Friday, 16 June 2017

Fame at last

The Beeb came round to see us on June 5th, so Hayles Abbey halt has become famous.

Here's the clip, in case you haven't seen it:

Three of our volunteers were interviewed. We've decided to go for another closing lunch at the fruit farm tea room, just to celebrate.

Such fun we had.

Really good to see the railway has benefited from the publicity too.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Now it's in use

Hayles Abbey halt - on an ordinary operating day...

This train didn't stop there, it's a steamer - DMUs only this season. But you can still take photographs of them. Sadly, the steamers shut off just before the bridge, so drift by until Toddington.

But we came here to see 1450 and W238W CHAFFINCH one last time. The auto coach was kept in the 'Parlour Road' at Toddington during its wonderful stay with us.

Here it is being retrieved, and shunted into platform 1 for the first service of the day, two trips up the extension to Little Buckland. It even says 'BROADWAY' on the destination board.

Before you write in to report a broken rail on the left... You know how you find a place in a line of guys to take a photograph? You position yourself so that no one is in your line of sight, give everybody a bit of room. Then, just as you press the shutter release, your neighbour raises a hand...

Yes, I confess, I photoshopped it away. However, Photoshop then substituted it for another piece of rail...

Shotly afterwards 1450 pushed the auto coach up the line to Little Buckland. This was a rare experience, to sit in our own 'Coffeepot'. Having seen several grainy B&W photographs of the actual Coffepot service in the 1950's, here was an unexpected chance to see what it was really like. It was big inside, roomy. There was a family atmosphere about, like the sharing of an experience. Behind the glass window the driver pushed and pulled at the regulator, trying to get the right position for the speed required. Bells and whistles were sounded. Once we got the right amount of steam on, we motored along quite happily, until all too soon the new stop board appeared.

If you'd like to know what it was like from the first row, as it were, here is a video of the first trip on Sunday, the last day of operation of 1450 and the auto coach with us. Then they went back home.

After the second trip up to Little Buckland, the 'Coffepot' did what we at Hayles have been building up for. It drifted down from Toddington, and came to a silent stop. No water sloshing out here, but otherwise this scene is now a very close copy of the famous B&W picture taken just before the end of stopping services. We modelled the whole halt on it.

After a brief pause, the Coffepot moved off again.

Did anyone get off, actually use the halt?


To be honest though, we didn't build this halt to boost the passenger numbers, but to recreate the past, following the GWR Trust's mission 'To build and maintain a railway museum for the benefit of the public'. But if we can generate more interest, and a few more ticket sales along with it, that would be great. And there is more interest. For one thing, the bridge is a great place to photograph our trains, before or after you have taken a trip on the railway. It's a reason to come and see us.

You can even take a passing shot, as 1450 accelerates away towards Winchcombe, where it would reverse.

Now the halt has fallen silent again, except for the twittering of the skylarks.

We still haven't quite finished pimping and polishing our little halt. One of the things that were missing was a seat inside the shelter. This is a replica, home made using bench ends supplied by one of our sponsors, GWR Benches at Moreton. Its a 'triple', which is how these benches were originally constructed. The 'doubles' came much later, and are less authentic.

We thought we'd just sling it on the back of the truck, but - mistake! These things are heavy. Six of us groaned as we lifted first one end on, then the other. Fingers were crossed that we would actually get it into the shelter, as we knew it was a tight fit. Let's see.

What do you mean, you can only see five heads? Well, someone had to take the picture, it was only for a moment, then we heaved that thing down the slope.

Their faces do look rather rosy with the effort.

Here it is, a GWR bench installed in the GWR shelter. It did fit after all, phew. No schoolboy carving of romances on it though, please.

Of course, we had to test it thoroughly. It passed!

Faces less pink already.

We'll stay in touch from time to time to let you know what we are up to. Most of us are also members of the track gang, so tomorrow we will do what track gangs do: lay track! Got to get the rail that was delivered yesterday on to those sleepers laid out last week, then we can move the supply train up.

Monday, 5 June 2017

The official opening

Sixty invited guests came today to see what 12 men had built: a perfect heritage copy of the original 1928 GWR halt at Hayles Abbey.

And what better way to celebrate this wonderful moment, than with an original 'Coffeepot' in the form of GWR 1450 and its own auto coach 'CHAFFINCH'.

Here's the 14xx pulling out of the Parlour road at Toddington.

The Gods were angry with us:

''You have stopped eating doughnuts!
You shall have rain!!!''

And we did. No matter, we had a very successful launch, and a lot of fun on the way.

While the Hayles gang and the 60 invitees were sipping tea and coffee in the Flag & Whistle, the auto train hissed and dripped away quietly in the platform at Toddington. This then is quite an authentic scene, the local stopping train from the 1950s, no passengers, two or three staff in a huddle on the platform.

In a year or so, we should be able to do this again at Broadway. Or would it be even more interesting to have a Railmotor visit us next time?

The driving compartment in the trailer was quite interesting. 

While the fireman stands on the loco behind, the driver at this end actually has a regulator to operate. Amazing, the sort of linkage that must be required from the ceiling here, down the end wall, along under the floor, across the gap between the buffing and drawing gear, under the bunker and back up to the top of the boiler in the cab.

Further down is a picture of a driver actually operating this regulator handle. 

The auto coach had a surprising seating capacity, and the whole crowd did indeed just about fit in. There was a great air of jollity, typefied by the happy faces of the Hayles gang sitting front left.

More of us on the right hand side.
And where are we going to next, guys? They knew the answer in a flash !

(interesting to see that the autocoach was already equipped for this next destination, we borrowed the destination board from the driver's compartment...)

The Gods now started to smile upon us a little bit, as the rain let off as we arrived at Hayles. 

Maxine had prepared a lovely piece of velvet curtain, just for the event.

Lord Wemyss of Stanway House, our neighbour, gave us a very congratulatory speech. Then came the big reveal. A tug, and:


Newspapers, television, radio, and our very own house photographers in the foreground came to witness the scene. Hayles Abbey halt is back! Hail the driver from the platform, or tell the guard if aboard, any DMU operated train will stop for you here from now on.

To the delight of the photographers, we then played around with the train a little, letting it reverse back, come back in to stop, and pull away forwards and come back again.

They're all up there, those photters. When will they pretend to run in with the auto train? Will the tanks overflow again? (sadly not, although a sharp stop was attempted the first time)

Here's the train just pulling into the halt, after receiving a request to stop from a small group of waiting passengers.

Want to see that again? Here we are near the new running in board, whistle blowing. Those big 12 inch letters look like one inch ones from here. This is pretty authentic, isn't it? Didn't we do well?

Now the auto train is stopped at the halt, and a lone passenger starts to walk up the ramp. The fireman looks on,while the guard has gone off to chat with someone at the rear.

There's no hurry.

Finally, the auto train sets off for Winchcombe. One of our neighbours here did this every day in the 1950s, to go to school in Cheltenham. We invited him to the opening too.

Ah yes, how does the driver work the regulator from his little seat?

Well, he doesn't really use that seat, this regulator is just as stiff as the one on an old freight loco, so you have to get up and shove it hard, with both hands.

After a return journey to Little Buckland, our party was treated to a super sit down lunch in the Flag & Whistle, a great conclusion to a great day.

We were delighted to hear the chairman of our trust remind us of our objective:

'To build and maintain a railway museum for the benefit of the public - fence to fence, buffer stop to buffer stop'.

Well said. What else can we do to improve our heritage here? The Hayles gang is up for it.


Two more pictures received from Malcolm Ranieri, who was kind enough to give permission to use them on this blog:

After the unveiling of the running in board, Tim Bazely (head of our Heritage Group) stands proudly with the Mayor of Cheltenham, and Lord Wemyss.

The Hayles Abbey halt gang. Thanks, Malcolm, for once your blogger is in the picture.