Monday, 30 March 2015

With the Easter school holidays, it was breeze to get to CRC, and we had a nice dry, breezy day at work, achieving further great progress with brick laying.

What with the platform wall getting ever nearer the end, it's getting a bit tricky to get a good overall picture, so try this one from up the starter signal. Here is the position near the beginning of the day. Rain was forecast for later, so we got on with the job and John O was under pressure to supply 4, and later 5 brick layers. All the technical stuff like concrete beds and laying concrete blocks is now over, so today was just pure, unadulterated brick laying. At the end of the day, we reckoned we got through 1000 of them ! That's 2 1/2 pallets. And all of us retired, too !

What the.....? Who did this???

Of course, if you want to lay bricks at a steady pace, what you don't want to find is surprises in your mix.

Here's Tony with the biggest rock he's ever found in a pile of mortar on his spot.

John O humbly presented his 10.000 apologies. It seems he was trying to save sand, and dug well down into the pile. So rocks are at the bottom of it?

Unencumbered by rocks in the mortar, Tony did a cracking job and laid 4 courses on the slope at the end, and two courses on the penultimate section. There are now only 3 sections remaining to be worked on - 180m, 190m, and 200m (the slope). In front of Tony is Bob, who worked in parallel and laid a similar number of rows along the front. We pointed out to Bob that, finally, he no longer had to use his knee pads and work on his hands and knees in the dirt, but both he and Tony found that working half upright, bent over, was much more unpleasant, and the backs hurt. Not long now, guys !

A bit further along, JC laid three rows of blues along the front of the 180m section, thus bringing it up to first corbellling row height. John then switched to the rear, where he joined John S backing up to keep the top of the wall at the same height all round.

Looking back at the end of the day, we reckon we should have the wall finished by the end of April, given a smaller team over the Easter holidays (we will not be working Easter Monday, but probably the Tuesday after.)
Over on CRC1, a delegation met to discuss the slagstone wall at the foot of the recently regraded slopes. There was much expansive arm waving, and from a distance the plans looked very expensive.... then your blogger was spotted! Smiles all round.

Away from CRC2, preparations have been made to replace the broken CRC2 running in board with a replica of the original one, which was there (at least) until the late 1960's.

Here are the two posts, with authentic one inch thick brackets. Cast iron finials have also been sourced, and a new board has been made by B & S. As the posts and finials have been sourced by a Broadway member, here's a good example of inter-station cooperation!

Today's job was to test the fettled finials for fit (passed, at last, after much grinding in the garage) and to give the bottom of the posts a coat of bitumen paint. Sticky stuff, bitumen...

Outside CRC booking office, some sort of Anderson shelter was being assembled. This looks to become a guard hut for the forthcoming forties event. My suggestion that it should really be dug 6 feet into the ground was not taken up with any enthusiasm! Won't be very bomb proof then.

Here's our end of the day shot of the works. No fewer than four barrows of mortar are lined up, with Brian hoping for takers.
You can just about make out that JC has laid 3 rows of blues along the 180m stretch in the foreground. (darker mortar in the joints). Corbelling next, here. A row of garden chairs outside the cabin is a sign that spring is here - we are sitting outside again!  What a fine thing it is to sit with your cup of tea, mini roll in the other hand, and enjoy the view to the ridge at Cleeve Hill.

Mice: One. They very carefully nibbled away the peanut butter bait on the other trap, without setting it off. How do they do that? Mice are cunning...

Back Tuesday after Easter. Thanks for checking in.

Monday, 23 March 2015

A day of great progress today - 10 people on site, with 6 of them laying bricks and blocks. The muck makers could hardly keep up. As your blogger opened his car door on arrival, the very first thing he heard was 'Coooooompo' ! Stress ! Better get my running shoes on.

With 6 brick layers, you straight away need 3 different types of mortar - black (but not too black), brown stiff and brown sloppy. And of course they all cry out at the same time. Poor old John O was worked off his feet, while Brian and Keith ran up and down with the barrows and shovels to resupply the spots.
In this our opening picture you can see backing up going on, Bob having done the last current row of corbelling on the 170m section all on his own on Wednesday. Well, that certainly kicks the job along. So here you can see Tony and JC finishing off the 170m section with a coating of sloppy brown on top, while Keith hovers anxiously to make sure they have everything they need. Nothing is worse than a bricklayer without supplies!

Tony then moved on to the 180m section. Today 2 rows were added to the front here, and Tony filled in the middle and raised the rear by 3 rows. All done while bent over, the backs do complain at the end of the day.

During a brief interlude Fairview came with fresh supplies of cement, sand and blocks. Here we see them lifting the blocks straight on to the trolley, so that they can be rolled down to the coal face and laid out ready for Peter 'the block' Q to lay them on the 190m section.

And here he goes, centre stage, he's already almost half way. Peter is laying from the left, and laying from the right is, erm, Peter. They met in the middle shortly afterwards. The row of blocks always makes that section look a lot more considerable, where it was but a plain stretch of concrete base a week earlier.

Having done the blocks, Peter Q moved straight on to laying blues at the back, which we see him doing here crossing over from the 200m section to the 190m one.

Brian on the mortar run could barely keep up, and then found himself with a soft tyre to boot. That makes the barrow twice as hard to push. Helpfully the cheap tyre on the wheel says 'maximum 35lbs pressure' but we know from experience that they can blow up with a loud bang at only 29lbs! So easy on the pump there. The reinforcement on that tyre is made of string! We saw it spill out when it blew up the other day.

As readers know we work on Mondays, and there aren't any trains then. Today we got a treat, with Dinmore Manor rolling in with a marketing special. It was well loaded, so that bodes well for future passenger numbers.

The fine Gentlefolk looked down upon the grubby workers with champagne in their hands. Champagne? Oh no, it was tea after all.
Lots of people milled about on the platform and it looked like a very successful event. In a few months from now, you can pull into platform 2, we'll see to that.

At the 'sharp end' of operations, the bottom of the downward slope on the last section, Bob and Pete made amazing progress. You can see the slope rising clearly, and at the highest end they had laid 4 rows of bricks, some kind of a record. The dry weather contributed to that, but it remained chilly after a brief patch of sun during our elevenses.

During tea time, Bob proudly marked off the next section - 170m done, 180m, 190m and the slope already off to a good start. Not long now.

Today was also the day for the delivery of over 200 platform slabs. They came down from the Newark area, so the arrival time was a bit uncertain. While we waited, we decided to do a bit of pea gravelling. We operate a division of labour policy here, grubby workers, and management:

' It's not full yet'
The finally at 15.00 the first of the two lorries with 110 slabs arrived:
We parked him on the Race Course side, and ran the slabs into the little footpath area, from where we will load them on to the trailer of the road railer that we will be using to place the slabs in what looks like May at the moment. We have a complete week of slab laying planned for this, but the final date is not yet quite decided (we need to be sure the wall and associated works are finished).

Our parting shot is an unusual one, from above. It wasn't taken by a drone, but by your blogger wobbling on top of a signal post.

You can see the exact extent of our progress up here. 170m is finished, 180m and 190m work in progress and well advanced, and 200m with its slope already well defined.

Bob is on his knees in the distance doing pointing, a chore at the end of each day, but it does make the job look so professional. Peter is covering the work with sheeting to protect it until next time.

Tuesday is a day of rest, so see you at Broadway on Wednesday for further progress on the signal box roof !

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Today, Wednesday, a small but hard hitting team of two - Bob and John O - returned to CRC2 to further the brick laying, and reduce the time needed before we lay the slabs.
After initial mist, it was a lovely sunny day, and there was even a DMU running, with children on board, so cheery waving was 'de rigeur':

 With John O making up some black mortar, Bob was able to get laying with the blues.

Bob added two courses of blues to the 180M and 190M sections. The 180m section is now ready for the first course of backing bricks, and the 190M section is ready for completion of the concrete blocks. Hardly anything left to do next Monday!
As mortar for brick laying is used relatively sparingly, John O was able to find some idle time to take pictures on his phone.
Thanks to the excellent weather, Bob was also able to lay the 3rd and final course of corbelling on the 170M section. This is now ready for backing up and the final slurrying, then we can sign it off. That'll be two sections in a month done, only 3 left to do then, one of which is the slope.

Finally, Bob reports some vital stock replenishment in the mini Swiss Roll department. Phew! There we were, worried. We got a double family pack - how long will 24 mini rolls last?

You blogger is asked to point out quite clearly that in Monday's blog Brian may have had a winning smile, but it was not him who consumed the last mini Swiss Roll. He has an alibi. Hmmmmm. We will have to look elsewhere for the villain, but in the meantime supplies are secure - thank you Bob !

See you all next Monday.

Monday, 16 March 2015

The forecast for today was quite good, and 11 volunteers set out to speed CRC2 along.
Alas, on arrival it was drizzling and not at all suitable for brick laying. We covered up the corbelling area and stocks of solid blues, and concentrated on getting a run of concrete in.
Here is the opening shot for the day, with the very end of platform 2 in the right foreground! We attacked the final stretch today, whooppee!. In fact we worked on 4 different stretches (170m - 200m) and progress was made on each. But you can see ominous signs in the background, there is rain in the air. And it was only 5 degrees, only just warm enough to lay bricks, and the NE wind left our fingers feeling icy.

More doom laden clouds in this picture, where our expert mortar and concrete maker John O is giving lessons to Paul on the finer points of getting it just right. It seems that water is critical, even a tiny bit can turn into too much, so you add a few sips at a time with this mug. Really ! Paul is not convinced though. He found out soon enough, as one load was criticised as being too wet, and the following one, too dry. Luckily it's just a short trot down to the coal face now.

It soon started to rain, so instead of brick laying, the team concentrated on concrete and blocks. Here we are putting in a foundation layer on to the penultimate section at 190m. And we are not allowed to scratch the bricks with the wheelguard of the barrow, mind. Tricky, hence three guys on the job.

We then moved back a section, concreted 2 weeks ago, to start laying the blocks along it. This is the opening shot. Peter Q came down specially to do this, and he works quickly and well. It didn't take at all long to tip these blocks in onto a bed of mortar.

The same stretch seen from a different angle shows that John S has also started from the right, and he and Peter are about to meet in the middle.
Tony on the left has already started finishing off the newly laid blockwork with sloppy mortar, with which the vertical joints are filled.
This job was also completed today.

Then back to the 190m section, concreted earlier, and here we see Peter on his knees starting a short further row of blocks. All to do with height differences.
Bob, also on his hands and knees on the left, is putting down the first above ground row of blues on the final, 200m section. Last week it was an 'underground' row here, remember?
On the right Keith is bringing up a load of blues from the stacks above. They are walked by hand from one of the remaining 6 stacks on top of the slope, about 50yds away. He and your blogger moved two pallets of blues down today, possibly the last such movement. Just 4 pallets now remain.

A few moments after the above picture was taken, John S has joined in and he and Peter are now laying a third section of blocks, here on the final 200m section. The blocks won't go all the way to the end in the foreground, as this is the section with the slope. Meanwhile, Bob on the left has finished the first header row, and is on his second row here, one of facing bricks.

The 200m mark, and winner's flag in the foreground tell you how near we are to the end...

More activity in the far distance on the 170m section.

After an hour or so the rain did eventually peter out, and it was dry enough for JC to commence a row of corbelling, the second on the 170m section. This is slow but steady work, and he completed the 10m, ready for the third and final row next week. 170m all but finished! Should be ticked off next week.

The same section seen from the rear shows Tony at work on backing up. This takes twice as many bricks as corbelling. Sheets laid out, and further rolls of it show that we are ready for any further rain, but we were lucky and after a delayed start managed to work through to the end of the day.

During the day we received a visit from Bob Stark from the Cheltenham Area Group. He came with a modest cheque for your blogger, who has arranged for new running in board posts in GWR style, as well as authentic cast iron finials to go on top. We expect to re-erect the new name board in a fortnight or so.

Here we have an animated discussion, as Pete D makes an outrageous proposal to JC for an early tea break. Tony just can't believe the audacity of it - it's barely half past 10 ! No matter, Paul (above) is streets ahead and has already secured himself a sneaky cup. Cheers, lads. You're all doing very well....

In a scene reminiscent of a famous biblical event, Paul is made to bear a heavy cross, and, we hope, pay for his sins. Early tea break indeed !

The new CRC2 slabs are arriving in a week, and laying should commence within the month. We just need to get the platform wall finished off, looks like mid April at the current rate of progress.

Yes, it was a fun day. But not everyone is convinced. Someone else had the last mini Swiss Roll :-(
We wonder who?

Monday, 9 March 2015

Steady progress today, and getting closer to the end. There were 7 of us, although two had to go at lunch time. Before we start - news of last Wednesday, when Bob popped down with John O to do a bit of work.
With John O's support the third row of corbelling was put on the 160m section - just needing the infill and sloppy mix on top to complete. The final heading course was laid on the 170m section, so as of this morning this now ready for a first row of corbelling. The 180m section had the tower built to enable blockwork to commence, and the first course of brickwork was started on the 190m section. Not bad for just two guys.

Our opening shot today shows Bob laying a second course of blues on the 190m section, and Pete is seen on his hands and knees on the 200m section. Yes, the last one - whoo-hoo! Pete is cleaning out the remains of the brickwork from the previous foundations. A great day, a milestone.

Rain was forecast for lunch time today, and you can see in this picture how everything was covered up in readyness. Disappointingly, no rain came, so we had to keep working. Here Bob is on the first layer of the 190m section; far in the background there is corbelling and backing up going on.

While Brian pushes a trolley load of pea gravel down to the recently finished 160m section, Pete gets instruction from Bob on how to start a section off. You measure down from the profiles, like this.

Pete then had to clean out the bed, previously swept out with a broom, with a lump hammer and bolster, to get a clean run of blues for the first time. Because we had to break out some remaining imperial reds, this first layer wasn't strictly the first row, but what Bob called an 'underground row'. On the right the winner's flag - this is section 200, the part of the wall that slopes down again.

Later in the morning Pete laid the 'underground bricks', and here he is, almost finished. Far in the background is Cleeve Hill, surrounded by heavy clouds that threatened rain. In the middle distance our cars, which we were asked to move to let in - a big, big burger van. Much to our disappointment it did not start trading, so no burgers for us today. The Race Course is gearing up for the big event. Luckily this doesn't actually clash with any of our days, but there was lots of activity in setting up their site ready for the storming masses.

Moving on to the 160m and 170m sections, we can see JC here laying a final row of corbelling to finish off the 160m section. Another one ticked off ! Tony laid a row of blues in the foreground, then backed up the corbelling and finally levelled off the top with a layer of slush.
I am awarding Tony 4 rows of bricks laid today, because last week I reported the laying of two, when it was really three. The injustice of it ! I hope in this way honour is satisfied again. Tony certainly uses up a lot of mortar.

Mortar, ah yes....
''Now I do believe you didn't want to do this''
Such enthusiasm, perhaps a tad too much, Paul? It reminds me of a schoolby rhyme form many years ago:

This is the grave of Samuel John
Whose motorbike stopped
But he went on.

The same can be said for Paul's barrow. That trolley is a sneaky little thing. Relax your grip on the brake just a tiny bit, or find a pebble on the rails, and the trolley will stop dead. No quarter given.

Up on the cutting side we still had 8 pallets of blues. Paul, Keith, Brian and yours truly got down two of them today, leaving 6 still to go. 800 bricks shifted then.
Another job done was the removal of the final 2 dumpy bags of pea gravel on the car park side behind the signal box. We had intended to move these with the Fairview lorry, but due to their age the loops on the last two broke, and today we emptied them by hand, and spread the contents over the next piece of drain pipe along the rear of the 160m section. Need some ballast in there now, to raise them to the next level.

Near the end of the day we see Bob cleaning up the 190m section, so that concrete can be poured into it next time. He has just laid that row of headers on the left, and pointed it. Tony has finished his backing up, JC his row of corbelling, all that is left to do now is tick off the completed section:
This is always a very satisfying moment - 160m of wall completed, 40m to go, but all last 4 sections have been started, with one almost finished too.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Windy! But we got a lot done. When I looked out of my bedroom window this morning, there was sleet coming down. Oh-oh. But minutes later, the sky was blue, and we set of for Cheltenham in good spirits.

It was a good day, as it turned out. The sky was bright and it was sunny. But a fierce wind howled through the site, making life a bit miserable for those high up, or directly exposed to it.  Brian knows all about it.

The two Johns set about finishing off the 150m section, which was one row short of completion. Here we see JC starting the final row of corbelling, and John S laying a last row of bricks on the 160m section. Unfortunately last week, in our haste to get everything under cover as the hailstorm rained mercilessly down upon us, the freshly laid reference corbelling brick on the corner in the foreground was knocked off, so John could not continue on to the 160m section.

An hour later, and an interlude. Fairview came with fresh supplies of sand and 72 concrete blocks for the next section, and once these were off the lorry, we took an hour of Richard's time to move the 22 dumpy bags filled with pea gravel away from the Race Course car parking area. They were very much second hand dumpy bags, having been used last year to recover the Avonmouth bricks, and it is well known that they weaken over time. Would they hold? Gingerly Richard takes the strain with the HIAB.

It held. We got 8 on the lorry. The coldest place today was up on the back of that lorry; Brian had to get off and fetch extra warm clothing!

We unloaded 20 of the 22 bags just inside our fence line. The last two bags failed us, and the straps went - but they weren't supplied by Fairview :-)

Your blogger recently went to visit Fairview's shop in Honeybourne, and was impressed by the free publicity they give the GWSR - several posters are hung up along their car park fence, and 'The Cornishman' is on sale on their counter! It was a number I hadn't even received in the mail yet. Very efficient.

Back to corbelling - here we see the progress to date, with JC working half way along the 150m section, and John S backing up behind.

At the end of the day, we had to remove all our materials (stacked bricks etc) from the trackside, because, annoyingly, trains start to run again end of the week. How they get in our way.

The wind tugged at our polythene sheets relentlessly, and twice your blogger had to run after an escapee that was cartwheeling towards Bishops Cleeve.

Once again, we had the benefit of 4 brick layers - JC and Bob on the front, Tony and John S on the rear. Bob laid two rows of blues along the front of this, the 170m section, and we see him in the background busy with two more rows low down on the 180m one. Bob laid 4 rows today, of which he was justifiably proud. Tony, seen here, and John S consumed vast quantities of brown mortar today, and helped complete the 150m section and raise the 170m section by two rows at the rear.

With the 72 concrete blocks delivered today, we were able to lay out the next row of concrete blocks along the rear of the 180m section. This will be next week's job. Bob worked hard, and is seen here on his hands and knees. Very tiring.
There comes a time when you have top stop, lean against the other platform, gasp a little, and ask yourself, why am I doing this? I must be mad.

The other really windy job today was painting the backs of the containers, which were still in their original rusty commercial colours, and not a good advertisement for the GWSR on the forthcoming race meeting. It was Brian again though, now standing in an elevated position on a ladder! Clearing the undergrowth around the container on the right, we discovered a whole series of one inch rust holes along the bottom - so this is where the mice get in. Luckily the container is only rented, and we will give it back on completion of the job.

At the end of the day we actually ran out of cement, and mortar became a scarce commodity. We were quite keen to finish off the 150m section with a waterproof top layer of mortar, and here is John O in typical pose, bringing mortar by hand. Every little bit helps, we know, but isn't this taking things a bit far?

It remained to John S to explain that mortar is brought in a shovel, or in a barrow. John O looks suitably admonished. But I've got rubber gloves on!

Here is the final piece of work on the 150 section, a layer of surface mortar at the rear, with freshly laid corbelling at the front. Woe betide him who leans on it. You die.

This final act on the 150m section allows us to formally sign it off. Here we see Bob adding the date: 2nd March 2015. Done !

Bob confided in your blogger that he would return as early as this Wednesday to finish off the corbelling on the 160m section too, brick laying on the signal box at Broadway having been completed.