Monday, 26 October 2015

60 more tons of chippings were delivered today. Last time, they arrived at about hourly intervals, giving us the chance to deal with each delivery in turn, but today they all arrived at once!

First of all we sought to dispose of the remainder of the rubble which was left over from the platform back filling. While we were loading this, the lorries began to arrive and almost swamped us in chippings.

There was only one dumper today, so was it a toss of the coin to see who would go first? No, John S, ever polite, kindly offered your blogger first dibs.

This it turned out was not so much kindness, as cunning. The dumper seat was split, exposing the foam squab to rain. So much so, that there was moss growing on it. Sit on the seat, even on a dry day, and you press out the water and absorb it into your backside. Damned!

So here we are, this is where the remainder of the back fill went, along the recently dug in edging, where the infill was seen to be low.

There was some unhappiness further down, where the chippings crew were unemployed, and waiting for material. Better get a move on then.

As the dumper controls are a bit temperamental, the fill was raked out with a shovel, as otherwise it would come out all in a rush, and moving it by hand then was difficult, as it doesn't shovel well due to all the brick and concrete bits in it..

Here is John O on the shovel - we had a request for more pictures of him (he has been away a couple of times for domestic reasons).

Here is John again. If you don't want to work too hard, get a smaller shovel. Yes, we have a toy size one, and John has secured it, leaving the hard work with the man sized one to new recruit Peter.

The chippings gang split themselves into two - one group spread out the material as it arrived to aproximately the right depth, while the second group slowly raked the gauge across the infill, adding or subtracting material as necessary, until it was just the right depth, and perfectly level.

After a  while JC came to see how far they were getting, as the 60T pile shrank to about half mid morning.

The rail car came and paid us another visit. Last week wasn't, as we all thought, an S&T members only private outing, but a preliminary PWay inspection to determine where the tamper, due shortly, could best be employed.
What was the rail car doing today then?

It was slowly unreeling a large drum of signal cable.

This links the box with the far away signals to the south.

Due to this week's absence of our chief milk and Swiss mini rolls supplier, yours truly was mandated to acquire same. There was a last minute request for cake from Peter - why, was not clear, but we don't need a special reason to eat cake, any day is cake eating day - and great was his pleasure when a chocolate cake duly emerged from the shopping bag.

Here Peter displays the prize. That's the happiest we've seen him all day !

There was a willing band of men happy to share it, including Neil C and Andy P from the rail car cable laying duties. The aroma apparently carries right over to platform one!

Everything stops for cake.

While consuming said cake, we noticed the manufacturer in 1989 of the rails here - glory days indeed, when Britain still ruled the waves. Who will supply us now?

Given the ever shortening distance between mini digger and coal face, we actually finished the chippings infill today, enabling this view of the nearly completed platform two. Running in board, lamp posts, infill, 200 meters of brick wall. We can be proud of that, quite an achievement. Just the path to the L/C to go, and tarmac.

 Here is the view at the end of the day. Sorry about the low sun, it's that time of year now. But you can see that the chippings have been completed to the end of the platform, and a pile of material has been dumped at the end for the gang still busy giving the materiual its final level.

A last picture of John O, a portrait even.

We are being entertained with a joke.

And the punchline is? It's on the tip of the tongue, I knew it a minute ago, wait, no, don't go away....

No question this week, just an interesting picture by John Diston:

It's of 75027, photographed at Evesham with a local passenger train from Stratford for Worcester. A large barrow load of boxes is heading for the passenger brake - hope there is room enough in there! The photograph is not dated. I wonder what the boxes contain, they are all the same size and it was probably a lot from a local business.

Annoyingly, some schoolboy has walked into the picture... but it's alright, It's John's pesky younger brother, in school cap and macintosh. It looks like a late afternoon picture, so they're not skiving off really.

BR 75027 still survives, it's now at the Bluebell, where it is the perfect locomotive for the job.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Winter is starting to set in - when the alarm went off, it was still dark, and only 9 degrees outside. Nevertheless, the stalwarts were already buzzing at CRC when I arrived at 08.30.

Today  we continued putting the top layer of chippings on, the layer just below the tarmac. For this, we had 60T of chippings on order from Elliotts, and the two dumpers we had last week.

Both dumpers were already at work at 08.30 - we don't hang around here - but one proceeded down the platform in a most unusual fashion, in fact a series of Kangaroo jumps, interspersed with roars of the engine. Progress was uncomfortable, and somewhat slow. It was Tony at the wheel... 'what's up Tony, got a sticky accelerator?'
' No, my legs are too short and I can only just reach the pedals with my toes. Then, with the uneven platform, every bounce sends me up in the air, off the pedals, and then back on with a crash....'

We agreed to swap places, a shovel for a dumper, everyone happy.

It was a long way down to the coal face, you may be able to see a few patiently waiting faces in the distance here. Despite the very grey and misty start there were 10 of us, and very good turnout. Most were on shovels and rakes at the far end.
With two dumpers on the go, 2 tons of chippings arrived at the coal face about every 5 minutes, and this was more than the (slightly disorganised, until Bob came along) team could handle. Eventually there were so  many piles, JC was called to level them out a bit.

With the blade of the digger he scraped back the piles, but after a while the mini digger dug itself in deeper and deeper, until the tracks filled up with ballast.

Hey, I'm giving it full throttle but I'm not going anywhere....
A neat trick JC knew to get the ballast back out was to lift the mini digger up by the blade and the bucket, until the tracks spun in the air and kicked out the unwanted ballast.

Bob's arrival organised the team a little better, so that there were two groups - one to deal with the ballast as it came in, and the second to level it precisely, using the wooden gauge in the next picture. This arrangement worked well. Here John S has just arrived with a load. After last week's test (yellow, in the distance) today's progress can be seen by the colour red of the fresh ballast just levelled.

Getting the level just right was quite labour intensive, with lots of moving shovels or barrows full this way and that to fill in gaps.

This is the quickest way to fill your barrow, it seems.

An interlude to this shovelling was provided by the S&T railcar, which trundled by with an S&T members only outing. It went up to the head shunt, then came back again. Job done then.

During an interlude while waiting for the third shipment of 20T of chippings, JC spent a few minutes levelling the dumpings from last week among the trees. Let's hope the result is not too deep for the trees' good health.

'' So what do you think of our platform building efforts so far?'
'' Sorry chaps, it's all got to come out again....'

After lunch, the last lot of 20T was addressed, and soon we were left with this tiny pile. Not wanting to leave the site untidy, we scraped up every last bit into the bucket.

Next week, we will handle another 60T, which should see us well over half way. We can then judge how much we need to finish the job.

Today's final picture shows how far we got. Counting the test we did last week, we are at the 80m mark or so, approaching the foundations of the old toilet block. There's quite a lot of digging to do, and the dumper loads are starting to come harder and faster, as the journey gets shorter and shorter.

This week's mystery picture:

Thank you for all your suggestions last week, esp. fre the S&T cell. Very interesting.

Two of us went up to Crewe auctions on Saturday to bid for a GWR platform lamp post (outbid, we must consider casting our own now) and among the items for sale was an ink bottle  from the LNWR, but identical to the GWR example in last week's blog. The asking price was £40 !

Now this week's question. Among John Distons photographs is a set of three of similar size and shape, but without captions.

9649 on shed

9776 in front of it, then 963?

3707, but where? Is this the same place?

The top two can be identified by their shed plates 88D Merthyr Tydfil, but is the third one, of 3707, also in the same row? Is the loco 963X the one behind it perhaps?
Are the buildings to the right of any use to identifying the place? There is also a duty number T12. This could be Treherbert.

Merthyr Tydfil shed closed in 1964, so these are quite old.

Over to you, guys ! Lets try and give these pictures some captions, before they go back to the owner.

Monday, 12 October 2015

A cold start today, with 1 degree C indicated first thing in the morning. Woolly jumper and jacket then, first time this year.
By lunch time however, the sun was so hot that we sat on the terrace in short sleeves. Lovely. Come mid afternoon, it was cold and windy again, so jacket back on. It's that time of year.

Today's job was to dig out the approaches to the platform, that strip of land between the signal box and the platform end.

We hired in 2 larger dumpers, 2 tonners. The idea was to dump the spoil among the trees at the top, but it was difficult getting up there without alarming tilts of the machinery, so JC had to sort out a path for us first.

We set out the site with spikes, and here the first bucket loads are being taken away.

Manoeuvering off the platform and up under the trees remained tricky, and one dumper driver even got stuck up there, while attempting a three point turn. Four wheel drive too!

The work quickly drew a crowd...

... but to be fair, it was work really for the two dumper drivers and JC on the mini digger, while the others helped as banksmen, or for a while, to spread out the dumpings among the trees so as to get a  level and neat-ish platform up there.

 Here is a view of a dumper going along under the trees, with two expectant faces at the end of the run, ready with shovels.
The problem eventually was that the diggings slowly turned from light ash to solid clay, and that proved impossible to spread. Hence we ended up with a level run for a few yards, terminating in a large pile of pure clay, untouched for 400m years. Need to sort that pile out next week with a machine.

An added complication was a slab of concrete that emerged right in the path of what we were digging. What we thought was the first and only bit we tried to hammer to pieces, but it was surprisingly reluctant. Bob, here in the picture, gave up after about 20 blows, closely followed by Tony after only 3! Too tough, that stuff. Then many more appeared, from what was quite a big slab underground.

As the day progressed we did quite well though, and in this picture you can see that quite a lot has been dug out already.

Bob is checking the depth with Tony - up a bit, down a bit, along a bit. Like ' Bernie the Bolt'.

It is tempting to wonder if Tony was aware that JC was about to give him a little nudge from above. Move over, Tony !

By lunch time the jackets were starting to come off, and we sat and basked in the glorious sunshine.

We even got a visitor from above, a Hercules that swooped down off Cleeve Hill, and did a tight curve over CRC, followed by a counter curve a little further on as we saw him drop down towards Gloucester. A magnificent beastie. Proud to have our boys up there.

Those slabs of concrete multiplied. We have no idea what that was, or used to be, but underneath was an unexpected cable that we nicked, requiring a phone call to Neill Carr to make sure everything was still working. It was, but it will need repair.

Last week, you might remember, we spent some time straightening up and fixing the inspection covers, so that they were perfectly level and and in line with the tarmacing-to-be.
Fast forward to today, and a number of covers were mysteriously lower down again, and at a tilt. Oh.

Another phenomenon observed was that the lamp posts had received a coat of paint, and that there were boot marks on the inspection covers. Could there be a connection?

At the end of the day we had gotten a long way towards the L/C, but there was just not quite enough time to finish the job. This view shows you just how far we got. It already looks pretty good; you can see how Race Course passengers would come off the platform and on to the L/C, before turning right. This will all be nicely lined with edging stones and tarmaced as well.

Next week, we will be on the 2 dumpers again, and will spread out more of the subsurface layer to even out the final profile of the platform surface, before the tarmac layer is in. 60 tons of chippings have been ordered for the day.

Question of the day:

What is this:

It came out of the ash layer exposed by the 45T excavator at Broadway. It's about the size of a large can of lager. It seems to be a pottery vessel, filled with graphite and an electrode, so presumably a battery. But what is its connection with the railway? There were several in the ash; this is the most complete one.
Any suggestions?

This one also came out of the same ash, which is a bit of a treasure trove.

It's about the size of a milk bottle, with a small spout. Note the inscription around the bottom:


It's probably an ink bottle, but surprisingly large. Other, smaller ink bottles also came up (in glass, SWAN brand).

What would the railway do with ink? Was it for the ribbon of the date stamping machines? Or did the ticket clerks write a lot?

Initially we thought that the items, mostly restaurant car china, were swept out of the kitchen car of the Race Specials parked at Broadway, but this ink bottle, and the 'CHELTENHAM SPA sign shown last week leads us to believe that the source might be Cheltenham Spa station itself (St James, that is) where it was thrown on the ash pile that was eventually disposed of by tipping it down the embankment at Broadway.

Knowledge or opinions/guesses about these items and their origins are welcome.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Quite an interesting day today, as we hired in a dumper and a digger, and a large crane lorry came to take away one of our two containers.

The first thing to do was disconnect it from the mains and pull out the reinforced electrical cable.
I said PULL !!!!
A lot of struggling and pulling went on, but without the desired effect. Finally, patience snapped, and larger means were obtained.

After all, we had a mini digger on site, so why not? The reluctant cable then emerged from the undergrowth, and the container was free.
This is our materials container, and we decided to send it to Broadway for storage of joinery delivered, but not yet used. The other reason for its dispatch was to clear up the space it was taking to dig out the platform to level crossing path to its full width. Over the last few Mondays we've been clearing out the container, until there was nothing left inside it.

Yes that's right, there's nothing left in it. This is because we moved all the stuff into our tea hut!

So here we are, forced to drink our tea in the company of 15 sacks of cement. We're sinking pretty low here. End of the day, we're even parking the mixer in here. Just as well that the atmosphere is as good as ever. Just a lot dustier.

Shortly afterwards, the Vic Haines lorry came with its 17T HIAB. Still not strong enough to lift the container from that distance, so need to drag it a bit nearer.

Once it was within a safe radius it was lifted up and placed on the lorry. We shall see on Wednesday if it arrived safely at Broadway, and what colour they will paint it. Not brown as well, we hope, as we now have two, and it is confusing to say that you have put something in the brown container.

Now for the CRC2 work. The two Petes are sent off to the far end of the site to retrieve the shuttering for the last step. Our senior brick layers are privileged to remain standing there, until they return. That's the difference between management, and workers, old as the hills (the custom, not the management).

While the container lorry was setting itself up, Pete and Keith set out the inspection covers for the lamp posts, to make sure they are the correct height and level, for the forthcoming tarmacing exercise. A man with a little wheel came along to measure the platform length (200m, we could have told him that!) and shortly afterwards we should have some quotes for the job. We are going to move this forward now.

At the same time Peter was busy back filling the rear of the slabs we laid along the edge, to make the job look nice and neat.

Despite an awkward commute from Malvern by public transport, Peter was back for his second day on the job. Well done Peter!

We had hired in the digger and dumper for a test day of putting down the penultimate layer on the platform, some fine ballast. We ordered a trial load of 10 tons and spread it out, to see how far it went.

We made ourselves a gauge, so that we could spread the ballast evenly, while leaving a margin of 2ins for the ultimate layer, the tarmac. It was quite a slow job. It's OK to dump and spread the stuff with a shovel, but then it has to be made perfectly level, with no dips anywhere. Although we brought up two big rakes to do this, in the end the best way was for two of us on their hands and knees, spreading the last bits by hand left and right.

Another load arrives, a bit under a tonne at a time. Doesn't the platform look neat now? Almost finished, we are.
At the end of the day, the conclusion was that you got 15m out of a 10T load. Next week we are going to order 60T, and get two dumpers, which will be twice as big (2T load, instead of the 1tonner we used today). A lot of time was spent today slowly bumping along the uneven infill in reverse, so with bigger dumpers we should be more efficient.

This is what the platform looked like at the end of the day. Pretty professional, wouldn't you agree? The inspection cover on the left is just at the right level now. You can also see the last step in the foreground, cast last week. In the picture we're packing up our tools, as we have used up all of the first delivery of ballast, and it's starting to rain more consistently now.

This week's question

Last week's answer was Hurricane, we all agreed. This worked rather well, it is very pleasing to get such help from the community. Thank you all for your most interesting contributions, and reasonings.

This week's question might be a bit trickier.

You might recall that during an archaeological dig on the embankment at Broadway, we have found quite a bit of broken GWR china. The finds seemed to peter out, until we put a proper tool on the job - the 45T excavator! While digging the 15 trenches, quite a bit more china was found in the piles of debris that it extracted. One of the pieces was different form the others - it was flat, white glass, with remnants of black lettering. Then another turned up, and another, until we had 8 pieces.

Cleaned up, and arranged in order, they made up two plates of glass like this:

It looks like CHELTENHAM SPA. The dimensions are 75mm by approx 350mm. There is a shadow around the outside, as if the plates have been inside a frame of sorts. They look too large to have been inside a petroleum lamp, but the white glass suggests they were designed to have been back lit. They were found inside a layer of locomotive ash, inside which were also the GWR china shards, animal bones, and various bottles, even a pricker from a tank engine appeared. The location of this layer of ash was on the shoulder of the embankment alongside the siding by the goods shed, where race trains are known to have been stabled.

So what do people think the name plates are, and how did they get to Broadway? Were they thrown out on the spot, or did they come with the ash from say Cheltenham St James?