fewer people, so that the main gang can then turn to to this year's closed season task,  a job in Toddington yard involving two turnouts, which will give the loco yard better access. That will take place in January and February.

And finally:

Over the last 5 years we have assembled all sorts of heritage kit for Broadway station. It's not something you can just go out and buy, because when you want it, it is not there. Patience is required, and a lot of luck.

In this way we have collected amongst other things two original crowd barrier posts for the booking office, and with the help of a friendly neighbouring railway, we had two more cast. When they are in position, they should look like this:

We have the cast iron columns then, including the four base plates at the bottom, but not yet the wooden tops.

In a great act of cooperation, our Winchcombe carriage and wagon department has very kindly offered to make the wooden tops for these crowd barriers. This is great news. To help them see how the tops fit on to the posts, we took one of them to Winchcombe today, so that work can start without delay, ready for the opening. With a bit of luck, there will be crowds at Broadway for them to manage too.

The 'IN' and 'OUT' plates have also been found and copied, as well as the small 'TICKETS' plate for under the ticket hatch. The original for this was found in the estate of a supporter at Willersey (for which once again our thanks) and you can imagine where it might have come from. Which station with a booking office was the nearest?

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Out of the station, and... over the bridge !

Too wet last Saturday? Well, today it was too cold. Zero degrees to start with, rising to a vertiginous three degrees C. Woo-hoo. Our cup runneth over. And we were working at the bridge end of the Broadway platforms, a notoriously breezy spot too. Thick coats came out, hats galore. A thin winter sun illuminated our activities.

This low sun makes photography quite difficult, with dark shadows alternating with bright light. Here is the opening shot for the day, with two panels left to lay in between the Broadway platforms.
A clipping up session has started on platform 2, after the last panel was bolted on.

The 48 missing BH sleepers were soon added, followed by a first rail on the right.

Here we have Paul playing the Stilsons. Yes, it's maitre d', the very same. Spaghetti for 22, or a pair of Stilsons, it's all the same to Paul. Just check your plateful carefully next time.

(The Stilsons were used to rotate the BH rail properly into the bed of the chair)

48 sleepers and 4 rails later, both P1 and P2 tracks were neck and neck at the end of the platform ramp. You might say that this completes the Broadway relay, further south is next. However, that down line is pointing straight at the centre of the bridge, we need men on bars down here.

It's amazing really how something as heavy as a track panel can be moved by human effort with bars, if you throw enough of them at the problem. Soon after the photograph was taken, the track panel was straight.

We then started laying Pan 11 fitted sleepers on the up line. The first 4 here will support a barrow crossing.

Laying efforts were interupted by the noise of the rail disk cutter, which featured Chris all dolled up with safety gear, while the others stood around in a wide circle and watched the proceedings.

Rail cutting completed, the sleeper laying on the down line reached station road bridge, another milestone.

Two of us can be seen levelling the ballast bed, which has been rutted by the constant passing of vehicles. Note Jim in the centre shovelling ballast with his one good arm. How does he do it... marvellous how plucky our Jim is.

At lunch time a maximum number squeezed into the Broadway cabin and hogged the seats. Lovely and warm in there, but - oh no - Mrs. B's cakes were outside. How to score two fairy cakes, without losing your place?

Lunch was all too brief, and it was back to laying sleepers on to the bridge.

In the background Bert Ferrule and Stevie are bringing in FB rail, which starts at the barrow crossing.

It's quite tricky getting the rail to end up further ahead than the JCB can drive, but Steve did it.

Here is the first length of FB going in, on the up line. We were glad to have FB rail again, as the BH sags like wet maccaroni, and is difficult to manoeuvre.

Things got trickier still when we sort of built ourselves into a corner on the bridge. No room now, see, and that rail had to be dragged around a corner and had to end up in a position where it was not in the way of laying the next lot of sleepers on the down line.

The first two lengths of FB rail have now reached the bridge. A short length is cut off by Nigel, so that the rail joint is off the bridge, but not too far away to exclude a single length across it. We need one whole length across the bridge, with no joints in the middle.

The up line sleeper laying gang was prodigious, but unfortunately no one had told them to stop once they got to the other side of the bridge where the concrete sleepers start. We actually had to lift them again, just like BR in 1979.

Well laid, yes, thank you.

But in the wrong place.

Take them up again and put them in the down line.

The reduced number of sleepers was then fitted with the second pair of FB rails.

These are the ones that stretch right over the bridge, so that there is no joint in the middle.

Behind us, fishplate expert Leigh was bolting up the rails laid.

An interesting joint was this one, where bullhead rail meets flatbottom. This is an unusual combination, and needs a special fishplate.

To get just the right shaped fishplate, to accommodate the difference in height of the railheads, you need to measure up the relative thicknesses of the rails on both sides. This is what Leigh is doing here, with a special gauge.

A hybrid lifter fishplate is then used to bolt together FB and BH rail ends. You can just about make out that the RH side of the fishplate is higher than the left.

After bolting it all up, a last check is performed to make sure that the two ends of the rails are perfectly level, and that there is no bump when the wheels of the train pass over it. If there is after all, you soon get a dropped joint, and possibly a broken fishplate (one such on the running line was repaired by us today, as well as all of what you read here)

Station road, looking towards Broadway
Station road, looking towards Evesham.
With the PWay gang visible on the bridge today, passing traffic could see that we meant it when we said open by March 2018.

You could also hear us - the 'Animal' was used with great enthusiasm on the fishplates of the rails we laid today. A boot holds the bolt in pace until it is too tight to move any more.

This scene looking into the setting sun shows the bolting up in the foreground, and a rail being laid in in the background.

We are now definitely out of the platforms, and heading over the bridge.

Some end of the day shots now.

In this one you can see the full extent of the track laid today, with the up side over the bridge and even a first concrete sleeper pushed under the end.

The down side is one panel behind, but has most of the Pan 11 sleepers it needs in place. It was getting dark here, so we called it a day and put away the tools.

A last shot the other way now. Double track has reached the bridge. We ought to have some sort of celebration here. Quick, before the sun disappears over the horizon:

The track laying gang has now laid double track all the way from Springfield Lane bridge, through the station and over Broadway station road bridge. And we're proud of that. And it was all made possible by our kind supporters who bought shares in our venture. We couldn't have done it without you, and we didn't let you down. Hi there ! And THANK YOU !

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Three jobs

Three jobs today for our gang:

- Clipping up at Broadway, both rail heads
- Chairing up sleepers at Winchcombe
- Sweeping rail at Buckland in preparation for stressing, due some time in mid - December.

There was another job as well of course: find the mess coach! Once we overcame this hurdle, Paul awaited us with tea and a mince pie with icing on top. Life is good!

We found the mess coach hidden behind this Peak.
Sneaky, but we found you.

It's parked very close though.

The next job, before we even started at Broadway, was to open the box van doors to get the tools out. Parking a 133 ton weight in front of the doors is a great way to stop theft.

H-o-w-e-v-e-r ...... how do we get in? A very thin PWay gang member (these are very few in number) had to slide in between Peak and van to hand out the brushes and tools that we needed at Buckland.

Then on to Broadway for clipping up. Saturday's somewhat moist laying marathon left several panels on both sides still requiring Panlock clips to secure the bullhead rail to the chairs.

A second group split off to do the stretch in front of the goods shed (one sleeper in 5, until the fishplates are on)

Over the last 2 days Steve and Adam have been busy, and the trackbed now ready for laying has been advanced over the bridge with Terram and fresh ballast. Just a few yards now separate the north and south ballast beds, and the gap is basically the site for the future southern turnout.

As we sorted out some clipping up tools Steve and Adam were still levelling off the ballast bed over the bridge. This area here is the end of the double track through the station, here fitted with Terram due to the slushy ground beneath.

As we chatted with Steve for an update, Adam brought up a final load of ballast, which he spread out over the bridge. They spent the rest of the day moving infill around for the station site, and demolishing the concrete base of the bric-a-brac shed (whose temporary planning permission expires this year).

Here's the station gang clipping up. It's a slow job, as the ballast bed undulates very slightly, so some sleepers are lower than others and this makes it difficult to put the rail right down into the chair. There was lots of fiddling around with bars and fulcrums, and one of the Pan Pullers needs some work done on it as it is very loose, so kept slipping off the job. Luckily we had a second.

A passing Apache is always very exciting. You can hear its distinctive sound a few seconds before it appears, so giving time to whip out the camera and take a picture with the signal box on.

Thar she goes.
Ours are equipped with a 30mm canon - can you imagine a gun barrel of 30mm diameter? It seems huge. Those pods underneath also hold rockets, so better give them a friendly wave.

What do you mean - there's tea?

It was very windy today, so we were glad to get away from those breezy embankments and get back to the mess coach at Toddy for a nice cup of tea, and with luck, a warming meal from Paul.
The queue for the teapot formed quickly ...

On top of spaghetti....
Julian and Paul had the task of spooning out (forking?  - what is the verb for dishing out spaghetti?) the spag from a huge pot. We were 21 today, pretty much the maximum the mess coach can hold. What a popular gang we are, it must be the atmosphere.
Meatballs that came out of the oven were piled precariously high on a dish on top of the grill. Should one meatball accidentally fall, perhaps rolling under the stove and acquiring a few extra hairs, Maitre d' Paul declared it would be given to the last one through the door. That should teach them to report for lunch on time. You blogger's ears are still ringing from the painful tirade he received for being 10 minutes late last week. Ouch !

After lunch we completed the station clipping up, with the exception of the last panel, which was not yet fishplated up. We had a little tidy up too, finding a little stash of scrap and the omnipresent bearers for sleeper transport that we are forever collecting and sending back to base. It's a pretty relentless circle.

More concrete sleepers will be loaded in a week's time.

Will you dance with me?
Julian also brought up a number of bags of Panlocks from a dumpy bag full on the other side of the bridge. That's 25Kg to carry over 100 yds each time, a bit like an episode of the strongest man.

As we go to press news from the other two gangs is sketchy as yet. The little orange dots in the distance here are working between Little Buckland and Peasebrook, preparing the last 1000m stretch for stressing. There are 50 lengths of rail to clean with brushes, and equip with rollers and additional SHC clips ready for final clipping up after the stress. Today they did 4 panels, we learned. Let's hope we can do a big bash on this next Wednesday.
At Winchcombe the third gang was fitting the last of the Jarrah slepers with chairs and/or base plates, and were loading them on the train. The last turnout also has to come up, it's a lot of balls to keep up in the air to get the laying job finished by Christmas.

Here's a last view of the southern rail head by the goods shed. This was partially clipped up today, to keep everything in place.

A bit of Broadway history.

Two things really.

First of all, there has been a great response to the suggestion we put people's early GWSR pictures on the Flickr site. Four people have offered to put up a selection of their photographs, mostly seen from a PWay angle, which is what interests us here.

It takes a fair old while to scan a selection of photographs (it would be a huge job to do them all) and then treat each one with Photoshop to remove dirt and try to improve on the effects of age. The first portfolio has now been completed, and uploaded here:

It's called Early GWSR - Garry Owen.

Garry was head of PWay and also chairman of the company, so was able to photograph first hand a lot of what was going on. The comments are currently a bit sparse, so if you can think of more to add, please feel free to do this on the site.

The second offering today is, given that we are working at the goods shed, a couple of historical photographs of the same area, seen through the camera of Brian Parsons. Brian lived in Broadway, often photographed trains at the station, and loved the railway so much that he became a BR fireman at Worcester. A boyhood dream! When steam came to an end he became second man on diesel locos, and this is how the pictures below came about.

Thank you Brian for sharing these.

Here is Broadway goods shed, seen from the cab of a diesel loco on the up line, and taken in the summer of 1972. Note the fresh ballast and good state of the track. Broadway station was behind the pine trees in the distance. Note also how the embankment was wide enough for additional siding tracks left and right. This was a high speed main line.

The same picture taken 4 years earlier. This time we know the number of the locomotive: D1749, a class 47 diesel.
Note the lorry on the far right, next to the corrugated iron fruit packing shed. Fruit packing still seems to be going on, although the goods sidings were lifted by then. Assembly of packing crates was also reported in that shed. It is the rubble of the base that we think we removed from the bund by the bridge.

This was Brian's workhorse, D1749, here photographed at Toddington with a brake van. It seems to be parked in the yard, facing south - the Cotswolds edge is just visible in the background.

Enjoy !