Monday, 7 November 2016

A cold blow

An (almost) ice cold start today, with one degree showing on the thermometer on arrival at Hayles. Yet two volunteers were already there (at 8.30am!) and sitting in the sun, enjoying an early cup of tea.

Given the low temperature, we decided to delay the start of corbelling for an hour or so.

The planking team got to work immediately, and we see members here, creosoting and cutting the planks to equal lengths.

After a decent while, Minnie the Mixer was fed with sand and cement, which she soon spat out into the wheelbarrow.

For the rest, she behaved herself, and gave us 8 barrows of mortar for corbelling. Well done, Minnie!

Down on the trackbed, Jim gave corbelling lessons, as we felt we needed more working parties on this job, before the real frosts come.

Jim goes into the finer details of the art of corbelling, while Julian and Dave look on, spellbound.

No passing trains today, alas. It normally adds that bit of extra interest.

The southern half of the platform wall was addressed by the planking team today

They laid out the uprights, and measured up the spaces to make up individual bays, each one to be fitted with 4 planks.

Jim made up a spreadsheet which records every stage of the process for each bay, which he numbered.

Lunchtime came all too soon today, and with it an annoying discovery: we have a small rodent guest in the container. We hadn't left any food around, but that made no difference, as it took a fancy to our washing up sponge. Who could have guessed? Now we will have to hide that as well. We plugged the obvious holes; next week we will set a trap baited with peanut butter, which did the job at CRC2.

By popular demand, bacon butties were on the menu again today (Paul gave us options, and this is what we chose) and to add extra interest, each butty was also decorated with a slice of cheese.

The bacon butty judging panel then assembled outside and considered carefully. One panel member was less happy with his 'bacon butty with extra mouse'.

In the afternoon the plank fixing team bridged the gap left for track access, and started on the last southern section. Great progress here. The corbelling, first layer, has reached from the gap all the way to the northern end, but with some courses still to go here and there. Generally we do one course at a time.

The corbelling teams placed quite a challenge on the mortar and brick supply teams, and at one point a former chairman's sports car was in grave danger of possibly receiving a slight scratch from a wonky pallet of bricks. Julian saved the day here, removing each brick with great delicacy, so as not to cause a collapse (a bit like the game of 'pick up sticks').

Paul T was on drilling but later in the afternoon became puzzled when his drill began to run slower, and slower, and even slower.

The generator was checked, but nothing wrong here.

Paul pressed harder, and harder, and even harder, but to no effect. The drill refused to go any deeper.

Finally, the panel of experts now assembled behind him offered the solution: the drill was going round in reverse.

Near the end of the day, the platform looked like this. Planks laid out, corbelling going 19 to the dozen at the far end. Great progress today, also made possible by the excellent weather.

Other heritage news

The Hayles Abbey halt reconstruction being led by our Heritage Group, we can report the successful acquisition of a rare GWR yard lamp through a member of the group.

What is a yard lamp then?

GWR cast iron lamp posts came in 3 sizes:

No. 1: 6' 1 1/2'' above ground. For lighting platforms
No. 2: 8' 1 1/2'' above ground. For lighting larger platforms/roads, with ladder bar
No. 3: 13' 6'' above ground, for lighting larger areas, typically railway yards, with ladder, platform and hexagonal top.

Your chances of finding an original one decrease with the size of the post, so we are very lucky to have been offered one for sale, in particular with its ladder still attached, which is quite rare. Below is a drawing of one on the left, and the actual post we acquired, in situ, on the right.

You can see that the post is equipped with its original ladder, but has a non - original top.
A top to the original shape can be obtained from a specialist manufacturer, and we are currently looking into this. It should be much larger and hexagonal, as in the drawing.

A site visit to a private station was made 2 months ago, to ascertain the work required to remove it from its current location, where it had become surplus to requirements.

Then task looked somewhat daunting when a substantial bed of concrete was discovered around the base.

To our delight, the owner felled the post for us, and even took off the concrete jacket. Brilliant!

Here is the post ready for transport.

More headscratchings ensued with the recovery team, as it lay on a lawn, out of reach of the recovery truck we planned to use. This was kindly provided at cost by Paul, a supporter of the railway.

The post weighs half a ton....

It couldn't be rolled because of the platform attached to it.

Once again the kind former owner helped us out, by moving it up to the fence with the help of a friendly JCB driver. This enabled our lorry, equipped with a short HIAB, to reach over the fence and pick it up. Peter and Terry, supported by lorry owner Paul, picked the post up on Saturday. The operation went very smoothly.

What is the most suitable place for a GWR yard lamp on the GWSR? The Toddington loco yard of course! Here the post is being unloaded next to a pair of 28XX boilers, where it will be stripped and repainted.

By lunch time, the operation was complete, and the post up on a pair of blocks ready for treatment. Behind it is the boiler of 2874, recently removed from its frames.

Mark and John of the loco dept. have been most helpful. They have some shotblasting work coming up, and the post can be treated at the same time, which will give it an excellent, rust free future. We also agreed on a representative location for the post:

It will be situated in front of the recently erected water tower, here on the left of the photograph. It will not only look the part, but actually play a useful function, as this area is not currently lit. Services are also nearby, so it all comes together nicely.

We'd like to thank Mark and John of the loco dept for their help, Peter, Terry and Paul for the use of the lorry and help with the recovery, and last but not least, John for extracting it on his own, and moving it to the fence, which removed two big logistical headaches for us. Thank you all!


  1. Yes, very cold today. Even in St Blazey! That must be why mousey went into your container, and the thought of bacon butties of course - and all the poor beggar got was a sponge (not even cake) for its troubles. Poor mousey. Anybody thought of signing it up for small space investigation on the railway? All the best, regards, Paul.

  2. Great work as always Jo and the Team, even your little mousey friend wants to join in on the action! A few weeks ago there was a mention of a requirement of a piece of GWR Bridge Rail - I've come across one long disused one here in Basingstoke next to the station car park. I will try to find out tomorrow who owns the land it's situated on, would you like me to forward some pictures across?


    1. We do indeed need 4 say 8ft lengths of bridge rail, for 2 pairs of cast iron notices at Hayles and at Broadway.
      The problem is not so much finding a bit (it is fairly commonly used for fencing) but having it loose, and nearby. It is difficult to dig out, and very heavy to lift, so we need a spare one (4) that is lying around.

  3. Jo, I'm a bit surprised that you still have that gap in the wall for track access. I wonder why that is still necessary as surely anything needed can now be left on top of the infill, or barrowed down to the end of the platform to track level? As you say, days of laying bricks or blocks must surely be numbered now that the first frosts are here.

    1. I'm sure that in this blog Jo states that "Just after lunch the plank team bridged the gap left for track access". Regards, Paul.

    2. They bridged it to get the next gaps right, but it is in fact still open. Such a convenient way to get to the track, but yes, frost is an issue I guess.

  4. is it possible to make a pattern and a casting of that lamppost ??... it must be rare and would be good to see the design preserved for future use.... perhaps more could be about the railway, and some sold to cover costs?

    1. We could consider a pattern, but would need say a dozen orders to make it worth while.