Monday, 13 February 2017

Slab, slab, slab

That was the name of the game today, we did slabbing all day long.

There was bright sunshine, but a bitterly cold wind, and on arrival we found all the volunteers crammed into the container, to gain a few extra degrees of warmth, and a cup of tea.

Paul was 'mother' and poured out a length of mugs of the brew.

Doughnuts were available too, but due to an error in the supply chain, these were the cheaper sort, with a great big hole in the middle,  where the jam ought to be.

Hey, these aren't doughnuts!

After a while of huddling, there was no option but to get Minnie out and start her up. She started second pull again, we are now wise to her ways. A brimming barrow soon headed north, bumpety-bump over the rough infill, with John struggling only slightly to get it all the way there intact.

Life's a bitch, but when he got there, he was told the barrow was actually needed at the other extremity of the platform.

Bumpety-bump all the way back again, and a bit further.

We had a slight change of laying order today, as it was found that once laid on the slope, the slabs subtly moved downhill a few millimeters. To prevent this happening, we moved on the southern end and laid a single slab at the bottom of the slope, and next time, when the mortar has gone off, we can lay the others against it, going uphill.
We completed laying the last 3 on the northern end, and the picture shows Julian filling in the cracks.

This is the last slab being laid on the northern end, a small milestone for us.

Paul and Jim stood back, and had to admire their handiwork. The top was so level, 'you could roll a marble along it'.

They are right, it did look good.

Here is Julian having a go on the stomper.

Paul and Peter discuss where the next blow should fall.

It's quite a skilled job. Whomp one end down, and the other goes up. So chose your target area carefully.

The pace of laying was determined by the cutting to square of the old slabs, many of which had rough edges or, as this one, an entire corner missing.

Dave soldiered on bravely on this, all day long. A magnificent effort. He emerged at the end, completely covered in white dust.

This newly cut slab was then carefully placed on the northern end, the one we said should go off and we could then lay the others up against it.

Without a reference point, great care had to be taken to get this one right.

A string line was drawn, and then it was stomped down with our patented fence post stomper.

After stomping, the gauge was got out. We laid it true to the gauge, but also to Jim G's eagle eye a few yards away.

Just in case, the northern end was also checked. Those slabs seem to move sneakily, when your back is turned.

After a while, a honk and an interuption - Batsford Timber arrivd with a roll of Terram.

This was manhandled behind the fence, and in the evening, into the container, together with about a dozen lengths of galvanised pipe for the handrails. These only fit in on the diagonal, and we have to get them out again every time we open up. They're a real nuisance - can we please build the handrails along the path soon?

The strong wind today also rolled back our sponsor's sheet, which we tied back on to the pallets on top. Another job done.

Dave not only cut each slab, but also chiselled away the spalling. That is, until he broke the chisel. Is that even possible? Chisels snap in half? Just how strong are you, Dave?
Not your fault, you say? Yeah, right....

After seeing to both ends and finishing off the northern slope, slab laying moved to the middle, from where we gradually progressed south.

We put in a further 9 slabs today, and reckon that another 11 or 12 are needed. So we are nearly there. One more long day's work should see us compete the slabbing.

We also had a nice bonfire to burn off the broken pallets, and try to dispose of the pile of tree roots that Stevie has piled up at the top of the path.

The isolated slab at the end of the southern slope can be seen bottom left.

Next to the slabbing, three volunteers also decided to tidy up the track. Having correctly exposed the tops of the sleepers, they shovelled the spare ballast up against the platform footings. It looks very neat now.

Here's a curiosity: On a whim, Julian decided to embed a 50p piece into the mortar he had just put into a joint. Will it stay there?

Two others, less generous than Julian (or less rich, they said, Julian having worked in a bank) decided to copy this, and embedded 20p, and the other, a miserly 1p coin. Bet that one survives the longest!

Rumours of a £1 coin being embedded proved groundless, there is a limit, after all.

At the end of the day, Peter took the Telehandler back to its home at Winchcombe. We loaded him up with bearers, which will be needed to support supplies of concrete sleepers when we resume work on the extension. There are reports of a resumption of ballasting at Childswickham as early as next week. (You read it here first!)

Our last, panorama shot shows the platform mid-afternoon. The northern slope is finished, and the slabs now extend about three quarters of the way down the platform. Everyone has stopped working here, and is watching gallant Dave, just to the left of the Telehandler, cut the last slab to shape. He's all white, the brave chap.


  1. Really looking the business now! Anybody been told where another halt is required yet? You have your portfolio. Regards, Paul.

  2. Where's the Terram going, Jo? On the path or along the whole platform under the gravel topping?

    1. Er, dunno, but the great big roll we got (100m) should be able to cover everything.

    2. Thanks. Glad to see such great progress despite the winter season!

  3. Looking excellent now!.I,suppose,after the slabbing,has been done,the next job,will be the concrete base,for the hut?.I'm looking forward to seeing trains,calling there!.I,had a look at the station building,at Broadway,earlier.Won't be long,before they're doing the decorative brickwork,around the top!. Anthony.

    1. Yes, the concrete base should be next, but a pinch point for this is the availability of the digger and driver, off on holiday this week, then busy on the extension.
      Patience! We still have 1 - 2 weeks of slabbing to do, and a host of smaller jobs.

  4. I cant wait for this to be finished, is my waiting room/shed going to have power? (LOL) Seriously though a great job. As for the breaking chisel, probably due to stress of the cold and repeated striking, but keep an eye on him with tools and do not let him near Minnie the Mixer!!! Keep up the good work and a great blog for this site.
    Paul & Marion.

  5. Will you have lamposts at Hayles, I understand theres some spare at Broadway!

    1. If you mean the extracted Kingston on Thames street lamps, no thanks!
      Lighting at Hayles was just two posts with a hook on top for a common hurricane lamp, removed at the end of the day by the last train. They almost never appeared in photographs.