Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Our last working day of the month! And probably the coldest, driving to CRC down the Vale was quite tricky in places this morning, with traces of frost on the road where you didn't expect them.

On site, it was more than traces! John had to beat his way into the water butt, breaking up floes of ice 2 ins thick. While the air was a warmish 3 degrees+ and rising, the ground was still very cold. Even the ballast was frozen in the bag. The solution was to add hot water to the mix, and after an hour or so, and with the sun out, we felt confident enough to start the concreting on the new 170m section.
Rod and John concrete in the 170m section
Due to the change in foundation levels, the southern end was rather deep and we got through the ballast rather quicker than we wanted. In the end we ran out, and your scribe and Brian set off to get 10 bags from a local DIY store, with 5 bags of cement just to make sure. That car looked a bit low at the rear end, but we got the job done. Next week, it'll be two rows of blues here, to get ready for the concrete blocks to be rolled in. Maybe there will even be time to set out the 180m section? What a start to 2015 that would be.

Here we can see the new 10m stretch of freshly laid concrete, with ballast brought by car and hot water form the tap! We don't let little problems get in our way.

Today was a running day. We were amazed at the number of passengers the trains drew, the steam service was well filled. Good for the railway! It was the blue timetable today, hence a mixture of steam and DMU. Here the DMU trundles into platform 1, past our newly laid concrete. We like the DMU, it doesn't run round, so we can carry on working.

Dinmore Manor also made several appearances, here past Rod and Brian who were re-burying the temporary pipe in order to make it less of a trip hazard.

The day's jobs other than concreting were corbelling and laying of reds. Unfortunately we only had two brick layers today, which did make itself felt. Bob completed a row of corbelling bricks on the 140m section, leaving just one final row to go before we can tick this one off. It didn't quite make it into 2014, alas.
John S laid a row of reds during this time, and when he had finished doing this, Bob came and laid a row of blue headers along it.

In the middle of the day Dinmore Manor came to inspect the work, in passing as it were. It's quite a noisy engine, nice.

Here she is, ready for the right away. The signal is off; curiously, this was replaced by a green flag from the box later on. Some gremlin in the locking room, no doubt.

When the time came, your scribe took this picture of the actual departure. Working mostly on Mondays we don't get to see so many trains, so this adds a bit of excitement to the daily grind of mortar mixing and brick laying. You can see that it was cold - look at all the steam escaping from the steam heating. Next year you can take this picture, dear reader, standing on the new platform. This year, it's for working members only :-)

Here you can see Bob's row of newly laid headers on the 160m section, while John S backs them up with 3/4 length reds, each one of which has to be specially cut to size. You do this with a brickie's hammer, hitting the brick with the sharp end repeatedly on the same spot, until it breaks somewhere completely different! Stupid bricks....
This is our closing picture for 2014 - the DMU about to depart CRC as the sun sinks below the horizon. Bob is pointing his work, while John S covers the concrete and backing up work to protect it from rain and frost. Time to tidy up, reset the mouse traps, and head for home, with the car heating set on 'full'. Mmmmmmmmm.

We're back at CRC2 next Monday, 5th January... 2015 ! Happy New Year to all our readers, and see you again soon. Thanks for checking in.

Monday, 29 December 2014

As today's normal Monday working day has been moved to Wednesday 31st December, there are no working pictures for today, but perhaps our readers would be interested to see where we have come from?

Here's a historical view of the trackbed from the road bridge, looking north. This picture was taken nearly 20 years ago, while your blogger was passing through while on an expat visit to the UK. Little did he realise that he would be helping to put back the platform here in 2015 !

The picture is one of several taken that day (and earlier ones, again on passing through visits) and can be seen in the Flickr album here:

Down at track level, the platform looked like this. Even then, the lean inwards esp. on the Malvern side was patently clear, although it seems the lean worsened when the trackbed was cleaned out for track laying, and eventually the lean became so acute that the Malvern side platform was taken down in 2005.

Fast forward to summer 2013 ! Following the pouring of new concrete foundations, volunteers from the Broadway gang were asked to help with constructing the new platform.

Taken on July st 2013, this picture shows the almost endless strip of foundations stretching away nearly to infinity. What have we taken on ???

On top of that, 50.000 new bricks (seconds) had been delivered, but due to the constraints of the site, they had to be dumped on top of the cutting, rather than along the trackside, where they were actually needed.
What to do? How do we get to move all these? Bob is confronted by a sea of reds and blues stacked three pallets deep.

Our first idea was a good one, but we didn't get the scale right. Using a length of guttering, we slid the bricks down one by one. This was soon replaced by JC's pukka ladder chain, which enabled us to slide the bricks down three at a time. Much faster!

Then, just a 200yd push saw 500 bricks at the other end of the site, where we stacked them ready for laying.

To lay the bricks, we needed mortar, 90kg barrowloads of it. Rails reduce rolling resistance, right? We tried everything, to make the job easier...

Then came the day we laid the first brick. Where to start? Expert advice is needed here. Well, I wouldn't start from here if I was you....

And here we are, 18 months later, and just another 30yds from the other end. Haven't we done well?

Well, the heavy work has taken its toll. The wheelbarrows are all twisted, and some of the volunteers seem little better... Two of our valiant mortar mixers and carriers have got funny hats on, but, yes, it's been tough!

But now the trip to the coal face is getting shorter and shorter, and our spirits are rising. We should see the end of brick laying itself by Easter, and there'll be a change of activity then - back filling and lamp post planting.

This Wednesday will see us do one more day in 2014, then it's 2015, the year we will finish the job. Then it's back to Broadway to build us a genuine GWR station!

We wish our readers a Happy New Year, and thank you all for your interest and support. See you all in 2015 !

Monday, 22 December 2014

The festive season is upon us, and by the looks of it, too much turkey, cake, too many wailing grandchildren and a visiting mother in law may have influenced the numbers today - we were nine on site, more than usual. What fun we had, all dressed in our Santa hats. Four Santa specials passed our way, hauled by 2807 and 5542. We waved and waved.

The festive brick layers salute the Santa specials.
We have been so lucky with the weather, I can think of only a single day where there was persistent rain over the last several months. Today was forecast drizzly, but none came. We were able to continue unhindered until the light began to fail. Well, completely unhindered no, because with these *@#! Santa specials there is an obligation to cease working and wave to the children, every time the train rolls in or steams out. Cuts into brick laying time, does that. But the children seem to love it, they wave back frantically.

 Waving to the train makes people happy, some deliriously so.
Once the train was in and at a standstill, we could get on with the job. Here is Bob putting down the first row of blues on the newly opened 170m section. Way to go, Bob! Next week, a layer of concrete here, up against this newly laid row. The blocks are already in a row, waiting to be tipped in when the concrete has gone off.

Heck, here comes another one! Stand up and wave, lads. In the foreground is JC laying a row of corbelling bricks at 140m, while John S and Pete D back him up.

Up at the northern end of the coal face were Peter Q on reds at the 160m section, and Bob on his hands and knees laying that all important first row on the new 170m section. Paul was compo-man and raced up and down the site with barrows and shovels full of mortar.

''What's the matter with him then?''   ''He's all crushed, they just told him he was too old to sit on Santa's knee....''
In the afternoon a a senior Elf came and asked if we would help by making the new L/C a bit safer for crossing passengers (for a day before the contractors come back). Would we place some ballast in the gaps? Well, we would if we could, but those damned trains keep getting in the way.

Our daily overview shot is in a festive light today, with 5542 ready to leave under a Sodium-Sulphur lamp. By this time, the gang is pointing up the day's work, while a number of us bring down another pallet of bricks from above - 18 to go, 19 last week.

As the lads start to cover up their work at the end of the day, 5542 leaves one last time, wrapped in its own steam. Quite atmospheric really.

Score for the day:
One row of corbelling, 140m section (two to go)
150m section: ready for corbelling
Two rows of blues on the 160m section,
One row of blues on the 170m section.

Backing up in reds by Tony, Peter Q, Peter D and John S.

The next work session will take place on Wednesday 31st Dec - New Year's eve. We can't do next Monday, but I might post something to mark the day. And that'll be it for 2014. We have broken the back of the job, just a short spurt of brick laying to go to the end (and then the back filling, lamp post fitting, slabbing etc)

We wish all our readers a Merry Christmas, and thank you for your interest and support. It really helps to motivate us !

Monday, 15 December 2014

It's still dark, these mornings. We are only one week away from the longest night. Your blogger afforded himself a few more minutes in bed today, after all, he is retired! Sunrise was at 08.09 this morning, and great was his surprise to see that the first volunteer had checked in at....07.05 ! What? Such dedication! But it bears fruit, the great wall of Cheltenham is getting longer and longer, and the end is getting closer every day we work there.
Here is the opening shot of the day, with a low sun just about reaching into the cutting that is the station. There were 7 of us today, of which 4 brick layers, so the job tootled along pretty well.

Here they all are, two at the front, and two on the rear backing up. By the time this photograph was taken, it got passably warm as we stood in the weak sun, but a few minutes earlier it was bitterly cold, which is particularly bad for someone standing still, like a brick layer. Lucky were those who were allowed to wheel in the mortar! But the distance is getting so short, it's hardly anything to work up a sweat about.

Pete had the right idea - thick gloves, and a bobble hat. A good part of that pile of reds behind him is now in the wall. Meanwhile,

... a request came out to measure and count the number or original slabs (removed many years ago now) to see what sort of length we have in total, should we decide to use them. They were in three piles - by the old waiting room, behind the signal box, and here, underneath a huge mound of brambles. Brian was chartered to sort this out with his brush cutter. This enabled your scribe to count the slabs, which came to 132! However, they were of all different lengths, being made of natural stone. The average length came to 5ft, so that could be as much as 660ft of slabs. On the other hand, they are somewhat careworn, an expert will have to judge if they are re-useable.

Back at the 'coal face' brick laying continued remorselessly, and here we seen JC on blues at the front, with Tony on the rear in reds. Paul was 'muck man' and ran up and down the site with mortar to resupply those spots. Woe betide if a cry of 'COMPO !!!' wasn't answered in 10 seconds...

After lunch, the 'blue bricklayers' had laid two rows on the 140m and 150m sections, so bringing both up to the start of corbelling. Tony and Pete immediately followed this in reds behind, but a vast pile remains. Just as well, as we are running out of reds, and it looks as if we might have to finish the job in blues all round, of which quite a few still remain on top of the cutting, as visible in this picture.

With an hour spare after lunch, Keith, Brian and yours truly attacked some of these piles, and brought down something over 1000 bricks down to be stacked in the next section, which will be the 170m one. A row of concrete blocks has already been positioned here.
From the 21 stacks remaining on top of the cutting we brought down all the remaining reds (one stack) and one and a half stacks of blues, leaving a little under 19 stacks to go.

At the end of the day, their pointing done, Bob and JC found a few moments to set out the next section at 170m, using a spare setting out frame. John O had great fun changing the '130' marked on it to '170', with a thick felt tip marker. Sweeeet...
So here you can see where this is going to go, and how much is left afterwards. Just a short walk now!

A final look round the site found that the contractors had done a fine job of regrading the slope at the foot of the path. It has been seeded, and at the top a row of pines has been planted. (or put back)

We have been very lucky with the weather, as progress this year has been pretty much uninterupted, with the result for all to see. We should be able to continue, if perhaps intermittently, over the Christmas break.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Herewith our Monday update, but without any pictures. On no.... ! What happened?

Cameras don't like the dusty environment at Broadway and CRC2, and eventually your blogger's refused to function, with dust/grit inside the lens mechanism. At great personal expense a new one was acquired. Today was to be its second day of use, and it rewarded us with a short message - battery empty ! This is a bit of a puzzle, as it normally lasts several picture sessions, and this time only one. Possibly this is a bluetooth issue, we will find out, but next time we will have to check that it is indeed still fully charged before leaving home.

Another problem today was the closure of Hyde lane for resurfacing. All participants coming from the north (at least 3 of us) reported long delays round Bishops Cleeve, arriving up to half an hour later than intended.

At least the delay meant that once we had all arrived and started work, the almost freezing temperature of 0.5C at the start of the day had risen enough to permit some brick laying. Six regulars set to work on the 140, 150 and 160m sections. John O once again made vast quantities of brown mix, enabling our expert block layer - yes, Peter Q had heeded the call, God bless him - to lay a full line of 90 blocks on the 160m section, behind the two rows of blues laid at the front the previous week.

At the rear, Tony was busy laying reds and at the front Bob, our sole blues expert today, laid a double row of blues on each of the 140 and 150m sections. Both of these are now only two rows away from corbelling. So good progress today, and we have been very lucky with the weather, which so far has offered little hinderance. The sun shone gloriously all day, and we even took our tea outside of the cabin.

Fairview then appeared with fresh supplies. We unloaded and stored 20 sacks of cement, and placed a pallet of blocks straight on to the trolley, which we wheeled down to the 170m section. Although it has not yet been set out, we agreed that unloading could proceed straight on to the working area in one long line, so that they can be tipped straight into place once we move into this section.

All the time this was happening, we were treated to some cheesy Christmas music through a loudspeaker.... luckily we kept our milk in a refrigerator in the cabin, so that it did not curdle.

Later in the morning some contractors came and sprayed the newly graded cutting side with instant grass seed. We think. At least the area is now covered in something green. Maybe it will fool some people.

As we have no pictures today, here is one from the archives, and a puzzle for our readers:

Where was your blogger standing in the picture above? It wasn't taken recently, as you might surmise from that flat tummy and plentiful head of hair. Yes, it was taken in ...1977! Happy days.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

For those interested in GWR gates, isn't this a post for one?
Seen lying at Winchcombe a couple of years back.

But - put your money where your mouth is :-). The current gates are brand new.

Monday, 1 December 2014

A pinch and a punch for the first of the month! It's December, and only 6.5 degrees this morning, with a fine mist/drizzle all day. It never really got light, but strangely enough we had a really productive day. You can't see a lot on the pictures, but with 5 brick layers at work today, and three others in support, we laid 1100 bricks today, pretty near a record.
At the start of the day, the brick layers are strung out in a line on 4 different stretches at once. The completed part of the new platform stretches into the distance....

On the 130m section, JC finished off the last row of corbelling (see the counterweight bricks lined up behind him) and then laid a useful row of headers along the 140m section. Doesn't that platform behind him look long !

Bob laid a similar row on the next, 150m section, and also two rows of blues on the end section at 160m.

Behind them the massed armies of red-brick-layers: Tony, John S and Pete. For every blue brick laid, they have to fling down two reds, all perfectly level, mind. This team backed up the blues in front, and more. You can see the quantities of mortar involved in this exercise - there are 4 wheelbarrows of mortar in the picture.

The wheelbarrows with which we have been issued are not really up to the job. Although the label says 'a genuine high quality product' you can see that they have become all twisted from carrying the heavy mortar down the platform. What's in a name?

Behind JC's corbelling on the 130m section there was still a void. This was filled by Pete with reds (we counted those little ones as a 'quarter' in our grand total for the day!) and Paul provided the slop. It's faster by shovel than by builder's trowel, we discovered...
JC and Tony then covered the whole job with a runny mix on top to complete this next section. Job done !

This allowed Bob a long awaited and proud moment - ticking the job off our little list. Ha !

In other news today:
The user crossing has been completely renewed in brand new material, and a jolly good job they made of it too. Just the approaches still to go, and we sincerely hope there won't be any heavy lorries going over this one now!  It looks a tad wider than before, no doubt some cunning plan there.

The contractors were still on site to complete the grading and drainage of the embankment by the ramp. You can see that a lot of material has been removed, the gradient eased, and cross drains built in. A number of pine trees have also been put back in their place. At the end of the day they were cleaning away the clay lumps that had fallen on to the platform, to make the site nice and  tidy.

Here is a last view of the site at the end of the day. Brian is there with his wheelbarrow of slop, while JC spreads it out over the top to complete the 130m section in the foreground. Then tidy up the site, clean the tools, and cover up the work against rain and frost. Yes, rain - yours truly spent a merry old time with a battery tester bulb sucking the water out of all the little holes in the bricks, so that mortar can be laid on top of them.

A quick count of the remaining pallets of bricks still on top of the cutting shows we have:
20 pallets of blues: 8000 bricks
1 pallet of reds: 500 bricks.

This for approximately 60m of wall to build (160m - 220m).
Just about enough then (if you don't care about backing up in blues)

In the dog house today: 
Brian, for climbing on to JC's newly laid row of bricks in their wet mortar.
Flowers only please.