Monday, 29 September 2014

We arrived on site today with bated breath - were the caravans still there? They had - gone ! Phew.... We were all ready for a giant tidy up session, recovering the bricks that had been scattered about the field, but, oh joy, some kind people had already done that, and stacked the bricks on our side of the fence. Thanks, guys ! The big stone block was also back in front of the gate by which the caravans had gained entry, so all is well again.
This left us with just 1 1/2 pallets of bricks remaining in the field to move round to the platform, thus removing what we had parked there temporarily and stacking it all ready for use at the coal face. Your scribe, and later Keith and Chris handled this, and even cleaned the bricks of the crumbly mortar inside. In the end, we didn't lose any bricks (we think) but just had to gather them all up again.

It was a rather smaller team today, between 5 and six (depends on when you count them) but brick laying proceeded regardless. Manning wasn't helped when your scribe was unexpectedly called away half an hour after he arrived on site. Through Bishops Cleeve twice in the rush hour, with an additional queue by a temporary traffic light for a new gas main. Great.
In the picture above, we can see Bob laying a row of blocks on the 120m stretch, with Paul spooning in the mortar. This went surprisingly quickly, allowing Bob to move on to the next task of brick laying. Keith is just off to fetch another block from elsewhere on the site. The logistics of this job...endless.
After laying the blocks, Bob put down two courses of blues on the same section, and a course of reds behind. You can see the reds stacked on the blues in front.

On the 110m section, JC (in the distance) laid the final row of facing blues and then moved back to the start to lay the first row of corbelling on top of it. Brilliant ! John O and Keith also helped keep the mortar coming, a job that gets easier and easier as we slowly build our way back to the mixer. Or so I say, not having wheeled any of it today.

Pete also came along and helped JC with backing up. Paul, in the red in the picture above, also did some backing up, so we had up to four brick layers today, which meant a lot of mortar was required. Here is John O, off on another mortar run.
At the end of the day, Bob managed to erect a pier at the end of the 130m section (along which we laid a concrete foundation course to get the level right last week) so when we return next Monday, we can lay a first course of bricks along here too.
Look at the completed stretch of platform behind JC in the picture above ! Haven't we come a long way, it vanishes away into the distance.
We were happy to receive a visit from the Chairman today, and understand that he too was impressed. Happiness all round.
But come and join us next week, we were a bit thin on the ground today.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Another 8 people on site today, it must be the hot weather that brings them out (or is it the good company?)
This enabled us to attack the platform on several levels:

First of all, you need a lot of mortar. We made sure there was a steady stream today. Here is Paul about throw a Herculean shovelful into the mixer, with John shrinking away to avoid the inevitable splashback out of the drum. Paul did the sand and cement, while John was responsible for the precise amount of water in the mix. Last week, one load of mix was sent back from the coal face for being to dry, and the next was also sent back for being too wet. No more ! Here's how:

We now add the water by the tea cup full. A little at a time, from a bucket, until the consistency is just right. A little like making cake mix, I suppose.

Couldn't we just throw in the whole bucketful? No, because we are perfectionists and want to get the consistency just right.

Down on the coal face, two barrows of muck have arrived. The first one of brown is for the concrete blocks, which were lifted on to the concrete slab poured last week. This row went on amazingly quickly, as we have now developed a system whereby one team puts the block on a bed of mortar, while second team fills in the gaps with runny mortar afterwards. In this way the 120m stretch soon filled up with blocks. The second barrow was one of black, with which Bob laid two rows of blues along the front - the first row is shown in the picture; a row of facers followed afterwards, as well as a tower on the end for next week.

Here the blocks are in, and Pete has just started on a layer of reds to back up behind the blues that Bob laid. In the middle is Derek, who was 'asked' to clean a complete pallet of second hand reds of the very light mortar that clung to them. Boring and repetitious, but also useful and in good company. The pallet of blues leaning precipitously in the middle was also shifted along a bit, via the PWay trolley. Easily said....

Here is an example of one such brick shifting activity. The bricks in question are second hand and part of the same lot that came from Broadway. Jolly useful they are too. But they need to be put in the right place. Rather than walk them over to the back, it was decided to do an 'aerial ' transfer. (I throw this brick, you catch it, mate)

At the end of the day.
At the end of the day, we had achieved a row of blocks, two rows of blues and a double row of reds on the 120m section. In addition, we laid a slab of concrete all the way along the 130m section, which will be the foundation for the start of this next section the following week. The 110m section, the first new one, received a magnificent three rows of blues, but last Wednesday. This completely escaped your blogger's notice, no offence intended. It means that after backing up, corbelling can start on the 110m section. Not long before we can tick this one off.

As you can gether, there was quite a lot of brick moving about today. However, there were also other logistical moves required:
I hate to say this, but does it look like fun rather than work?
 We had to quickly gather up Pete's canopy painting scaffold and lock it up in the container, to protect it from unfriendly eyes. The same was necessary with our supply of 25 10m drainage pipes:

These has been delivered a few weeks back, and stored in the grass along the rear of the platform, ready for use. They were no longer safe there, because...

... we were very disappointed to discover that someone had broken open three of the four pallets of second hand bricks brought down from Broadway, and taken most of them. We couldn't believe our eyes, who would do that??? Further investigation revealed that someone had also tipped out the contents of the dumpy bag used to collect the metal strips from the new brick pallets and taken the bag, while our scrap pile had been rifled through and anything heavy removed. Bizarre, or what?

Visitors to CRC.
We can also report that adjacent to CRC2, about a dozen caravans have appeared....

Back next week !

Monday, 15 September 2014

Work at CRC2 has resumed at a cracking pace, and your blogger has been repatriated from deepest France, no expense spared. Excuse the faintest whiff of Garlic in this posting, the stuff is very clinging. The English drizzle today wasn't strong enough to counteract all traces of the French.

During the last two weeks the blogger may have been away, but the CRC2 crew were certainly at work. They have set out the next three sections, prepared the foundations for brick laying, and laid the first courses on the new 110m stretch. Readers may remember that we paused at 100m (out of 220m total length, including the northern ramp) to do the back filling and lamp post posting.We've got all the ducting in, and the fill is now settling down and compacting. Onwards to the new bit!

Today we had 8 volunteers on site. Eight! I was impressed.
The mixer was humming away when I arrived at a 'late' 08.45. It was making up concrete, and several loads of this were ferried down to the coal face by Brian and John. The purpose there was to raise the level of the foundations by a few inches over a lengthy strip, so that it was the right height to lay bricks up to the required platform level. This foundation 'start' varies every few yards, as the new concrete foundation goes up in steps, while the platform top is on a gentle slope, reflecting the level of the rails. This makes it impossible to lay the first bricks in an identical manner all away along the job - every bit is different.

At the start of the day, the job looked like this:
John S is backing up the 110m stretch, John C and Bob are laying blues on the 120m. The unstarted 130m bit is in the foreground. Next to Bob you can see the strip where the concrete was poured. After we had mixed enough concrete, four of us decided to get out the ladder chain again and bring down some blues from what we thought were two packets on top of the embankment, near the place where they would be wanted. Great. We'll soon have those down.
We thought.
You know what it's like when you get over the top of a hill, and then there is another one? Well, in our case the two visible packs of blues turned into 9 - arrgghhhh ! But with some persistence, and two men at the top, two men at the bottom, we cleared four of the packs of blues, or about 1800 individual bricks that all went down the slide. Half of them were stocked at the bottom of the slide, near the coal face, and the other half was loaded on to the trolley and wheeled some distance along for future use.
In the picture above, Brian and Keith are emptying the trolley again, double handling, unfortunately. After quite some head scratching, it occurs to us that our job would be made considerably easier if we had the use of a fork lift for a day. You can see from the picture that we are now much closer to the northern end, and some of the packs could be lifted straight on to the trolley by a fork lift, so that we only have to unload them. We also have some reds from Broadway to clear near the signal box - these are second hand, and are coming in really useful (a big thank you to Terry and Paul, by the way).
Broadway reds wheeled down to the coal face, and being unloaded. The pile of stones in the background marks the half way point along the platform. To the right of this is the site of the former waiting room. New lamp posts in the distance.
Two Johns attack the first of the new sections, at 110m.
Bob on his knees, in the ballast. It's hard to stand up afterwards!
At the end of the day, we had laid two courses of blues on both the 110m and 120m sections, both of which were backed up by John S with reds. As you can see from the picture above, Bob also managed to get in a first course of blues on the third new section, at 130m. This section was lined in (temporary) concrete blocks at the end of the day, so that we can put in a layer of concrete first thing next time we come. All the brick laying then had to be pointed at the end of the day, which is always very time consuming. Pointing needs black mortar, but oh, what is this?
It seems the mixer fell over into the barrow, as the mortar was being poured out. Well, to make an omelette, you have to break eggs. Did you manage to sneak the load past Bob, without him noticing, John?

It was a day of satisfying progress, and most important of all, of good humour. It's good to be back.