Monday, 26 September 2016

Infilling starts

A drizzly day, and at 8.30 only 3 volunteers. Where are they all, is this it?
Half an hour later, we were eight, phew! Must be the Thomas effect, it was a hard day's work yesterday.

The day started with a delivery:
We had 20 tons of stone chippings delivered, for filling in around the drain at the rear of the platform.

Of course, for some the day doesn't start with 20 tons of stone, but with tea and a bun.

We were further entertained by Julian, who produced a large chocolate cake, which didn't stay large for very long.

Then, to work. One of the reasons we were cramped for space in the container was an enormous roll of pipe in the back. This was extracted today, and rolled down to the trackbed.

Once down, it was cut free and an attempt was made to unroll the coils into a long straight piece.

Paul and Julian walked away unrolling it.

Unfortunately, the coils followed at a respectful distance, and rolled themselves up again behind them! Dave intervened and held on to the tail end.

There was an air of 'It's a Knockout' about it all, and some hilarity.

After some struggles with the coils, which had a mind of their own, the pipe was laid at the back and a start made on covering it with the stone chippings.

It was quite tricky getting loaded barrows down the steep slope and on to the spot where it was needed.

If only we could back fill a bit, and make ourselves a road.

Idea! Get the Telehandler from Winchcombe, and throw in a first layer of back fill. Dave P was dispatched to get this, and the bucket to go with it.

Dave duly materialised on the trackbed with the Telehandler from Winchcombe, but without the bucket.

After a further journey to Toddington, he returned equipped with the bucket, and the process of adding infill started. Quite a milestone for us. Here goes the first load.

We put the first bucketfuls of infill around the southern catchpit, so that we ended up with an easier road for the barrows of stone to get to the bottom level. Dave D christened the new road, while Tim had a rest from shovelling.

In this picture you can see Dave P starting to infill further along, while the stone barrowers were busy on the southern section.

Don't ask, we don't know what they were doing in there either. Looks important though.

The 20 tons of stone sort of dominated the skyline outside the container, and a rolling team of two spent all day filling wheelbarrows. Warm work, which was just as well, as it drizzled pretty much all day long.

At the end of the day, all the stone that we needed was filled around the blue drain pipe, so that Dave P could tip in the infill wherever he wanted without hindrance.

A highlight of the day was Neal finding an original GWR 'Forty Shilling' trespass notice! It was almost completely intact, with traces of white lettering still evident, just a corner missing on the top.

We mused on the value of 40 shillings today. Can you still get a coffee for £2 ? And the alternative to payment of 40 shillings was one month in prison.

Here is a detail view of the notice. The missing piece on the corner includes the letter 'Y'.

This spurned us on to see if we could find any more pieces. Could they still be there?

It's a long shot, but Rick set out with a spade and scratched around.

Believe it or not, he found the missing 'Y' and several other small pieces. Perhaps they can be welded back on? Unfortunately, we couldn't find all the missing pieces, but Dave P has a metal detector, so we will have a go next week, also on the other side where a second notice would seem logical.

At the end of the day we had put some infill along almost all of the platform, with quite a lot along the north end, and a modest amount along the southern bit. We would quite like it to be 50% filled along its length, as that would aid the concrete block filling enormously, and we would no longer have to wheel the barrows through the remaining gap and on to the trackbed. If we leave the infill over the wet winter, it should settle down a lot.

This was pretty much the situation at the end of the day. A lot of infill at the top, and a start made at the bottom. A drain and stone chippings underneath, with the pipe laid into the two catch pits.

Finally, we afforded ourselves a group photograph with our find of the day.

For the record, the team today was (from L to R) Julian, Dave P, Jim, Rick, Paul, Dave D, Neal, Tim and behind the camera, Yours Truly.

Now we need an 8ft piece of bridge rail to re-erect the notice, so if anyone on the GWSR comes across one, please let us have it. (we need a second at Broadway by the way, and a GWR 'BEWARE of TRAINS' notice to have or copy)

Monday, 19 September 2016

Fun in the rain

The more-or-less regular gang of nine turned up today, despite a forecast of drizzle up to 9am, then midday, then later in the afternoon, and in fact it never stopped! It didn't deter us.

The day started with more deliveries. 

BPS came with more cement, more blocks and more ballast. With all the infilling of the blocks, we are getting through the bags of ballast like a dose of salts. Plenty more were brought today, we hardly knew where to put them all.

More blocks came too. Where to put them all?

Not here.... Nooooooo

Oh heck.....

New recruit Peter had a bright idea - load them back onto the Transit (it brought some sleepers from Winchcombe) and drive them down on to the trackbed, thus saving us the effort of moving them by barrow.

We off loaded the sleepers from the Transit.

The sleepers are in treated softwood, and have been cut down to form the verticals that 'support' the planking at the front of the platform (which is really made of concrete blocks).

The BPS driver was persuaded to lift the pallets back on to our Transit, and 15 mins later it appeared at the bottom, where half was unloaded on each side.

Note that Jim managed to get himself into both pictures, but that's because he works so hard.

The Transit then vanished again, only to reappear at the top.

Yep, that's where we loaded those same sleepers back on to it! Work creation, some call that.

In fact we worked out that, as with the blocks, it was easier to take everything down to the trackbed via the Transit.

All the time it drizzled steadily. We decided to see if we could sit it out with a tea break as it was forecast to fizzle out by lunch time, but no such luck. In the end we just took the bull by the horns and got stuck in.

We split into two teams. One, led by Tim, continued with the placement of the fifth row of blocks, as far as concrete infilling permitted this.

The second team continued with concrete infilling, trying to stay ahead of Tim and Lyndon.

The concreting was pretty hard work, certainly for the mixers and barrow wheelers, so there was a bit of job rotation.

Jim G, Peter, Julian and Yours truly shovelled and stuffed the concrete into the holes, while Paul, Dave and Jim H were on mixers and barrows.

It's strangely satisfying to see the mix being gulped up by the holes. When you give them a good poke with a stick, they settle down and some more is poured in.

The pressure on the mixers is relentless. The barrow goes down and back up, and when it arrives back at the top, the next mix has to be ready.

Per mixer load that's 10 shovels full of ballast scooped out of a half empty dumpy bag, with capricious sides that fold in and won't let you take the full shovel out. Two of cement, and a bucket of water. You have to get it right every time, or complaints come up from below.

On receiving a phone call from Ops, we cleared the trackbed and stood aside for a special PWay train that trundled through.
It was ex Gotherington, where other members of the PWay gang had spent the morning loading up the train, and strapping it down very securely. Seeing a train load of materials for the extension going by is also very motivating.

Here's a picture of a happy Lyndon, in charge of the mortar used by Tim on the fifth row of blocks. They are just passing the southern catch pit, with its two rings on top.

In this picture you can see the block laying team catching up with the concrete team. The completed fifth row of blocks stretches away into the distance. Peter is tamping the concrete into one of the holes.

In total today, we filled in just under 100 holes. A barrow load of concrete fills just 3 holes, so that would mean that the mixer crew made up and barrowed just about 33 loads. Pretty good.

We reckon we are now 2/3 of the way down the platform with infill and fifth row. We have reached the gap that we have left ourselves to access the trackbed.

This final picture shows almost the full length of the platform. Almost the whole length behind Julian (lifting the blocks out of the cess) has been filled; the blocks on the right are still loose. The short stretch on the right, and the two slopes still have to be done. At this late point in the day, washing up time, it is still drizzling.

Time to go home for a hot shower and a nice cup of tea.

If you want to see where the train of sleepers went, check out the extension blog.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Monday and Friday

Two reports for the price of one today - one for Monday this week, and one for today, Friday, when a small gang returned to strim the site.

Monday, 12th September

Another very productive day at Hayles with 9 in attendance and more sunshine than expected.
The day started with a delivery of timber, together with four concrete and one steel lintel to be used above the north end catch pit.  The timber will be bolted to the concrete blocks, to give the appearance of a sleeper built platform. It's quite a pile, with two boxes of bolts on top.

Neal cut a groove for the steel lintel which was soon installed together with the concrete ones by Tim and Julian.  This is for the northern of the two catch pits, which will have a hatch at the front.

Here you can see the lintel in place, with the 4 concrete beams at the back over the gap.

The lintel is so shaped as to permit the laying of the corbelling bricks in an uninterupted row.
Neal has now cut all the blocks for the south end ramp and about half the ones for the north end ramp.  Four blocks also need cutting above the lintels.
Neal not only brought his own generator and disk cutter, he also took away Jim's hiccoughing generator and repaired it for him at home. Thank you, Neal!
Here is Neal fine tuning the specially cut blocks on the southern ramp. This is now complete, except for the single, fifth row.

However most of Monday's effort was on filling the blocks with a wet ballast mix.  Some 31 mixes were achieved - that's 310 shovels of ballast - and we are now only about 10 blocks away from the southern drainage pit.  This activity was shared amongst the rest of the group with frequent rotation to share the backbreaking load.
Here is Jim H doing the first 5 mixes. There are now various half empty bags about the site, and these will be repositioned next week in order to make room for more deliveries, including 20 tons of fine ballast to cover the rear drainage pipe, more cement and more blocks - we are going to be a bit over the 1200 first estimated. The 20 tons are going to have to be barrowed down to the track... at 100Kg per barrow load, that makes 200 trips. Oops...

In the sun, the gang enjoyed a pleasant, warm lunch outside, perhaps for the last time. Halcyon days.

Jim H is a bit of a wizzard at making up notice boards (he made several for Broadway) and here we see his latest triumph, a beautifully framed information board explaining to passers by what is being built at Hayles. He also treated us to shelving in the container, a row of hooks for our lunch bags, and a full set of official and working timetables way into 2017, so that we can see precisely when a train is due to pass, and what it is. Brilliant.
Here Tim and Julian have just put up the new information board.

At the close of play on Monday, the platform looked like this. The new blocks have been placed ready for use in the 5th row. Concrete infilling has reached about half way down. Note the rather overwhelming greenery - more of that in the Friday report.

Friday 16th September
Seeing this same ebullient greenery, Broadway volunteer Graham offered to come down with a brush cutter to trim the site back to ground level, so that we can see what we are doing. He was joined by Jim H and yours truly, back from gone away. (unfortunately 3kg more came back than flew out, and a brake on doughnut consumption has been enforced)

It was rather wet at the start of the day, but Graham set out regardless, and this is the 'before' shot. Julian and Jim H had already had a go with manual clippers in the foreground, but the gross of the problem was at the Toddington end and around the entrance.

Today was a 'silver' driver experience day, and precisely as timetabled - thank you Jim, for the info in the container now - Foremarke Hall trundled by the new platform. Thanks to the strimming, this shot of it next to the blockwork is now possible.

After a while, the sun did come out, but this was not the pleasure you'd think for Graham, who soon worked in a cloud of billowing seeds and sweating profusely, with all the protective gear on.

Coming back for a coffee break, it dawned on us that after the delivery of the big bundle of wood, our dining room was now heavily compromised.

Graham then unveiled a supply of blueberry and double chocolate muffins, which were pounced upon with glee by some.
Due to the huge bundle of planks, there was only room for two inside the container, with Graham on a wobbly chair in the weather outside. We'd better get bolting these planks to the wall, otherwise there is going to be a problem on Monday, if we have 9 volunteers again and inclement weather.

At the end of the day, full sunshine and a completely strimmed site. Well done, Graham !

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The Herald is back

As explained in the first posting of this new blog, the launch of the Hayles Abbey Herald was unimpressed by your blogger's immediately occurring holidays, but we are now back, and can report that the team has been completely unrestrained, and indeed has made great strides forward.

This report covers the activities of last Monday, Sept 5th. There were 9 volunteers on a rather damp and humid day.

Limbering up immediately on arrival by moving a few blocks is always useful to free up old joints and muscles. Blocks are never quite where you want them, and here Lyndon is sorting this out for us. Dave is very helpfully showing him where his heavy load may be released.

Horror of horrors, this was followed by a large delivery of another 120 blocks, which also turns out to be the final installment of our original order of 1200. Didn't we do well !

Better get some of these laid then...

Here the team is putting down the fourth and top row at the front of the southern end. Only a single, fifth row to go on top now.

New block supplies have been flung over the wall on to the embankment behind. Who is it that is so keen and strong this time in the morning?

A useful job in between was the (partial) removal of some of the undergrowth. Here Julian is snipping away at the heavy plant growth on the slope.

This is very necessary, as we need to see what we are doing when we start to lay the drainage pipe and start back filling. You can see that the slope is actually less steep than it appeared when covered in weeds.
We had 3 block laying teams in action with Jim H supplying a steady flow of mortar.  Shortly after lunch we had laid 120 approx blocks, which completed the back up row of blocks apart from the two extremities where the ramps are, and where the blocks need careful trimming.
Sadly, there were no doughnuts at all this time. But! An important 'but'. Paul had brought an alternative supply, viz two packs of Tesco's finest cream cakes. These were extensively tested.
So what do your reckon, Jim? ' Hmmmmmmm...'
Down by the southern catch pit, Tim's block construction to raise it to platform level was receiving its crowning glory:
A second hand drainage ring was heaved into position and carefully posed on a nice bed of mortar.

It was at this point that Tim said something apparently quite game changing, which made the others reel back in surprise. What on earth was it? Their lips are sealed. Perhaps a generous offer concerning the planned dinner at the close of works?

In the afternoon we mixed ten loads of ballast to make concrete for block filling.

 Ready for concrete..... give us all you've got!

This concrete filling is quite a slow process, as there are a lot of holes to be filled - two rows of holes, 4 deep, and as long as 2 Mk1 coaches. It is also very hard work for the poor chap on the mixer, as the demand is non stop and unrelenting. As soon as the barrow has been tipped into the holes, they are back for some more, so Jim only has moments to make up the next mix. His shovel is a blur.

By close of play we had filled 20 pairs of blocks. 

While this was going on Tim and Dave D set about laying row 5, the final one at the back.  It's a single row of blocks, against which the corbelling will sit.  Around a dozen of these were laid before the mortar ran out.

You can see the start that was made on the left.
That's it for Monday 5th. Of course we've had another day of work this Monday just passed, September 12th. We shall report on it in a day or two.