Monday, 31 October 2016

A frank discussion

It was an amazing day today, 8 degrees to start with, but by noon it was so hot that we had stripped all our layers off and were working in shirt sleeves. It was windstill and sunny, with a wonderful mist under the crest of the Cotswolds edge at the start of the day.

After a brief cup of tea to start the day, it was time to give Minnie the Mixer an oil change:

She gulped down the oil, and, amazingly, behaved impeccably the whole of the day. Mysterious, she keeps us on our toes. But we were grateful for her cooperation, as we mixed a lot of mortar today for the corbelling team.

As the concreting is now basically done (we filled in half a dozen holes remaining at the northern tip) the team involved took out the planks that are being used to simulate the old sleepers, and set about painting them with creosote. It's a sticky job, but at least the weather is on our side.

The plank team started the day as they meant to go on - with a rest.

It's something to do with cutting the planks to size and shape for the slope.

They have to sit there.

With their extra weight, the other half of the team could saw the ends to size.

In this way, everyone is useful.....

After the successful sitting session, the plank is the right length and can be trial fitted.

Afterwards, it is removed again for painting in creosote.

As the northern end of the platform comes down to a point, the planks get shorter and the ends have to be cut to an angle.

Here Neal is fitting one of the uprights to the last of the blocks.

It was such a splendid sunny day that our neighbour came out and mowed his lawn - and we are one day away from November ! It felt like Acacia Avenue in the suburbs; in actual fact our neighbour is an agricultural research station and this patch of grass, carefully leveled, rolled, and planted with a special seed, is trimmed at regular intervals and studied very closely. It does make you want to play cricket though.

Soon it was lunchtime and further jollity ensued.

Things became a little more interesting when Steve joined us (another with a radar for bacon rolls, it would appear) and started a lively and decidedly frank discussion with Paul about a subject we cannot reveal (as in polite company one avoids the subjects of religion, politics and sex).

Protagonist A, Steve, outlines his point of view very firmly.

Protagonist B, Paul, does not agree at all.

Things get a little heated....

The shocked expressions in the background tell you more than we need to say.
Despite the rise in the tone, things remain friendly and if we're honest, very entertaining. You couldn't make it up.

After lunch, the great progress made by the corbelling team became increasingly apparent. Here is Paul raising the third and last row on one of the sections, and at the end of the day, he had done two of these.

This is what it looks like from above. It's going to be the last layer before the platform slabs go on. We're going to have to think about these soon. They are at Winchcombe, need to be brought to Hayles (they are very heavy) and then trimmed to size with a disk cutter.

If you don't know what corbelling is, here is a good example. Each brick sticks out a little further than the one beneath it on which it rests.

This little bit of brick laying can be found in Montefalco, Italy.

We're not going to go quite as far out as that, just three rows.

The brick layers today were Paul, Tim and Jim G.

Jim in his younger years was an apprentice brick layer, but lost his right arm in a motorbike accident (for which he was blameless!). As Jim put it, 'afterwards there wasn't much call for a one - armed brick layer'. Fortunately, Jim then had a successful career with the MOD. But the interesting thing is that he can still lay bricks, and very well too, as the picture shows. With one hand. What is even more astonishing is that, as a full member of the PWay team, Jim can even shovel ballast, with one arm. How people overcome adversity, it's admirable.

Way to go, Jim ! He even cooked lunch for 16 on Saturday. One of the GWSR characters.

At the end of the day, all the woodwork had been completed on exactly one half of the platform wall. Jim and Tim are still laying corbelling bricks, while Paul has stepped back to admire the job well done today.
We have a first row almost all of the way along, a second row some of the way, and all three rows on two of the bays.

No trains passed today. All the activity was north of Toddington, where the hired in tamper started work on the Broadway extension in the Laverton area. During the week, it will slowly work its way north.

Monday, 24 October 2016

More woodwork, and an excursion

The days are getting noticeably shorter now. Cars have their lights on when we drive to Hayles, and at the end of the day the lights go on again. Or are we working long days?

We had a good attendance today, with good progress, although some bribery boosted the size of the gang, just about at lunch time! Amazing. More of that in a moment.

First things first, we need more water. The drawings for tea, mortar and concrete have almost emptied our 1000L container. Tim here rolls out a huge extension pipe to a friendly neighbour's house.

Yours truly was on concrete again, here with Dave on the shovel. Check out the expression, it looks as if he's firing P&O!

Dave was tireless, and personally shovelled out most of two dumpy bags of ballast today. Brilliant.

Minnie the mixer was being temperamental once again, although we did notice that she did it only when we mixed mortar, with the mixer facing west.

When we turned the mixer round to the Cotswolds side to mix ballast, she behaved impeccably. Odd that.

She also stopped twice when somebody walked past, quite on her own. Was she upset by a sideways glance? Spooky....

Then it was Dave's turn on the hernia run. First you haul like mad on the handles of the barrow as you try to control the 100Kg load down the hill, and when you finally make it to the bottom with your dignity still intact, you immediately have a big heaving struggle to get back up to the top of the platform infill. Dave made it this far, but then stalled. Your photographer had to jump in and help push.

On the next run, Dave gave it a bit more welly near the bottom of the descent, but then missed the little plank at the lowest point, whereupon the barrow came to an abrupt stop, shedding a good part of its sloppy load over the front.

Having struggled with the barrow to the top of the infill, the next hernia - heave is to get the load upright, so that it flows out at the front.

This time John is there to help steady, and point for it to go this way and that. Then we use the official poking stick to get the  mix right down into the voids in the blocks.

At the end of the day, this little team had filled all the remaining voids in the platform, so it is now one solid concrete mass. It's not going anywhere now.

Round about this time your blogger had to shoot off and spend £3000 in 3 minutes. Yes, that's the cost of a 6 Dogfish ballast train, and we dropped it at Little Buckland. It only took an hour, then back to Hayles.

At the mention of the scheduled bacon butties due at Hayles today, the 3 man ballasting team, flexible as they were, took a quick decision to have their lunch with us. This boosted our numbers, and they were not allowed to melt away afterwards, but were roped in for concrete and wood fixing duties. It's only fair.

This is what we're talking about. A mug of tea, bacon butty with brown sauce, and a slice of black pudding. Who could resist? A chef's special, brought to you by Monsieur Paul.

It's not exactly Bake Off, but we do have a three man tasting panel. They were very critical, if we may believe their expressions. Tough lot to please, must try harder, Paul. With truffles next week then. Or more ketchup.

With the concreting going on at the southern end of the platform, the others were not sitting on their backsides, but had split into a further two teams.

This one here, led by Jim G, was an interesting one, as it was the start of the corbelling brickwork. After a bit of trial and error, it went really well.

The other team continued with the job of mounting the creosoted planks in front of the block wall.

Now that we've done this a couple of times, we're getting into a practiced routine and quite efficient.

Here we've set out the planks in stacks, and they get drilled through at each end. Jim H, off picture, is applying creosote most diligently, so that the planks are all ready. They're still moist here.

Once equipped with holes, a plank is taken to the wall and wriggled into its place.

We start at the top where the wood meets the underside of the corbelling bricks, and work downwards with the next three planks.

Neal then comes along and, reaching through the holes, drills into the concrete blocks behind.

The next plank down is fitted so that it buts up against the top one.
After holding on to it for ages while the holes are drilled and the bolts inserted, the team found a rather better method for keeping the plank pressed upwards - this clever lever effect, which just requires someone to rest their foot on it.

Peter taps in the bolt, before screwing it in tightly.

Finally, for some planks Neal cuts in a circular opening for the weep holes to be able to discharge any water (although we think that this is unlikely in practice, as we also have a drain in the bottom)

Here's an overview of the activity, taken in the afternoon. Dave and John on the right are filling concrete into the last of the voids at the southern end, while the other two teams are corbelling and fitting planks at the northern end. They've already used up half a pallet of bricks, seen in the centre.

Jim H very kindly spent half an hour repairing the lovely display he had made (and which interested all of the locals we see walking by) as the display had been scraped by a passing tractor. Well, we are in the countryside here, you know. It's what you get.

Here you see the corbelling team at work. They laid two of three rows on two of the sections, and another row on two more. It's an impressive start, but there's more to come in the next few weeks. Hope the weather permits it, corbelling is rather sensitive to the right kind of weather.

Here's the end of the day shot. The woodwork is making great strides forward. It's almost reached the inspection hatch at the far end. This will simply be planked over. If you need to access the pit, you will need to unscrew the planks, a simple job.

There were no passing trains to record today. The class 73 was out ballasting at Little Buckland; more of that tomorrow on the Extension Blog.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Woodwork today

Another fine, at moments balmy day at Hayles today. A gang of 11 made great progress again, but not before having a jolly good sit outside with a cup of tea and a doughnut in the sun.

Paul, ever solicitous of our welfare, was 'mother'.

'' TEA UP ''

Paul has a loud voice. It carries. It has to, it's a long site. We gallop towards the sound.

The tea is poured, the doughnuts are lined up. Men amble around with their hands in their pockets, waiting.

We don't linger after tea, but set to work while the going is good and the sun is out. It's a good day, perhaps the last chance, to put a better and stronger tarpaulin on the roof. The thin blue one had frayed and was leaking, and the fungi were starting to break out again in the container ceiling. Meanwhile, BPS were back to deliver 4 more bags of ballast, and 20 bags of cement. Would the driver like a cuppa and a doughnut? He would. (if your blogger has correctly interpreted 'does a bear s..t in the woods?')

On his way to loading sleepers at Gotherington, Steve brought a pallet of blues for us. Good thinking, we will need quite a few of these when we start corbelling, which is soon.

Steve carefully deposited the 400 odd bricks on the platform, and continued on his way. The cigar lighter on his JCB isn't fixed yet, so he's in the Telehandler today.

Shortly after, also headed for Gotherington, Neil passed through in the class 73 with 6 empty Dogfish and the two Warflats ready for another supply of 300 sleepers. There was a quick chinwag with Steve and Paul to coordinate the day, and then he moved on.

The new platform - will it fit? Neil eases by very carefully.

There were several teams at work today, a luxury you can afford with 11 volunteers.

Tim and Lyndon inspect the inspection hatch, and add a little mortar here and there to finish it off.

A second, quite large team started fixing the boards to the sleeper uprights in front of the platform block wall. More uprights stretch out behind Julian, busy here with a wheel brace tightening the threaded bolts that tie them to the blocks.

Thanks to the prompt delivery of the ballast, a third team set out making concrete. There is a very large number of holes, up to 5 blocks deep, in two rows, that need filling with concrete.

Here is Dave at the northern end of the platform, filling in the last of the holes along here.

The mixer was very recalcitrant today, cutting out when swivelled, or sometimes just on a whim. Five minutes with a cup of tea in hand usually cured it, but then it would do it again. Arghhh !

Along the same northern section, Tim was dealing with the slope. Blocks had to be cut at an angle to make the slope, but some places made the cut blocks too thin, so mortar and concrete were used to achieve the transition from level to slope.

Just a handful of blocks now need laying here, and that's it for block laying, with the exception of the access gap in the middle.

At 11.30 Paul vanished from the work site and we find him, here, in the container, cooking sausages. He is good to us, our Paul. A pile of baps can be seen in the foreground, ready for two sausages and ketchup in each.
Tim is first in the queue.

After lunch, our construction manager Jim G inspects Tim's work on the inspection hatch. Two men peer down a hole. Are there still newts down there? See anything, Jim?

Tim had a go at levelling the ash and ballast infill with a shovel. It's quite a job, one that you would rather see done by a JCB, but no can do today.

Tim did rather well, don't you think?

Shortly afterwards came a toot, and the class 73 paused at the fixed distant to await a sign from us. A rain cloud drifted up from Cleve Hill, on the point of overtaking the sun in the foreground here.

The newly loaded sleepers will be taken up to Little Buckland, and the Dogfish then drawn forward to Stanton for loading of a further delivery of ballast, expected on Thursday.

With the class 73 out of the way again, a couple of the guys decided to 'have a board meeting', we heard.

This was called because we had come across an issue last week when we did the first test fitting. After the first 4 boards were in, it turned out that the posts were leaning sideways. Surely not? But they were.

Further investigation revealed that the boards had been sawn in half, slightly off centre. This meant that we had two stacks of boards, some this long, and some that. There was an inch of difference.

Here the boards are being laid out to have the lengths equalised with a circular saw.

Once all were the correct length, Jim H and Julian  painted them in Creosote. This not only helps to preserve them, but also gives the right colour effect, as if they were a row of railway sleepers. Sticky work though, it gets everywhere.

This is what it looks like when its finished. Quite convincing for a sleeper built platform, don't you think? We still have to add the corbelling and platform slabs, hence the recess in the blockwork. Originally the halt didn't have these, but today it has to have the overhang, so we can't get round it.

Here's today's closing view. You can see that a good start has been made on attaching the wooden boards and sleepers. More are being cut to length in the background, and creosoted in the foreground.
With the boards now really starting to go up, we reckon that we can start some corbelling very shortly.

Next week - bacon butties !