Friday, 7 December 2018

Yard lamp lifted

Today was the day 3 heritage minded volunteers went to dig out the GWR yard lamp at 'a village near Evesham' as described in the auction catalogue. This turned out to be Dumbleton, just down the road from us. Great!

The first volunteer, John, was already on site and had started digging the hole. The post was positioned rather awkwardly - for a dig - right in a corner up against a fence, so we could not dig a hole right round it.

But every cloud has a silver lining, the access for the lorry was brilliant, hard standing right next to it. So that was a box ticked.

As you can see, the post has a later light fitting, but one which is still period GWR.

By the time Neal (you must now realise that we are talking about the canopy/footsteps team here) had arrived, the digger was standing in an annoying pool of water. This worsened when we revealed the slots in the bottom of the post, as this released a whoosh of water from inside. John and yours truly really hadn't reckoned with working in a pool of water so wore normal steel toe capped boots, but Neal, bless him, had brought wellies, so he was immediately promoted to chief digger.

It took almost two hours to get to near the bottom of the post. We borrowed a plastic flowerpot from a neighbour to bail out the water, but more arrived almost immediately.


But by lunch time we had dug deep enough for a trial wobble. Without success too.

More digging was required though, particularly round the tricky back, which was hard up against the fence. We knew the base was 2'6'' deep, but those who planted it made a deeper hole than that and included 6'' of fluting, which made us have to dig three feet down. Neal had a special narrow spade called a grafter, and this proved ideal to excavate a narrow channel round the rear.

Then we had a second go at giving it a wobble. It did seem to give a tiny bit. Encouraged, John and then your blogger heaved and released that rope repeatedly, until at last some visible movement became apparent. Oh joy!

Gradually, by heaving and releasing, we were able to work the tall post to and fro, until it began to take on a pleasingly alarming angle.

Once it was down far enough, held up by the edge of the hole, we were able to take off the lighting bracket that was on top.

This is a standard GWR fitting, we heard, but you could see from the remains of some sheared off bolts further down the post that this was indeed once a proper yard lamp with steps and platform.

This is the fitting we retrieved, together with a lamp shade provided by the owner. Sadly there was no one after the very many years this post was on site who could tell us from whence it came, nor when. Malvern Road, Gloucester perhaps?

A friendly neighbour then came over and asked if we would like any tea? Would we indeed! Yes please. We were exhausted after all the digging in the muddy water.

We didn't get 3 mugs of tea, we got a whole tea service, brought to us on a tray and served in the back of his car nearby. Heaven.

The neighbour turned out to be a member and while people felt sorry that the old post was being dug up, they were pleased to hear that it was going to a good home, where the new owners would reinstate it with its ladder, platform and a new replica copper lamp top.

While waiting for the lorry to arrive we had a brief excursion back to Toddington for lunch, and there we found the freshly galvanised footsteps, already back after just 2 days. Great service.

The lorry we needed came from Honeybourne company Fairview, who we think deserve a plug for their friendly service and willingness to help.

Fairview sent their largest lorry - we needed at least a 16 foot bed - and this also had a powerful HIAB on the back.

Neal paused the lift in order to clean off the worst of the dirt still clinging to the post.

The 16 foot post was lifted easily. It was such a relief to see it finally up in the air. We have dug out a few posts now, and they are all different, you never know how they were put into the ground and what is underneath. This one had a concrete block round the base, but luckily it was only a small one, determined by a little test dig we did a few days earlier.

If you follow the GWR drawing, these tall posts should be bolted down to a substantial concrete block underneath. Luckily, in this case the new owners hadn't read the GWR book.

We asked lorry driver Dave to wait for a few minutes while we back filled the hole again as best we could.

We left the site neat and tidy, later putting a pallet we found on top, as there was still a small dip remaining, the post and its concrete block now being absent.

Then it was off to Toddington in convoy.

Here we dropped the post off by the entrance to the shed in an unobtrusive spot.

This will allow us to clean it up and measure it for the new ladder and platform we are going to make.

We need the post to be within striking distance of an electrical supply, so that it can be worked on.

We are very lucky that we have another yard lamp, already restored by the loco lads, inside the shed, and this one is equipped with its original ladder and platform. We have been told that this is quite a rarity.

With a sample nearby, we should be able to fabricate a new ladder and platform for the Dumbleton post. As to its future location, we see it in the loco yard somewhere a little ahead of the lorry in the picture above, to the side of its twin, which will be situated in front of the water tower. That will give the loco yard a very authentic pair of GWR yard lamps, and a great chance to take photographs of GWR locos in their natural shed environment.

Here is the post, parked in its temporary location. John has started work on removing the concrete jacket at the foot of it. Unfortunately the people at Dumbleton were not acquainted with the idea of 'weak mix' and this lump was made of hard, solid concrete.

On the left here, Neal has got out his trusty SDS drill and is giving that hard concrete a bit of bother. We did get it all off in the end, but it was getting very cold and dark at the time.

On the right is a GWR yard lamp with its original ladder and platform. That one is at Gotherington.

We are at an advanced stage with a specialist in designing two new lamp tops. These will be given to the manufacturer who made the Broadway canopy lamps. Once they are complete, the loco department will dig in both posts in front of the shed.

Something to look forward to, wouldn't you say?

Monday, 19 November 2018

Yard lamp acquired

After securing permission from the plc, two heritage supporters successfully bid for a rare GWR yard lamp at auction on Saturday. We are absolutely delighted with this find, as the GWSR currently has no yard lamps at all on any of its sites, so it's a real addition to our heritage railway. We are officially a railway museum, after all.

What is a GWR yard lamp then? It's a taller lamp post, with a larger, six sided top. They would stand in areas where a wider circle of light was needed, such as loco preparation areas, or in goods yards, or perhaps adjacent to a turntable, as can be seen today at Minehead.

On the left is a drawing of a perfect one, while above is a photograph of one at a preserved station. The latter has a smaller square top, which is not original.

Because the lamp post was much taller (13ft above ground instead of 6ft for a platform post) a ladder and platform were provided so that the oil lamp on top could be lit.

Original ladders and platforms are very scarce.

The GWR achieved the goal of a taller post for a yard lamp by combining a no.2 post (taller than the platform post, at 8ft above ground) and mounting this on an additional fluted column underneath it. The guard rail round the top was bolted to the ladder bars.

This is the post we have secured at auction. It stands in the corner of a car park in a village near Evesham. A site inspection today revealed that recovery poses no particular problems; in fact we have done this once or twice before.

Note that this post, as many others, no longer has its ladder and platform, and has been fitted with a period bracket for an electric light. 

This angled bracket on top, we have been told by someone who knows his GWR heritage, is a GWR design, so our thinking is that it might be of interest to another railway or collector?

It's certainly not very common, and an original piece.

Our intention is to rebuild the post back to its original design with the steps, so the later GWR light bracket will be spare.

We could put it back into auction, or is there a reader that would be interested in buying it from us? That would help to part off-set the purchase cost of the post at the auction.

If interested, drop us an email at:
breva2011 (at)

We don't have a drawing of the ladder and platform, but as it happens, we do have another yard lamp pending erection in the loco yard. It was secured in a swap for something else a couple of years ago.

All the parts for it have been cleaned and painted, and are currently awaiting a new, hexagonal top. This top, which will be to the design in the drawing above, is currently being drawn to scale before an order goes to a specialist manufacturer. With the second post purchased at auction it looks as if we may well need two tops. We think the first is funded; however we would appreciate help with the second. Until we have an approved design and an offer from the manufacturer however, we don't know the cost at the time of writing.

With the parts for the ladder and platform in our loco shed and available to us for inspection, we think it wouldn't be too difficult to copy them. It's mostly angle iron and bar.

Detail of the ladder bars; in this case fitted with nuts on the end to secure the guard rail round the platform. Note the flower design around the post, the same as those found on the platforms.

We'll post some pictures of the extraction and collection once we know when we can work on site.

Usk building

Just a little update here to say that we are in discussion with the planners at Tewkesbury, so that is why we haven't made a start yet. It could be a little while yet.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

The siding complete

A strong team of 20 assembled at Winchcombe today, hopeful of being included in one of the three sub groups that would go out today.

We were of good cheer, and thought: better inside than out. Outside we had just walked over frozen puddles and there was a nasty nip in the air, if you weren't standing in the sun. Inside there was a fug.

Walking to the mess coach, we came across this buffet car parked in a prominent place. It was a bit green round the edges.

Discreet enquiries with some C&W members mooching about revealed that it was not railway owned but private, and that it was coming in for an assessment after some years out of use.

Group one then went to Stanton to try and complete the rectifications that they had been busy with previously, see if they can get that job done.

Group two responded to a call from 2807 for more chairs for boot scrapers. They really have a prodigeous output, these fund raising guys, you have to doff your hat at them. £40 a pop too, that's £4000 raised in a year for this venerable loco if they sell only two a week. We were certainly willing to help, as we are still coming across a lot of 'useless' (to us) GWR throughbolt chairs.

We've got a big bucket full for them here, which is being laid out across the rear of the second Landie. It drove up to Toddy, and returned with half a dozen strong new pallets.

A second trip with chairs was undertaken in the afternoon. We even came across an ancient LB&SCR one, with 4 nails instead of bolts.

It was the last day of this season's running. Here is Dinmore Manor, with a well filled train from CRC. It was paired on the timetable with the DMU, which itself was also well filled. Great !

We now have a month of non-running, before the Santa trains start. The job we had penciled in for this rare period free of trains this year was unfortunately cancelled as it clashed with another department, so it looks like fishplate greasing for a month. The  main winter works are still on schedule, and will involve resleepering the track between Toddington signal box and the new turnout we laid earlier this year. We'll do that in January and February.

Group 3 did the heritage bit, to wit, finish ballasting the siding we moved at Winchcombe. Here we are filling a trolley with a bucket of ballast, to be dispersed further along.

We completed the relaid area of the siding, then threw some ballast under the stop block, but not too much.It is quite possible that the platform wall to be built will have a return here behind the stop block, and we don't want to compromise that with lots of ballast thrown in for nothing.

In the absence of further suggestions, it looks like a GWR stop block is black all over then. Well, that saves on paint and washing brushes.

After lunch in the mess coach the newly relaid siding looked like this. We left the Malvern side without ballast as, again, this is where the wall will be built and foundations need to be dug out. Stevie will do that for us.

We patted ourselves on the back with this result. We did the whole job with scrap rail we had in house, and third hand sleepers that were lying about. Only the ballast is new, from a current stockpile. It should keep the sleepers drier so that they last longer.

During the day odd hands (are you an odd hand?) pottered about the yard and collected bits of wood that sort of accumulate in a yard like this.

We also noted a short but fat comms cable that was in the way, but which had been ignored for years.

Dave lifted away one of the stillages so that we could pull it out and examine it further.

The advice from an electrician on site was to check neither of the two ends were connected and if not, it could go. Dave had a go at yanking it. The cable fought back.

With the stillage removed we found the other end. It turned out to be just a short length of thin core cabling that no one had dealt with yet. S&T are now using much longer, new cable to open the route to Broadway.

Eventually it was dropped in the skip here.

We think there will be a short (we hope) planning period on the Usk building now, to prepare a drawing for the foundations and to open a dialogue with the council. After that we are ready to start. We have a modest budget agreed and a friendly building supplies supplier.

The where, how long and how much of the platform is still being discussed, but it's all part of an amicable process and we should see daylight very soon.

Towards the end of the day the light got rather magical (it looked like we were about to get a downpour, but Winchcombe still had sun), so we were able to watch Dinmore head to Broadway in fine style.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Here, there, and everywhere.

A record turnout today - 20 volunteers! Whaaat? What brought that on? Sun, food, half term for kids, and a fun project, those must be the factors.

Here's what we did:

Team 1 went to Toddington to replace 4 sleepers in the area just outside the station. This is the first area to be relaid back in the 1980s and some of it is now firmly due for replacement.

Team 2 had a huge debate about the location of the Usk building. Its future location was changed so often we have finally decided to put the building on rails, and then we can move it around from time to time to please everyone.

Team 3 continued with completing the siding move.

After tea and doughnuts team 3 got stuck in straight away. It was a question of sorting out the bits we didn't do last week - drilling holes in replacement sleepers, putting on the fishplates, and keying up.

Team 2 had a huge debate about the location of the Usk building.

One huge debate? Several !

Here they are looking at the distance from the rails, as now moved back 6 feet.

The original suggested location for the new 'Goods Office' was here in front of the tree. But that spot was very tight for any traffic passing behind, so the spot decided on by HODs was behind the tree, in the distance.

This, however, was felt to be a bit out of sight of the public.

With the moving of the siding we suddenly had an extra 6ft of space, so a plea went up to revisit the proposed location.

Today it was then agreed the Usk building could be built in front of the tree after all.

Huge debate again.

It was suggested it be moved 3m towards the white hut here.

More debate, arm waving, pointing.

Finally, it was moved back again by 1m.
Everyone now happy at last. Phew!

Those few that had not joined the Usk building debating society bravely continued with sorting out the siding.

Here we are putting back the final pair of fishplates. Isn't that siding now nice and straight?

Trains ran today too - Dinmore and the DMU. With the early morning light you can get silhouettes like this one.

The trains looked pleasingly full too. That would be the half term effect, there were lots of children on the trains. What to do with the little monsters when they are at home, off from school? We can help. It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

With the main part of the siding now all bolted down tight, it remained to a small group to key up that panel that was only de-keyed, but not dismantled. Unfortunately Stevie moving that first panel by a few inches had filled the gaps in the chairs with debris, and it was very difficult to get the rails to sit in them again.

Each chair had to be dug out of the mud and debris and have an area cleared around it. Then the debris was poked out from behind with a bit of old wire.

This was a hands and knees job - you could get your orange overalls dirty here.

It took all day to do 18 sleepers (36 keys) but we got there at last.

Meanwhile the Usk hut location debating society had finally agreed on something, and 4 pegs were knocked in. This momentous occasion deserved a cup of tea.

Once the exact spot had been agreed by all, the more serious job of marking out the location and the area of the foundations to be dug out.

Jules here is making up some location boards, which will be attached to posts hammered into the ground.

The siding fixing team now turned its attention to ballasting. A PWay trolley was loaded on to the new track, and filled with ballast by Doug in the Telehandler.

An interesting fact also emerged today - it won't move if you have the handbrake on, no matter how many knobs and levers you jiggle...

The bucket full was then trollied down to the stop blocks (will they receive a coat of topcoat?) and the ballast spread into the centre and Cotswolds side of the track. The Malvern side will be ballasted once the platform foundations have been dug.

Three bucket fulls got us about half way. This hand ballasting was surprisingly successful, as at this rate we should be able to complete it next week. With the ballast around the sleepers, Stevie will be able to drive his digger down the track to dig out the channel for the foundations.

Up above the setting out of the building's foundations was completed. We now need to make up a drawing giving the dimensions and thickness. With that drawing agreed, we can ask Steve to dig the hole.

Errrrr... ice cream, or a piece of shortcake? Ummmmmmm...
Afterwards we all seemed rather thirsty - it was hot again today, after a cold start - so there was general agreement that a tea party would do the job.

Here we are outside the Coffeepot. Will you be mother?

Hayles Abbey halt.

As reported earlier, we were one of 6 rural projects to be given a CPRE award this year. The railway got a framed certificate, and there was a plaque for the shelter.

Neal of Broadway canopy fame made the plaque a beautiful turned base, and with this the plaque was put in a discreet position inside the shelter.

Here it is, our first award. We are still hopeful of an award for Broadway station, but these mills grind very slowly. Fingers crossed.

Outside the Hayles Abbey shelter another award had been made - a dog mess in a pink plastic bag. This was left in flinging distance from the neighbouring bridle path, used by many dog walkers.

Broadway bit

It takes a surprisingly long time to get heritage kit together, and we are still working on several bits to complete the equipment of the station. You can't just go out and buy it in your local DIY centre, samples have to be found and replicated, or if you are lucky, you can pick up an original in an auction.

In the short term there will be at least 2 more V boards. One to read REFRESHMENTS for the cafe, and the other to read WAY IN and BOOKING OFFICE underneath it. This will go above the front door under the little canopy (which itself is considered too small, and if we ever have the time, will be widened to its original designed width).

Today there was a pleasing little milestone, as the 4 inch letters for the V boards were delivered from the Procast foundry in Cleckheaton. (a little plug for them, yes, but they have been very helpful).

These letters were almost all cast from originals that we have assembled over the last 6 years. This is a slow process. You have to be lucky at auction, and sometimes people come forward to help and offer you 2 or 3 that they had, and were happy to pass on. After quite a time you have almost an alphabet. You can then give an original to the foundry and they will cast you copies from it in Aluminium. We also did this for the running in boards for BROADWAY and HAYLES ABBEY halt. The castings are much more durable, and more authentic, than the plywood letters used up to now. These delaminate in just 3 - 4 years.

Notice the pointing hands at the bottom right - they are for the board that will say WAY OUT, this way. They were done from a 'brass rubbing' taken at a friendly neighbouring GWR railway. Thanks, guys. We have found nothing but friendship at other railways, heritage is a common cause.