Wednesday, 15 January 2020

The brickies get going

Monday at Broadway

Maintenance and canopy gangs together today, and a sunny start to a blustery day.

And we had the visit from Stevie, he with the do-it-all JCB.

We find him here on P2 with Neal, scratching their heads over the foundations of the P2 building.

How big would the hole be? Where would the spoil go? How do you get machinery on to P2...
Yours truly turned his back on all this - it will all come out right in the end. Get on with that interminable painting. Dark stone undercoat today, plus preservative on to recently cut sections.

Those two slots in the foreground, by the way, are 'biscuit' joints.

You learn something every day.

Neal spent the blustery and later rather wet day three quarters of the way up the Cotswolds side of the steps. Since us painters had pretty much sabotaged his activities on the Malvern side, by painting everything that he touched.

Well, we don't want that woodwork to rot, do we. Don't want to come back and do it all again in 10 years' time.

The long timbers along the bottom are cut to size, but not yet made to fit. They have to engage with each other, and 'swallow' as it were the angled uprights, with their gusset plates and rounded corners, where square timbers don't fit.

Here Neal is making a small cut to fit the timber for the highest section.
And then he tried it for size, and it does fit!

Now of course we have to put preserving fluid on the areas he has cut, and paint 2 layers of undercoat on the rest. That'll be for Friday.

Back in the ever popular mess room (popular as it has a heater and a kettle...) the new GWR waiting room bench has been installed. Firstly to keep it in dry storage until we build the new waiting room, but while it waits, why not use for the volunteers too?

With the long cushion on top, it instantly became very popular. Much better than the narrow, wobbly bench with slats we had before.

Wednesday at Winchcombe

Last Friday we picked up the replacement weighbridge building window, repaired by our friendly carpenter in Willersey. He did a fine job not only by splicing in a bit of new wood along one corner that had signs of rot, but also by freeing the two sliding windows. He pointed out that they ran on little brass rollers, and that one has seized, and hence worn a flat spot.

John fortunately has a contact that might be able to make us a new roller. One of the catches is also broken, but we may be able to fit a replacement from the sash window industry, it is a brass fitting that looks as if it comes from a sash window.

So now we have a new operator's window, and a repaired original door. Remain the 2 smaller side windows, which need complete replacement. We have the bits of one, and are have spoken to another department that may be able to help.

Then on to Wednesday proper:

No doughnuts, but Swiss roll, just as good - no, better, as it adds variety.

After a while Robert stood up with an announcement. It was a social one though. As we are all good friends we undertake little visits 'over the fence' as it were to see what it's like at a fellow railway. Last year, it was Loughborough and the K&ESR. This year Robert, a keen split ticketer, announced... Aviemore! For just how little can you get up there with a senior rail card? Robert is good at organising these, so this should be fun.

But on to today's work.

Usk platform

It was a slow start, there was some behind the scenes debate and to begin with, actually on the platform site and doing some serious brick laying was only Jules, plodding away stoically on his own.

Notice anything different about him, compared to last week?

Yes, he's got himself a little cushion! He reports that sitting on a one ton icy rail for a day does not do your backside any favours, and he sure wasn't going to let it happen a second time.

Soon Paul and Dave joined the little gang, and we had three brick layers on the job. Great!

Then Jim came (on the far end) and it was four brick layers on the job. Our cup runneth over!

Nearest to the camera was Paul, who specialises in putting up towers, which are infilled by two of the others, while the fourth today was on the pointing trowel.

In between making up mixes for the gang, we had a look at the river Isbourne works.

The contractor has now moved to the upstream side, where the river has made itself a large meander, before finally entering the long tunnel under the chicken curve embankment. This led to scouring of the sides.

In the picture you can see an interesting improvement, as the contractor has dug a new course for the river altogether.

Due to the heavy rain we've been having these last few days the river is in spate again and here it is using both old and new channels.

Back to the Usk platform, and another mix from Maxie our friendly mixer.

Brick laying has reached about two thirds of the way along the platform, roughly to where Paul is stepping across in the back there.

At the end of the day we got to here: Four courses high (out of 10), and a neat little tower in the foreground, built by Paul for next week's infill.

At last the brick laying is coming off the ground and when stepping back you can actually see that a brick wall is rising here. It also means the lads don't have to lean over so much anymore, that was painful on the back all day.

PWay at Greet tunnel.

Carrying on from Saturday, a sizeable gang, well bolstered by slices of Swiss roll, assembled by the southern portal of Greet tunnel.

Inspecting the job at hand for the day.

These pictures are by Bob, to whom our grateful thanks, as we can't be in two places at once.

From the blue smoke being emitted by the impact wrench you can see that chair screws are being removed here so that new ferrules can be fitted.

Just this side of the team are two new sleepers fitted on Saturday - that's a different job, just as important, on the same stretch.

With the low winter sun, this job was in the shade.

In the distance is the second half of the team, which is putting new sleepers into the gaps left by the rotten ones being drawn out by Stevie in the JCB.

Here the ferrule gang is making its way towards the signal with two impact wrenches in use.

Paul on the left is holding the ferrule extraction tool, the one that doesn't work very well. It has a conical screw thread on the end, but it isn't very good at grabbing the old, wooden ferrule, probably due to wear on the thread.

The last two photographs show the ferrule gang approaching the sleeper replacement team. The latter was working together with Stevie in the JCB.

All in all they replaced and packed a respectable 32 sleepers, which is really good going.

A bit of heritage

Behind the scenes work continues with manufacturing and sourcing the interesting paraphenalia that make a station a Great Western one. Some of what we need comes up at auction, so we watch those and strike when something interesting comes up.

Other things are unlikely to come up in the form that we need them, or never come up, so we make replicas.

One of the items that we need to make are the WAY OUT signs. At the time of writing neither can be fitted as they hang under the canopy extensions at the bottom of the steps, but we need to get ready.

Here is what they looked like:

This is a crop of one of the 1904 opening pictures, one that we consult frequently to work out how it was. What sort of benches did they have? How many poster boards, did Broadway have a platform clock?  What signage? What did the lamp tops look like?

At the moment in a small workshop near the station we are making poster boards and the two hanging signs for the exits. Having bought one or two original V boards (for over the doorways) and one original WAY OUT sing (but without the necessary pointing hand) we can see that two types of moulding were used around the edges:

The V boards were single sided and hence used a single sided moulding. This is the one on the right here.
Boards like WAY OUT could be seen from both directions and were suspended from a truss. They had a double sided moulding, like the one on the left.

Having shown them a sample from a board found at auction, we went to a lovely little company in Brownhills (north of Birmingham, with an enormous miner in the middle of a roundabout) and they made us these mouldings in tulip wood. It comes out really great.

So in the picture above we have a work in progress for the longer board on the left, in the original Broadway picture. This one will be double sided, and hence (if you are still with us) it will need two pointing hands, one pointing left, and the other one right.

The letters are from our private collection, sent to a small foundry that reproduced them in Aluminium. The pointing hand is from a 'brass rubbing' obtained from a friendly neighbouring railway - we all help each other.

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Back on the job

Monday at Broadway

The canopy gang doesn't stand still. Into the new year and we are off again. Our target this year: complete the footsteps, manufacture the canopy extension, and erect the canopy extension, during the next low season.

The title of this section is Monday at Broadway but the team was already working on Friday.

Your blogger was kindly released to answer an urgent call from the PWay gang for an extra, mid week day on the viaduct, so from Friday just this photograph. It shows the little roof extension we built for the bottom of the steps.

Before the end of the year the proper canopy extension will keep this area dry, but ad interim we want to protect the treads from the rain.

On to Monday then, which started dry, so a good day for Neal to make the many cuts and planings for the bracing timbers along the sides.

That bottom RH corner for example has a surprising number of planes in it. What you may not know is that the timber (dark stone in the background) on which it rests is itself not only inclined downwards but also tilted to one side, to get a better run-off for the rain.

Hence a normal cut to follow the downward slope would be along the pencil line, but because the bottom timer is tilted to the side, the actual cut required is as in the picture. How does Neal do it!

Having cut the upright, and chamfered the edges, it was time to drill bolt holes through it, and into the newel post at the bottom. As the upright is still raw wood, it has to be taken away again afterwards, treated and primered.

At the end of the day, and with a bit of a gap around lunch time due to a downpour, we were this far.
Higher up you can see John drilling bolt holes to fix the bottom timbers to the stringers.

In between jobs there was time to add a little extra heritage flavour to this hut.

The door plate has the pre-grouping moulding round it, so is the right era for us.

It was found on Ebay. Always worth keeping an eye open, you never know what might come up.

Other heritage advances

A reader from Eynsham was kind enough to answer our appeal for an original GWR wooden bench (not the common one with cast iron ends).

Originally this type was placed under the platform canopies, so stayed dry. But over a 100 year career many were eventually dragged out into the rain and left to rot, so the wooden platform bench is much rarer.

We are delighted with this kind gift. The bench comes from Eynsham station, which had no canopy, and so it survived indoors. It is in quite good condition too, with traces of its original varnish.

We would also love to have an upholstered one. While they are not so rare, many seem to have been snaffled up by older railways than the GWSR, so they are not easy to come by.

The Eynsham bench here is placed next to its larger brother, which was an outdoor one, albeit under a canopy (for a while).

The longer one has 6 legs, and was in very poor condition indeed, so was beautifully repaired by our C&W department.

Given that the Eynsham one is varnished, we're thinking of placing it indoors in the new P2 building.

Our kind donor from Eynsham also gave us these 3 signal lamps. We are allowed to sell them to raise funds for Broadway, so if you want one, get in touch. (breva2011 at They are complete, and we will be painting them black to smarten them up a bit.

At Toddington the new lanterns for the two yard lamps are all wired up and functioning.

This is the one by the water tower, with its 6 imitation gas burners. It lights up the area quite well.

Now for a picture with a loco.....

Just for comparison, here is a picture of the apron outside the shed. It's fairly atmospheric, but the lights here are modern on plastic posts.

Not so atmospheric are these new lights here, recently fixed to the 1905 goods office on the original goods shed at Toddington. The shape is modern, and so is the intensity. Without shades at the top they also add to the light pollution in our peaceful country area.

What could we do to achieve a similar lighting effect, but with a 1905 look? It is quite possible to combine operational need with respect for our heritage.


Another batch of photographs by John Lees has been uploaded on to the Flickr site:

We're in 2007 now, building the extension through Stanton. Why not take a look at those pioneering days?

Wednesday on that wall.

Back at work, not freezing, not too cold. So here we are, on the front of the wall next to the weighbridge rebuild at Winchcombe.

Having built a tower around the end last time, we started with the actual laying of bricks along the front today.

Jules, Paul and Jim were the 'layers' as it were (not the hens....).

Neil and yours truly did the logistics around the site.

Jules had the right mindset for the job, which in its initial stage means a lot of bending down.

Jules got comfortable on a rail, and just got on with it. A dollop of not too wet mortar on one side, and a row of bricks to lay on the other.
Half way through the morning there was a 'toot' and the class 73 trundled in, two bogie flats in tow. One was loaded with bullhead rail, the other with all the new wooden sleepers we still have left. We will be needing these at Greet to do the spot resleepering project we are about to start there (see also below)

The bogie flat loaded with the sleepers was parked by the mess coach, rather than taken out to the relay site, as, we heard, there is another train due to go to CRC for an S&T job there and we don't want to block their progress.

Behind the bogie flat is the track being used by the Isbourne contractor. The water and mud in the ruts is quite striking, in fact we think that the adjacent storage road is starting to lean over towards the left.

Luckily the works on the downstream side seem to have halted for the time being, and the contractor has moved over to the upstream side, which also has signs of scouring that need to be addressed.

Steady plodding on with the bricks produced a third row on the first section, as you can see on this picture.

In between, yours truly, assisted by Jonathan and Neil, ran a barrow back and forth between the wall and the storage site of bricks we have on the other side. We don't know just how many bricks we need, but we sure need lot and there aren't enough on site yet.

Later in the year we hope to strip out two platforms on a disused railway station that we have identified, and his could yield us several thousand blues, as well as 800 of the diamond pattern copers. That supply, if it comes off, should deal not only with the platform wall we are building, but also with the pit of the turntable, when that project goes ahead. You have to plan your supplies for this, free bricks don't come along just because you need them now.

Towards the end of the afternoon we were this far: Three courses finished and pointed up on the first stretch, and a second tower built by Paul near where the trolley is in the picture (maybe half way along).

The rest of the Wednesday gang threw themselves most vigorously into the spot resleepering project outside Greet tunnel.

Here we have identified 70 wooden sleepers for replacement, as an interim measure before a longer term concrete sleeper project between this area and where the remaining concrete sleeper track starts at Far Stanley.

Replacing 70 sleepers is a pretty chunky exercise for manual labour. The digging out and packing back in could take several weeks if all done by hand, so today the gang had the assistance of Stevie in the JCB - powered by the voluntary ingestion of early morning doughnuts and tea - who not only dug out the cribs with his narrow bucket, but also dragged out quite a number of the 'X' marked sleepers.

So that is an excellent start for the gang on Saturday.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Steaming into the sunset

Monday at Broadway.

Cold, sunny, but damp. It made painting difficult, but we had an extended tea drinking session in a (only slightly warmer) mess hut and when we ventured outside again, the sun was starting to shine into our cutting and beginning to dry things out.

Neal has completed the tops and bottoms on the platform side, and has now started on the cross timbers.

These have a partial chamfer down the corners, which means extra work with the router.

The chamfer he put in on this timber can be seen in the foreground, as Neal is bombarded with sawdust from the busy little machine.

When the two pieces in which he was working are put together, you get this cross. Look carefully, and you can see the chamfers along the edges.

It all has to come down again of course, and be further treated and painted, before final assembly can be envisaged.

Having done the cross on the intermediate landing, Neal fitted the top bar along the next downhill bit, so that he could work out the correct position for the next cross timber.

And here he is, fitting that same timber. It was in and out quite a bit, being sawn, then planed, there are so many angles involved and mass production is not an option. How on earth the GWR assembled several footbridges like this we could not imagine.

We can only guess that the answer was cheap labour.

Here the diagonal one is in, and now the horizontal one is being marked with a pencil for cutting in the middle.

Elsewhere, John was (re-) painting the steels and woodwork for the temporary extension to the roof of the steps. The two steels are in the rear. This was the stuff that was so cold and damp first thing, but after trying to warm it by an ineffective heater in the cabin, we finally took it outside and let it dry in the sun.

Yours truly was on the brackets for the hand rails. These were saved from HIA, but some are badly rusted and we really need 4 more. The good ones were shotblasted and zinc coated, and today received a first undercoat in dark stone.

They look like a little army of soldiers here....

Trains were running of course, and this is a good time of year for a). plenty of steam in the cold air, and b). the chance for a glint shot in the low sun.

This is the steamy shot. 9466 was out to play, but failed later in the day and did not come back, making this shot a bit unusual.

That glint shot was a gleam in the eye when we built this platform 2, and the thought germinated that the combination of a low sun and a late afternoon train could result in a fine glint if one stood on Platform 2. As the year progressed, the sun stayed resolutely high in the sky while trains were running to Broadway, and it slowly became clear that the only possible opportunity would arise during the very limited post Christmas runs, if - if - it was a sunny day and the train arrived or left at just the right moment (and not a few minutes earlier or later)

This one below is pretty much the desired effect, except that Dinmore arrived a tad early. The plus side is that after drifting past the Caravan Club the driver opened her up for a few seconds.

The result was a fine plume of steam, with a touch of orange at the bottom. Just so.

The footplate crew seemed relaxed, and we crossed our fingers that they would linger a bit, and let the sun go down a bit more.

Go on, wait just a few more minutes....

Eventually they moved off, and the sun had reached that magic point, where it was setting just on the Malvern side of the station.

There it goes, steaming into the sunset.

The only thing that spoiled it was the roar of the traffic under the bridge. A day later we took this video, in which the train left just a little earlier, making the sun that bit brighter, and higher in the sky:

The trains were busy too, which was good. Anecdotal evidence from the car park, booking office and Auntie Wainwright's bric-a-brac shop and lots of people waiting on the platforms suggested good financial results this week.

Toddington yard.

In other good news the six sided lanterns for the two yard lamps placed in the loco yard behind the shed have now been mounted:

The former Dumbleton lamp post with new top, and new ladder bar, ladder and platform.

The second yard lamp post, slightly shorter, but with its original platform.

The second yard lamp, with Dinmore Manor arriving.
We have yet to take a photograph of the lamps at night. They have certainly been in use, and are said to be quite bright, thanks to the group of 6 gas look-alike LED bulbs in them.

No work on New Year's day, so here's a last picture of 2019 at Broadway. The last train has gone, one last tidy up, then it's looking forward to 2020 and see what exciting things the new year brings.