Monday, 31 March 2014

A fine day's brick laying today, with 7 volunteers, of which 4 brick layers.

We worked on 4 sections - the 60, 70, 80 and 90m sections. In the picture above, you can see John placing the heavy corbelling bricks on the 60m section. Each brick then has a counterweight brick placed on it. This section was then backed up later in the day by Tony, and thanks to them both, we can now say that the 60m section is complete. The following 70m section had the second row of corbelling placed, and it is now one row away from also complete. Pretty satisfying, that.

John S on the easy part of his day, standing up. He is backing up on the 70m section. Shortly he would be laying the row of blocks on the deck behind him....

Yup.... not so comfortable now! John laid a whole 10m section of blocks, by himself. Yours truly's contribution was to slap on the muck. At the end of the afternoon, John had laid 90 blocks on the 80m section. A block weighs 12 Kg, so that's.... one ton !

There came a short interlude when Ron and Pete from B&S arrived to collect some slabs for Toddington. This is to build a path around the back of the platform 2 waiting room. Those slabs looked heavy, so two of us went over to assist. We slid them down the planks, on to the Pway trolley, rolled it up the line and then used a hoist to load them on to the B&S pick up. Those are also heavy, and particularly unnerving is when two people are carrying one, and it suddenly decides to snap in half, leaving you unexpectedly holding half the weight with no support at the other end.

Here you can see John S at the start of his block laying marathon. The whole row had to go on, and there were no GC lads today to help. In the foreground is Bob on his hands and knees, putting a third course of blues on to the 80m section. These ended the day level with the newly laid blocks, which means the start of some serious laying of reds next. Perhaps the GC lads can come next week? This is what they do well.

An overview, near the end of the day. I can now take this picture while having a little rest under the canopy of platform 1 ! On the right is the 90m section, along which we laid out the supplies for the first course. Brian and I , between loads of mortar, also spent the day moving bricks and blocks around. They are never in the right place, or there are too many, or they are damaged and wanted somewhere else.

I noticed this poster on the end of the platform 1 building. I think it's great design, congratulations to whoever put that together. The horse and a GWR engine racing towards the viewer, a great scene. I hear that the race trains are a growing success, which is very heart warming.

Finally, I have been given a 1907 picture of a railmotor at Winchcombe, and have some questions about it. Can readers help? I will post it tomorrow.

Monday, 24 March 2014

What a cold start this morning.... 1.5 degrees when I set off. At Cheltenham, slightly warmer, but a bitter wind blew down the track. At least we had a clean trip round Bishops Cleeve, without traffic, as last week there was a momentous hold-up caused, it turned out, by a 14ft bus going under a 13ft bridge in Hyde lane! Later that morning, we saw it go by the site without its roof on, as if nothing was amiss. Quite strange.

Bob tests the new gauge.
Bob brought a new gauge today. We already have one that shows the exact height required for each row of bricks, mortar included. Bob has now made one that shows the position of each header going along in the same row, mortar included. Neat ! It's such a precise science, that brick laying.

Pete spreads the concrete to bring the foundations up to the required level.
 We had a good crew of brick layers today, including Peter Q and John S, with Tony also now back from gone away. We really motored along. We even had a fly by in our honour! Two F15s at low altitude flew diagonally over CRC, it must have been to congratulate is, surely ! What a noise.

We put a short stretch of concrete down to equalise the foundation levels. The arrival of the GC lads ( the good news) saw to it that within minutes, there was a large boot print in the middle of our nice mushy concrete (the bad news) followed soon after by another. D'oh !
A new angle of the wall building is now possible, thanks to the good progress made. Note the remains of the CRC2 waiting room behind, which mark the half way point.
 John C spent the day adding two rows of corbelling on sections 50m and 60m, while Tony backed these up in reds as well. One corbelling course to completion on the 50m section to go, and two on the 60m section.
The GC lads. Two of them must have concrete under their boots - you will be checked as you leave the site!
 The GC lads made a very useful contribution by backing up a considerable section in reds. It was to make this possible that there was an extra session of blues last Saturday. Thank you, GC lads !
Pete at morning prayers.
 Yours truly was at Broadway of course on Saturday, and I was impressed by the extra bits they had added when I saw CRC2 this morning. Especially motivating was the setting out of another section, bringing the distance in progress to 100m. You can just about see that written on the frame in the picture above. In fact, by the end of the day, the 90m section started only last week had two courses of blues and reds on it, and the new 100m section had a course of reds at foundation level throughout. Next week - block laying on the 90m section. Fairview arrived just in time with a pallet of solid blues, to keep John supplied with his corbelling.

Working the Hilti is fun, but I'm still vibrating as I write this posting....

An overview of CRC2 near the end of the day. Nearest to the camera, Peter Q and John S are completing the first foundation course on the new 100m section.
An event not recorded by your Blogger was the arrival of a special steam hauled marketing train at the end of the morning. I was in a 3 hour planning meeting about Broadway in the booking office, and heard only the whistle. I guessed that the loco was Great Western, but the experts with me could even tell that it was a 2-6-2 tank engine. I still have a lot to learn...

Saturday, 22 March 2014

While we were laying rails at Broadway - OK, they were only 2ft long - a delegation went down to CRC2 to get some blues in. We are expecting the GC lads and as they lay reds, we need to get some blues down first. All about logistics, see.

The 8F runs round.
 Saturdays are now running days, so there is the welcome sight and sound of some heavy freight rumbling around. They do get in the way of our wheelbarrows though, you have to plan, while looking at the timetable.

Keith on his hands and knees

There were five volunteers on site today. Tony B, John S and Bob bricklaying with support from John O and Keith S.

Much was achieved today resulting in two courses of reds on the 60 M section, one on the 70M section and two on the 80M section plus an infill course. There were also two courses of blues on the 80 M section. 

The big challenge of the day was to get the 90M section underway. When this section was set out last Monday it was found that the original brickwork was 50mm (2") too high for the new construction. So after lunch the team set to it. Keith removed the top row of bricks with a hammer and bolster and much muttering, while John S split bricks so they could be laid to give the correct level for starting this section (he is now chief brick splitter).  Whilst this was going on John O kept the mortar coming.  At the end of the day we achieved our goal which, will enable this section of the platform to start in earnest on Monday next.  However, on checking the 100M section we will need to carry out a similar exercise.  This indeed gives us something to look forward to!

All in all a good days work with some 650 bricks laid ( If we include Monday's brick total, over 3% of the platform wall was built this week).

The brick remover, and the brick splitter.
 Sunday is a day of rest, so back on Monday with the next full day's work.

Monday, 17 March 2014

This is more like it ! A dry day, with sunshine too :-). We got a lot done:
A view across the 70m section
John C spent the day corbelling. First he finished off the third row on the 50m section, which is now complete. One more behind us! On the picture above, you can see the next two sections, already up to corbelling height, with Tony just completing the backing up. John then did the first row of corbelling on the 60m section, with the 70m section pending for the moment as it is still wet from the last header course.
John finishing off the 50m section. Job done !
The logistics team of Brian, Keith and Jo then brought down more corbelling bricks for the 60m and 70m sections. Although we have stacked supplies behind the wall, there is always something missing that we have to get, and today it was 280 heavy corbelling bricks.
No, that lever doesn't start the engine, it only releases the brake... now, PUSH !
I don't what it was today, but we brought down 3 pallets of blues and reds from the top of the embankment, and we felt absolutely worn out at the end of the day.

This involves a lot of bending down for the two at the top - see picture -  and for the guy at the bottom it exercises the chest muscles, after grabbing something heavy, at arms length, for a lot of the day. We were pooped ! Time for a rest:
Smile for the camera, and look refreshed !
At the end of the morning, Fairview, long awaited, and with cements stocks down to one bag, came at last with 5 tonnes of sand, 20 sacks of cement and 70 blocks.
Given that we are at CRC, this is Irish cement.
At the end of the day, the team had laid 850 bricks, with which they were very pleased. As the Gloucester lads are expected next week, a small group will return to CRC2 on Saturday to lay more blues, so as to give the lads some backing up to do.
Duck, John !
Given that a further section (the 50m one) has been signed off, the green light was given to start a new one. Here we see John S, John C and Bob setting out the new 90m section. Tony on the right is on inspection duty. It's good to see the beginning of the platform, on which we started in September, recede into the distance. There is a growing sense of achievement.

Lunchtime at CRC was actually pleasant for once. The sun came out, and we transferred our rest period to the great outdoors. Morale was high, and Brian led us on a rousing chorus of  'They're coming to take me away, ha-ha"

Monday, 10 March 2014

A day of feverish activity... at the Racecourse! Race week starts tomorrow. We zigzagged through the lorries, ambulances, fencing and lighting contractors and eventually arrived at the box for a normal day's work. Having parked the car and got into my working clothes, I was asked to move it again to allow an enormous fork lift truck to move a temporary generator. What do you call the driver of an enormous fork lift truck standing inches from your nice shiny new car? Sir !!!
At the end of  the day came a second request - can you all move your cars, to vacate the space for...a burger van ! Well, anything to be of service.

"Are you sure you are buttering that brick in the right way?" asks Tony.
 John got to work on the 50m section, and put on the second corbelling course. Tony was on the rear, backing up for him.
Don't do it, moussie....
 Back in the cabin, we have had a problem with mice. They have roamed all over the tea and coffee table as well as the draining board, leaving their droppings everywhere. This went on for a couple of weeks, then finally we snapped. We acquired some 'Little Nipper' classic traps, baiting these with a supply of peanut butter obtained from a friendly spouse. We waited a week, and on Saturday I received a report to the effect that none at all had been caught. But this morning - oh, soooo close !

On closer inspection we realised that there were no new droppings either, so we think that the mice must have been expelled with the replacement of our bin last week, which had a hole in the bottom and rustled when you changed the bag. Our new bin is taller, and has no holes in it.

The 80m section at the end of the day.
 Back at the coal face, and eager team of bricklayers worked on the 60m, 70m, and new 80m sections. While Bob put on two rows of blues along the front of two of them, a large number of reds was added to the rear, so that the trolley had to come out for two resupply runs of reds for further backing up. We think around 850 bricks were laid in all, a pretty good run, and when added to Saturday's 400, we have 1250 bricks laid this week. This is a record, since we started in late August last year.

As we took down two palletfuls from the top of the embankment, it is becoming clear that we have now manhandled the majority down to platform level, with only 7 pallets of reds left. (and a larger number of blues). This diminishing supply will get us a bit over the half way mark. I wonder how many bricks in all this build will swallow? These metrics are quite small, I think the current supply must be approaching 50.000 already when all are laid.
We attack the last of the red pallets, only 7 left now.

Pete carefully shovels on some concrete under the last blocks to be laid on the 80m section.
Fairview came with a supply of aggregate to make concrete (to even out the foundation levels under the blocks), more cement and 70 concrete blocks.
Pete adds the finishing touch to the concrete blocks on the 80m section.

While Pete was pushing the last of the mortar into the blocks on the 80m section, John S was laying the first course of reds on them, and this section is now shooting up.
Time to set out a new one, the 90m section. 110m is half way !

Sunday, 9 March 2014

A quick bulletin to say that a small Broadway gang of three went to CRC today and laid 400 bricks.

A sign of spring was the return of the trains - the winter is definitely over!
Tony stares in awe - what is this big hissing rumbling thing? And what is that big yellow thing in the sky? A vague memory stirs.....

Sections 70m and 80m begin to rise.

The gang managed to get a course of reds on the 50m section, one course of blues and reds on the 70m section and two courses of blues on the 80m section, plus a course of reds. How quickly the 80m section rose out of nothing. The end of the brick piles marks the half way point in the distance.

Monday is our usual CRC2 day, and with great weather and a good gang expected we should make excellent progress. Drier weather and longer days should now make an impact on productivity. For one thing, we won't have to bail out the site before we start! Against that is the return of (money making) trains and next week is race week too, we will have to wave our work permits vigorously at the gates in order to get in.

Monday, 3 March 2014

We were prepared for showers today, but apart from one brief one, the day got warmer and sunnier as time went on, and towards 3 o'clock the jackets came off, and some of us were in our shirtsleeves!

I'm buttering a brick, buttering a brick...
Bob made a great start by putting on two courses of blues on the newly set out section, the 80m stretch. Here he is on his hands and knees, you really have to get down into the dirt here. Next to him a stretch of water, and that is after we bucketed out the worst of it. At least this new stretch is likely to be the last of the wet ones, as the terrain slowly rises towards the signal box, and there is less standing water around.
Tony is back!
A welcome sight back today was Tony B, after what seems like an eternity circling the globe. The apogee of the trip seems to have been Christchurch, New Zealand, where the effects of the earthquake were still plain to see. But Tony brought the sunshine with him, for which we were very grateful. We had a record day, with 800 bricks laid, and 50 blocks on the new 80m section.

Bucket of muck? Try this one for size!
A common theme today was lifting and shifting. It's impossible to pass a wheelbarrow along the rear of the wall, there is just too much stuff and people working around, not to mention the ankle deep mud. So to get anything to a works site - there were 4 today, along the 50m, 60m, 70m and 80m stretches, you have to wheel your barrow along the track, and then lift over the rising wall whatever the brickies want at the rear. Mortar, more reds please, these blues are now surplus to requirements, move those scaffolding boards, you name it.

Shovel full of muck? Have this one!

Pete D was backing up a section that just had the first row of corbelling added by John C, but the wall is now too high to throw any muck over to his spot. A shovel full of it was carefully negotiated each time, to keep him supplied. The vertical bricks act as counterweights to hold in place the heavy corbelling bricks that are sitting in wet mortar.

Bob and John struggle with a barrowfull on the wrong side of the rail.
You can get so far with a wheelbarrow of mortar, but then it has to be lifted over the rail for the last 50yds... it weighs - what? - 100Kg and it's very wobbly to boot. Don't spill any, and mind your back.

John O makes a stunning revelation to the Gloucester group - your muck is not strong enough, it has to go all the way back to the mixer - nooooooooo !
To our delight a sizeable group from Gloucester College turned up and attacked the 70m section with vigour. They put on 2 courses of reds, and then moved on to the 80m section and laid another 50 blocks. A real boost to our spirits.

Back in the mixer it goes...
Two loads of mortar with insufficient cement content were intercepted, and sent back to the mixer for more cement to be added. Tony, Keith and John helped the lads out and explained about the recipe for a good mix. It's not only the ratio of sand to cement that matters, but also the relative size of the shovelfulls. All good training for them. Luckily the old hands can spot a 'wrong'un a mile off.

All the lads muck in
Six lads from GC and their tutor laid an impressive wall of reds today. They only stopped laying blocks because we ran out of supplies. Some of them are getting quite good at this now; on the left is one showing another what a good smear of mortar looks like. Yep, that's a brick !

Finally, an overview of the site mid-way through the day. You can see backing up to corbelling on the left (Pete), the last row of blues going in (John C), the GC site with reds going in (they are at lunch at this point) and Bob W laying the first two courses of blues on the new 80m stretch at the front. Also noticeable are the copious quantities of polythene sheeting, required time after time to keep both the works site and the supplies dry from the heavy rain we have been having.