Monday, 28 July 2014

Another hot and sunny day. Can this be an English summer? If so, it is a very good one. Before we start work, I slap on the sun protection cream, and put on a big hat. I got through most of a 2L bottle of water. But the success was there, we put up the CRC2A lamp posts!

The Dutch milk maid
 The rebuild of this platform has always been a very physical job. Not only have we had to move 30.000 or so bricks by hand, but also all the mortar mixes that go with them. Here is another example of the physical nature of the job. We needed water to make up the lean mix for the lamp posts on site, so the most obvious way to get some was to put it in buckets and carry it down from the cabin. Later, we discovered a gardener's hose pipe attached to the gent's loo. That had to be flipped backwards and forwards across the tracks, as trains were running today, exceptionally.

The next physical bit today was to organise a supply of ballast for making up the lean mixes on site. At first, we tried to use the mini digger to lift the 1T dumpy bag into the 1T dumper, but the loops broke. So back to the tried and tested shovel-as-much-as-you-can-by-hand method.

The Cheltenham gang had already positioned 5 lamp posts along CRC2A, but there was one more to go. We scratched our heads for the best way to do it, but decided in the end that the Cheltenham lads had got it figured out, and that we couldn't improve on their system. So 6 of us, including brave Pat Green, long retired, lifted a cast iron post on to a little trolley, rolled it over the bridge and down the CRC2 ramp.

It arrived at the bottom, perfectly intact. Next, we used the mini digger to lift the posts into their holes, dug last week and filled with lean mix first thing this morning up to the right level for standing the posts on.

'X' marks the spot where the post had to come to rest. Carefully measured from the platform edge, and from the neighbouring post as well.

The mini digger then lifted it into place, whereupon it was upended by hand and stood upright. Heave-ho.

Brian is fulfilling a vital function, holding the post in place while a tape measure is fetched to check the position. Notice the little hole at the top of the post - this was a critical little hole, as it had to exactly face the platform. Later, it will hold a suspended 'Platform 2' sign. The lamp post is slightly taller than the others for this role, and comes from - Leckhampton ! Isn't it nice to have such local input. At Broadway, a kind supporter has donated us one from - Littleton & Badsey! Again, a lovely piece of local history. Are there any more out there?

Once in place, the lamp posts were fitted with a short connection from the junction box, so that the supply cable has a continuous run to the top of the post. The blue rope will help us pull the cable through later on. The plastic sleeve stops the concrete from running into the middle of the post. Bob spent a lot of time with the level, trying to get the post vertical. Very tricky - the post is conical in shape. At the end of the day, we had placed all the posts, and concreted 3 of them. Nearly there then.

To our delight, we had the visit of 2807. She made three return trips with her shareholders and supporters, who waved to us with much enthusiasm.

At the end of the day, we had 6 posts in, with three set up and concreted. In the picture, not all of the posts are fixed yet, so no comments about 'this one is a bit off, isn't it' please.

At 16.00 we called it a day, and your blogger set off to inspect the bridges, for a further report. No, don't click yet, I've still got to write it, haven't I !

Monday, 21 July 2014

A hot day today, and one we had earmarked to finish off the ducting. It was cold as I set off for CRC, and I had a long sleeved shirt on. Soon, the sun came out, and it became unbearably hot (well, for those working a shovel !) Here is the situation at the start of the day, with the last 40m of the platform still without ducting:

At the start of the day

Wrestling with a 6m piece of unwilling pipe.
 The idea was to measure up and lay out the 100mm ducting, as well as the junctions for each lamp post. In the picture above, you can see Tony and Bob working the circular pipe cutter, which leaves a lovely chamfered edge, if only you can work it round the wriggly piece of tube. It leads to some ungainly poses. We got there.

Dig that hole!

Next, we realised that we were 2 holes short for placing the lamp posts. We measured out the location of each hole, and started to dig deep. This worked OK for the first 6 inches - see picture - but that was as far as the rain had penetrated. Then, we were in 190m year old shale, which when first exposed to daylight is pretty hard stuff. We hacked at it with a pick axe, but quickly fell about exhausted, due to the heat. Bob then went off to get a Hilti for the day:
Dig that hole, part II

This is an electrically powered rock hammer, which went through the shale just nice. Only have to scoop the stuff out now... Derek was nominated as the shoveller, and is looking on sceptically.
Breaking up the old running in board.

As a distraction from digging in the heat, four of us broke up the old running in board. This was unfortunately life expired, and not quite a copy of the one that was there before. A new one, similar to the one on platform 1, has been requested by the Area Group, and the replica posts and finials have been ordered, based on the good experience we had with the board at Broadway. B&S will make the board itself, so in a couple of months, we should be ready to go.

The view from the top of the ramp - form an orderly queue now.
While seeking shelter form the pityless sun, we walked up the old ramp and took this picture back down. This is a lovely crowd barrier, made mostly from old bullhead rail. There is tarmac under that grass...

The heat takes its toll - but here comes the cavalry!
The picture above shows the killer job of the day, back filling the channel with the ducting in it, so that it was safe for the mini digger to run over it. The mini digger then duly arrived, and made mincemeat out of what was taking us so long. In the background you can see Pete from B&S repainting the canopy. This is after he has fished out undescribable things from the guttering. A brave man. The end is already looking nice, Pete!

At 4pm we called it a day. All the ducting was in, and covered over with spoil. Using the 1T dumper, we carried away the excess. This process is however not yet complete; we need another half day to scrape away the clay that has been trodden into the scalpings.

Next on the agenda is a day spent setting out the continuation of the brick laying, or starting on CRC2b as you might call it. Next Monday we also intend to start the process of erecting the lamp posts themselves. To start with, we will put into each excavated hole a base of concrete for the lamp posts to stand on at the correct height.
Swallows - what are they doing up there?
So that we are not always talking about platforms, above is a picture I took first thing, next to the signal box. My heart sank, as I initially thought this was swallows assembling for the trek south, signalling the end of a glorious summer. But on closer inspection of the several photographs I took, I now realise that these boys are all young. They sit awkwardly, with fluffy feathers, out for their first flights. Not quite the end of summer then - more hot days to come later this week, if you can believe the forecasts.

Monday, 14 July 2014

A bright sunny day today, with six 'diggers' on site. Today was the day we started the ducting for the replica lamp posts.
If I were you, I wouldn't start from there...
We started of with a supply of ducting, junction boxes, lids and unions. JC had made a very useful drawing of the layout of a junction box, but that nonetheless required deep study. Now where do I drop these things?

Drilling an extra hole
In order to unite the junction boxes with the bottom of the lamp posts, we will fit a 50mm pipe bend. This however needs feeding into the junction box. That required a lot of head scratching, and a quick trip home for John O to get an extra drill and kit. It was also discovered that a 110v extension cable will not take the juice to a 240v power drill - dang - so we worked in the gloom at the back of the container.

While we were preparing the junction boxes, Ron B was in the 3T digger running a trench up the back of CRC2A. That went pretty well. It just leaves the team to shovel the whole lot back in, once the 100mm pipe is in. Luckily the material is now loose.
John O and Bob struggle with the KY jelly and a pipe end.
There is a bit of a knack to pushing the chamfered end of the pipe into the ring in the mouth of the junction box. It needs a sharp knock, not two guys pushing in opposite directions. We learned the hard way, but after a while, having set out the first one, we got on pretty well.

John O brings a vital tape measure. 300mm from where, does it say?
The tricky bit was to get the correct depth, so that the lid of the junction box is level with the future tarmac level. There will be one of these junction boxes in front of every lamp post.

Brian retires briefly for a short rest.
While two of us laid the pipe, assembled it and got the depth right, three more back filled the whole lot as we went along. As the sun was shining brightly, this was hot work. This not being a true chain gang, brief periods for rest were allowed. Brief periods, Brian, brief ones !

At close of play.
At the end of the day, both pipe layers and back fillers had reached the same spot - the junction box at the bottom of the ramp, where the mains cable will enter the pipe run. You can see it in the foreground (with its lid a bit askew, it's just on a bit to stop dirt getting in.). This is about 60m of the 100m we need to do. After that, we can set the lamp posts in concrete, which will be fun. Something to look forward to next week.

While digging out the original clay, a question arose, to which we could not immediately find an answer. Maybe readers can help?

A puzzle...

Yes, we wondered,
What is older:

a. John O, or,
b. This ammonite?

(Puzzle set with John's permission, as he often wonders as well)

Monday, 7 July 2014

A small party turned up at 8.30 this morning, to find two dumpers delivered, but no digger! Also, one of our dumper drivers has yielded to the siren call of the Fairford air show, and no amount of smiles, good humour or mini Swiss rolls can beat that. So we were just 4.

It turned out that the promised larger (3 ton) digger had not been returned by the previous hirer on time, so could not be delivered. We then ordered 'anything you can get us' and a mini digger turned up at 11.20.

What to do in the meantime?

Our neighbours are busy.

Well, we can always stare at the earthworks being graded in the field behind the signal box. Every working day, for several weeks now, two lorries and a huge dumper have been ferrying soil from the race course works, over our L/C and into the field behind the signal box. There must be several 10.000 tons being moved, yet that field swallows it almost without effect. In the picture above you can see a 20T load arriving on the big dumper, and the Caterpillar getting ready to pounce on the load. The puffy clouds in the distance promise no good though.

Brian digging  'an 'ole'

We decided to dig another lamp post hole while we waited. This took quite a long time, as you are quickly into original clay, which has the consistency of shale here. Once the hole gets more than a few inches deep, you can no longer swing the pickaxe and the shovel is the only instrument you have. But persistence pays, and by lunch time the hole was dug - that makes three. Next, the ducting.

At 11.20, oh joy, a mini digger arrived. We quickly set to work, finishing off the southern end of the platform, and then moving on to the last 30m at the northern end.

Don't want to come out, huh?

Further stretches of concrete were found, and our idea was to attack these with a bigger 3T digger, which of course didn't arrive. So back to the same modus operandi as last week - scrape off the dirt, and attack with a large hammer. Brian did the honours, very successfully. Resistance is useless! All the big bits of concrete were then manhandled into the dumper.

The end of CRC2A

When we got to the southern end of CRC2, we pushed the last 5m of spoil over the end, where there was a small shortage there. Then this bit was signed off.

More bricks arrive.

At lunch time, Richard arrived with the Fairview lorry and a number of pallets of bricks that he had brought down as surplus from Broadway. These are metric reds and blue seconds, which had recently been donated to us. We will put them to good use at CRC when we resume the brick laying.

After a short lunch, we resumed digging and dumping, until we reached the 85m point, with just 15m left to dig. Then, three things happened:

An English summer...

- It started to rain very hard indeed
- The water bowser arrived to dampen down the dust bowl around the level crossing. Talk about timing...
- The long awaited 3T digger arrived.

Too late! We swapped the diggers round, but in view of the downpour and little time left of the afternoon, we called it a day.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

So what did I find in the attic of the CRC booking office? A large box with cast iron GWR letters ! Here they are in my garage:

Original cast iron GWR letters

Unfortunately, the letters are all different sizes 9 ins, 7ins, 5 ins, 4 ins, 3.7 ins and 2.8 ins. Any ideas what we could spell?

I almost have 'RACE COURSE' in the correct 9ins height. What we still need is a 'U' and an 'S', and maybe a better 'R'. Furthermore, we need 'CHELTENHAM' in 12ins letters. Also 'BROADWAY'.... anyone got any ideas where we can get such cast iron GWR letters? We also need lots of the smaller letters to do the Broadway 'V' boards.