Saturday, 31 December 2016

Last one for 2016

A last look at the work we did in 2016, together with special event trains passing the new halt during the mixed traffic gala on Friday.

It was a crisp morning yesterday, but the low, bright light made photography a challenge.
Here is a view of the 10 slabs laid a fortnight ago. They are in a neat line at the north end of the platform, with battens laid over the cracks in between, prior to pointing there.
The southern end of the platform wall has not yet had any corbelling bricks laid on it - the next job, if the cold weather allows - but enough corbelled area exists, and enough slabs on site, for a further slab laying session. Then we need to get another load of them from Winchcombe.

And then the trains started running. What would they be?

The first one was the 3 unit DMU, still heading for 'XMAS', which must be a reference to 'NORTH POLE', aka Winchcombe. In the picture the cab is at the level of the slabs just laid.

A wander down the bridleway alongside the Hayles site took us to Didbrook 2 bridge, where the DMU can be seen just south of the outer signals of Toddington. Looks like a WR main line, doesn't it? Leamington to Cardiff, anyone?

Back at the bridge over the line at Hayles, a clag producing competition was taking place between diesel and steam, with the class 47 a winner by a short head. On the platform, pallets of bricks and rows of slabs are waiting for milder weather.

Photography at Hayles facing south was tricky, with the strong light and tender first running. Here's a go at an atmospheric shot; at least there is plenty of steam in the cold.

With the sun behind you, the same train looks a lot more colourful, as the 7 carriages pass the 2 carriage halt. This shot with an auto train would be perfect. Now there's an idea.....

A rather subdued class 20 - the steamer was doing all the work - brings up the rear and reveals the platform and the beautiful Cotswolds edge.

The Hayles crew expects to be back at work Monday week, January 9th 2017. More corbelling, more slabbing, and a digger to reshape the slope and dig out the base for the corrugated iron hut.

Where did 2016 go? It was the year in which we started work on Hayles Abbey Halt, and 2017 should see this completed. What could we do next?

Have a great new year's eve, and see you next year!

Monday, 19 December 2016

The first slabs go down

A great day today (appart from the fog and drizzle) as we got some slabs down, for the first time. This was another milestone for the project, and it made us feel very motivated.

To begin with, tea.

Here is Paul, with two cups ready to go, and rather taken aback by Lucky the labrador, brought to us today by Mrs. Lucky. What are you snuffling in there, Lucky?

Gerroutovit, you scoundrel!

He didn't even notice the freshly caught mouse in the trap, just after the sugar rush, he is. He got a doughnut for his trouble too. Some of us are softies, and he knows it.

Dave P trundled in first thing with another pallet of blues. That must be about the last one for us now, as the corbelling is really doing well now.

We hoped to have Stevie doing some landscaping today, but other things intervened. Maybe lucky next time then, it'll get done sooner or later.

Once he had discharged his load of 400 blues, Dave P was able to try out the new working method we had figured out, on how to get the slabs placed carefully on the platform wall.

Last week the slings approach was gaining ground, but a last minute outsider in the form of Neal won the day, with a set of brackets that fitted nicely under the front and rear edges.

Here is the first slab being lifted.

Dave lifted it carefully on to the prepared bed of mortar.

The placing has to be very gentle, as you don't want to disturb the bed and end up with a crooked slab.

There she goes, handled by Paul with the trowel and under the supervision of Jim on the left.

This is how they did it, with the brackets designed by Neal and assembled in the loco dept. at Toddington. A nice bit of inter-departmental cooperation.

Once the slab is down, there are two worries:

Is it level, and is it in the right place?

With the blue gauge you can make sure that it is the correct distance from the running rail.

As we don't have walkie-talkies yet, a bit of verbal communication does the trick.

'No, not there, there'

Once again the weather was reasonably kind, and the gang sat outside.
To be honest, fine weather or no, this is where we have to sit, as there is nowhere else, unless we all squeeze into the dark and dingey container. It has to rain really hard for us to do that.

Today's menu said 'soup'. Or, if in France, Consomme. But we're in England here, so it's soup and a roll. Very heartwarming it was too, just the ticket.

After lunch, we really got going with the slabbing, and laid 10 in all, which signed off 4 of the bays, a great advance. We'll need some more from Winchcombe, at this rate.

With yours truly on ballasting duty at Broadway this Monday, a new mortar maker was found. This was John, the sorcerer's apprentice.

Dave D gives instruction on where to throw the water. Go on, don't be shy.

Despite all the attention on the slabbing today, a sneaky bit of corbelling was going on at the northern end. Here is Julian placing some of those corbelling bricks, right at the northern tip of the platform end.

We're now going to take a bit of a Christmas break until Januay the 9th. It's not a holiday, it's all those 'looking after the grandchildren ' duties. Look at it another way, we're building up those Brownie points, so that we can come back wih a vengance in the new year.

See you then, and have a lovely Christmas, and a happy new year 2017!

All from the heritage team at Hayles Abbey halt.

Monday, 12 December 2016

The first train also stops

Well, you just can't believe everything you read on a blog, can you! It turns out that there was an even earlier train that stopped at the new halt - see below. There's always someone out there who knows better.

Today was a fairly grim day, with just 6 degrees on the thermometer, and a steady, cold, drizzle announced. Unexpectedly for a BBC weather forcast, this was true as well. We spent the first half hour or so cooped up in the container, with Paul feeling miserable as there were only a handful of volunteers. However, a full complement did eventually turn up - 10 people - and the latecomers coyly admitted to difficulties with getting out of bed with these increasingly dark mornings. It's true, it is dark, the car headlights are on, the windscreen wipers are going....

Doughnuts were off the menu today, as not ready when Paul passd the shop, but he was nonethless armed with several chocolate Yule logs, which were an honourable substitute.

After a while, Jim G ventured out of the door and announced brightly that 'Look, it's not black any more, it's only grey!' and with this degree of enthusiasm we couldn't just stay sitting there, so to a man we rose and followed him out there.

Today was a brick laying day. We didn't have a 'plant operator' (to wit, Dave P, who is away for a fortnight) so concentrated on getting as many blues down as we could. We had 4 teams going, and here you can see Paul giving Julian a few tips on how to lay them straight.

Eventually Tim joined us, and was told where to start work by Paul 'I'm not the boss around here, he is', who nonetheless gives a passable impression thereof. Later on he was heard to inveigle Neal into laying down a few bricks:

Paul: 'Aren't you laying bricks today, Neal?'
Neal: 'Er, no........'
Paul, unperturbed: 'OK, you can start over here'

You can see the various brick laying teams in this picture, broadly speaking engaged at the two ends, as the middle has largly been completed to full corbelling height already.

You can't see the Cotswold edge, as it's covered in low cloud.

Paul spent his time giving the installed planks a second coat of creosote. It does look so much better like this, Paul, smashing.

Paul stayed until lunch time, then announced he had a to leave. We were saddened to hear this.

Paul: 'I have to go and see a nativity play'
A voice: 'That doesn't sound very exciting, why don't you stay here with us?'
Paul, sadly: 'Because if I did that, it wouldn't be the Turkey that went in the oven at home :-(  '

At lunch time our friendly contractor Stevie turned up to inspect the site for some grading work he will do next week. We need to clean up the irregularities in the site from the 1960s demolition and earlier works, as well as dig out a suitable area for the concrete slab for the corrugated iron shelter.

Now that we have emptied the container of a good part of our building supplies, there was room for all of today's working party to sit inside in the dry. Here they all are, enjoying a roll each with two freshly cooked sausages in it - delicious! That little warm meal really raised the spirits.

We even had an unexpected visitor -

Winston Churchill !

Gosh. Unmistakeable with that cigar and hand gesture for victory.

Mr. Churchill puffed on his cigar and mused on the state of the nation

'We shall fight them at Didbrook' - didn't he say that?

John dropped in for a while and helped fill in the voids in a recently laid line of corbelling.

Later he went on to the Gardener's Arms, to prepare for the sumpteous meal that awaits the PWay gang on Wednesday. It's always very cosy, with live music and often a quiz at the end.

Jim H, not sure of what to do next, consulted Paul and was quickly found a job.

'You can do the pointing', and a fine job he did of it too.
Earlier, he and Neal assembled the very last pieces of planking that were still missing on the front of the wall.

Here is Jim H helping Neal under what we presume was friendly fire - don't stick your head above the parapet!

At the end of the day, probably not much progress that is visible to the untrained eye. Just more bricks on top of other bricks. However, it's all part of the race for the finish.
- On the far left, the team is just covering up their work.
- In the middle, a sizeable stretch has already been completed with 3 courses of corbelling, and is ready for slabs (if we had a plant operator)
- Nearest to the camera, the first row of corbelling has been laid in 5 new bays.

All in all, we worked on 9 bays today, laid a course of bricks in each, and with 23 bricks in each bay, that gives about 200 bricks laid today. We think that is good progress, given the poor weather and the difficulty of laying bricks on a challenging surface.

So what's this about last week's 03 with slabs not being the first train to Hayles after all?

It turns out that the loco dept beat us to it, and as proof they sent us this picture:

They took the DMU out for a test run, and decided to stop at Hayles for a breather, and to stretch their legs.
And a fine photograph it made too. Well done, lads, and thanks for the exclusive!

Monday, 5 December 2016

The first train stops

Today was a remarkable milestone in our little project, as it saw the first train stop at the platform!

But before we tell the tale, here is the weather report:

Foggy! Yes, it was minus 3.5 degrees and foggy enough to put the car headlights on and proceed most carefully along the B4632. Two cars flew off the same bend at Weston Sub Edge in the space of 3 weeks, so it's best to treat this old road with respect.

Another car headlight emerges from the gloom.

It's another volunteer, right? Erm...

Believe it or not, 11 of them turned up today, they must be mad. It was so cold that we could not lay any bricks, so it must be the friendly atmosphere that brings them in, weather or no.

Got any doughnuts? Or I shan't be your friend.
Arrival at 08.30 found 4 volunteers squeezed into the container, which was imperceptibly warmer than outside, where some optimist had spread out the chairs for sitting on. In your dreams!

There was much tinkering with a reluctant gas fitting, but eventually we had the kettle on the boil, and the early morning doughnuts out.

Lucky the Dalmatian then appeared. He inspected the site for any spare food most thoroughly.

The olefactory organ signals that buns be in here.

As a dog, Lucky has a nose which is 10.000 times (!) more efficient than a human's. He swept the site in seconds,  with merciless efficiency.

The site was finally declared doughnut free, but a frozen scrap of bacon from last week was found, and a source of currant buns, hidden in a bricklayer's bucket, was revealed.

Oi, get outta there, you scoundrel!

Very slowly the fog lifted an an approaching engine noise was heard. It was Dave P, with a pallet of bricks from Winchcombe on the Telehandler. To save ourselves some brick carrying work, we asked him nicely to place this directly on to the platform.

Dave's kindness was immediately rewarded with a mug of tea and a bun, which seems to have been well appreciated.

An army marches on its stomach, or something equivalent for Telehandler drivers.

Then came the exciting bit, as a toot was heard in the distance:

It was Neil, bearing gifts. He came with the 03, Winchcombe's yard shunter, and two wagons with stacks of platform slabs. These had been sorted out and loaded on Satuday, from the pile remaining after removal from CRC2.

It was our first train ever stopped at Hayles Abbey halt!

The 'passengers' were carefully removed by Dave P in the telehandler. Initially we thought we'd put them on the trackbed, wait for the train to go, and then stack them on the platform.

With 11 volunteers today, there was quite a crowd of spectators. Well, the delicate removal of the piles was indeed very interesting.

Julian was an expert banksman, and directed Dave P, inch by inch, how to lift the piles and remove the forks from underneath at awkward angles. All achieved faultlessly too.

Then we had a better idea: Lift up a stack, pause, wait for the train to reverse......

 .... then advance to the platform when it's gone!
Much more efficient.

Soon the platform was filled with about 100ft worth of slabs, enough for about half the job.

The stacks of slabs were piled carefully at the rear of the platform. Soon, the stacks were all there, and the train had returned to Winchcombe. What now?

It was decided to spend a while testing our method for placing the slabs.

Two slings were finally decided upon, as we need something that can be withdrawn from underneath once the slabs are down.

Dave is not sure about what is going on at the end of his forks..... what are they up to?

The slings did actually work very well, so that's what we are going to go with.
Here is a trial fitting on the platform wall, without any mortar (too cold....). Paul explains how it's all going to work.

If you read The Cornishman, you might recall a 1905 photograph a couple of numbers ago of Winchcombe station being finished. It showed a stack of slabs on platform 1, and two men with cloth caps placing them on the wall of platform 2. Yes, two men! We have the Telehandler now, an ideal machine with its precise controls, and an expert at the wheel.

For an amusing interlude, we received BPS again with more supplies. A couple of extra planks were needed, some extra bits of wood, and most importantly, the pipework for the handrails that will lead from the field down to the platform.

The pipes will be threaded through posts as per original - check out the old photograph! We will get it just right.

After building the wall round the northern catchpit, it became apparent that an extra ring would be better here to better prevent any ballast from falling in. This ring was fitted today, together with its three concete slabs on top.

Here Neal is fitting the three concrete covers.

Afterwards, the planking was screwed back on the front, so that it looks like a sleeper built wall again. Very neat.

With the sun now shining, the site became quite pleasant to be at. The slabs were spread out ready for lifting in - given suitably warmer weather - and Jim G spent some relaxing time cleaning off the old mortar and any spalling damage found.

Our end of the day shot shows the slabs brought by train today, laid out in a line along the northen end of the platform.

No mice in the trap today.

Was this what was going on while we were away?
Whn the cat's away, the mice will play