Wednesday, 29 January 2014

An extra day today - we needed to collect the 1000 odd blue bricks from beyond the signal box, and while Fairview was there, also collect a supply of small slabs for Broadway.

First, the slabs:
If we throw it, will you catch it?
A delegation of 4 was drummed together at Broadway, would they please go down to CRC2 to help with loading. They piled into a VW Golf and sped off.
The slabs are in a stack half way down the 220m platform; the Fairview lorry is by the signal box. Hmmmmm.

The answer to the puzzle was two of the new scaffleboards and the PWay trolley. Here we see Steve B, Terry A, Keith S and Rod W on the spot with the 'sliding team' . It worked OK !

That's 400 reds moved over the wall.
 Next, Bob W and John O spent a useful half day, while already on site, laying two extra courses of blues on section 6, so giving the Gloucester lads the opportunity of doing some backing up in reds when they next come. A further course was laid on the 4th section, and corbelling can now commence here. Finally, Bob and John laid half a course of blues on section 5.

All this laying of blues exposed the fact that there were insufficient reds stacked at the workface, so our 4 intrepid lads from Broadway moved a trolley full down from further along.

Lift this pallet of blues on - it's too old, Richard! The rest had to be done by hand.

Then back to the box to load all the slabs and recovered blues on to the Fairview lorry for onward transport to Broadway - we are in desperate need of blues there, not only for the gaps in the two platforms by the box, but also for the two further 20m platform extensions that were agreed today - see the Broadway Blog for more details of this.
Yes, the d****d pallet broke, now we have to load 400 blues by hand!
2 dumpy bags still remain on site to be moved.

A productive day - not just a lorry load of material recovered, but blues laid as well.
Back on Monday !

Monday, 27 January 2014

A nice and bright day today. Bob, John O and Paul C got going straight away with laying blues. By the time yours truly arrived on site at 08.30, the third barrow of mortar was already being wheeled down the tracks. These people are keen !
After calling in at Winchcombe, John C arrived with his pickup and a further supply of scaffolding boards. These we put behind the current working sections, to keep the brick layers' feet dry. But slowly, we are working our way out of the wet part in the southernmost section of the site. The northern end is pretty dry.
Brian builds a platform of scaffolding boards to keep our feet dry. 60m section in the foreground.
One of our objectives today was to prepare the next, 70m section for its first course of bricks. As our followers may know, the platform is being built on both the original brick foundations, as well as a new concrete ons behind. To make it interesting, the brick foundations slowly rise on a slope, whereas the concrete ones go up in steps. Tricky to combine the two! To prepare the next section for its first course we had to take off any remaining mortar from the brick foundations. John C had very kindly brought his Hilti and this was just the right tool for the job.
So you thought you could just start laying bricks, eh?
This Hilti job emitted quite a bit of noise, so standing by it to introduce a new recruit wasn't the best choice of location...
John O gives new recruit Derek a tour of the site, while Brian rattles away
As promised last week, the Gloucester college lads came back, and their job today was to lay the first course of blues on the new 70m section, which Brian had prepared for them. The college lads are quite keen on a bit of practical experience, as most of their training is indoors. Only once you are on the job in the drizzle do you learn, from newly acquired experience, that mortar applied to a wet brick won't stick !

Luke explains that the lads need 40hrs of practical experience, and that thanks to us, he already has 20hrs under his belt. The others lay the first course of blues at 70m.

Another experience made by the Gloucester lads on site is that mortar is very heavy. Previously we had always supplied them with fresh barrow loads, but this time we thought we'd let them have a go too.
The long drag..... (no trains running of course!)

Of course the BAG members thought of a new wheeze to ease the pain of barrowing mortar down the site - stick the barrow on a PWay trolley! Brilliant ! 65 year old minds remain sharp as razor blades, oh yes.
The problem is that these trolleys have a brake lever you have to hold down to keep the thing rolling. If you ever let go, it comes to a dead stop. But the muck does not, alas. Drat !

Finally, a view over the work site as we left it at the end of the day.. Completed are sections 10, 20 and 30m. We added two courses to sections 40m and 50m today. The new 70m section is in the right foreground, with the foundations row of blues complete.
CRC2 in the rain.
A cloudburst came at 14.30, but the brick layers were already pointing their work, so we gathered up our tools, albeit in the rain. Brian reports that with the Hilti he has reached the half way marker at 110m, so one more day should see us finish this job of preparation.
Exceptionally, Bob W and John O will be working this Wednesday. Fairview will pick up the imperials we have recovered, and they will use this opportunity to put some more blues on.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

OK, I said I'd post some finds out of my diggings at Broadway. The last few days I've been washing, laying out and trying to fit some of the bits together. All different so far !

The origin of the porcelain is not the ditch where the bottles were (mostly) found, but the embankment opposite the goods shed at Broadway. The top and sides of the embankment are covered in a one foot thick layer of locomotive ash. As we were loading this manually into our trusty little dumper, we noticed little bits of white porcelain appear in the black ash. Eventually, one appeared with a GWR crest on it. Wow! What is this then? From then on, our eyes were peeled for other pieces of china, and eventually we had a hat full.

On Wednesday I returned for another go. Having picked up all the bits off the surface, I dug over the ground with a pickaxe and picked up a lot more. It is this second lot that has delayed my posting about the finds.

To get the ball rolling, this image:

We know that it's a half pint milk bottle from Job's dairy, in an old design. There is quite a lot of information about Job's on the net, but my question is, with the nearest dairy in Didcot, how did it get to a pile of ash in Broadway? Also, how long was this design of bottle in use? The ash layer is principally in the area of the westernmost siding (it's quadruple track outside the goods shed) and with the other bits we've been finding there, a1930's theme seems to be emerging.

Second question - what was this? Most of the scraps of porcelain were GWR, but not this one. It looks like the rim of a cup or similar. The first letter can just me made out as a 'B' - is that Bristol? Surely not Bristol and Exeter ?

Any ideas?

Monday, 20 January 2014

An ice cold start today, with minus 2.5 degrees on the thermometer as we arrived at CRC. The water buckets left behind were iced up, and the site was once again waterlogged, just like the WW1 trenches. Brick laying looked unlikely under the circumstances - a pity, since JC was back from his escapade to San Diego with the Rotary Club, and Peter Q was all geared up to do backing up. What to do? First things first, we needed top do something about all the water underfoot. We dug a series of sink holes, into which the water was swept and from which we could scoop it out with a bucket for disposal in the central track drain.
John O bails us out
This picture shows the conditions well - water and mud everywhere, and polythene sheeting on top of the partly built wall to keep the work and stock of new bricks dry.

Then Fairview arrived with a welcome delivery of 5 tons of sand, 10 bags of cement and 140 concrete blocks. One pallet of blocks went on the PWay trolley and was unloaded at the workface. By this time we were all fired up, and the air temperature was above zero. Our hands had stopped hurting from the cold - could we dare lay any blocks? The consensus was yes! And then the Gloucester lads turned up - could we lay any reds? Yes ! Before you knew it, there were two teams laying on the 50 and 60 meter sections, the BAG team on blocks at 50m and the Gloucester lads backing up their own section at 60m.
Bob and John lay the blocks, while John S is relieved to have successfully discharged another load of muck after his 200yd walk.
John O, who arrived at the impressively early time of 7.20 am, was completely rushed off his feet with a stream of requests for more and more mortar, which John and Brian couldn't barrow down fast enough. We laid a full section of 90 blocks, secured them with mortar, and then laid two courses of reds on top, just for good measure.
The 5 lads from Gloucester college working on their own section. Well done, lads ! The setting out for the next section is just visible beyond.
On the next section at 60m, Martin Reays and his Gloucester lads did extremely well, and also laid two courses of reds. We were so pleased, we set out the next section, at the 70m mark, and it was agreed that this would be their next challenge a week from today, when they will return.

Mid morning we received the visit of Tracy, the schools liaison officer from Gloucester college, who came to take some pictures of the work her lads were doing. These pictures will be used during schools visits to illustrate what the college does.
We liked the boots - do they have steel toecaps though?
Finally, we retrieved a final pallet of blues from beyond the signal box. That makes 3 pallets and 3 dumpy bags ready for collection, for use at Broadway.

Given the cold and wet weather (despite the sun mid -day, it actually rained while the sun shone) we were unable to lay any blues, but we were very pleased indeed with the progress made. More next Monday, with a start on the 70m section. That's one third of the way there...
A final view of the site as we left it today - new setting out mark in the foreground.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

From time to time we find old bottles at Broadway. These give a fascinating glimpse into the past. Often, the origin or purpose of the bottle is clear, such as the one we found a couple of weeks ago: THE CHELTENHAM ORIGINAL BREWERY LTD. A search on the web quickly tells us that this bottle dates from a period before 1945, so is already pretty old. And the purpose is clear: it contained beer !

But what about this one:
It is marked: G.BREARLEY and underneath, EVESHAM. The top is quite wide. There is nothing about the name on the net. A few locals we consulted smiled in recognition of the name, but couldn't remember much about it. Can any of our readers provide some information? It's great to find a bottle at Broadway with such clear local associations, and now that we have 5 or 6 already, it seems a nice idea to put them in a display cabinet at the station with a little explanation on each.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Monday 13th January 2014

Seven people at CRC2 today, a day of blue skies all round and when yours truly arrived at the early hour of 08.30 Bob W and John O were already hard at work, with a barrow of mix on site and a couple of dozen blues already laid. Must get out of bed earlier! (or live in Cheltenham, as these two earlybirds)
Bob finishing a row of blues at the 40m mark
We have now passed the 30m mark, completed to corbelling, and today added two rows of blues to the 40 and 50m stretches.
We were honoured by a visit from the Chairman. The waterlogged site is apparent, with scaffolding boards laid down to keep our feet dry. Worn out boots suck up a surprising amount of water!
Just before lunch Bob used up the remaining mortar to back up in reds, and a degree of urgency developed as the skies began to turn black and we knew the rain  was coming.
Bob does his own backing up - our chief backer-up has jetted off to the sun - and in the background the fully completed 30m section is apparent
At the northern end of the site Brian, Vic and your scribe had a PWay trolley out to retrieve a cache of imperial Brindles dumped along the trackbed, we think set aside from the demolition of the original, leaning, platform. This is just what we need for Broadway where we are still short of blues. A CRC, we are laying metrics, and the two are not compatible.
Brian returns with a trolley full of imperial blues, found in the brambles beyond the signal box
So who's going to come and help me stack these then?
All in all, we retrieved about 1000 blue Imperials, which we stacked by the gate on two pallets and in three dumpy bags, ready for collection as a return load with Fairview.

Finally, a shot of the CRC bracket signal, which is the same as the one that might go up at Broadway, if sponsorship can be found. It's not crooked; the camera angle and wide angle distort the post.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Monday 6th January 2014 at CRC2

A day of reds

6 people at CRC, and a productive day. Two brick layers on this ‘red’ day – not red letter, but red bricks. We spent the whole day laying reds, i.e. backing up the blues laid last Thursday.

John O washing the blues - yes, washing them. Only 49.999 to go...

This process is rather faster than laying blues, so lots of mortar was barrowed up and consumed, and three sections had bricks added to them: section 4 had a short row of reds added to finish this section off, section 5 had 3 rows of reds added, and section 6, only just started, had one row of reds added to it.

It was a very breezy day, with heavy showers forecast, but in fact we saw only one, during which we had our tea. When we re-emerged from the gloom of the windowless cabin, the sun was shining brightly. The site was very waterlogged once again, and some time was devoted to re-arranging the scaffolding planks in the bottom of the ‘trenches’ so that the brick layers stood in the dry. We do need to pamper them.

In the afternoon a pile of Brindles was investigated north of the signal box. This was spotted by John C some time ago, and our visit confirmed they were 3 inch Brindles in good condition, presumably formerly in the old platform 2. There are several pallets’ worth to collect. We made a start with one trolley load, but the work is heavy going and it will take several days before all are stacked near the gate ready for transport to Broadway. They will need very little cleaning.