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.
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.
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.
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?
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 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?