Monday, 24 November 2014

An icy start today - the water butt had frozen over! First time this winter. This meant that we could not lay bricks immediately, as we wanted to wait until the sun had come out and warmed the site up a bit.

Our activities on site were intermingled with those of the PWay dept, who were reinstalling the level crossing. With all the rain and to-ings and fro-ings of the JCB, the area outside the container was one huge glutinous mess. Not to mention the challenge of a JCB parked outside the container, with a flat battery.

Mud, we don't care, we 'plough' on.
While waiting for the sun to dry the site, we decided to mix up some loads of concrete to launch the last of the current three sections in work, the 160m stretch. With the distance to the coal face getting ever shorter, we managed this in a relatively short time. Very pleasing to see that concrete going in.

In charge of the barrows were Tony and Brian, while John S was on hand with the trowel and the level to smoooooth things out. The front of the pour was secured by a line of blues laid by Bob last time, while the rear is a temporary row of blocks.

Next week then the block laying starts again. We are hoping for Peter Q to come down and help. Are you reading this, Peter? We need you ! You do it so well....

 As is now plain, the level crossing had been stripped out, and this left Fairview chomping at the bit with 5tons of sand, and no way of getting across the tracks to dump it. We secured another entrance for him, off the main road and across the field. Have sand, will deliver, is Fairview's motto.

 Then John C reversed his truck up to the container, to deliver a pallet of quick drying cement. A bit like the 7 dwarfs in their mine, a line of volunteers quickly formed to carry the bags, shoulder high, from truck to cabin.
We got through a vast quantity of paper bags from the cement, which your scribe was eventually requested to incinerate. By inserting a couple of broken bits of pallet into the fire and it being a very damp day, a considerable cloud of white smoke ensued, which enveloped the brave 3 building the level crossing. Bad idea! A bucket of water, well aimed, cured that problem, and happiness soon returned.

Here is an overview of the current state of play. Bob is putting a row of blues on the 150m section, while the others are putting down a lot of reds on the 140m and 150m section, to keep up with him. In the distance we can see John C on corbelling - the second row on the 130m section. One more, and we can tick this one off - see the end of this report for a handy tool for our readers!

Elsewhere at CRC, the diggers were still working on the cutting side. They have now removed a considerable quantity of clay, and eased the slope. That work appears to have been completed.

During your scribe's site inspection, they were digging a drainage channel along the bottom of the slope, to relieve the pressure on the slagstone wall at the foot. Amusing was how the mini digger, working on an extremely slippery slope, was attached to the arm of one of the large diggers on the platform at the top of the slope via a strap, rather like a young dog on a leash. With hand signals, the mini digger was then hoisted up, down and along as the ditch progressed. Neat !

Due to a minor finger injury (one should not play throw the stick with Cerberus without thick gloves) your scribe is now somewhat hampered for a couple of weeks, which accounts for the larger than average number of pictures on this posting - my camera finger is one of the ones still working fine, thank you. So here is a shot of the works, in the full mid-day sun, showing John C corbelling on the 130m section, Tony and John S laying reds on the next two sections, and Bob running a row of blue facers down the 150m section. Behind him, the concrete is drying on the 160m section, and in the distance we can see work progressing on the new level crossing.

Here is a shot of Steve Warren lowering a new concrete element into the centre of the trackbed. At the end of the day, they had laid about three quarters of these elements, with the rubber inlays still to follow. Pretty good progress, with only 3 men on site. Does the signal box remind you of the one in the wooden Brio set, or is it my imagination?
Looking the other way, the coal face looks rather distant.... is that really all we've done? The barrow is standing next to the end of the 160m section, so that is just 50m to go (or 60m, depending on who you ask). Two lots of three, and we are there! Then back for drain laying, the infill, ducting, lamp posts et al.

One final look at the end of the work site, with John S filling in with reds, and Brian in charge of a barrow of mortar. We sure got through a load of that today!

And then here is the promised gadget for our readers who want to follow our progress. Bob very kindly made up this chart, which shows all the different sections involved in 220m of new platform wall, and the dates that we have completed each one so far. Now you too, dear reader, can follow us, and fill in each section. With only one more row of corbelling to go on the next, 130m section, you may be able to fill the next line in by this time next week, if the weather plays ball. Enjoy!


Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Tuesday was the day that replaced the very wet Monday yesterday, and what a beautiful sunny autumn day it was too. Bob and four others managed to get down to CRC and advanced the wall quite a bit. In fact, this is a two-in-one report, as Bob also came down on Saturday with John O, and together the valiant duo got two courses of blues on the 140 and 150m sections, meaning that we could continue with the blockwork today.
Bob 'in flagrante'.

Each brick is carefully checked for level.
In the picture above, you can see that the back up team was faster than Bob last time (he was working on a different section) and have laid 'red' bricks higher than the blues in front. Today Bob laid the first row of corbelling here on the 130m section (the last of the first three started after the half way mark). behind Bob is the site of the platform 2 shelter, which we have now well passed.
Tony confided in me last week that he didn't really like laying blocks, and here he is again!

Feet up, and crack open a beer tonight, Tony.
These two pictures show Tony and Pete finishing off the concrete blocks on the 140m section started last week, and then on the 150m section as well. A row of blues has already risen in front of them. Red brickwork can start here next time.

150m section in front, 160m section behind.

Mortaring in the joints between the blocks - Tony, Pete and John S.
The picture above with the signal box shows just how much (or little :-)  ) distance there is to go before we get to the end. How much more manageable the project seems now, than on day one with the start of the first 10m section way, waaaay back at the other end.

John O once again valiantly mixed mortar all day long, not only for the bricks, but all the liquid brown mortar that needs to be stuffed down between the newly laid blocks. Well done, John. At least the journey is getting shorter. He worked so hard that we have again run out of sand and cement, so need another delivery next Monday.

We had two pleasant visitors on site today - Andy P, and 'Father P' .
The joy of S&T.

They were removing some kit from CRC box, ready for use at Broadway. Isn't that robbing Peter to pay Paul, Andy ? Oi !

Nice to see preparations for our Broadway box !!!

Monday, 17 November 2014

Our usual Monday session was cancelled today, due to the steady rain forecast for this morning. Instead, a team will be on site on Tuesday, so with a bit of luck there will be an update on the platform works tomorrow evening.

In the meantime, a question to our readers. A few years ago, a member bought the clock below at an auction, with the intention of installing it at Broadway. It originally came from Chippenham station, so is likely to be authentic GWR. Who can tell us more about the clock?

Clock face, with winding hole

Interior, showing mechanism.
The clock sits in a metal drum, and was suspended from inside the canopy. The pendulum ran inside the drum, and it was driven by a spring, winding taking place through a hole in the face. There is no obvious maker's name (unless on the mechanism itself, which was hard to see) but there is a 5 figure serial number inside the hatch. (visible on the photograph)
The name of the manufacturer, and a date, would be of particular interest. Plus anything else readers can suggest. Were they common? Any others still in existence? etc. The figures in red are probably not original.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

A few months ago, we published the picture below of a GWR steam rail motor at Winchcombe, showing a proud stationmaster in his uniform. Winchcombe at the time was a brand new station, after all.
The picture was probably taken in the period 1908 - 1912, when the SRMs were painted in lined brown - the earliest models were brown and cream. Slightly later models such as this one also had a sliding window removed, and replaced by a special water filler cap.
During this period, the Winchcombe station master was a chap called William Edwards, who lived in the station master's house with his family and a booking clerk as lodger. 

Subsequently Graham Peel, one of our readers, wrote in to say William Edwards was his uncle. Having done a bit of family research, he came up with the following details about his life, which we are permitted to share with you:

William Edwards:

a) Born Cassington (nr  Oxford) 1866. 2nd child (of 10) of Joseph Edwards, Railway Platelayer.
b) 1870 - family moves to Lower Oddington, Glos.
c) 1871, living at Lower Oddington.
d) 1881, Railway Clerk living at Shipton under Wychwood, and presumably working at the station there.
e) 1891, Railway Clerk, living at Bourton on the Water, and presumably working at the station there.
f) 1895: Married Martha Downes at Bridgnorth, while presumably working at the station there.
g) 1901: Railway Station Master living in the parish of St Philip and St James, and therefore presumably working at St James Station.
h) 1911; Railway Station Master at Winchcombe.
  Where else he worked after that and when he retired is not known. I believe it likely he died between 1920-1930. He had only one child, a daughter.
Apart from his father, at least two of his siblings worked on the railway, as did one of his brothers-in-law - my grandfather, who lived at Over Norton when working as a ganger.

We are always interested in historical facts about the Honeybourne line in GWR and BR days, so do not hesitate to send us (electronic) copies of photographs, or tales of your family members.

Monday, 10 November 2014

A small team of 7 on site today - and that was a peak. We started with 4, and finished the day with 4. But the weather was kind, there was no rain, so construction could continue merrily. The first thing that happened was that Fairview came with another load of 140 concrete blocks, and 20 x 25Kg sacks of cement. I thought I blogged that last week? Here they are again....

Two more dumpy bags of aggregate came, and it quickly dawned on us what the intention was - make more concrete! Oh-oh. Readers may remember that we started the 140m, 150m and 160m sections, and the concrete was required for the foundation leveling of the 150m section. In fact during the day we prepared the 160m section for a layer of concrete, so we now know what faces us next week.
But first - dealing with the rain. We had a bit, since we were here last week. Despite covering up the work, the water managed to sneak in underneath the plastic sheeting, and  fill up the gaps in the metric reds. In this picture you can see Keith extracting the water, gap by gap, from each of the affected bricks. Tony can't wait for him to finish, it's a slow job. After some experimenting (towels, Windowlene bottle, bits of hosepipe etc) we hit upon the idea of a battery tester with the inside removed. You then have a pipette, with a bulb on the end. Works a treat !
Tony and Pete finished off the top of the120m section corbelled last week, but no work was done on the three remaining corbelling courses on the 130m section, as we had only one 'blue' brick layer, and as you can see in the picture,. Bob (for it is he) was on his hands and knees laying a first course of blue stretchers on the 160m section.
So what did we achieve today?
- 120m section finished off
- 150m section given a bed of concrete
- Two rows of blues and reds on the 140m section (picture above)
- One row of blues and blocks laid out on the 160m section
- One third of the blocks laid on the 140m section.

Quite good, isn't it?

But there were other things happening at CRC, it was the place to be. Much digging was going on at the top of the cutting behind platform 1.
View from the top of the cutting. There was a lot of clay here, very sticky indeed. I have proof!

View from CRC1. Man with gauge on the right.

View from CRC2
Yes, the contractors working on the landslip were still there, and working flat out all day (tea breaks excepted) with two excavators at once. The red one was grading the slope, aided by a man with a neat triangular gauge, showing him the slope that was needed, while the yellow excavator passed the material along the top of the bank to a pile, from which lorries could be loaded to take the surplus away.
By the end of the day, the work had pretty much reached the end of the section, but at the time of writing some decisions were still awaited about the retaining wall at the bottom. It appears you can still get slag stone, from Port Talbot! Let's hope they keep it original, and don't go overboard with visible modern materials.

As we stood on the top of the cutting, a rail borne vehicle flashed by underneath, and it wasn't a train. What the heck.....?
We tracked it down to the cutting at Hunting Butts. It was a road-railer with a flail, hired in by the company to do lineside clearance.This was the start of its session, and soon after it moved on up the line.

At the end of the day, your scribe went on to Bridge 5, and finally to Broadway - all sites of activity and progress. Check it out on the other blogs tomorrow.

Monday, 3 November 2014

A day of excellent progress today. A gang of 10 enjoyed cool weather with plenty of sunshine and the occasional shower. Your blogger arrived a few minutes late, as he delivered another one of those enormously long ash disposal shovels to the loco dept. at Toddington. Although half of the 'spoon' was missing, this can be repaired it seems, and they were keen to have it, so back to the house of the donor to pick it up and somehow get it into the car. One end ended up in the front footwell, while the other touched the inside of the tailgate... we got there OK.

 By 08.30, Keith and John O were hard at work mixing concrete. This was required for the new 140m section, where a concrete strip is required to raise the foundations to the correct level for brick laying to start. It's a 10m strip, and each barrowfull advanced the work by 18ins. We reckoned that 15 barrowloads were needed, at 90 kg each. Say a ton and a half of concrete run down to the coal face. The barrows were very heavy, so we split the loads between the three of us.
Heave, Paul !
 A request came back that the last barrowload be extra big - we gave that one to push to Paul :-).

At the 140m coal face, John S and Tony were spreading each barrowload out nice and smooth over the strip. 90 concrete blocks have already been positioned at the rear, so next week we should be able to lay them on top of the concrete poured today.
Here is the concrete strip completed. In the foreground is Pete, preparing the 150m section for its first course of blues. This requires removal of any loose bricks from the foundations of the old wall, and cementing in replacements on a bed of mortar. In the background we can see Tony, John S and Bob working on the 120m section, with a final layer of corbelling being applied, and backed up. At the end of the day, we could say with some satisfaction that the 120m section is finished! In front of it is the 130m section, which now requires 3 rows of corbelling to finish. That's three days then, as only one row can be done per working day, each row having to 'go off' before the next is added on top of it.

Another load of concrete blocks arrives.

 Two courses of reds went down on the 120m section, on which you can see Tony working above. I say 'red' but as is plain to see, the actual bricks were yellow, because they were free, and you don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Meanwhile, Bob had the time to add a single row of blues to the new 150m section, jumping over the 140m section as it had the concrete drying on it. The 160m section is pegged out, and will be commenced next time. 210m is the ultimate target ! We are getting there, and with 150m now being worked on, that is just under three quarters of the way. Wow !
Don't even go there Keith, that is the last mini Swiss roll !
 After taking an extensive rest from concrete shifting, the non-bricklaying gang attacked the dwindling pile of bricks on top of the embankment. We started the day with 24 pallets up there (20 blues and 4 reds) and we ended the day with 21, so three pallets of reds were broken up, and ferried to the coal face. That's a ton and a half, and our backs knew it at the end of the day. We now have 8000 bricks left, for 80m not yet started. It does look as if some more will be required before we can finish the job, mostly reds as only one pallet of reds remains up there.
After a ton and a half of brick shifting. Tired, but healthy!
The many broken bricks in the picture above were found thus in the pallet, as we bought seconds and they are not perfect, for a much lower price of course.
An overview of the works at the end of the day.
In the picture above, you can see John S on the left pointing, Tony backing up with the yellow 'reds' , Bob laying a row of blues on the 150m section, and right in the distance, on the L/C, a delegation from the PWay examining the state of the L/C, which has not taken kindly to repeated use by giant dumper trucks and heavy lorries. It will be rebuilt very shortly, as soon as the Kier earth moving activity has been completed.
Finally, a picture which summarises our day - sunshine and showers. In this picture, you can see them both. In the background, beautiful Cleeve Hill, and view we enjoy every day when we have our tea. Aren't we lucky?

And now, an unexpected addendum:
What is going on here, you may rightly ask. Has the mating season for excavators begun?

In fact it is the start of works to grade the cutting side along platform 1. As readers may know, there has been an earth slip at the foot of the walkway down to the platform. There was too much material above the slag stone wall, and eventually it yielded and a whole lot of clay came down. This will now be addressed. The cutting side will be lightened and graded. There is a lot of material to remove, and the newly planted pine trees will be carefully removed and replanted at the end of the works, which will take up to 4 weeks. The lower excavator will do the grading, passing the material up to the second one in the foreground, which will load the material taken out on to a lorry. We will post with updates if possible.