Wednesday, 29 October 2014

We were given these two mugs to sell, from the collection of a former fireman at Gloucester. Seems to be slipware, both labelled GWRS (and not GWSR!). No marks underneath, good condition.

Can anyone tell us what they are?

Monday, 27 October 2014

Back to CRC2, and a big gang today, with up to 10 people laying bricks and shutteling around with mortar and supplies. And the weather was great - warm and dry. Just like our sense of humour :-)

To start with today, a little warm up exercise at the beginning of the day to get us going - lift 20 sacks of cement @ 25Kg each and carry them into the container. Brian can do it running !

Next job - tote that bale, shift those pipes. Our supply of 100mm drain pipes lay in the way of the next bit of platform wall extension, so had to be moved one by one to behind the 110m section. We can't lay them out yet, because they would get in the way of the bricklayers' feet. And we had five bricklayers today. In the foreground of the picture above you can see the upright blues weighing down a line of corbelling just achieved on the 120m section.
Then - mix that mortar! Problem - the mixer was on strike. The electric motor went round OK, but the drum wouldn't. John O gives up in frustration; Brian and Keith decide to investigate.
A few minutes later John O comes to explain that the problem is fixed. Something to do with the cambelt. Fixed it with a stocking did you? Keith can't believe his ears. It's much too warm for stockings.
Then, some serious work. With the 5 brick layers on site, John O was under pressure to keep them supplied. We keep patting ourselves on the back how much shorter the distance is for the wheelbarrows, but it's still 100yds to push every time. On this picture, you can see pretty well what has been achieved over the last week, esp. after Bob and John had another secret session mid week. The 130m section looks pretty high here. In fact it ended the day ready for corbelling. So fast...
Here is Bob laying the last plain brick on the 130m section. In the background we've got Tony and Peter Q backing up the run of corbelling Bob did earlier.
Yes, the brick laying was so efficient today that we were asked to bring down some more bricks from above. I counted the remaining piles first thing, and there were 26 of them. Down from something like 60 (or 80, I have forgotten just how many we started with) and that includes the second hand bricks that we brought down from Broadway and manipulated on to the site. We shifted two pallets worth down to the next section of wall that will be built, about 1000 bricks in all.
We break open a pallet of reds, bring them to the edge of the embankment, hand them down to Brian, he puts them on the PWay trolley (which holds exactly one pallet full) and then we roll the trolley along to the site where they are most needed. Your scribe prefers to handle bricks by armfuls; Brian and Keith decided on throwing them, but an instant of inattention, and you get a brick in your ear. Just warning you, Keith ! That happy smile could quickly turn upside down.
Luckily it was Monday (for the trolley going up and down the loop) and there were no trains. Wrong! So wrong... Mid afternoon Dinmore Manor coasted in with a 4 coach special with photographers on board.
This has the (I presume) unintended effect of stopping all work while we gape in awe. But not everybody is so impressed.

Here John S calmly carries on unperturbed, pointing his recently laid brickwork, as the Manor rumbles around the station. Handy, those milk crates. You can stack them, and enjoy a stress free bit of pointing. Notice that we point behind the platform as well, in the bit that will be back filled. Very proud of our work, we are.

At the end of the afternoon, Dinmore Manor left again with its short train. Quite noisy too, for such a modestly sized engine. We carry on with our bricks.

We have now almost completed the 110 - 130m sections. 110m is signed off, 120m has two courses of corbelling laid, and 130m is up to corbelling. Sounds like a lot of corbelling to do next time then.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, a small team will be pegging out the next 2 - 3 sections, and will lay a few corbelling bricks. Next Monday we can lay more corbels, and start on sections 140m and 150m with a first row of blues and some concrete to even out the foundations.

Good progress today, well done chaps !

Thursday, 23 October 2014

A follow up day on fishplate greasing with the Wednesday gang. After the gang called the BAG for help with this huge exercise, 4 members turned up a fortnight ago, and yours truly again today for the follow up. The fresh air, good company and physical exercise were irresistible. Oh yes, and there was lunch on offer !

A pukka freight train - that's what you get with the PWay.
After a cheering cup of tea in the gang's very own mess coach, our train lurched into life and trundled through Winchcombe station and the tunnel out to Gotherington. We were here to finish off what was left undone, after we ran out of fuel the last time.
It's heavy.
We parked at the Gotherington platform, and out came all the heavy tools required for the job of mechanised fishplate greasing. First the generator, which was equipped like a wheelbarrow so that you could push it. Well, like an overloaded, top heavy wheelbarrow. That takes two men to push.
It's heavy - part II
Then came the nut remover (known on the K&ESR as the 'Nurdler') which was so heavy it came with a special set of wheels to go under it. Unfortunately, you had to lift it on and off as well. That took at least 4 people, with a fifth to hold the wheels in place.
It's heavy - part III
Then came the nut replacer (also known as a 'Nurdler' on the K&ESR, we SE-teners are a folk of few words). This one was fiendish, as it had a diesel engine, which was not only like moving an anvil, but also a b...h to start.
Now it's incredibly heavy !
Finally came the PWay trolley, which was so heavy it came in two halves (4 people to each half, if you please) and when you have to lift that over set of points set against you, it's he whole team that is required.Count the heads - there are eight!
Paul has dropped his contact lens... is that in the four foot, or the six foot?
The petrol generator-in-a-wheelbarrow was wrestled on to the PWay trolley and, flanked by the two nut removing machines, the team set off to finish Gotherington loop. The first machine removes the nuts, a powered grease gun squirts a dose of sticky black stuff behind the fish plate (and after a day's squirting, invariably on the operators as well) and the second machine does the nuts up again.
Robert did a lot of the squirting, and your scribe was amazed to find him in shorts, with leopard spotted shins covered in sticky black grease. Why not wear trousers? Apparently it is easier to clean the bare legs under the shower, than to wash the trousers. OK....... And a hot tip for those without Swarfega in the house - mix some sugar into washing up liquid, and it does the job just as well. We suppose the sugar takes the soapy taste away ?
Have spanner, will tighten nuts.

We were delighted to greet a new recruit today. Unfortunately, with advancing age my memory for names, already poor, does not improve, but I believe his name was John. I do recall that many years ago he was a fireman at Swindon, hence the interest in the GWR. Welcome !

Unfortunately someone played the usual mean trick on new arrivals, by giving him the spanner with the shortest handle.

In the morning, we finished off the loop and proceeded further southwards beyond the bracket signal, round the curve and on to the straight in the direction of Bishops Cleeve.

Yes, that is really a tea bag in there...
Just as we were starting to flag a bit, it was lunch time. Alas that is not the whole story, as we had to walk back to our mess coach in the train, by now a good mile away. What a trudge over the ballast. But the walk was worth it, for waiting for us with a large kettle of hot water, and a considerable supply of mugs, was Dave. Dave was 'mother', and the tea was jolly refreshing too.

But this was only the start of the catering - yes catering - arrangements. Haven't the Wednesday gang got themselves a lovely and cosy little arrangement in that mess coach. The centre of the coach has been equipped with a full kitchen, and it was humming.

Two short order cooks.
A delicious savoury smell wafted down the corridor, prompting your scribe to take a peep at its source in the kitchen. Here our two chefs were preparing 16 meals of faggots, peas, mash and gravy. This is the real deal....

The meal was served - at the table, if you please - in the dining room, with chequered table cloths, condiments and extra helpings of mash and peas, after all had been served. The faggots were delicious, specially prepared by a butcher in Tewkesbury, and extra large. Fishplate greasing seemed so far away. And the cost of this princely meal? £2.50. And it wasn't even Christmas.

Andy's road-railer Landrover - there's only a single spare seat, so book early.

In the afternoon, further fishplate greasing proceeded, until we had reached this point. Recognise those Scots pines in the distance? Bishops Cleeve, that is. Another greasing session is intended in a couple of weeks, but in the next section lies a considerable stretch of CWR, so perhaps we'll find another new arrival to grease that.
The long road home. This way to Gotherington...
At the end of the afternoon, about turn, time to head for home and load up the tools. But it's a long trudge back. That is only the distant signal, then it's the home, then the loop, then the station. Keep pushing, back there.

Back in the mess coach and a last cup of coffee.
An RCF you say?
Clive got out a thick and voluminous binder - listen carefully, at the back. The subject of the lecture was RCFs and squatting. I had no idea we were suffering from this condition, caused by high speed trains. High speed? Here?

Another fun day, with a great gang.

Monday, 20 October 2014

A fine day at last, ideal weather for brick laying. Most of us got to CRC2 rather late (by half an hour in my case) because of some horrendous snarl up round Bishops Cleeve. But we got there in the end, to find the local boys John and Bob already well at work.

Shortly afterwards, Richard from Fairview came with a welcome supply of corbelling bricks, and 5T of sand. We get through this stuff with amazing speed, and every pound of it is barrowed to the coal face, mostly by John O. Well done, John !
After a while, Bob and John confessed that they had also done a little Saturday session, and revealed that between them they had put a second course of corbelling on the 110m section,and a final header course on the 120m section.
At the beginning of the day; work on all three sections proceeds.
So today we already had a little head start, and the day's progress was boosted by the presence of once again 8 volunteers - we seem to have quite a regular crew.
E6036 draws out the wagons from Hunting Butts.
The exciting bit today was that we had a PWay train headed by the class 73 come to sort out some wagons from the Hunting Butts headshunt. Of course the wagons you want are right in the middle, or even at the very end, so rather than just come and pick them up, the class 73 first ended up with a very long train indeed of all sorts of wagons, some of which had been on fire thanks to our local vandals. Much shunting backwards and forwards ensured, before the correct vehicles had been extracted and formed into a short train. The wagons are required to carry the rail we are buying from the Laverton headshunt up to the Broadway extension railhead, so you can see that there are definite signs of movement here now. I wonder if the share issue has raised enough money to pay for the bridges, as well as for the rails? It's not impossible, as the issue has now breached the £500.000 mark. Wonderful, to get such support.
In between, brick laying continued. Bob put down the final row of corbelling on the 110m section, which was swiftly backed up by Tony and Pete, so that at the end of the day, we can declare this next section - finished!
The 110m section nears completion in the hands of Tony and Pete. A proud moment. Note the empty (-er) Hunting Butts headshunt behind!
Bob then moved on to the 130m section. This is the current end one, and here he added two rows of blues. On the cutting side, John S backed this up with two courses of reds. At the end of the day, we had laid 750 bricks in total, pretty good going for a day's work.

During the day a second team of three (Derek, your scribe and Brian) brought down additional backing up bricks from the top of the cutting. These were essentially the second hand reds and yellows that had been scattered about the field by our traveller visitors, and gathered up again and stacked inside the fence by Bob Stark and his men. We brought down two stacks of reds, and a stack of yellows, about 1300 bricks in all. We were very tired at the end, with only 3 men on the job. Basically this means that each part of the logistics is performed by only one man, so it feels as if you have done everything yourself, e.g. picked up every single brick from the stack, or put every single brick on the trolley.
In this picture, you can see Derek picking the bricks off the trolley and passing them to Brian, who is stacking them behind the current working area ready for immediate use.
Wot? Me? All these?
When we say immediate use, this means the pressure is on John to get on with it, as the stack behind him grows ever bigger...

While all this brick moving was going on, the class 73 was shunting to and fro at the tunnel mouth, and we worried in case it might finally decide to pull away with its newly formed train, and want to run around. We didn't want to get tooted at with our trolley. We kept a wary eye on the loco, even having lunch in order to give it a chance to appear. Eventually it did, pulled in with 5 wagons loaded principally with (unwanted?) bullhead rail and ran round with the Toad. It tooted, we waved, all very slow and friendly.

Finally the PWay train was ready. Neil and Malcolm shared a few words, and it was off. You can see it leave here:
Not a massively exciting video, but it's a bit of a milestone as it signifies the start of the Broadway extension. We are on our way !

Monday, 13 October 2014

Another day of rain ! I suppose we have deserved it, after such a fantastic summer, and one of the driest Septembers on record. Despite the dire forecast, eight people volunteered today. Amazing.

But first things first, another smaller party of five set to work on Saturday 11th. It was a pretty ideally sized party (if you are not shifting materials around, as we mostly do) and the dynamic duo of John O and Derrick made up the mortar and barrowed it down the line, while Bob, Tony and Pete laid bricks in rapid style. Bob completed two half courses of blues on the120m section, and two courses of blues on the 130m section. The first three new sections are looking pretty advanced now!

At the same time, Tony and Pete supported Bob by backing up behind in reds on all three sections currently in hand - 110m, 120m and 130m. About 550 bricks were laid in total, not bad for a damp day. The weather held off until 4pm, but then thick drizzle came down and that was it for Saturday.

Today, Monday, the forecast was for rain and gusts of wind all day long. Even though the forecast was dreadful it was not too bad at Cheltenham.  Tony, Pete and Bob laid two and a half courses of reds on the 120m section and one course on the 130m section. Approx 300 bricks were laid in total. The mortar was supplied by John O and Keith.  Brian, Chris and Derrick moved and cleaned surplus blue bricks from the 120m section, cleaned and stacked red bricks for use behind the 120M section and moved the concrete blocks ready for the 140m section. The 140m section? Yes, we are planning ahead for the next setting out.

At 1.30pm the rain got even worse and the team went home.  The morning working was nevertheless productive. Unfortunately the weather was just too bad for photographs. Not only was it dark, but gloves get wet and sticky with mud, a combination not allowed for by Messrs Canon and Nikon. 

However we do have one picture to show you:
CRC during the winter of 1911 / 1912. A real find !

Cheltenham race Course station was opened on 13th March 1912, when the railway line was already in situ and open. The above picture is a rare one as it shows the platforms actually under construction. It is cold; there is snow visible among the bricks scattered around and the men in the background are dressed in heavy coats and hats and have their hands in their pockets. It looks wet and miserable. There are people standing in the four foot of both lines, but perhaps the chap on the right was the lookout, even though he was standing in the middle of the up line. A brick layer's 'spot' is lying in the foreground but there is no sign of work actually going on. The walls are covered up with cloth held down by bricks - we still do this today when there is rain about - and the men in the distance may well be an inspection party on a non working day. Note that the walls are being back filled as the walls progress, and this may have contributed to them rotating years later, leading directly to our work today! Nowadays we wait for the mortar to have hardened for quite a bit, before back filling anything.
The picture also shows clearly, without the pines there today, that the station was built in a cutting, which is eventually bridged by the Evesham Road overbridge you can see in the distance. Zooming in on the left, we can see what is possibly a NG truck, off its track, and perhaps the tracks to the left of it. So this is how they moved the materials along! But we have tracks too, only standard gauge....

If there is anything you can add, or have another picture of CRC we could put on our blog, do let us know.

Back next week, with more smiling faces of happy slaves...

Thursday, 9 October 2014

A day out with the PWay gang ! BAG received a call for help from Clive to help with fishplate greasing at Gotherington for a day. Three BAG members responded - Mike, Vic and yours truly. What a load of fun we had. It's so interesting to cross fertilise with other departments of the railway, and it's an excellent opportunity to get to know new faces and swap experiences. In fact, it reminded me quite a lot of my son, who is engaged in spreading best practice between the different power stations of one of the nuclear operators.

Nine o'clock saw the three of us at Winchcombe, where we met the rest of the PWay 'Wednesday Gang', who were doing fishplate greasing on - a Thursday. Hmmmm. The members were called together using a neat little internet function called Doodle, which is an on-line diary where a task is described, and people can register to attend. I counted 12 faces at Winchcombe - this agreed with Doodle, so all present and correct !

We set off in the PW train. If the 'P' stood for Pullman, it was certainly luxury, with a buffet car attached and hot and cold running coffee and tea. At Gotherington, the equipment was unloaded; the heavier items with a hoist powered by an electric generator and the whole scheme was well equipped and organised. The train then set back for a quarter of a mile towards Greet, so revealing the point at which we were to start.

Starting the compressor

The Geismar nut remover, with Alasdair at the controls
We operated in three teams: One to undo the fishplate nuts - see above, one to prise open the fishplates and
 inject a modicum of grease,
BAG Vic on the injection team. The man with the cleanest jacket gets to play with the air powered grease gun!
and to follow up, the closure team, with a second Geismar to do the nuts up again:
The closure team, and a recalcitrant diesel engine.
In the team of 12, there was only one man who knew how to start the second Geismar, but he was at the other end of the site, and there was no mobile phone reception with which to ask him. The instructions were in Italian ! It was felt that the task of starting it should fall to a board director. It was a diesel engine, and it was most reluctant to start. After six pulls, the task was cascaded down to the next member of the gang, also without success, until yours truly drew the last straw and actually got it going, to acclaim all round. So the BAG was of some use after all.

The STUMEC Geismar, aka The Beast. It's heavy.
In the picture above you can see the business end of the nut remover. It has a two speed gearbox, plus forward and reverse, and beside lifting chair screws it can operate sidewards as in the above picture and remove fishplates in a few seconds...

...IF they are not on too tight. If they are indeed too tight, we have to revert to the tried and tested manual spanner method, and if that fails, we revert to the spanner and 'Birmingham screwdriver', as in the picture. Come on Paul, give it some welly! The greasing team stand and watch in awe.

Oh - oh, anybody notice that sky?
Once we had our rhythm up, we did extremely well and nutted and greased right through Gotherington station - chat to Bryan - and through the long loop and beyond up to the bracket signal. Then, suddenly the lights went out. An enormous black cloud hove into sight from the south. What do they smoke at Cheltenham? We wisely decided that it was lunch time, and headed quickly back to the train. Arriving there, we were greeted by a huge downpour. A very enjoyable lunch break ensued, with tea, steamed up windows and good chat.
After lunch, we removed several more difficult nuts and a second large cloud appeared on the horizon. This time we were not going to get caught out and we put on the heavy duty rain gear:
John gets his hood done up for him. Not too tight, though !!!
After reaching the bracket signal, we threw the whole machinery into reverse and proceeded down the other side of the loop. We were going well again, when there was a tap on my shoulder - the greasing team had run out of petrol and could not follow. Walking half a mile to the train, and back half a mile with a fresh jerrycan of petrol was not worth it by this time, so we called it a day and started to pack up. The problem with a mobile gang such as PWay is that you have to get yourself and your equipment on to the site, unpack and trundle it to the coal face, and at the end of the day do the whole thing in reverse.
This does not always go according to plan either:
The wheels came off at the signal box.
Outside Gotherington signal box the Geismar caught the foot crossing board and derailed its undercarriage. Five men stare at the job, four are required to lift the beast back on to its carriage. Who is the lucky escapee?
There are two alternatives to the Geismar: By hand...
Or, why not like this, with an motorised impact wrench. Didn't ask, did you?
Behind us, some last minute adjustments are made to fish plates close to the frog, where the Geismar doesn't reach. Who designed these things anyway, there's no room in here at all?

You can let go now, Doug !
At the end of the day, we loaded everything back in to the train. They have a neat, home made little undercarriage here, which allows them to roll 'the beast' along the ballast without lifting.

A great day out, with a bunch of fun guys. They have great plans for getting to Broadway.... more will be revealed during the volunteers meeting on November 1st ;-). Our railway is an exciting place to be!

Monday, 6 October 2014

It rained today - and it rained. Your blogger stayed at home and looked out of the window. Big mistake !
The gang was down there OK, and even got quite a bit done. But it was a miserable start indeed, an extensive tea drinking session was held in the cabin, until at 10.30 it was felt to be dry enough (or less wet enough) to venture outside to get on with some stuff. How do you know it's raining too much at CRC? If you can't see Cleeve Hill from the cabin door :-)
The team ventures out. See those hats? First time this year.
The images I received from Bob were rather dark, which I suspect reflects the true conditions on site, but I have brightened them up a bit. In the picture above, some of the drain pipes stacked in the container are being moved to the start of the new works, ready for the drain that goes in behind the wall.

Good old Fairview with another reliable delivery.
Coinciding with the improvement in the weather a delivery of cement and blocks arrived from Fairview. That'll be for the 130m section then, we need 90 of them there.

Can you see me, mother?

The heavens opened again about 11.30 so the gang decided to have an early lunch in anticipation of it improving. 

How to lay bricks in the wet. John contemplates a holiday in Malta...
It did improve, and work commenced again around 12.30pm and continued until about 4.00pm.  There were seven volunteers on site at the end of the day and considering the awful weather much was achieved.  Three courses of reds were laid on the 120m section and one course of concrete blocks on the 130m section.  It was too wet to lay any blues today. 
Keith and Brian have just uncovered the working section again, after the rain.

Keith on 'split a brick in half with this hammer' duty.

Finishing off the blocks laid on the 130m section.

In addition to today's achievements, Bob and John O sneaked down to CRC2 on Friday 3rd and managed to lay two courses of blues on the 130m section and two half courses on the 120m section. That is dedication! All 3 new sections are now busy - time to set out another one?