Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Two special trains.

Saturday at Stanley Pontlarge.

Two jobs today, at Stanley Pontlarge and at Toddington. But we managed only the first, as there was more work at Stanley Pontlarge than expected.



It was David's birthday today, and he very kindly treated us to a pretty nice chocolate cake.

We had 15 regular doughnuts for 10 volunteers, as well as 6 luxury ones, so that made about 30 pieces of cake etc between us.

They all went....





 As we ate and sipped our tea there was a strange whistle outside.

You had to be quick to get a short glimpse of BRAVEHEART with the ECS for CRC. Saturday was its first outing.


We piled into the crew cab Transit and the new Ranger, together just about big enough to take all 10 of us.

On site at Stanley Pontlarge we set out the jacks to address a mysterious hump that had appeared by a tree. Strange, normally trees cause a depression, by sucking moisture from the ground.

You can't beat down a hump in the track, but you can lift the area around it, and  make sure that it does not develop into a twist.



 It wasn't long then before 75014 came back with the first train from CRC. It looked quite well filled.


BRAVEHEART negotiating a hump in the track.
You can just about make out the hump in this picture, with the high part under drivers by the tree, and the two low parts just ahead of the bogie, and under the tender.



The doughnuts didn't all get eaten straight away, and we were amused to find some in the ranger on the central console.

It's a recent news item that certain airline pilots aren't allowed to do this...



75014 then came round a second time, leading to a similar picture as the one earlier.

The sky was rather threatening, although we managed to dodge any significant rain until we were safely under the canopy outside the Coffeepot at the end of the afternoon.



Besides removing the hump, for which a fair old time was spent with the Robels, we replaced four sleepers which had been marked with a cross.

The digging did us good. We think.



We had intended to change some sleepers at Toddington as well, but the Robelling of a couple of panels of track, inside and out, on both sides, took rather longer than anticipated, so we had to call it a day mid afternoon, after changing those sleepers as well.

As we were packing up we received a visit from the DMU. This was well patronised, but depending on which way it was going. There was clearly a pattern to the traffic, we think towards Broadway in the morning, and back to CRC in the afternoon. The balance workings then were less busy, it seemed to us.



We dropped back into the yard to put away the tools, and caught the C&W shunter moving wagons from our goods train around. 

That looked quite authentic.







We then holed up outside the Coffeepot to still our thirst, and wait for the traditional crossing of the last trains in front of us.


75014 eventually trundled in, while blowing its rather magnificent whistle. It was very different from a GWR one, but we liked the change.

Standard 75014 draws to a stop at Winchcombe.

Our new visitor paused at Winchcombe in the evening sun.



As we turned around the DMU came in. It was in bright sunshine, but under stormy clouds over the hills.

Look how nicely the Usk hut fits into the scene!




The DMU has to stop to exchange tokens, while steam engines can roll gently by.


Here the signalman is just handing over the token for the next section. It's always an enjoyable scenario. 

Monday - out with a ballast train.

A special on Monday, made possible by a non-running day.

The tamping of the Broadway extension had lifted the track in places to the effect that there was now insufficient ballast in a small number of areas. Monday's train was marshalled to alleviate this.

We set off under a rather gloomy sky with two senior members of our infrastructure team, who went to check out a cutting.

Approaching Stanway viaduct, looking out from the balcony of the Shark.



The class 37 then pushed the two Dogfish and Shark brake van along the extension to the first drop site, an area at Peasebrook farm that was a bit short of ballast after recent tamping.

Prior to doing the drop, we took a static picture of the short little ballast train at Peasebrook.

On the way back your blogger was allowed in the cab of the class 37, which was a first.

This was a case of noisier outside than inside, we found. We like the sound of the Growler bellowing, but it's not very audible inside.

Approaching Stanton Fields, just past the site of Laverton halt

Stanton Fields bridge, a dead end.

Stanton aqueduct.
We had a quick trundle back down the line to Stanton, where Usketeer Dave was waiting with the Telehandler to load up for a second drop. Some of us have several hats on...

Back at Stanton Dave loaded us up. That takes about 30 minutes per Dogfish, so we had at least an hour to kill for each replenishment here. Biscuits helped to kill the time...

Then we were off again, being pushed up the line by the class 37.

More drops were made at Laverton (the picture though is from Peasebrook), so that we pretty much used up all the fresh ballast that was available to us. But we also achieved the back filling of most of the proud standing sleepers that were there.

Finally we trundled back to Toddington, now in steady rain.

In the picture you can see the train approaching the viaduct at Stanway.

A couple of sundry items of interest noticed during the day were:

A pigeon basket, such as were used at Broadway many times in the 1950s. This one was seen at Toddington, and the gang there did well to find it. Wish we had some at Broadway, to re-create the famous picture of pigeon baskets with the Cornishman behind.


The other item was Peckett 'John', out in the yard for once.

It looks almost complete here, but the parts have been assembled to allow travel and to save space.

The bottom end has had a lot of work done on it, and attention now turns to the boiler. It also has a new smokebox frame for the door, which looks impressive.

Tuesday - out dropping rail.

Another special PWay train ran on Tuesday. We're doing all we can while the timetable is weekends only. This time we were dropping off rail, to replace older worn out stock. We had a small crew - 3 PWayers, a guard and two diesel drivers in the class 47.

About to enter Greet tunnel.



We set off from Toddington yard, picked up Paul at Winchcombe, and headed off for the far end of the line.



From the Shark brake van you get a different view of the line for once

Coming out of the gloom and back into sunlight at Greet.

The curve coming out of the tunnel, by the Royal Oak pub.

Gotherington station, seen from a rail supply train. We trundled through at 10mph, but once trains raced through here at up to 70 mph!

Arriving at the RDA - picture by Paul in the class 47.



After a long and very draughty journey we finally arrived at Southam, where we met Walt in the Telehandler by the RDA crossing.

Our lifting beam was on top of the rails, but it was the wrong way round for this site. Walt very elegantly manoeuvered the Telehandler round and round, until the beam was in the correct position for him to insert the forks, and then, finally, lift a rail off.

How to lift the rail off, at the RDA ? Picture by Paul.

The ELK wagon had both FB and Bullhead rail on it, but the one we wanted was under the other. That led to more Telehandler wizzardry, until we were finally able to lift a FB rail and put it on the ground. 

The train was then reversed to the curve just before Southam Lane bridge, where we dropped off a second rail. Matt, guard for the day, and Paul, walk to meet Walt and to discuss the MO here.

As the line changes sides here, the lifting beam was the wrong way round - again!

One of the reasons we are replacing rail is when you find wear marks called 'squats'. These have the potential to become cracks (over many years, mind).

In the picture a precautionary clamp has been attached to the spot where the squat is.

The next rail was dropped off just short of Two Hedges Bridge at Bishop's Cleeve.

Here we discovered an interesting oval cover in the recently cleared undrgrowth. It is held down by no fewer than 12 substantial bolts, and carries a works plate on top of it, unfortunately almost illegible due to its age. What could it be?

The next stop was at Gotherington Skew, at the start of the Dixton straight. You can see Three arch Bridge in the background there.

You won't get through here with that beam like that, Walt!

As we had two drop offs in quick succession, we left the lifting beam attached to the Telehandler. That is possible, but it makes for an awkward drive, like a dog with a very large stick trying to get through a narrow door.

Just joking though - Walt didn't really have to go under Three Arch Bridge, the dropping off point was just there in front. 

Paul's drone captures the drop offpoint at Three Arch bridge.

The foregoing took most of the day (particularly the preparation of beam and rails at the RDA crossing) but by 3 o'clock we were trundling back to Winchcombe, with one more drop to do at Chicken Curve.

On the left is the site of the former navvy town for building the tunnel. Trees have been planted here by our lineside people, you can just make out the stakes. It's part of a larger programme of greening the railway. Another large spinney is being planted on the Cotswolds side of Chicken Curve.

The last pictures shows the last of 6 rails dropped off on Tuesday. This one is at the end of Chicken Curve and it's starting to get dark.

Bye bye from the crew on Tuesday. (Picture by Paul)



Time to go home. The next job will be to actually use these rails to replace the worn out ones in each spot.

Wednesday with the Usketeers.

A lovely warm day! Spring is here. All 5 Usketeers were there, and we got a lot done.


Paul and Jules ponder the next step.




Last time we started with the floor sub base around the outside. Today this had gone off, and we continued with the middle.

Dave waited patiently for Maxie to do her stuff.


Under the oak tree Dave kicked Maxie into life and made a mix for Paul and Jules inside.










An early grey sky soon turned to glorious sun, and we took the executive decision to have a cup of coffee. Outside of course.

Dave treats us to a smile, while Paul dreams of weak mix recipes.
 The bag of doughnuts went round, and also some cupcakes from last week. A bit dry, but still cupcakes.





Today we had a visit from C& W across the tracks, who very kindly agreed to make the window boards for the hut.

This is what the big window looked like without.


The original hut didn't have window boards as such, but some windows had makeshift planks across them. Ours are going to be a bit more purposeful.

Here you can see the main one being tried for size. It isn't easy fitting a window board to the old stone hut, as everything inside is jagged rocks and not at all straight. The board went back to have 3/8ths trimmed off, but then it was good to go. Thanks guys! We will do a final fit with some mortar underneath in due course.


Outside Dave and John pondered how to get Maxie going again. She still sputters from time to time after the long winter hibernation.

Should we hit her with a stick like Fawlty, or maybe a shovel.....?

Then Fairview came with some long awaited cement. We need a lot in the floor.

Small world - the father of the driver was a relief signalman in the area, and the pictures he took from various boxes are featuring in 'The Cornishman' magazine.

Thanks, John!

The sub floor was coming on great, and with the extra cement we were able to keep going.

Paul and Jules inside drew the floor level, using the outer rim we poured last week.

Around lunch time we completed the sub floor. Dave spooned in the last few shovelfuls, and then all that remained to be done was for Jules to write 'Welcome' in the wet cement.

(You won't see that of course when the floor is finished)




Finishing that went faster than we thought, and at lunch we mused about what to do in the afternoon.

We decided to go for it, and start laying slabs. The start would be on last week's section anyway, and that has hardened.

We started with a small slab in the corner, to get the height correct.


On the other side of the room Paul put in another section of slab, which is temporary. This will act as our guide that all the slabs will be the same height, by the use of a cross level.

In this next picture you can see Paul making sure that the second slab is level.

By laying a plank edge-on across that and any other slab, you can check the level of the floor you are laying.

Another trick that Paul had up his sleeve is to coat the underside of the slab with a slurry of cement. This makes the slab sticky, it adheres better to the mortar that goes underneath.

At the end of the day we had laid one row of slabs under the big window.

Jules is standing on a white conduit that we laid across the room, so that an electrical cable can be passed through it discretely.

On the window cill is a cardboard roll. This was brought in by a volunteer who was involved with retrieving and rebuilding the Henley in Arden footbridge at Broadway. It contains a copy of an original GWR drawing of the complete footbridge.

This is what it looks like unrolled. The copy was ordered from NR at some expense, and is printed on high quality paper. The scale is 1/2inch to the foot.


If anyone is interested in acquiring it we will let it go for a donation. Send us a message via the contact form on the right at the top of the blog.