Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The post is late...

Due to the need for an urgent bit of dumping for the track replacement works at Winchcombe, your blogger wasn't at Hayles yesterday.

Or was he?

It seems the smell of fried sausages drifts a long way, because round about lunch time Stevie at Winchcombe decided a trip to Hayles for a cup of tea would be a good idea.

We found a good gang of 11 busy laying slabs that Dave P had brought up with the Telehandler, while Dave D was trying to trim them, very slowly with what looked like a blunt cutting disk. Much dust ensued.

Our arrival was very timely, as Paul was just finishing the fry up, and the rolls had already been laid out. Yes, there were some spare sausages! Help yourself to ketchup, and tea.

Although the weather wasn't particularly balmy, we did just about manage to sit outside in the temperature of 5 degrees C.

John M entertained us with several of his awful jokes, and we cannot unfortunately delve into further details here. But a picture speaks 1000 words:

Did you hear the one about Nicola Sturgeon?

The unmentionable punchline is delivered.

After lunch, a quick look around the site:

The corbelling, at lunchtime, was on the home straight, with only two more sections to go. More slabs for this are being sorted out at Winchcombe, with logistics and accessibility issues in their slow arrival. But 5 more arrived today and were duly placed.

The newly placed slabs are in the foreground, with the mortar for the next one placed but left to go off a bit more while we ate.

On site Stevie and Jim G are having a tactical discussion as to what happens next. Behind them is the partly excavated area for the foundation slab of the corrugated iron hut. This needs further digging out, and the remainder of the slope needs landscaping.

If anyone has other pictures of the work on Monday, do please pass them on for posting.

Post Script 

Paul very kindly sent in a batch of Monday photographs, but due to an address error they only came in today.
Here they are:

Minnie had one of her turns and wouldn't start.

It took six goes to get her running!

Julian on the final stretch of corbelling, on the southern end ramp.

Dave brought in the Telehandler from Winchcombe, as well as half a dozen additional slabs. (more are waiting on a flat in the yard)

Dave D had a good go at squaring them up, but it wasn't so easy with a disk that was getting increasingly blunt.

All hands on deck at the southern end of the platform now.

Tim on the top row of corbelling at the start of the slope.

A small number of slabs was put on, and the row of them is getting increasingly long, amplified by this view along it.

Remember the scene in Blackadder III?

This impressive shot shows the almost fully completed brickwork, faced with creosoted planks to look like the original sleepers that were used her in the 1920s.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Sunshine, and more slabs

What a good day today! The sun made an appearance for most of the day, and we had a record 12 volunteers - is there a link perhaps?

Dave P brought the Telehandler out from Winchcombe again today, and this time he brought not only the forks, but also the bucket.

The forks were parked in a corner, and with the bucket Dave set out to scoop up the remaining bits of infill that had been raked together in a long pile.

Each bucketful was carefully dropped behind the new platform wall, starting here at the northern end.

At the other end of the platform you can see a second group gathering around the corbelling activity.

Tim came to finish off the northern end of the platform brickwork, but access for barrows of mortar was somewhat hindered by the growing pile of infill, so that he was forced to help Dave shovel it all flat.

Warming work that, shovelling. And slow. The next bucketful is already approaching !

By mid morning early fog had lifted and it was a lovely warming day. On this picture you can see two corbelling teams, and an infill team at work. Paul is off to cook sausages, and John is chatting to a neighbour, who came to see how we were doing.
In the picture the infill has nearly all been used up, leaving only a gap in the middle, which might be filled from the excavations for the slab for the hut. We shall see.

Infill finished, Tim was at last let loose on the northern end corbelling, which he completed in fine style. He then joined the others working on the southern end.

The southern end corbelling team laid a record number of bricks, thus ensuring that more slabs can be laid here.

Julian took a real flier when he ventured that the brickwork might be finished next week.

Oooh, risquee! We shall see if his prediction comes out.

Yours truly on mortar got through most of a dumpy bag of sand today. The going, in racing terms, was 'heavy'. The ground was sodden and stuck to the wheelbarrow, so that the wheel became twice as wide and would not be pushed.

By early afternoon all our sand was gone, and an emergency resupply had to be ordered. BPS, our sponsor, came in like the cavalry, well done !

Now that the platform is almost finished and two coaches long, getting down to the trackbed is almost always a long walk, so Paul rustled us up a neat little access ladder. Jim H has just tried it out, and is mulling his next move.

Dave P brought in this interesting relic, recently acquired. It is a DREADNOUGHT Thief-Proof patented toilet roll holder, with an additional stamp of G.W.R. in the top LH corner.
Theft of loo rolls was clearly an annoying problem on the railway, and this neat little invention solved it. To get the roll off, it has to be empty first. You then tear up the inner cardboard, to reveal a slot into which a penny is inserted. Only this releases the axle. Cunning!

Sausages for lunch today. Paul cooked a lovely sizzeling panful today, and with the clement weather, we all sat outside and ate our two-sausages-in-a-roll-with-tomato-ketchup. Our first outside lunch in 2017.

Delicious. Then tea, and any leftover doughnuts from this morning. They were not hoovered up by Lucky the Dalmatian, who came by non-stop today with Mrs. Lucky in tow.

After lunch, we changed the bucket on the Telehandler for the forks, and set about to do some slabbing. We got 5 in today. To start with, they had to be trimmed, and the volunteer who agreed to be covered in white dust today was Dave D. Very brave. Maybe he already has a white car interior?

Dave P measured up the length of each slab (they vary in length from 3ft to 6ft) and here you can see him working out how much mortar to put down for it.

His tape measure was tiny. He says he found it (in a Christmas cracker?) and while an inch is an inch on every tape measure, this miniature 3ft example wasn't quite man enough for a slab measuring 3ft 6ins long.

With the right amount of mortar in place, the next slab can be lifted in.

In this example, it also had to have a thin slice off the back, in order to fit around the drain inspection pit, the height of which we have extended up to the top of the new platform.

With a slab in place, the final step is to adjust its correct position and height.

We have found that the best tool for this job is a heavy fence post, which you bump up and down over the spot you want adjusted. Works a treat, and does not harm the slab.

John is in charge of fence posting today.

The 'piece de la resistance' is the pointing of the gaps between the finished slabs.

Here we see Rick inserting the mortar into the cracks.

It's nice to be able to do a job standing up.

At the end of the day, we had laid 5 slabs, removed all the infill that was obstructing the trackbed (sorry, Andy P) and extended the final layer of corbelling well down the southern end, so that one more day here might see us complete this job.

The days are now getting longer again, and whereas it was dark at 15.00 a month ago, this picture shows the sky at 16.00, as Dave P sets off to return the Telehandler to Winchcombe.

The building of Hayles Abbey halt also involves some work behind the scnes, and today we were able to enjoy the fruits of one of these efforts, as the letters for the running in board were delivered.

These are reproduction castings from originals, which we borrowed from friends and in 3 cases, found at a local auction. They are 12ins high, and faithful copies of the GWR design. You can judge the size by the GWSR souvenir mug in the middle! Chunky stuff. They will be attached to the running in board with one way screws, so that they can't be stolen. A kind supporter already gave us a set of original letters for 'HALT', so we now have a full set.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Drizzle and slabs

The BBC forecast was in two minds for today:

a. All day rain (BBC's weather icons) or
b. Drizzle to start with, fading to the east (BBC's narrative)

We had 'a.'

It was so wet that the windscreen wipers in the car increased to maximum speed while driving down on the B4632. What a washout.

Unperturbed, 8 volunteers reported for duty and fun at Hayles. It would surely stop raining soon...
Because of the sodden ground, it was decided not to park on the adjacent bridleway any more, and Jim G asked our neighbours DLF Seeds Ltd whether we might use their overflow car park. This they let us do, but better still, they offered us a big bag of grass seed to sow on the newly landscaped cutting slope around the halt. Brilliant. Thank you, DLF Seeds!

After walking in the rain for 200yds from our alternative car park, it was very cheering to be offered, immediately on arrival, a hot mug of steaming tea by a hand reaching out from inside the container.

In the hope the rain might ease off, we stood inside for a while and shared more tea and doughnuts.

The sound of the kettle and the rustle of the doughnut bags being opened brought an immediate two visitors: Steve, on his way to Pry Lane to level the ballast tipped on the extension, and Lucky, the Dalmatian.

Lucky sumitted the container to an intensive survey by nose.

Eventually he located what he was looking for, and dived into the bin bag (with last week's rubbish, or possibly even older rubbish!).

He emerged after quite a period of rummaging, chewing something indescribable.

We preferred not to ask too many questions, and hope that he got home alright without being sick.

Outside, the horizon was scanned for the tiniest break in the cloud. There were none. An arpeggio on a mobile then announced a text message, which turned out to be from a worried spouse informing the volunteer recipient that he had left his gloves at home. This was very thoughtful, but he already knew that....

Tim came in his convertible MX5 - the hood was up, can you believe it - and tried to lay corbelling bricks, but it was just too wet to do this. After considering our options, we decided to lay slabs instead, which was still feasible.

Dave P was dispatched to Winchcombe to fetch the Telehandler. After half an hour's waiting he duly emerged from the gloom, bearing a load of 5 additional slabs from the pile behind the B&S compound there.

Due to the inclement weather, and having already excercised the options of tea and / or doughnuts in the container, a number of us decided to wait under the bridge in the dry. No point in getting wetter still while waiting for Dave.

Still in the rain, now reduced to a steady drizzle, we started laying slabs. This went quite well, and at the end of the day we had laid a further 7, making 17 laid so far.

Jim H was slinger for the day, and did a good job with Dave P in the Telehandler, given the confined approach to the platform (hampered by a row of ballast at the rear).

While we all got pretty wet out in the relentless drizzle, we had only very limited sympathy for Dave P, who, in his nice warm cab, heater and windscreen wiper on, complained that he got a wet knee from under the open window.

Yes, it's tough, being a Telehandler driver.

Once a slab was down, Paul came in to check it for height, alignment and level.

A steadily lengthening row of slabs can be seen in the background, as well as a row of ballast piles on the left, which was prepared last week out of the remains of the initial supply of infill.

This still needs scooping up by the Telehandler, on a day that it is equipped with its bucket.

We laid the 7 slabs before lunch. After lunch, it was decided not to continue laying, but to remove the 10 slabs laid on the platform infill, so that Steve can continue with his landscaping and push the excess into the rear of the platform. Although we wanted to use these 10 slabs for laying straight away, they were all out of square or damaged in some way, so that they all need their ends cutting off to make them useable. Due to the rain, our man with the disc cutter didn't come today, so that is a job for next time.

Here we see Dave P, Jim H and Julian slowly removing the slabs that need cutting to the other side of the trackbed. Just 5 more to go. On the right, the long pile of infill that got in the way, and which now needs scooping up.

At the end of the day, you can see the 17 slabs now laid in total, covering perhaps a third of the full platform length. The 10 slabs that need cutting have been removed, so that the area is now ready for Steve to continue reprofiling the sides, and more importantly, finish excavating the site for the concrete base for the corrugated iron shelter that is coming. The grass seed is, inter alia, for the area in the foreground, which is now covered in fresh earth.

There's still a bit more corbelling to do right at the back (the final row in the last section) and along the bit in the front, where the blues have been positioned.

From the soggy state of the path on the right, you can imagine what our boots looked like at the end of the day. Now to drive home, and hang eveything up in the garge to dry. Let's hope it's going to be ready for Wednesday!

Monday, 9 January 2017

We're back

A full gang was back on site today, after a 3 week absence with holidays, family, flu and bad weather intervening. By now a certain 'cabin fever' was setting in at home, so we were raring to go, despite a rather dire weather forecast for the day.

The big news for the day was the booking of Steve to reprofile the site, and dig out the area of the slab for the foundations of the corrugated iron shelter. With the JCB marooned on the Winchcombe relay, Steve brought in a mini digger on a trailer, and his arrival was much celebrated.

He soon got to work on the side of the cutting, starting by reprofiling the top edge, which was very lumpy due to previous excavation material being deposited there.

In anticipation of the heavy rain forecast, we didn't really dare get out the mixer, so we spent a couple of hours vacating the platform top so that Steve could increase its height with further infill.

Dave P was dispatched with Peter to Winchcombe to sort out more slabs for us, and then bring the Telehandler to Hayles to lay them (weather permitting). Dave D went off to Winchcombe too, this time to fetch the blue Transit, and then go to Stanton and recover some posts and rail for fencing. He eventually emerged with not only the fencing materials, but also some slabs with which to cover the catch pit located in the middle of the platform. That's looking good now.

Sadly, Dave P realised he was feeling increasingly unwell (cold / flu symptoms) during the morning and returned home after lunch, but he did manage a very useful half day at Winchcombe, loading new sleepers for the Wednesday relay works, and sorting out a dozen or so slabs for us.

The waterlogged grass, athough perfectly smooth, proved to be a problem in reversing the Transit van, as the rear wheels just spun round in the wet.

Eventually we noticed Dave D's predicament, and two of us hopped over the fence to give him a push.

After an hour Steve reached the site of the concrete pad, and asked 'where do you want it then?'

As the new platform is slightly longer than the original, we decided to move the site of the shelter a few feet towards Toddington, so that it remains +/- in the middle of the platform.

Here Neal, Tim and Paul discuss the strategy with Steve.

We also had to decide on the height, so took a level off a future coping slab, and worked this backwards into the cutting, hammering in a stake to show the location and height of the top of the concrete base.

How big is the hut anyway? We had in fact never measured it, so Jim and yours truly went over to Toddington with a tape measure to get this small but vital snippet of information.

The corrugated iron shelter, almost identical to the original, is actually from Usk and is currently in the garden of a supporter.

It turns out to be 100'' by 146'', and rests on its 4 corners, the inside being constructed in angle iron.

The doors are probably not original. We will transport it the mile or so to Hayles, and once resting on its slab, we will repair and repaint it on site.

Meanwhile it stayed relatively dry, albeit with menacing clouds over Cleeve Hill. Steve was making great progress, and unearthed several tree stumps which were piled up at one end.

By the end of the morning, the shape of the path down to the platform was much more visible, and Steve had started on the site of the slab.
In the foreground you can see lines of blues placed on the platform wall, ready for corbelling.

With the inclement weather, it was decided to huddle indoors for lunch, even if this meant that those at the back sat in the dark. Oh no they didn't ! (panto season mode here)

Jim H had brought a security light and a socket, both of which were installed at the far end inside the container. Now we could see what we were eating! (beefburgers today, and muffins).

Despite the 'comfort' of the container, we still have to share it with sacks of cement, but the food was tasty, as you can see from the empty plates and ketchup bottle.

Mind you, there were also threats from Paul if we did not eat everything up. Well, that seems fair, since he went to the trouble to cook it.

So where did we get the electricity to power the light from then?

The secret was at the back, where Julian and Jim had built a little hut for a generator, which is placed in it when we work.

After lunch Steve pulled down some of the excess spoil and tracked it into the rear of the platform, thus bringing it almost to the correct height.

Neal and Paul finished off the job with shovels, and it certainly looked very neat afterwards. The big void left by the 'doorway' in the wall to the trackbed was also filled in, so that the top of the platfom looked very impressive at the end of the day.

 Inexpliccably the heavy rain forecast didn't really hit us, so that confidence grew in a small load of mortar for a bit of corbelling and infilling.

It was soon apparent that this was going to work OK, and a lot more mortar began to be needed, particularly as Jim G and Julian joined in the brick laying and infilling.

Jim H was on the mortar run, and with the number of spots increasing, he was soon going backwards and forwards along the platform with the barrow, answering calls for 'more muck'. Yours truly was on Minnie, who was revving away merrily at high speed today. The rest did her good.

Julian and Peter finished off this top row of corbelling here, filling in the holes to stop rainwater sitting in them, and brushing the front surfaces clean with water from a bucket. Jim has just refreshed a spot with a big dollop of mortar; we finished off another dumpy bag of sand as a result today.

Steve completed the path down to the shelter, and is seen in this picture grading the lower slope down to the platform. The upper slope has already been graded, and at the end of the day this area looked really neat. We now need lots of grass seed to grass this area over, before the weeds start in the new season. Anybody got any spare?

At the end of the day, the corbelling had reached the far end, with only the very last section to be finished off. Nearer the camera, about a quarter, or 7 sections, still needs to be done. The bricks are already in position. You can see the level top section clearly (all the bumps have been removed), the slope of the path, and the back filled platform to its new level.

In the background Neal, newly qualified in the mini digger, is getting in some more practical experience by tidying the far slope, where there are still occasional piles of infill unused. Once Neal has finished putting the material in rows, they will be scooped up in the bucket of the Telehandler.

The last picture of the day shows the great job that Steve did for us. This took him all day; he will return to finish off the area for the slab and the rest of the slope beyond it.


The Hayles Abbey Halt project was promoted, and is being excecuted, by the railway's 'Heritage Group', which was founded 2 years ago to stimulate improvements in the railway's GWR heritage.

As the completion of the Hayles Abbey Halt job slowly comes into view - some time later this year - we are looking at the next potential project. It takes time to agree and plan such things, so now is the time to think about the next one.

If our readers have any suggestions or wishes in this area, they are welcome to send them to us via breva2011(at)hotmail.co.uk.

Where else could we improve or add to the railway's GWR heritage?