Tuesday, 30 May 2017

The last doughnut

There was an air of nostalgia about us today, this last working day on the Hayles Abbey halt project.
There was a good team of 11 on the site, and we met early. We had finished our tea and doughnuts on the platform by the time Lucky came galoomphing down the slope, and a quick nasal survey of the area told him that the doughnuts had all gone.

How people come to work at Hayles,  by car and - by Telehandler. Park it over there with the others please.
There was a small number of outstanding jobs, and otherwise it was site clearance day. We need to have it nice and neat for the opening next Monday.
Dave had scraped together half a dumpy bag of ballast, and for one last time Minnie the Mixer was coaxed into life. She didn't like being touched by new people, and ran obstinately at a snail's pace. Your blogger had to move a secret lever from 'Tortoise' to 'Hare' and then she obliged with a happy chuntering. This made us a couple of barrow loads of weak mix, with which we finished off concreting in the fence posts.

Here's what the pathway now looks like, with all the posts in, and their foundations hidden by chippings and earth.

Jim H made a useful noticeboard for those contemplating the use of the halt.

If you want to know what it says, you'll have to click on the picture for an enlargement.

It says the halt opens on June 6th, so we are definitely off! Only the DMU will stop though.

Site clearance then. The Telehandler was brought up from Winchcombe so that we could load the heavier items still left on site. The first bit was our water container. You might say, why not drain the water out and lift it by hand, but we still needed that water for a while.

Jim G and Paul watch the goings on with the water container. We need that area to place the new bench, at the top of the slope.

And here comes that bench. There were complaints from the gang of 4 that walked it to the neighbours house for storage last week, so to get it back we used hydraulics.

Where would you like it, sir?

After the water container came the remains of the sand and ballast. They can best be used up by B&S at Winchcombe, so the Transit was loaded and dispatched southwards.

Today was a running day - hooray! - so there was plenty of train action. Here's Foremarke Hall accelerating away past the halt.
The trains today were well filled, which was good to see, even the DMU. Mrs. Blogger says it's because of the school holidays, and grandparents needing somewhere to occupy the kids. We can take care of that.

After a while, Foremarke Hall rumbled past in the other direction, tender first. If you were a passenger waiting in our new shelter, this is what you'd see.

Once the Transit had returned from Winchcombe, it was used to take the remaining blocks and blue bricks, this time going via the trackbed. The site is starting to look very neat and tidy now.

What do you think of this then? We're pretty much finished now, just a little bit of last minute fettling of the shelter. We put some expanding foam under the eaves at the end, as the the prevailing southerly wind is driving the rain in that way. The grass is growing well (so are the weeds) thanks to the recent rain we've had, especially last night. Rick gave the whole area a good strimming.

With the removal of the container, our tea making facilities have reduced to the most basic level (one tiny burner, placed on the concrete inside the shelter) and the sausage rolls have ceased altogether.
Our teapot and saucers have sat in the container off-site for a fortnight and are less fresh than they might be. Paul is giving them a good clean here.

Then it's lunch on the platform. We now have a first row seat of the passing trains, so we wave cheerily to driver John and his passengers.

After lunch, it's a bit of plane spotting. We seem to be on one of their 'routes' and had several interesting ones today.

The first one was this Chinook. See how it hopped over the Cotswolds edge, and then hugged the terrain down into the Evesham Vale.

It flew quite close to us too, you can see right through it here.

Behind is Cleeve Hill.

An Apache flew the other way, also close to the ground, but this one had to pull back to rise up over the Cotswold Edge, where the Chinook had come from.

Then finally, a pair of Hercules', also low, and doing a graceful bank round Dumbleton hill.

After lunch, Foremarke Hall steamed by again. This would be a pretty good picture, if we hadn't all parked our cars along the fence.

Last week we fitted the hooks on to the lamp posts, and this week Jim G brought the actual Hurricane lamps.

This is what the arrangement looks like. In real life, the lamps were very rarely caught by the camera, we know of only a single picture where you can make one out, barely.

It's all a bit flimsy, but the GWR built this halt cheaply, and these lamps were only hung up during the hours of darkness, being brought out from the station responsible for the halt (Toddington).

What does one look like? It's like this. An ordinary Hurricane lamp, with G.W.R., a number and the name of the station painted on. Jim G did all that, didn't he do well?

We are not going to bring those lamps out every time it gets dark, so we have opted to attach them permanently to the hooks, so that they are not easily removed. In any case, they are cheap to buy - only £5 each! So not really worth the effort of bringing a ladder to steal one.

One of the jobs was to extend the hand rail at the top into a fence. Here Paul is giving it a coat of dark woodstain.

Inside the shelter the 3 notice boards made by Jim H have gone up. They are really neat. So that you can see what the notices say, we have photographed them for you below:

What a great map, to show you where the abbey is.

The board on the left.
The board on the right gives pictures of what we did, as a construction record for the curious vistor, while the one on the left honours our principal sponsor and gives a brief history of the halt, with an old timetable as an example of the service that was provided up to 7th March 1960.

At the northern end is the new running in board, manufactured by our own Buildings and Services department, using partly original and partly reproduction cast letters. They have been secured with one way screws.
We have covered the board up with a piece of Terram for the grand unveiling on Monday, but the rain has made it rather transparent!
Now you can see why one of the posts was taller than the other.

Once again, Foremarke Hall steamed by with an open regulator. She has managed to hide the Terram covered running in board, and the plastic chairs set out for lunch, but you can still see our cars and the ladder used to clean off the sealant foam.
In a couple of weeks all the unwanted baggage here will be gone, and you should be able to take a photograph of this site just like the historical ones from before 1960. Just like the real thing.

Please note that you should not park your car in the entrance to Hayles Abbey halt. It is in very regular use by large agricultural machinery, and the farmer would have a very dim view if he found his passage blocked. In addition, part of it is the reserved parking area for our neighbour, who would also be unhappy if he found it occupied.

The last job of the day was to locate the new GWR style bench at the top of the slope.

The bench is pretty heavy (hence the complaints from the 4 that walked it to our neighbour) but just in case we have also bolted it to 4 concrete filled concrete blocks. It's all underground, you can't see it, and the area has also been seeded with grass.

Here it is in place. Even if you don't want to catch the train, you can sit here and enjoy the view.
That grass will  need mowing from time to time, so we hope someone can be persuaded to take this on.

And finally...

It's a big cheer from us, to you, our blog watchers. Perhaps you have also helped us with a donation to the GWR Trust, because without your contributions our little heritage recreation would not have been possible.

We have shown that the GWSR has the skills to create an attractive heritage project, on time, and within budget, and with a very reasonable outlay. We could do more.

Next Monday then is the official opening, an invitation only event for a limited number of people, but one which will be reported on the blog, so you won't miss a thing.

Monday, 22 May 2017

The last two furlongs

Just one more working day to go - next Tuesday, although people may pop in between times for odd jobs.

The big news is this:

Picture by Alan Miller
The container has gone! Surely a sign that we are nearing completion. It was taken away last week, on the day the Broadway signals were planted - this saved us some money, as the crane lorry was already on hire.

It's bad news though for those hoping to sit on the 'patio' and also have sausage tiger rolls for lunch. It's over chaps, we'll have to wait until the next project.

So where to have tea now?

Well, we set up camp on the platform, down by the shelter, on a baking hot day.

We thought Lucky the Dalmatian would never find us down here, but alas.

Lucky found us alright, and made a bee-line to Paul.

Now, dog, let me eat my doughnut in peace.

Some hope. An intense stare was focussed on the doughnut owner. It worked.

We had a large crowd today. In fact a visiting head of Pway today remarked that this gang was bigger than his, laying the extension! It must be the sun, and the fine food that we enjoy here.

The main job today was to finish off the post and rail fence from one GWR bridge rail corner post to the other, by the road. Here Rick is excavating one of the post holes.

During our diggings, we found what we take to be the rusty catch from the original gate that was here up to 1960. Paul is holding it up for you to see.

It was a bit further down than the spot we have chosen for our gate, but we got it nearly right.

As the row of posts for our replacement fence goes in, another group was filling barrows with chippings, which were taken down to the platform for a bit more infill. We need to get rid of this pile, it's in the way of the path to the gate.

Down on the platform, Rick is levelling the barrow loads that are being brought down.

Isn't the shelter looking nice?

Here's a look inside, after a day's painting by Jim H and Dave P.

They have completed all the angle ironwork now, and the three notice boards have been put up.

The notice in the corner is this one. Isn't it great? It thanks our principal sponsor BPS, and has three 'time lapse' photographs of the halt through the ages. Great pictures. More notices are still being made.

As the container goes, another arrival was greeted today: A replica GWR bench with scripted ends, donated by GWR Benches Ltd of Moreton in Marsh.

We are very grateful, thank you!

The bench will be positioned at the top of the slope, the exact spot is being debated at the moment. The bench found immediate use too.

We didn't have quite enough chairs for our lunch, so two of us stayed at the top and picnicked on it, the rest of us were on the platform and had a fine time with our sandwiches in the sun.

After lunch we were investigated by this enormous Merlin helicopter. It flew by, banked, dropped down, then passed us slowly at treetop height.

Hi there, chaps !

Julian tidied up the outside of the shelter, and by his feet you see the neat noticeboard made by Jim H. It really is a 'tour de force', well done Jim!

The board was later put up inside, and it will display the tale of the rebuilding of Hayles Abbey Halt.

Yours truly put up the Hurricane lamp hooks on the lamp holder posts. They were made by Neal in the loco dept. and look just right. This one sits on top of a little lead cap, fashioned by Julian, to stop the rain getting in from above. This post should last quite a while. Of course it is held off the wet ground by the grandpa post below.
The running in board is almost ready, and will arrive on Wednesday. We're going to put a sheet over it, so you can't see it until it is unveiled on June 5th.

Then, another low level fly by - two C130 Hercules transports. What is so fascinating about us?

Up at the top, the post and rail fence is nearly ready. We've discovered a drawback - it's now a much longer walk for us if we want to get anything. Now we have to go through the gate.

At the road end, the post and rail fence was nearing its completion. The last rails are being nailed on, and the GWR bridge rail end post has been painted black. While doing this, we noticed some faint inscriptions on it:

DOWLAIS STEEL, as part of the rolled rail, and VII  LXXXII hammered into the foot afterwards with something like a chisel. We think this is a reference to the date that the rail was turned into a fence post. (August 1882, 10 years before the end of the broad gauge)

It got very hot today, and at some point a loud voice said 'let's get some ice lollies for all of us' so Jim G vanished for a few minutes up to the Fruit Farm to get 12 lollies. Here we are enjoying this piece of luxury, seated on the new bench (which has disappeared under this large number of volunteers).

The first lolly went to the man who had the brainwave - our very own Paul.

Oddly enough, the hottest people wern't those working under the sun, but Jim H and Dave P inside the shelter. It was a sauna in there, and yet it has no doors. The wonders of corrugated iron.

Here Dave is repairing the putty on the glass in the southern window, which used to leak. No more.

Towards the end of the day, and with the floor of the shelter still awaiting a coat of sealant, it was decided to 'park' the new bench with a friendly neighbour two doors away. That bench is heavy... nonethless, the railway has suffered thefts before (benches were stolen from CRC in the past) so this one will be securely bolted to the ground next time.

There was ballasting on the extension today, and at the same time the 400 sleepers we had stacked on Saturday were loaded at Gotherington on to the two bogie bolsters and Conflat.

Actually, it was 360 sleepers loaded, the Conflat was only half filled.

Here the Class 73 pushes the loaded supply train past Hayles towards Toddington. Later on, they were propelled out to the extension, for further track laying later this week.

In other news...

The canopy parts for Broadway are now just about ready. Today they were stacked outside in the car park, after pairs of fascia boards were joined together to make fewer, but longer fascia boards.

One GWR station canopy, please.
Here the major parts are all laid out in the Toddington car park. Purlins on the right, then the fascia boards, 6 trusses and on the left, the ridge purlins with their arches. Everything is rivetted up, a great effort by the members of the loco dept. A brilliant job, this will look great and earn us a lot of respect.

A trial assembly is next, after the gala has taken place, and the space in the car park can be taken up without hindrance.