Monday, 30 June 2014

A further day of digging away the rear of platform two. Two dumpers and a mini digger were hired in for the day, and we spent all day at it.

Scraping away at the rear of the platform

Progress was slow. The main reason was the discovery of a 4 - 6 inch base of concrete at the rear, and the mini digger was too lightweight really to deal with this. We had to resort to manual destruction of large slabs of concrete with a keying hammer. The leftover pieces were then too big or too awkward to be scooped into the dumpers, and in some cases it was quicker to stop digging, and lift the pieces in by hand.

Last week, we did 35m of the rear, and this week we did the same again. So that's about two thirds of the 100m length done, i.e. we have to come back again to finish the job next week. There were mutterings about getting a bigger digger...

The Dexion strip at the rear is trying to hold the running in board up.

The platform 2 running in board did not entirely survive the digging operation, and, given its age and less than perfect authenticity (the posts are made of plastic, painted dark stone...) , it was agreed to try and replace it with a new one, similar to the one on platform 1. At the end of the day, it looked like your scribe had got the job ! Gee, I didn't see that one coming....

The platform edging committee.

We scratched our heads over the nature of the rear of the platform. Was it made of slag stones, like platform 1? If so, where were they? How far back, how deep? An exploratory dig was made. Eventually, a sort of wall made of loose stones was found, but no slag stones. A chat with Bob Stark revealed that there had been slag stones for at least part of the length, but in the early days these stones had been thrown into the centre of the track by vandals. These stones typefy CRC, and may have been cheap and common during GWR days, but they may well prove hard to find today, given the much reduced, and modernised state of our steel industry.

The view at lunch time. Once again, it was hot and very dusty indeed. The water bowser was on another job, we learned. Paul is dreaming of tea.
Bob and JC install the new distribution box - believe it or not , Paul is in the picture. He is on his hands and knees behind the box. Don't be shy, Paul !

While the digger and the dumpers worked on the rear of the platform, another team started to prepare for the installation of GWR lamp posts. The electricity supply as found was sourced from the below ground level GPO box in the centre left above, but it was water logged and not ideal for electrical distribution. A brand new box was sourced an erected; however, it is not very heritage, and later perhaps a more traditional box could be found? How about one of the green cast iron telephone cabinets you see along the roadsides, now increasingly replaced by more modern cabinets? Anyone know how to get one? Other ideas?

JC, Peter Muir, Bob Stark and Bob W ponder the works. Paul gives the bright new distribution box a hard stare.

Dig deeper, Paul. Much deeper !

Having prepared a cable route, thoughts turned to the installation of the lamp posts themselves. JC marked out the position of the rear of the platform, and then the site of the first three lamp posts. Brian and Paul then dug the first two holes. Easier said than done - this was into solid, original clay, which was hard as rock. Due to the depth, a pick axe could not be used on the deeper bits; stabbing at the bottom with an iron rod was the only way to prise the stuff loose.

At the end of the day.

At the end of the day, we had achieved another 35m dig at the rear of the platform. We almost made it to the southern end - 5m still to go - but weariness set in, and at 17.00 we decided to call it a day. Tiredness can be dangerous, and you really have to concentrate when loading the dumpers, or running one up and down along the platform edge.

In the picture above, the digger and dumper set off for the cabin. The dumper is filled with slabs of concrete, and the keying hammer with which they were broken up. The posts on the right show the platform rear edge, and the position of a lamp post.

Next time: You scribe climbs into the attic of the booking office, and makes a find.

Monday, 23 June 2014

After a week of intense back filling activity, the rhythm at CRC2 is now back to its normal level, i.e. once a week on a Monday. So here is this Monday's report:

Raking the scalpings level
The first thing we had to do was rake the scalpings, ready for rolling. This didn't go quite to plan, as our order for more could not be filled immediately, and with some grumbling the gang set about moving the piles dropped last week by hand to the right places. Nonetheless John seems to have a welcome grin at the sight of a well filled barrow arriving. The roller waits in the background.

The roller seems to work very well.

After spreading out all the piles we had dropped the week before, there was enough for a go at rolling. We had found an additional supplier for the scalpings, but not until lunch time.

Making the platform wider.
We decided on an alternative activity, which was to dig out the rear of the new platform, clearing a long pile of bits of clay, ash and remnants of the old platform. Along this new line will go the new GWR lamp posts.

Tony takes the long, bumpy green road...

A destination then had to be found for the material being dug out. Eventually, after much poking around in the undergrowth north of the signal box - disturbing 4-5 rabbits, unfortunately - a dump site was found. This was down by the bracket signal, quite a long way away and down a very bumpy track. This made progress so slow - the digger having nothing to do until the dumper eventually arrived back after each long sortie - that a second dumper was hired in for the day.
Found that conduit yet?

Another activity for the mini digger was to locate the junction boxes for water and electricity at the rear of the platform, and dig a new channel to them. Three men investigated the hole. You can't be sure enough.

Tote that bag !

At lunch time, Fairview arrived with a load of scalpings, and with the instructions to take the last two bags/pallets of imperial bricks back to Broadway. There seems to be some brick exchange activity between CRC and Broadway, as a party of new bricks recently delivered to Broadway from a college are about to be sent to CRC. Nothing goes to waste here, and we are saving money.

Digging out the rear of the platform.

As the platform is now a bit wider, we have a sort of 'loop' where dumpers can pass - see picture. The photograph was taken from a full dumper about to leave (in reverse), and an empty one has just arrived. This worked pretty well, and the mini digger was hard at work all day, pretty much non stop. In fact the driver complained of a sticky bottom - the seat is made of plastic, and the engine compartment is right underneath. On top of that, there was brilliant sunshine again. All very hot. I can see where the expression 'redneck' comes from !

At the end of the day.
Although the mini digger was at work most of the day, progress was slow. We completed 35m of the 100m, so it looks like two more sessions will be required. Then we need to bring up, rake and roll in the scalpings.
The above picture shows the state of play at the end of the day, and a lovely old laurel tree in a bed of foundry stones. Very CRC ! A scrape around the old ramp also revealed that there is a tarmaced road underneath all that grass - who knew? This could do with clearing off by a couple of people, it would make the platform look a lot newer very quickly.

The gang will be at Broadway pretty much every day this week ( a push is on to get as much done on the box before JC takes up his Rotary chairman's crown for the year) so we will be back at CRC2 next Monday.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

We did it ! Back filling of CRC2A is completed on day seven.

The view this morning, shovelling crew at the ready in the distance.
 There was an additional day's work on Monday, which resulted in the completion of the penultimate layer, layer no. 4. Seven volunteers came to help. Today we were six, and above is the sight that faced us first thing in the morning.

Little and Large.
To complete the job, we had between three and four truck loads of infill to shift, using these tiny little 1T dumpers, with big brother making an appearance behind, just to let us know what sort of equipment exists if you really want. But we need to use the small ones, to get behind the platform.

There was a steady flow of rubble today, brought by the 10T dumper.
The rubble supply issue seems to have resolved itself, and we received a steady stream of 10T loads from the big dumper, rather than the more infrequent 20T loads from the two eight wheelers. The yellow stuff proved very difficult to shift by hand, and we were pleased to see that the supply had reverted to crushed concrete, with its accompanying bits of rebar and plastic debris in it. Yes, something is definitely being knocked down somewhere.

The class 37 makes an appearance.

Today was a running day, which is more fun. When the train comes we have to stop, but no matter, we can sit down on the 'terrace' with tea and watch the fun and games. Like when the engine driver has so much to say to us, he forgets to pick up the token offered to him from the window of the box :-)

Doing it the long way round
That amused us more than it should have... when the loco came back to couple up, the signalman had a second go from ground level. Oh well.

Then back to work:
One of the last loads goes in.

Towards the middle of the afternoon, the fifth and final layer reached to top of the ramp Yessss! At this point I must mention and indeed show respect for the principal shovellers, Brian and John. It is amazing how many tons they pushed and shovelled around, to get each layer level and spread out. Brilliant, guys. Such stamina, and in this heat and dust too. Well done, medals all round.

The completed back fill of CRC2A.
This was the view mid afternoon, with the back filling as such completed. Still to do: rolling, and final leveling with scalpings. This meant that in fact we had to go back for a sixth layer as it were, dumpering a Fairview lorry load of scalping in little piles, which were spread out using a board and a level by the team plus John C. Don't forget that after placing the heavy edging slabs, the final 4 inches still need to go on too.

Reason for celebration.

As we drove away with the last empty dumpers, the team congratulated itself with a set of 'high fives'. You can be proud of what you did, guys. You worked the hardest of all of us.

End of the day - the dumper is up high!
Our last act of the day was to bring up the scalpings, and dump them in small piles along the top of the infilled platform. These piles will be spread out during our next working day, Monday 23rd June. Our 7 day working week is at an end, and we will now revert to normal Mondays at CRC. Don't forget - we are the Broadway gang, so we won't be sitting down until then, there will be Wednesday and Saturday at Broadway too. Come and see us, mooch around in Marguerite's shop ! Your pleasure is our financial gain.

Friday, 13 June 2014

The final day (this week....) and another hottie. There was a team of 7 today, but the day started off with Derek manning the shovel all on his own.

Still on the first dump, and the second ready to drop.
Luckily, two more volunteers arrived in due course, so that the shovelling team became three, which is more reasonable.
The objective today was to put in the 4th layer. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons we did not manage this, and just got 45 meters in. Still, looking back over the week, we reckon we transported and levelled 200 tons of infill, with 3 1/2 layers done, and 1 1/2 layers still to go. The platform has been transformed!

Here is the main reason we did not fill as much as we had hoped today:
The big sky - unfortunately, also the small pile.

No infill available ! We are rather dependent on our kind suppliers Kier, and today some of the crushed concrete they had was used under their piling rigs, so that up to a point we had to make do with what was left over from yesterday.

No, not crisps, water.
One very welcome sight today was, as promised yesterday, a water bowser that ran up and down the route used by the Kier lorries and dumpers, to dampen down the dust we have been having in this hot weather. It was a big improvement.

Thirsty work for a CAT.
The big field behind the signal box continues to swallow vast amounts of clay, dug up from the foundations of the new racecourse buildings. This huge bulldozer flattens out the spoil deliveries, and at the end of the day, the field hardly looks any different. Amazing.

Tony and Ron have a chin wag.
Our little dumpers were proving temperamental when starting - every other start attempt resulted in electrics, but no starter motor activity. We tried wiggeling various levers, bouncing up and down on the seat (there is a contact under it, believe it or not) and even prayer, but often as not, the d****d things wouldn't start. Finally we found the cause - the main control lever (which acts as a sort of joy stick giving forward, back, brake and dump control) also has a sensor in it, which is rather worn. If it isn't exactly in the middle when you turn the starter key, it won't go. Glad we got that sorted then. Now, how about some more spoil?

As the spoil shortage had also impacted Kier's activities, the ordered some crushed stone from a quarry, and very kindly rerouted one of these lorries over to us. Now that is friendly! We were off again, but now in yellow. It looked rather odd, but that's the Cotswolds for you.

4270 comes to inspect our work

Friday is a non-running day, so we are not slowed down by passing trains. Not!
Peculiar arm waving by the shovel gang as I mounted the platform infill caused me to slow down and stop. It was 4270, let out for a canter. Nice. I am so impressed by this locomotive, being a shareholder of 4253, which still has some way to go, but this is what we will get. Fabulous.

What's this yellow stuff you're bringing us then?

The crushed Cotswold stone was very sticky and almost impossible to shift, even with pick and shovel. Eventually we cracked, and ordered a 1 1/2 ton mini digger to help distribute the material. It arrived within the hour - now that is service.

Rolling, rolling, rolling.....

Finally, the 45m we filled were rolled by John, leaving a nice packed surface.
This is the end of our working CRC2 week, and tomorrow were are having a 'holiday' at Broadway. the signal box is calling us...

We will be back at CRC2 on Monday to progress the fourth layer - other days are not yet certain.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Day four, and another good day's work at CRC2A.
Seven volunteers came today, just about do-able: one on the 360, one on each dumper, and 4 shovelling the infill as it arrives behind the platform. No reserves to give a bit of slack though.

Ron is about to receive a gift. Step aside now.
The day started with a fresh delivery of infill from the race course site. We needed it badly, as we had just about got through the last two lorry loads, and the situation is the same again this evening - none left. Luckily communications are good, and 20T can arrive quickly.

Can you come a little bit closer?

The job today began at the third level, where we had paused at the 38m mark last night. This level is really deep, nearly a foot, so filling was slow but persistence pays, and at the end of the day the third level up to 100m was achieved, and indeed rolled. Your scribe drove along the top of it with a first load  for the fourth level, and it feels very high. We are over half way up now, perhaps two more levels to do.

You may breathe this, there is no charge.

An issue which became quite prevalent today was dust. You can see on the photograph above that the foreground is damp where the Kier banksmen and ourselves had hosed it down, but in the background is the huge trail of dust being left by one of the spoil lorries. This dust billows across the site relentlessly from both sides of the railway. What can you expect, with all this sunny weather? The good news is that, as I understand it, a bowser/sprinkler will be made available to follow the shuttle lorries around. With this hot weather, the ground soon dries out again, so this is welcome news.

Trying to keep the dust down at the level crossing
The two dumper drivers got a good rhythm going, as can be seen in the picture. As soon as the empty one arrived, and the banksman gave the signal, the full one - in the foreground - set off with a fresh load.
At the beginning of the day, the journey was 200m there, and 200m back, so the gang on the shovels could have a little break in between arrivals. However, by the end of the day, the distance to the dump site was halved, and loads were arriving hard and fast. The gang on the shovels had no respite; worse still, one man could only come for half a day, so there were fewer of them after lunch. Well done all though!

Dinmore Manor arrives at the 100m mark.
The picture above, taken in the latter half of the day, shows how the gang had nearly reached the end of 2A. The little brick 'T' is the 90m mark, and the bucket in the right foreground is full of scrap raked up out of the infill. Waste not, want not ! The dumper is parked up, pending completion of the train manoeuvre, thus allowing your scribe to get off and take a photograph of the activities. Here the gang of 4 is down to a gang of two...

Caught it !
I couldn't resist a little railway photography, and this one shows the crew of Dinmore Manor catching the token from the signal box. I was rather impressed by the professional way the loco was driven, very smart shunting..

A final rolling of today's infill

The last picture shows the situation at the close of today, Thursday. A ramp has been built back down to foundation level. Tony B is on the trackbed, and this shows how far we have managed to fill so far. Looks nearly full ! But quite a bit more to go yet. We will be back on Friday and Monday. As were are the Broadway gang, we are having a day off on Saturday - at Broadway :-)

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Day three back filling CRC2A. We are very lucky with the weather - not a drop of rain today; if anything, it was too dry, for there was a lot of dust about again. This time, we took a hose and wetted the road surface, which helped.
The number of volunteers on site was good today, several more were kind enough to come and help, allowing us to shuttle back and forth with the little dumpers as fast as we could. Four volunteers manned the shovels to distribute what we delivered. A couple extra in fact allowed us to vary the shovel teams, and let Steve off on the roller to finish off the second layer. Roger had a good ferret around the site for broken bricks and sundry rubble to lose behind the platform wall.

The next load arrives, towards the northern end of 2A
 The first thing we did today was finish off the last 15m of the second layer, the last one with pea gravel.

The roller tamps down the N end of the second layer.
 After completing the second layer, John C marked out the depths that the next two layers (all of crushed concrete) should be. They were to be much deeper than before! The top of the two lines he marked out represents the bottom of the lamp post sockets.
Given that the next two layers would be deeper, a lot more spoil was required per meter length of progress. How we wished that our dumpers could be bigger...

Spot the machine not hired for CRC2A...
 Above is our little fleet of machinery - two 1T dumpers, a roller and a 360 excavator. The CAT tractor disgraced itself today by breaking down, but normally it is employed leveling off the spoil brought over from the new racecourse stand excavations. We have heard talk of 20.000 tons being moved here, and all of it will vanish in the field, which will end up slightly higher than before. Thanks to the kindness of the contractors Kier, we have a large supply of crushed concrete from the demolition of the old stand, and this is ideal for our back filling operations - it all stays pretty much on site, and no acquisition nor disposal costs are incurred. A win for all concerned. We are getting through he stuff at a rate of 40 - 60T a day, or between two and three large lorry loads.

If only !
 It was a busy day at the station today, with 4 spoil moving vehicles running back and forth across the crossing, our  two dumpers as well as a steam and a diesel train. Kier have two banksmen permanently in place, and everything went very politely and smoothly.

A pause for the dumper on the return journey

A class 20, a roller and a load of spoil. Every ton of spoil delivered is leveled out by hand.
 In the picture above we can see the start of the third and much thicker layer. Thanks to the extra hands to day, Steve was able to start rolling immediately, whereas yesterday it was our digger operator John C, who then of course wasn't loading. The difference an extra man makes is considerable.

At the end of the day, near the running in board.
The final tally for the day was layer 2 finished off, and of the much thicker layer 3 the first 38 meters were laid and rolled. We reckon that at this depth (nearly a foot) it takes at least two dumper loads per meter length achieved. Probably a total of 90 dumper journeys were made today, we're getting quite good at this now.

Tomorrow should see the completion of the third layer, we hope, if enough volunteers to man the shovels can be found. Friday perhaps a good start on layer 4, with completion of that on Monday. That will see us up to bottom of the lamp posts level. You can see from the picture that the dumper we use really has to be quite narrow - at Broadway, the space behind the platform was wider and we back fill rather more quickly, using a 2T machine.

Finally, a tip for those interested in the Bridges to Broadway repairs. A new blog has been started up to log progress of the bridge works, with pictures. It should be updated a couple of times a week.
You can view it here:

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

The second day back filling at CRC2A. Again breezy but generally sunny weather. Angry skies over the distant hills, but the rain never got to us, and we managed to work almost continuously, except when there was a train movement. We managed to time these pretty much to coincide with tea breaks, so no harm done.
The crew eagerly await the next delivery of spoil.
The purpose of the day was to add a second layer of spoil, and add a second layer of pea gravel on top of the first. This involves partitioning off a section of the infill with scaffolding boards, which are removed once both spoil and pea gravel are in. In this way any water trapped behind the wall can drain down and out through periodic cross drains in the blockwork.

Filling a dumper with pea gravel
Today was a running day, so we had visits from Dinmore Manor and a class 20. Here you can see the class 20 making an appearance behind the signal box. An ugly locomotive, but an interesting diesel noise, with plenty of whistling from the turbo - I think.

Pouring pea gravel with buckets
As the little 1T dumpers don't have a swivelling bucket, the pea gravel had to be loaded into its trench by hand using buckets. We started at the Hunting Butts end, and slowly worked our way north, so that the journey got shorter and shorter. Today we had two experienced dumper drivers, and delivery was a lot faster, going like clockwork, with very little waiting time. Unfortunately we were well down on volunteers, with only six (10 yesterday) at best. In the latter half of the day all the shovelling fell upon John and Brian, which was a lot to ask of the same people all day long. At the end of the day they were exhausted - just look at the uninterupted stretch behind the dumper still to be infilled. So here is a plea to GWSR volunteers - please come and help Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Help share the load, even if only for half a day, you can sit in front of the cabin, drink tea and watch trains in between shifts.

The class 20 trundles by.      I'm 60...?
It seems the class 20 is younger than all of us, as we are all well over 60.
A dumper loaded with spoil sets off for CRC2A
At the end of the day, we had infilled 85m of the 100m behind the platform. This is less than yesterday, firstly because the drain and pea gravel were already built into the first layer, whereas we had to do both pea gravel and spoil today, and secondly because there were fewer people to share the load at the distribution end. Tomorrow we will therefore first finish off the second layer (the last 15m) and then roll it, before commencing the third layer. This will then be all spoil only, no more pea gravel being required.

Finally a picture of Dinmore Manor coming into Cheltenham Race Course station. Two loaded dumpers are waiting for the run round to complete, before setting off again down platform two.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday then - do see if you can come and help.