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.


  1. What a fantastic job all the team have done. Congratulations to all involved.

  2. Thank you for all of the teams effort with this very worth while project. I am going to miss this blog, I hope you have a new project soon to keep us all enthralled, better than any soap opera.

  3. I am very impressed with the finish at Hayles Abbey Halt. It is its own monument to you ALL. Regards, Paul.

  4. As 1450 is staying on for 10/11 June can we use it to catch the train to Hayles? Graham

  5. And they all lived happily ever after, until the next time...
    You have all recreated a little gem here in this corner of an English field. With heritage railways, for me, engines and carriages are all very well, but it is the atmosphere that matters, and that is so often overlooked in The pursuit of commercial gain. The railway is all the richer for this small, but perfectly formed stage set. A place of dreams on a sunny day.
    Congratulations to you all, and I'm really looking forward to the next one! Any ideas yet?
    Best wishes, Mark.

  6. Congratulations to you all for an excellent job well done.
    Paul K

  7. Popped down to the halt yesterday, very imprested excellent workmanship aswell and fantastic location.

  8. Congratulations all team. Fantastic job.

  9. Fantastic job - well done to the team!

  10. Jo, once gain a great report, read with a little sadness that we can't be there for the official opening and to meet the team, also that this is the last but one report for the Hayles Abbey Herald. The team and the site deserve some sort of award for the work they have done to bring this project to conclusion, any blog readers out there should write to the railway magazines about what has been done here. The pictures are perfect and when we visit in June we will be stopping at the halt to see this in the flesh. Even if it looks half as good as the pictures this is still a great effort, it looks timeless, as if it never went away. Maybe the next series of Father Brown will use this as a set for one of the programme's.
    So Jo, what next? whatever and wherever the team end up, they will still perform to the high standard they have achieved here. A fantastic job by all, but questions need to be answered, What are the team going to work on next, will Lucky the Dalmatian survive without his regular supply of doughnuts and bacon butties, where will Minnie the mixer be used or abused next, will the team be broken up and scattered along the line. What will happen to the Hayles Abbey Herald, will it be taken over by the Toddington Times or the Broadway News? So we look, with some sadness to the next and final report from Hayles Abbey Herald, but joy at the conclusion to a great project.
    Paul & Marion.

  11. You really have created a little gem,of a halt,there!.I,know,it's a bit longer,but it's true to the original!.I,hope that it's well used,by the public!.I'm loking forward to hearing about your next project. Anthony.

  12. Brilliant job. Congratulations to all those who have been involved. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching your blog whenever its been uodated. Can't wait for your next project.

  13. greetings from Cornwall , the Bench looks great and secure ,see you all on Monday for the opening ceremony - Green jacket and GWR tie ? john M.

  14. Oh. By the way. BR would have left the left over building materials on the other side of the tracks to gently blend in with the landscape (which it never really did). Another well done from me also in Cornwall ( hence my handle - why St Blazey 1925, you may ask? Well, as I live virtually opposite the former St Blazey station - Platforms and signal box only remain of it. 1925 was the last year that a passenger train was timetabled to call at St Blazey station. Now you all know). Regards, and looking forward to reading about your next project, Paul. St Blazey 1925.

    1. My one meory of St Blazey, through which I travelled a month ago, was of an awkward L/C and a row of average speed cameras :-(

    2. Yes. I live about 20 yards away from there and have a coach yard for a view! Regards, Paul.

  15. The halt looks splendid. A great achievement. I reckon after it's 'weathered in' for a year or so it'll look like it was never demolished in the first place. Good work!

    There's a famous photograph of an auto-train braking to a stop at Hayles Abbey Halt, with water sloshing out of the tanks (presumably after a fill-up at Toddington). Now it's possible to recreate that picture. Photo charter, anyone?

  16. This project has been a total triumph and a credit to all involved. Very many congratulations. Can't wait for your next one!