Monday, 26 January 2015

The weather has warmed up just a bit, so back to brick laying today - at last! The expected rental of mini digger / dumper today failed to materialise, as none were available to rent. Business must be booming out there, in the construction industry. So, making a virtue of a necessity, we resumed brick laying, with Bob and JC out front on corbelling, and Tony at the rear laying reds to back them up.
In our opening shot today you can see the 170m section, newly supplied with blocks, being unveiled ready for a little light brick laying.Two rows were laid on this today. Ready stacks are waiting trackside.
Bob and JC had a good bash at the corbelling, and did two rows in line on the 150 / 160m sections. We can only lay one row at a time, and then it has to set, before doing another one on top. So 1 row = 1 week. On the other hand, it does mean that in 2 weeks time these two section should be finished. Then, only 2 more whole rows to go, and one slope.
Here we see JC coming to the end of the 160m row of corbelling, first course of the three required.

Behind the corbelling, the reds were being readied for backing up. With all the wind and rain we have had, water has trickled in (somehow) despite the sheeting and now sits in all the holes.

We have two ways of dealing with this - with a battery tester, a glass tube with a bulb on the end, and as here, John O with a rubber tube and human suction. This actually worked a treat, but there were many, many holes....

When John O had finished, Tony began to lay the last few reds we have (we will have to finish in blues, as we still have lots of them) and to do this, he has his own barrow of mortar. He used it all up by the end of the day.

In the background you can see an extension of the platform drain recently laid, and filled with pea gravel. In fact we were waiting for Tony to finish working at this spot, in order to make the drain even longer.

Pea gravel was a big issue today. We have a 10 - 15ton pile of it behind the box, and following a request from the race course, we need to shift it and the infill we had ready there to somewhere else - any where in fact ! The pea gravel was removed in two ways - firstly, by infilling as much extra drain as we could lay without getting in the brick layer's way, and secondly....

... by shoveling the whole pile into dumpy bags, in which it could be removed safely to elsewhere on site. Get shoveling, lads ! What a way to start the day.

After much bent over shoveling, we had filled 16 (!) bags, which you can see here waiting to be picked up by the contractor. A small pile remained at the end, and we used this to complete the filling of the drain troughing behind the wall. In the background, you can see the shape of the new CRC grandstand. It's a huge building, and it means more customers for both the race course, and ourselves. Great!

Once all 16 dumpy bags had been filled, it (annoyingly) became apparent that in order to complete the pea gravel fill behind the wall, we needed just a few barrows more. Where to get this pea gravel, but out of the bags we had just filled ! Derrick and John O did this without (much) complaint, luckily it was only half a dozen barrows full or so. When we come back next week, this area will have been cleared, and our bags will be somewhere along the top of the cutting. At least they will be mobile, in principle. There are also still 12 stacks of blues up there.
In the middle of the day a delegation from Toddington came down to inspect the slagstone wall, still in place after the regrading of the overfull cutting slope above, now cleared. The slope looks so much better now; all that remains to do is a repair of the part of the wall that collapsed under the excessive weight above, now gone.

After lunch, a brief interlude of merriment. When he arrived first thing this morning, John O found the gate locked. Not wanting to block any other traffic, he thought it would be a good idea to park the car off road. It wasn't a good idea! Luckily JC was there to pull him out with the truck.

Our final shot of the day shows the wall advancing towards the end, and in the foreground is the long newly laid drain, with pea gravel infill. We now have to fill in the back with spoil, so that we can raise the scaffolding boards, and add a second fill of pea gravel on top. That will be for another day, when a dumper can bring some material in.

Mice caught : One today, the other trap sprung but no catch. Three traps set tonight :-)
10 caught so far.
There's definitely less mouse poop on the floor now, but they do also run around on the table, and that is where Derrick spilled a jar of instant coffee granules today. This was discreetly scooped back into its jar.... the 5 second rule applying here, we presume. I think I'll stick to tea for now.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Ice cold today -Part II.... yesterday we dug a good chunk out of the pile of infill that we were asked to move, but there was still some left and with the digger and dumper still on hire, we pulled together a small, elite party of 3 to try and finish the job today. JC, John O and yours truly.

Once again, it was minus 3 degrees, the ground was frozen, and a bitterly cold wind blew across the L/C by the signal box.
I don't know how JC does it, but he sat unprotected in the cabless mini digger for 4 hours, mostly motionless, while he waited for the dumper to return from each of its long, bumpy journeys along the back of the platform wall. We did notice a slightly warmer hat today - a sign that the cold was getting through.

The pile of spent L/C ballast got a lot smaller today, and in front is the pile of pea gravel, also a bit smaller, as we did some more drainage infill with it today.

Here is the dumper driver's view of the road ahead, a quick zig-zag of a wriggle, and then bump along the rear of the platform. The picture shows the 'mousehole' entrance through which the 1T dumper has to pass. Can we get a bigger one? I don't think so....

Right at the back you can see a bit of orange, that is the other volunteer who was able to make it today at short notice.

We took 20 or thirty loads along here today, until we stopped at 1 o'clock and went home, the cold getting to our bones.

Here is a picture of a load of pea gravel, dumpered up today, rather than brought down the track by Pway trolley, and JC has walked down to help spread it out - and get warm with a bit of exercise. Once the gravel is in, we lift out the scaffolding boards and the surface, after compacting, is ready for another 9'' layer.

Then a strange vehicle appeared. Just when you think it's a non operating day and you are alone to use the crossing as you please, along comes this little red box. Not something your average passenger will be able to photograph.
It has a rather feeble hooter. How about exchanging it for the one that is on the van that comes to service our dumper at Broadway - that's a class 37 air horn. Get yourself some respect!

Then there was an eery feeling of being observed... somehow, from somewhere...
Clearly, here is a bunch of guys that haven't got cold enough yet ! Just how breezy is it up there? I'd like to see the cherry tree that goes with this little number!
This platform rose high up above the new race course extension being built. It is a huge construction job. Must look quite small from up there though.

A quick last look at the job at the end of the day, as John O collects his tools to make it back to the cabin. We filled in a 9'' layer alongside the yellow pea gravel strip you can see, then started a new layer at the rear. This new layer is 4 bricks from the top; the area visible being 30 yds long. Plucky John leveled out every single load of spoil brought along today - yesterday, that was done by a team of three!

To answer a question posted about progress with mice - we have 9 so far. Traps set yesterday were untouched this morning. Perhaps they are learning their lesson! We can't figure out how they get in, as the water supply pipe seems quite well sealed. Maybe under the door?

There remains enough useable spoil for back filling for another day's work, so the digger and dumper, now off hire, will be back on Monday.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Ice cold today ! Minus 3 degrees at the start, and ice patches everywhere. No brick laying therefore, but that didn't bother us, as we were going to do a day's back filling anyway.
An early visitor to CRC2 was the lorry delivering a 1T dumper and the mini digger. It looks nice and sunny, but at this hour of the day it was literally freezing, and we pulled our hats down well over our ears. The dumper was one of those special 'thin' ones, that we know just about fits behind the platform.

An early job for the mini digger was to get above the platform, and dig a short length of trench for the pipe that feeds the electrics for the former waiting room area. A bit hairy, as you can see. Luckily we have a skilled driver in JC.
As far as we (our team) know, nothing is planned to replace the demolished waiting room at the moment, but after clearing up last week we could see that there had been two toilet pans there, so maybe in the course of time we will put some sort of a (historical!) building there. The original one was very basic - a room to shelter, and two loos, that's it.

This pictures shows JC cutting off a suitable length of pipe, and it also shows the area to be back filled, in the first instance. We have laid a drain, covered in pea gravel, up to where Bob is standing.

In this picture Tony, supervised by JC,is filling in the trench after extending the pipe that has already been laid under the wall we built. Job done. Of course now the dumper has to negotiate this obstacle, which was tricky.
While the pipe laying team was occupied, four of us decided to make use of the dumper and attack one of the two remaining groups of pallets of blues up above. We managed to get access through the car park field, and a removable panel on the fence at the back. This arrangement with the dumper worked rather well, we were pleased to see, and of the 5 piles on this spot, we managed to move 3 1/2 today. That leaves a total of 13 1/2 pallets to deal with, from a grand total of about 80.

Then, before you knew it, it was lunch time ! Although the air temperature never rose above +3 degrees, we discovered that it was actually pleasantly warm by now in the sunshine, so we had our snap outside. Lovely looking at Cleeve Hill with the blue sky, accompanied by Robins and a Wagtail. And.....

As you sit outside in the sun discussing world events, all sorts of stuff flies past.

Here is an Apache, one of 5 that flew by over the signal box. I'm glad this thing is on our side ! It packs a lot of punch.

Then the serious dumping started, we had a big pile of former L/C spent ballast to remove from the field, and carefully drive it along the back of the platform from the 170m section to the 100m area. The last 30yds were very tight, as the new drain and accompanying scaffolding boards made the available width just about as wide as - the dumper.  We wriggled through somehow, didn't smash a single one..

At the same time a second team consisting of Derrick (loading) and John O with Brian (pea gravel train) supplied Tony, Bob and John S with the pea gravel infill behind the scaffolding boards. It's all done with a bucket, and somewhat time consuming, but it does work and we did what we set out to do, about 30m's worth.

This view shows you pretty much what we infilled today. It doesn't look much, but it's two layers, the first of which was started with barrows (!) as the digger couldn't start straight away. Once we had the first layer in, the journey with the dumper became a little easier, but then we had a 'lift' on the scaffolding boards, for a second pour of pea gravel. Where you can see Tony standing is in fact on the second layer.

From the photographer's point of view the light was very awkward, as the sun never rose high enough to light up the inside of the trench. It was only at the end of the day, as in this last picture, that the light was even, with the sun disappearing again behind the trees. It also immediately became a lot colder again!

Here we see Tony and John, who had shovelled all day, distributing the last load of the day that was brought in. The infill already looks quite high, doesn't it? Well, we think it does.

The foreground shows the scaffolding board raised for the second layer of pea gravel, and the tracks of the dumper bang in the middle of the very narrow space available. Once we are above this layer, it will get a lot easier.

We didn't finish the pile today - not enough time. At the time of writing we are considering an extra day tomorrow, Tuesday.
Wives permitting, of course ! Very important.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Wet Wet Wet - that's a pop group, isn't it? No it's not, it was what the CRC2 gang got today! The forecast was dire, but in fact we didn't do too badly, with steady drizzle for most of the morning, and more persistent rain only after lunch. 9 men attended.

So what did we do?
To start with, an opening shot from the other end. John O asked me to do this, so that people could see what we have done, and how far the coal face is now, from the point from which we started.
Can you see the little matchstick men in the distance?

We also had to dispose of a pile of surplus ballast on the Race Course side of the fence, in readiness for work to be done on the LC approach road.
Now that the heavy lorry traffic here has finished, the road and verges can be repaired.

Then the opening shot for the day. Because of the forecast of steady rain, we couldn't lay any blues, so John S and Tony concentrated on laying the blocks for the 170m section. Here you can see them, starting from opposite ends. Apparently, they would stop when their bottoms met in the middle... Derrick has brought down two barrows of muck, one for each.

That mortar...
I apologise for the lack of focus of this action picture... but John O had just filled the barrow nearest to the camera, when I pointed out, advice freely given, that it had a puncture. This is not what John wanted to hear! After much muttering, the second barrow in the picture received all the mortar poured into the first. The laying of blocks always requires a lot of brown.

Only a good hour or so later, John S and Tony had done it. Brilliant! The whole section now has its row of concrete blocks, and here you can see them start to fill them in with liquid mush, a job completed by lunch time.
We've had a request from the Race Course to shift our stock of back fill, piled high behind the signal box in their field. This means we have to start back filling, rather earlier than otherwise intended. To do this, we need to lay some drains, at least part way, so instead of laying facing bricks, JC and Bob put in about 30yds of pipe and boxed it in. This meant we had to start the 'Pea Gravel Train' again, and yours truly and Brian ran it up and down so that it could be bucketed into the boxed in section.

Here we can see the section already done, and Brian handing JC another bucketful. Meanwhile, Pete and Derrick were up on the old platform clearing it of rubble, which was thrown into the gap behind the wall. The site looks rather tidier now, leaving only the old platform slabs still to be removed or reutilised. The idea is to get the 1T dumpers back in with a mini digger, and back fill this area, possibly as early as next Monday.

Notwithstanding this non-brick laying day, Fairview came with a vast quantity of building supplies, which were unloaded in the drizzle and wind. Cold and wet for those standing on top of the lorry! We took a fresh supply of concrete blocks (trolleyed down to the 180m section, ready for use), two pallets of corbelling blues, two dumpy bags of ballast for concrete, and a pallet of cement. That will keep us quiet for a moment.

 Lunch time, and, oh joy, a kind spouse has passed on a large box of delicious Ferrero Rochers.

What to do with them?

The last job of the day was to move half a pallet of corbelling bricks away from their previous resting place next to the signal box, and lay them out in ready piles next to the section to be corbelled next.
This involved a chain of volunteers, moving the bricks from the pallet and on to the Pway trolley. Some say the job would have been done quicker if one volunteer hadn't kept stopping to take pictures ! Sorry, chaps.

But no pictures, no blog, so what do you want. Here are the piles ready for use, the next time we get a dry (-ish) day.

Now, the interesting subject of mice in our cabin.

Those of a delicate disposition, look away now....

You looked, didn't you !

Yes, the trusty Little Nipper has caught two of them this time. High five! Peanut butter was the magic bait, works every time.
Bob has now brought a more modern rat trap (and I thought you couldn't invent a better mouse trap!) and we have set this too. Now awaiting developments with great interest. We will keep you informed. And the loose bars of soap (eaten up by said mice) have been replaced by liquid soap from a dispenser. Clever stuff.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

A quickie for today - 5 chaps went down to Cheltenham  (your scribe driving a dumper at Broadway today) for an extra day's work.

We can see Tony, Paul and John here, working on the 160m section, to which Bob added three courses today, so that it is ready for corbelling.

The two likely suspects at the rear backed up the same three rows in reds. John provided all the mortar again (what a day's rest it must have seemed for him, with just a handful of brick layers today, instead of the 6 we had on Monday!)

Derrek also came along, and tidied up behind the 140m section.

Following the brick laying, he and Bob then drew up a schedule of the platform edging slabs that a piled up here and there around the Malvern side of the station. These are the original slabs from CRC2, and were taken off in late 2005. They are somewhat spalled, so a decision still needs to be taken to determine if they are useable. But now we know how many there are, so that's a step forward.

Tony on reds, Bob has the blues...

At lunch time, it started to rain, so the job was covered up. Another step towards completing the platform, and less to do next Monday. Great.

Returning to the cabin, an investigation of the two mouse traps set on Monday revealed that - we had caught another one! This time, a whole one. Where do they all come from? We have blocked off the only 2 known holes (for water and electric, this being a steel container), but possibly they are squeezing in under the door. Hmmm.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Six brick layers today ! That must be some kind of a record. It's the warm weather that brings them out in spring, after hibernation. What an improvement over Wednesday's two, and ice cold. Today we saw 9 degrees, ideal weather for getting on with the job.

Here is an overview of the site at the start of the day:
As you can just about make out, there is a whole row of brick layers, and they are working on 4 sections at once. This put a lot of strain on John O, who alone on the mixer, could barely keep up. The supply situation was not helped by one barrow being sent back as 'too sloppy'.

It's jolly hard second guessing the brick layers, as sometimes they do want a sloppy mix, e.g. for filling in the final layer, as Pete D is doing here. Here Pete is working on the 140m section, on which JC has just put the last row of corbelling bricks, so this new bit is nearly ready! Got to tick it off the sheet on the board...

After you finish a section, what happens next? Well, here is Bob on the end of the new 170m section, answering a question that has been on many a reader's mind: How do you ensure the brickwork is of the right height? Well, you take a level off the profile planted earlier (and carefully given a section distance by John O and his big felt tip pen) and then measure down with a tape measure. This then enables Bob to build a little tower on the end, off which the next three rows are laid. Got that?

 Normally at this point we would set out the next profile (180m) but somehow this wasn't quite possible. We took down the 140m one, and then discovered it was set in a weak mix that wasn't so weak. Bob attacked the reluctant clump with hammer and bolster, while Brian checked to make sure his trousers aren't torn. We think.

Up on the cutting side, yours truly and Derek set about retrieving more bricks from the remaining stacks up there. You need to position a stock, if you want to lay them. We got through just about 2 pallets of blues, before the backs started protesting (too much).
We moved about 800 bricks down to rail level.

A count of the remaining stacks at the top came to 15 - at 400 bricks per stack, that's about 6000 blues left.

We think that should be enough to finish the job.

This shot, taken in the middle of the day, shows three of the 4 'backer uppers' that were busy today. Tony, John S, Petes D and Q did very well indeed today. All in all, one (final) row of corbelling bricks was laid by JC on the 140m section (see the row of counterweight bricks in the picture above), two rows of bricks on the 150m section, three on the 160m section and two rows of blues on the new 170m section. We think that is above average progress.

Always a bit of friendly rivalry at the back there. Gimme that brick!
Meanwhile, on platform 1 the new car parking arrangements were being given a trial run, given that this was a non-operating day. Although the flow is now circulatory and thus more logical, it seems that drivers were still in need of some help at this early stage. It'll settle down...

On the 170m section, Bob put down two rows of bricks along the newly laid concrete base, so that as a next stage we can lay the blocks already lined up here in readiness. Fairview brought a fresh supply of sand and cement in readiness for this job next week.

Here is a the huge pile of sand that was dropped, right outside the container door. Only one way to shift that - shovel it into the mixer, John!

Rarely reported on, but an unavoidable duty every working day is cleaning the tools of leftover mortar. If you don't stay on top of this, your barrows and shovels quickly build up a thick coat of old and hardened mortar that is near impossible to clear.

Standing there with a hosepipe looks simple enough, but what you can't see is the surplus water and mortar running off and over your feet, so that at the end you are standing in a pool of mud and with boots soaked through.

And then comes the 'piece de la resistance': It's official, the 140m section is done, Bob can tick off another box on the list! Yes!
And the job is actually a bit shorter than we thought: The list goes up to 220m, but in actual fact we are only required to build 200m of platform, including the northern slope at the end. This will bring platform 2 exactly in line with platform 1. So that's another question answered.

To finish with, a little question to our readers:
We are quite successful at catching mice in the classic 'Little Nipper' traps, but we only ever find half a mouse. Do mice eat other mice if they can, or have we got something bigger on the loose?