Monday, 26 May 2014

No work today, in view of the gala and the absence of one of our brick layers. We will be on site Tuesday. Jobs remaining prior to the start of back filling are two rows of corbelling (needs two separate days in order to let each row dry) and clearing a path for the dumper to access the space behind the wall.

In the meantime, a question to our readers:

What can you say about this picture, courtesy of Bob Stark:

All I know is what it says on the front: 'Albany 3394' , and on the back, 'Winchcombe' . The headboard mentions 3rd class excursion from Paddington.
Date? Destination? Second engine? What was it doing at Winchcombe? Was this very common?
The train seems to be running in to the station, with a chap in a moustache and cap hanging out with a huge smile on his face, and a smaller figure underneath. Who was driving at the time? (Didn't they drive from the other side?). It must have been some event for a cameraman to be there, not likely to be a lucky snapshot.

Any ideas?

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Bob and John O did a quickie at CRC today. The 90m section being finished as we reported last time, only the 100m section remains, with 4 courses to go on. So our expert brick layers split their time between Broadway (3 courses laid in between the locking room windows) and Cheltenham platform 2 today, with Bob's report below:

After discussions with John C regarding the proposed work on the signal box at Broadway it was felt that he and Tony B would be able to achieve the required outcome for work today,

So after a quick call to John O, he and I went to Cheltenham to push on towards the completion of the 100M section. At the end of the day the last course of blues before corbelling and the first row of corbelling were completed along with a further course of reds on the back. This now leaves just two more courses of corbelling and two of reds plus an infill course of cut reds to finally complete this section.  It was a running day, the weather was good and passengers were complimentary about the progress.  All in all a very satisfying day.  

The end of the beginning
 From the picture you can see the first of three courses of corbelling has gone on the last, 100m section. The row of vertical bricks on top keeps the bricks in place while the mortar dries, or 'goes off' in our parlance. You can see that it's hot because a cover has been placed over the barrow with black mortar, to prevent the very rapid drying that takes place in the sunshine we've just had.

One more day of corbelling could see the first half of the wall finished. We also need to move the stacks of bricks on the right, to give the dumper access to the rear of the platform, as well as finish off the last 10m of pea gravel, and clear up any remaining surplus bricks from this area. Back filling is penciled in for the week beginning 9th June, we heard today. You read it here first!


Monday, 19 May 2014

It's hot ! And dusty !
7 volunteers baked in the sun today, whipped by winds carrying clouds of white dust brought in by the racecourse lorries with spoil.

You can barely see the signal box
The guys making up the mortar - John O and Derek - were really suffering by the box, as a 20T lorry trundled by every 5 minutes, enveloped in a huge cloud of fine dust. Having a rest outside the cabin was no respite, nor was an escape to platform 1, which offered shade but no relief from the dreaded white cloud. Arghhhh!

A lot of brown required today
In between the lorries, John and Derek made endless barrowloads of brown mortar. We were one 'blue' bricklayer down, but rich in 'red' brick layers, hence the need for extra brown mortar. Luckily the distance to push the barrow has now nearly halved, so we get there without having to take a rest half way.

The unsung hero.
Our feature picture today is of Tony, relentlessly backing up. The brickies doing blues get all the attention with their fine brickwork out front and in the eye of the public, but in fact there are twice as many reds to be laid as the blues, so hats off to the backers up. Today they were John S, Tony and Pete from B&S. Your 15 minutes of fame, lads. Well done!

Coming to the end of the 90m section.
Another milestone was reached today with the completion of the 90m section, which we can see here being leveled off by Tony with a final layer of mortar, nice and smooth. Bob did the last row of corbelling at the front, and then turned his efforts to two rows of blues on the current last section to 100m.

Bob finishes off the 90m corbelling, while John S backs up the 100m section in reds.

John O can be seen shuttling backwards and forwards with shovels of mortar to keep the hungry brick layers supplied, while Keith and yours truly did the logistics for the brick supply, by moving them around the site, cleaning them (Keith) and stacking them ready for use. Of course the piles can't stay out front like this, as trains will be running past here the very next day, so they have to get used up.

Withe 'release' of the 90m section, yours truly and Keith sprang into action with the 'pea gravel express' and filled in the drain pipe up to where the brick layers were still working. Only 10m more to go. It's quite a battlefield that gets left behind, all broken bricks, bits of the old platform that somehow got left over, and surplus stacks of bricks that have to be moved, yet again. Haven't I seen this brick before?

Pete took 5 to do a little walk along the top of the cutting, and reported an adder having a little sun bath. We won't be having a picnic up there then !

Just the 100m section left to finish off then.
At the end of the day we left the site with just one row of plain blues to go on the 100m section, and the three rows of corbelling. That can be done in two sessions. Finish off with the drain and the last 10m of pea gravel, and we are ready to start back filling.

So where d'ya want it, guv?
A sample lorry load of crushed concrete has also arrived. If this is acceptable, we can fix a day when a digger and mini dumper can be hired to add the first layer of back fill. This needs to be rolled, then a new trough of pea gravel added, and rolled again. Not simple !

Monday, 12 May 2014

Second Pea Gravel day ! And the pea gravel transport has been solved in a convincing way:
Step aside now, Derek...
No more messing about with buckets and wheelbarrows.

Joking aside, we finished off the pea gravel transport in the traditional way, with just a stretch of 5 planks to go, in suspense while we wait for the bricklaying to finish. Here the planks are being brought down in a pea gravel 'train' and laid on top ready for next time.

Four more scaffolding planks go in.
Last week we carried down a number of plastic drainage pipes. They come ready with a  number of cuts in them, to allow the water to seep in. As I was walking along with one such pipe, quite long and heavy, on my shoulder, I heard a crash and an 'oops' behind me. This turned out to be Keith, who had dropped his pipe, whereupon it promptly broke into three pieces! Some plastic.

Luckily john has a perfect tool for this job, a German pipe cutter which also chamfers the end. Neat piece of kit. In this way we were able to save about half of the broken pipe.

The brick layers had another dry day, despite the forecast of heavy showers, which we didn't see. They worked on the 90m and 100m sections, the last two before the mid point. The 90m section had two rows of reds put on, and a row of corbelling - one last row to go, and it is complete.

Tony backing up the penultimate layer on the 90m section.
The two Johns, and a Pete, laid two rows of reds and blues on the 100m section - still 3 rows to go here, before the last bit of corbelling starts. We did the pea gravel filling, so what we are waiting for now is the crushed concrete, for which a small dumper and a digger will be hired, as soon as the concrete turns up.

There were no trains today, or is this a train?

The guys watching the level crossing for Kier eyed the line very carefully before each lorry was allowed to cross and eventually, Yes, a train was seen to approach, with four strong headlights. This metamorphosed into a small golf cart with rail wheels and a large tank filled with weedkiller.
It was a neat piece of kit. You wind down a jack and as it rises into the air, you can then store the rail wheels, and turn it through 90 degrees, after which you drive off. It came on that trailer in the distance.

In the foreground, Derek and Brian have been loading corbelling blues for John to lay.

All day, heavy lorries from the contractors Kier shuttled backwards and forwards between the stand they are excavating, and the field behind the signal box. There's a lot more excavated spoil to come...

Finally, I'm sorry to report the crew were somewhat disgruntled today, because someone forgot to bring the milk. Last week's milk was still there, but had set solid. It was black coffee and black tea all day, not at all right. Yes, guilt is indeed written all over your blogger's face. Must remember stuff !

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Pea gravel day! At last a change from brick laying (for some...) as we start to prepare the back filling of the first 100m of the platform. A large supply of pea gravel was delivered early in the morning (no deliveries possible on bank holiday Monday, so our working day was moved to Tuesday) and it now sits behind the signal box:

Go ! Start shoveling....
It struck me what a beautiful view this is... how lucky we are in the Cotswolds. I wonder which hill this is?

The logistics of the pea gravel excercise are:

- Shovel pea gravel into a wheelbarrow
- Push wheelbarrow up special ramp on to PWay trolley
- Add second wheelbarrow
- Push PWay trolley down the loop to the far end of platform 2.
- Fill buckets with pea gravel out of the wheelbarrows on the trolley
- Hand to accomplice behind the new platform wall
- Accomplice pours pea gravel over drainpipe.
- Push trolley back to signal box
- Repeat...

Such fun !
I was convinced this trolley pushing would come to a sticky end if the sprung brake lever was ever inadvertently released a tiny bit. This happened with a barrow of mortar a few weeks back, and while the trolley stopped dead, the barrow went on, mortar all over the trackbed. But no, all the pea gravel arrived safely at the other end. Well done, guys. Steady hand on the brake lever, apparently.

The start of the pea gravel pouring, at the far end of CRC 2.
It was quite satisfying to see the pea gravel fill the channel we had created for the drain. This will be repeated with a second layer, once we have back filled the rest to this initial depth. At the end of the day, we had filled about 50% of this channel, say 50m, so another day should see this job completed. About 4 -5 tons were moved in this way, in buckets. Oh boy. There must be another way...

Pea gravel train meets passenger train, all at 5mph...
While a team of three was doing the gravel run, another 5 volunteers carried on with muck making, and brick laying. We need to finish off the initial 100m section of the wall, so that it can be back filled, before starting the second half. The weather was superb, and they got a lot done because it was nice and dry. The 90m section reached row 1 of the corbelling, and the 100m section row 6 of the blues, just over half way up. The four brick layers put down a (record?) 1010 bricks today. Respectable !

The end of the middle. Nearly there!
A large supply of donated crushed concrete has been sourced, and once the wall is complete and the rear drain in, it can be ferried in with a small dumper. Won't be long now, either.

The long trudge back to the cabin, and tea.

This being an operating day, we enjoyed the intermittent arrival of either the 8F, or the 3 car DMU. The only negative here is the delicious smell of bacon butties, which we can smell, but not eat. Oh to be a passenger ! How lucky they are.

30T of topsoil, anyone?

Another interesting wrinkle today was the start of a shuttle of Kier lorries taking subsoil from the excavations for the new racecourse stand to a big pile of it being created in the field behind the signal box. This pile was moved around by an impressively large Caterpillar tractor. Two banksmen guided the lorries across the L/C, in consultation with the signalman.

Back next Monday !

A video of our day's activities. Your blogger however was having tea...