Monday, 31 August 2015

A wet day..... The forecast said that the rain would ease off. It did - at 3 o'clock, as we went home.
We spent the first hour in the cabin, with tea and mini Swiss rolls. Occasionally we would peer out of the door to look if we could see Cleeve Hill - nope. More tea.

Finally we got bored with this, and we set off regardless. The rain had reduced to a steady drizzle, which was bearable. There were a goodly 7 of us today, and the extra 3 made all the difference, as we had 4 people on barrows, one making mix, and two laying the edging slabs. That was a good team.

But first things first, those soft barrow tyres. Keith brought a rather swizz twin cylinder footpump, and prepped them all. Max 30psi, it said on the tyres, so how far dare you go? We settled on 20psi. No exploding tyres today.

Paul made it down again (he lives quite far away) and while he is hiding here, his presence was very much felt as he was on the mixer all day on his own, and got through about 2 tons of aggregate out of two dumpy bags. A creditable performance. At least he was warm, with all that shovelling.

No pressure then, Paul, but a queue quickly built up while he got himself sorted out. Four people on barrows today, remember, and only one on the mixer....

Eventually Paul got into his stride, and started building up a few barrow loads in reserve which built up at the business end. JC and Bob, on leave from rebuilding his kitchen floor, laid the edging slabs. Each one laid reduced the distance the barrows had to be pushed by one meter. Go for it, lads!

The ground being very uneven and sticky, the route of choice for the pushers was along the platform copers.

Nice train with 5542 there - it was a running day, a bank holiday - but a serious situation was building up in the foreground, two vehicles on a single line ! And your cameraman didn't have a token, now what? Thoughts turned to the awful crash at Abermule, what does the rule book say in this sort of situation? Eventually the laws of nature prevailed, 'might' was proved' right', and the empty barrow gave way. But not before taking this picture.

At 10.34, a train emerged out of the gloom. It did not seem to have a chimney, is that why there is no steam coming out? True to local folklore, if you can see Cleeve Hill, it must be raining, and it was, too. Those ancients were no fools.

An hour later, another train, 2807 in charge, and quite well filled too. There were 30 cars in the CRC car park too, and their owners huddled under the canopy from the rain. Yes, it was still raining. Can you imagine what that does to the clay on site, and to the boots that squidge over it?

After every delivery, the walk back with the empty barrow felt as if you were wearing moon boots, with a wobbly pad under your soles.

Here is Keith trying to get the sticky stuff off for the n'th time, before he set off again for the other end.

How do you know it's Keith? Clean trousers, see. He's very neat, our Keith.

Here's 2807 running round the train. Notice the steam going sideways, not up.
We can see Cleeve Hill: oh - oh!

Near the end of the day the rain eased off, and we had to set out the next stretch of line. The edging slabs have to be perfectly level, as well as in line. You can soon see a wobble if there is 200m of it. We take a measure off the copers, make it level, minus an inch to allow for a backwards slope of the tarmac.

Last picture of the day. Things were coming to an end - cement low, aggregate low, only a few edging slabs left laid out, and we were getting tired. JC spent the whole day on his knees in the clay, back and shoulders exposed to the rain, and there is only so much punishment you can take. We made it to the last lamp post before the foundations of the old toilet block, in the foreground. A quick walk back over what we had laid today revealed that there were 40 new slabs. We felt very pleased with that, almost as many as the first day, and we were one hour short today because of the very wet start.

No work at CRC2 next Monday 7th. JC is taking a rather well deserved holiday.

Quotes of the day:

' I think it's clearing up' (several times...)

'They can't complain about this one' (mixer load dispatched by Paul) - Oh yes they can !

See you in a fortnight.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Five of us made it to CRC2 today, enough people to lift lamp posts! JC pounced, and before we knew it, a number of bemused volunteers found themselves lifting solid cast iron.

But first things first: Fairview came with 4 tons of aggregate, and a suitable number of bags of cement with which to make concrete.
These were soon unloaded, and the question arose: What other fun could we have? It was decided to get Richard to take back 2 of the 3 pallets of spare blues that we had on site.

These were taken to Broadway, for further use  - out of sight, as they are modern metrics.

A big loss on site today was John O, who is recovering from a small operation, and after which he cannot lift anything for three weeks. Who would make our concrete up then? John S bravely stepped into the breach, but at tremendous risk: would the mixture equal John O's quality, and would it pass muster, after being wheeled along for 200 yards in a barrow? There was a frisson of nervousness by the mixer today, as the first load was made up. Is this dry enough? Or too wet? John O would add water in increments of half a cupful.... where was his cup?

Expert advice was soon given. You need a tiny bit more cement, just about so much.
Ahhhhh..... and that magic cupful, which John S has now found. Of course. Just a half, mind.

In response to Brian's request for more men on barrows last week, we were honoured by the presence of the very co-chairman of the Cheltenham Area Group, who personally brought us a barrow. An empty one as it turned out; up to us to return it full. So this is management then.

Next: bring down those posts from the booking office. This is the heavy lifting stuff. Three more posts to go.

We're getting quite good at this now, more familiar with the weight distribution, and the post's antics when manoeuvered about. Two guys with a bar across the front, one on the much lighter back, and a guy helping in the middle. We loaded two on the truck, then came back for the third and last one.

Tony hasn't seen this before, so JC explained it carefully, in words of one syllable. A bed of wooden batons has already been prepared at the top, on to which the post will now be tipped.

Up and over she goes. A quick shot of the scene from above, then your photographer will catch it at the top when it comes down on the bed of batons.

Before the post goes into its designated hole, a bed of weak mix is prepared at the correct level. A tape measure, a long pole and a level are the tools for this job.

Here JC is being fitted for a new pair of concrete boots. 'By popular demand', we were assured.

Bringing down, and fitting the final three posts took all morning. Here they are putting the last one in, and getting it perfectly vertical. It's a shot from the platform 2 starter signal, and it shows the whole row now - there are 11 posts in all.

It struck us that those posts gave the platform a more definite shape, and some sort of finality. The edge slabs fitted so far contributed to this impression, it looks really good now.

Of course the posts still have to be wired up, but the conduiting and draw strings are all there.

We also have to add a layer of fine stone to within 50mm of the top, and, even after rolling, allow the infill more time to settle before it can be tarmaced. It's surprising how this stuff can carry on settling in; we've seen that at Broadway.

In the above picture you can see that the ground looks wet. In fact it started to rain more heavily around lunch time, so we decided to call it a day with this job and have our break. We would see what the weather held after lunch.

While we ate, it rained more and more, but as we drank the last of the tea it suddenly stopped, so we thought we'd give the edging slabs another go, after last week's excellent start. In this picture you can see the 'return' we laid at the southern end. There's another bit to go, across the top of the steps, and we need to set up a bit of shuttering and concrete for this, to make one final step on to the ultimate platform surface level.

Including the two at the end, we actually managed to lay a total of 20 slabs today, with which we felt really pleased, especially after manhandling three cast iron lamp posts.

More interesting statistics: We got through two dumpy bags of ballast today, or 2000Kg, and laid 20 slabs. That's 100Kg of concrete (not counting cement and water), or just over a barrow each.

The barrows had to be pumped up twice, as the tyres kept getting soft, and then they are hell to push.

This was really hard work, with the same two people pushing the barrows up and down. We could really do with another to help on the barrows next time; don't all turn up at once....

Next time appears to be a bank holiday Monday, so you will get the added benefit of trains passing by.

Our final look of the day: a view of the slab laying in the distance (we are only a quarter of the way along so far) and a magnificent new drain in the foreground, built by Pete D from B & S, we heard. Well done, that Pete ! It looks the stuff, nice and solid.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Still in the summer high season, it was not clear how many people would turn up due to holidays and other events - we spread ourselves thinly, viz last Monday doing the foundations at Broadway - but nonetheless five of us appeared on site today, and a good start was made on the back edging along the whole site.

We have 200 or so new concrete edging slabs, about 20cm wide each (rather than the 2' by 2' ones we used at Broadway, much more difficult to place) and about half of them had been positioned along the platform a few weeks back, straight off the back of the lorry. The other half is still at the signal box end, waiting for transport.

You can see the new edging slabs strung out along the platform edge here, and a start made on placing them in the ground between the first two lamp posts. Although there was a bit of a merry-go-round on the jobs to keep the interest going, basically Johns S and C dug out the trench for the slabs and placed them, while John O as usual worked the mixer to make the concrete, and Brian and Peter Q did the ferrying with the barrows - 250m each time, although progressively getting less.

Brian did a bit of maths for us: 250m per direction from the signal box, 500m there and back, 40 trips during the day, that's two people pushing barrows over a total of 20 kms ! Seems an awful long way, are you sure you got the maths right, Brian? Well, three wheelbarrows didn't last the day and developed flat tyres, so they were certainly hard at work. I guess it does indeed all add up, what a performance!

 The pictures of the detail above do show the value of a bit of expertise, those edges look lovely and straight.

 By lunch time, the small team had reached the running in board. You can see that they had two barrows of concrete on the go; it took about one barrow load to set one slab.

Here is our stalwart John O pouring out another load, each one being 12 shovels full of aggregate and two of cement. Look how twisted the barrows are getting. And so are we....

You might ask: How did he manage to make so much concrete with such a small pile of aggregate at his feet? Good point, that man - he ran out ! 

What now?

After some head scratching, it was decided to take John's truck down to the local builder's merchants and acquire a dumpy bag of fresh. A 1T bag of aggregate weighs... one ton, and John's truck is rated for 1.3 tons, so we were in the green. Off they went.

Half an hour later they were back, a ton of aggregate in a large bag in the back of the truck. It's not like getting an extra pint of milk though, this bag was so heavy it had to stay where it was, and John O had to shovel the stuff straight out from the back of the truck. Here you can see him with Peter Q, with the mixer parked right up beside the truck. Turn it the right way round, and you can stand in the back of the truck and shovel it straight down the 'ole. Resourceful lot, this.

Only when the bag was nearly empty again did they manage to drag the remains out and on to the deck.

After lunch, they carried on past the running in board, and the completed length already looks very respectable.

Brian is on the shovel here, while JC is on his hands and knees placing the slabs.

At the end of the day you can see them approaching the next lamp post, with a total of 44 slabs laid, say about one quarter of the overall total required. Pretty good, we thought, for a day's work with only 5 people. They could really have done with a  few more on the barrows, but it's holiday time, and people are away. We need to get this job finished, so that we can concentrate on where we came from - Broadway !

See you again next week, thanks for checking in!

Monday, 3 August 2015

Two weeks ago: 6 people on site.
One week ago: 5 people on site.
Today, heavy lamp post moving day: 4 people on site..... oh - oh !

Well, we thought we'd give it a crack anyway. We took JC's truck up to the ticket office, where we found 2 lamp posts ready for moving.

We heaved these on board his truck, being careful not to have anyone astride the post in the middle - lesson learned at Cradeley Heath! It is just possible to lift one of these posts with 4 people, they must weigh 200kg or more or so each. The truck then drove down to the level crossing, where we loaded each post on to the PWay trolley. It was then trundled down to the spot where it was to be planted.

At this point we had a thoughtful discussion on how to get the post up on the platform. A consensus was reached that we would stand it upright on the trolley, and tip it, upper end first, on to the platform on a bed of battens (to avoid damage to copers or post). It worked perfectly, much lighter than we thought, due to the counterweight effect.

Next, we got the mixer out again to make up some weak mix with which to pack and stabilise the post in its new hole. It was a windy day, so the guys are standing upwind from the man with the shovel full of cement powder.

Then back to the posts site, where a bed of mix was made and measured. A level was taken off the platform copers, and checked for height.

All is well, the post can now go in.

Then, heave - ho, the post was manhandled into its spot. This wasn't so difficult, thus releasing your blogger to take a photograph of the action.

In fact the post can be manoeuvered OK, as in the picture. Where maximum manpower is needed is when the entire post has to be lifted off the ground, as for example to get it into the truck.

We have some experience with that now, with these replicas at CRC, the two genuine ones from the auction, and one from a  garden in Chipping Campden.

Anyone know of any more out there? We are still several short at Broadway.

Here is the post now stabilised on its bed and at the correct height vis-a-vis the platform copers. At this point we fit a connecting pipe between the base of the post and the conduit. A small spanner on a cord is then dangled down from the top, retrieved at the bottom, and the cord pulled through to the inspection cover. This will permit us to replace it with electric cable at a later date.

Once the cabling is prepared we can back fill the hole with weak mix - it takes about 4 barrow loads, a nice interuption from lamp post lifting. The post is continually checked for level and orientation, a bit tricky as it is actually slightly conical in shape.

While we were doing this, the CAG were busy putting in some conduiting for a water pipe. We dug this trench for them last week, when we had the mini digger available. Miraculously, we found that the biscuit fairy had been afterwards, I wonder if there is a connection? Tea and biscuits outside the cabin at lunch time is very agreeable this time of year.

As we dug in the second post, we heard a faint tooting in the distance.

The S&T railcar found its modest progress impeded by a badly parked CRC2 truck on the level crossing. (Monday is a non - running day, readers!). The keys were in the ignition, so problem easily solved.

Lift that post? Nah, far too heavy, mate !
The S&T gang were off for a day somewhere, it seemed a very enjoyable experience, looking at the passengers.

JC had to leave at lunch time, so we spent the rest of the day finishing off the other 3 lamp post holes. Due to the heavy clay the mini digger was unable to complete the job last week, and we finished the job with a heavy duty Hilti with a spade attachment. Went through the stuff like butter, so those are now ready for planting too.

Next Monday there will not be a CRC2 working party, as the gang will be at Broadway (for a change).