Monday, 3 October 2016

Hunting, buts

A crisp and sunny day today, great for making good progress. There was a full team, although we missed Dave D, who was helping to load the sleeper train at Gotherington.

Dave P kept the promise made last week, and brought his metal detector. Here you can see three volunteers staring intensely at the ground - see anything?

We investigated the area where the GWR cast iron notice was found last week. The metal detector bleeped a great deal, and we unearthed several bits of wire, a bolt and - two more pieces of the shattered corner of the sign. Success!

We put all the pieces we had into the corner, and this is what it produced.

Then we set to work again to see if we could find the missing oval piece, but alas, no luck. We had a lot of false readings, as the cutting side is covered with ash which contains lumps with a high metal content.

Today we decided to make concrete and fill in the fifth row of blocks positioned so far. Thanks to the new infill, positioning the wheelbarrow was a breeze and we soon shoveled the stuff down the holes.

Paul made the mixes, and attacked the bags of ballast with vigour, reducing them by two whole bags, an enormous effort.

After a while he began to slow down a bit, and Neal took over, Yours Truly also having several goes.

All in all we got through three bags of the stuff, and filled in all the fifth row right up to the northern end.

More concrete infill is needed at the southern end, where Tim and Lyndon were working

Tim arrived bearing a large mattock, and dug a trench to carry the drainpipe directly into the catch pit on the end.

They then back filled this area with gravel, and started to lay the rest of the fifth row of blocks along and then down the slope just visible here.

This brings us near to the end of block laying.

A bit more work is needed on the northern end, where Neal was cutting blocks to size with his disk cutter.

After an hour of work, Neil came along with the PWay train, heading for Gotherington, where a small group waited, ready to load the next consignment of concrete sleepers for Little Buckland. Would they be able to do this, and was the Telehandler puncture repaired again? We would have to wait and see when or if the train came back at the end of the day.

Just as the train was accelerating away from us, still visible in the picture, a number of riders trotted across the road bridge. What's that all about then?
The mystery was soon solved when we saw a pack of hounds in the distance, spread out over the trackbed where the train had passed only seconds earlier.

A quad bike carrying an eagle (!) was also spotted on the bridge. Fascinating. Well, we build a railway, this is what they do, each to his own. It's what you find in the Cotswolds.

A short while later the hunt galloped across the fields at the foot of the Cotswolds edge, and then they were gone.

We resumed filling the fifth row of blocks with concrete, which was very satisfying.

It was such a perfect day, and lunch 'on the patio' outside the container was a real pleasure.

A study in orange
Of course Brexit, the Labour party, traffic at Tewksbury and various leading politicians were discussed with great hilarity, and good, honest Worcestershire directness. If only we were in charge.

After lunch, more concreting and block laying, while Neal and Dave P resumed their metal detecting, but this time on the other side. We are not sure if there were two or four cast iron notices here, but we failed to find any more. The haul was restricted to pieces of barbed wire, and various bolts from previous PWay generations. What price a fangbolt, anyone?

At three o'clock Neil came back with the PWay train, and yes, it was duly loaded with a full consignment of concrete sleepers. Phew. The gang can continue laying track on Saturday then. Six Dogfish were also attached, whereas three went down. Hmm.
These will be filled from 14 lorry loads of ballast just received at Stanton.

Finally, following a tip off from a reader, we have found two colour photographs of trains coming through Hayles Abbey Halt when it was still open. For Copyright reasons we can only show you a low resolution version, but you can buy your own better quality image from Colour Rail, it's only £1.15.

The loco number is 6990 Witherslack Hall, and the reporting number of 710 tells us that it is the 9.10am Saturdays only Birmingham to Pembroke Dock train, a typical long distance holiday train often seen on our line. The date is 29th July 1959; seven months later the passenger services were withdrawn and the stations closed. Hayles Abbey Halt was pretty comprehensively demolished and grubbed out.

What is interesting about this first colour picture is that it tells us the definite colour scheme of the buildings, and the material used for the platform surface - granite chippings, not ash as we had supposed. You can clearly see the hooks on the poles that carried the hurricane lamps at night.

A similar photo that we have also acquired shows the Cornishman coming through, and a glimpse of the running in board on the left. The background colour scheme was dark brown, not black. Does anyone know why? The pictures were taken on the same day, only minutes apart.

In the not too distant future we will be able to replicate this scene with Foremarke Hall, and our rake of Maroon Mk1s.


  1. I take it that you mean black as the background colour not white. The reason of brown background is because that was Western Region colours, i.e. cream lettering on brown board with cream border whereas GWR was white lettering on black board with white border. Hope this makes things clear and well done on the progress today. Regards, Paul.

    1. Thanks, Paul, I have changed it in the text.
      Does that mean that the background was changed to brown after nationalisation? Was the board originally black and white (GWR in 1927)?

    2. Yes, the board would have originally been black and white unless..... they were totally new boards owing to the old ones being rotten. Regards, Paul.

  2. Jo - I was wondering if you will re-profile the embankment so that it rises from the edge of the platform, or will you cut a step into the existing bank and have some sort of retaining wall? This will be particularly an issue behind the shelter which is set back on the platform. The pictures of the original halt seem to show that the embankment was flatter than at present.

    1. I think we'll look into this once we have done the complete infill. It'll all look much flatter then, is my guess.

  3. Thanks for the reply. The other thing noticeable in the old picture is the telegraph poles. I remember as a boy looking out of the carriage windwows at the wires alongside the track - they seemed to bounce up and down as the train travelled along. Pity you can't reinstate a few!

    1. When I worked on the SVR (umpteen years ago), we had pole runs for the block and phone lines in certain areas. Unfortunately, the same problem as the GWR had ensued notably idiots shooting at the insulators for inane fun. Paul.

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  5. Jo. Just an extra comment on colour schemes. If you want to paint the halt GWR colours, remember that you are looking at a Western region BR photo; and that for GWR you need to paint the shelter light ad dark stone or light stone and black (the choice is yours) with black pitch roof. The doors (if you still have them), would have been painted either dark stone or purple brown, (again the choice is yours). The frames for the windows were white. The posts for the lamps - black. Railings for the pathway would be black with white handrails and post tops. Platform edges - white, but NOT the ramps (which were always left unpainted). Regards, Paul.

  6. Thanks, Paul, that is very useful.
    We have doors, but they look as if added later, and the picture shows no doors.
    We'll look at this when we get to that stage.

  7. Great to see a colour photo of the halt - I had no idea any colour shots had ever been taken.

    I was at the Severn Valley Railway a couple of weeks ago and noticed the telegraph wires along the line - although I think they're basically for show. Some of the wires looked suspiciously like fencing wire!

    1. As far as I remember, where the telegraph wire are on the poles, they do actually carry the telecommunication and block but they do keep S & T busy when an insulator is broken. Regards, Paul.

  8. Has the railway got a suitable tin cabin for use as the waiting room on the platform?

    1. Yes we have, ex Usk station. A picture was posted earlier on the B&S blog.