Monday, 27 July 2015

More digging today, as the gang of 5 (two absentees still) set about burying the second half of the electrical services pipe along the northern part of CRC2.

On arrival first thing - good news! A midnight visitor had been with a gift:

How very kind ! Ample use of the mini rolls was made over lunch time, as we debated the evils of sugar while munching a number of them.

It was a day of hard work again. JC was on the mini digger and continued to excavate the trench for the ducting, while Tony took away the spoil for tipping at the rear of the platform.
In this picture you can see how we set out the line for the trench, after which JC parked himself on top of it and got digging.

It was a slow job, interupted by various tree roots, and in one area the ground was so hard that we had to abandon the (lamp post) hole we were digging, as the mini digger couldn't cope - it's only small, you know.

It was agreed we would revisit that one armed with a Hilti with a large chisel on the end.

Keith and Brian are entrants in the 'leaning on a shovel' competition. Yours truly was an also ran behind the camera.

But not for long, as the trench, excavated by mechanical means, soon had to be back filled by manual ones. Ouch ! The back is still twingeing as I write this. Tony and Brian scramble the clay back in, while Keith is allowed a go with the German chamfering tool. This time we even remembered the special silicone jelly while fitting the pipes together. We're getting good at this.

This picture gives you an idea of the digging job, as the back filled trench stretches into the distance behind Brian and Keith.

Today's last working picture shows you that the job has almost reached the northern end. In fact we did finish it by the end of the day. We also found about 50 intact imperials, which seemed to have been buried by the GWR on the original clay infill, and at the time the ash top layer was added. We can't imagine why, perhaps they were left over? They are clean of mortar, so apparently never used.

Heritage bit:
Having uncovered the 7 urinals in the remains of the platform 2 shelter, we thought you might be interested in a historical drawing of the original shelter that stood there, so here it is:

You should be able to zoom in if you click on the picture, to see the detail. You can see the bottom of the urinals in the lower RH corner of the plan. It is in the same style as the booking office, which still exists up by the road bridge. It would have been demolished about 50 years ago.

A plea for Broadway:

As you may have read, we were very lucky to secure an original GWR style V board for the new station, ex Taplow, at an auction on Saturday. A second one was, coincidentally, donated to us only a few days ago. We need several more of these for the Ladies, Gents, Refreshment Room, Way Out and also for the platform 2 buildings. If you know of any for sale or that might even be donated, do please let us know, as they are not easy to replicate. Thanks for your help and tips ! We would also be interested in any loose GWR letters that you might know about - they are the hardest bit if you want to make up a replica one.

Monday, 20 July 2015

The gang was back up to strength today, with the exception of Bob, who is in the throes of moving house. We missed him - the mini Swiss rolls have run out, and there was no milk for tea. Disaster ! Come back soon, Bob!

The gang seemed particularly jovial today, and there was much joshing. We spent the whole day on one thing - digging in the pipework for the electrical supply for the second (northerly) length of lamp posts.

The Cheltenham gang were kind enough to set out the posts - this is where they go. We laid the pipe in front, with a junction box at each post, and a hole for the post itself.

Then we got digging. JC was on the rented mini digger with a tiny bucket to scoop out the trench, and John S was on the dumper. About half the spoil was taken away, while the other half was left nearby for back filling.

The supply of pipes was kept under the bridge, quite a walk away. We will need about 15 of these pipes, so there was a little relay of people who went to get them. Keith was first.

Here the first length is in, and is already being back filled again. JC is carefully checking the height of the junction box, as it has to be right for when the tarmac goes in, and at a level slightly below the copers. That pipe going over was a surprise find - luckily we didn't damage it, and managed to put it back together again. It's a new water supply pipe for the platform 2 building, whichever form it may take. Although there is currently no funding for anything, the CAG were careful to give it a supply of water and electricity, for later.

Some pipes had a have a chamfered end fitted, or cut to size. This is how you do that, with a special tool that cuts round and round.

 About mid morning the Pway train arrived, always interesting. Stevie Warren was also there, and together they cut up the two odd lengths of rail that were by the L/C, ready for scrap recovery. The class 73 then went of to Hunting Butts to retrieve some more wagons.

These were filled with assorted types of sleepers (bull head, military bull head, and FB) and were unloaded at the L/C for sorting out. Of course there were no passenger trains today, this being Monday.

All the sleepers were unloaded and sorted, and then the train was rejigged so that the old wagons went back empty to Hunting Butts, and the wagons on the PWay train were filled with the recovered sleepers, now stacked according to type. Quite a job, but now there are supplies for yard relays, and a few for the extension. The wagon is a WARFLAT, a 'really useful wagon'.

While laying the cable ducting, we had to skip rounds the foundations of the old platform 2 waiting room. This was a slight inconvenience (extra cutting and knee bends) but we got there and were soon back on the straight.

 All the extension pieces in our ducting supply had been pushed together for easy storage. Did they come apart easily? No, now that you ask. Brian and Keith had a struggle persuading each ring to let go of its neighbour, leading to some comical push-me pull-you situations. After giving up on the pushing and pulling, Brian gives the rings a hard stare. The little bottle on the ground behind him contains a silicone gel to be used when fitting the connectors, but of course when storing the rings it wasn't around.

Today there was an archaeologist on site, who, after some careful digging and scraping, discovered the remains of 7 individual urinals in the signal box end of the platform 2 building, which was knocked down in the early 1960s.

In the bottom LH corner you can see a bolt, which has been hammered flat. This is one of several that held down the original wooden superstructure of the building.

The original front, platform side, still has a row of GWR plinth headers in situ.

Although there are no plans or funds to resurect the building, we do have some general arrangement plans for it. It's amazing what you can find. Of course the original purpose of the building was just to permit M/F race goers to relieve themselves, and wait somewhere briefly while their train is marshalled in.

Throughout the day menacing clouds circled round the site, but we never got really wet. This shot gives an idea of how black the horizon could get, as John S sets off in reverse to take some of the tools and fittings back at the end of the day.

Looking round further at the dark clouds at the end of the day, we were surprised to find this enormous circus tent, erected quite rapidly while were were digging holes. It's the American circus, with some impressive American tractor units towing very large, and very tiny caravans. It's in Southam Lane, if you are interested.

More ditch digging next week, and that should see the end of the job. Then it's time to plant replica GWR lamp posts.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Back to work ! All guns loaded and firing today, our absent holidaymakers were back, and those on sick leave rose up from their beds and grabbed a shovel.

Today was the day we finished the back filling. 30 tons of back fill arrived in two loads, a roller and two dumpers were delivered. Ron and JC shared the mini digger driving, with Ron at the controls in the morning, allowing JC a go on the shovel. The last 20 yards of infill didn't take all that long, and soon we were on the slope at the end.

Half way through the operation Tony came to ask permission to be elsewhere. The committee considered this, scratching their heads. Where would he want to go?

 Here ! Vic Haines came with a large lorry and HIAB, and started loading a number of former (partly damaged) CRC2 slabs, which we had recovered from the undergrowth. The destination is (at least in part ) Broadway, and a volunteer was needed to accompany them there. Tony got his hand up first. JC is pleased as punch too.

It was quite a large load, as you can see. Straps over the top stopped it from moving about on the flatbed.

Meanwhile, down by the home signal Steve Warren and two PWay volunteers were making up a pile of flat bottom sleepers that were hidden in the undergrowth. You really have to know your railway well to know where they are, but Steve recalled a surplus of sleepers from the CRC opening back in 1999, and although covered in brambles and quite invisible, he knew they were still there.
Now they are in a neat pile ready for collection. More recovery and sorting out will take place here next Monday, it should be quite a fun day with the two parties working in the same area.

Having finished the back filling, the next job for the mini digger was the preparation of the platform to its full width. This meant removing a strip of approx 2ft along the Malvern side.

In this picture the team are discussing a catch pit that needs to be retained in the platform, and also what to do with the foundations of the former GWR Race Course waiting room. They are quite long; from the shiny surface in the foreground, past the scrap wood in the middle down to the end of the brown patch in the distance. Bob Stark explained what was in this building, starting at this end:

Gent's urinal, down the left hand side,
Gent's toilet (2)
Ladies' toilet
Waiting room

This building was made of wood, in the same style as the ticket office still existing, up by the road bridge. It was demolished a long time ago, I would say at least in the early 1960's. The two CRC1 and CRC2 buildings were gone before the station fell out of use.

Will we put anything in their place? There are no firm plans at the moment, but there is a general feeling that we would like to have something in their place. At least with the reinstatement of the catchpit, and a new water supply provided earlier, the basic provisions are there.

First Ron, and then JC gradually worked their way down the platform, with yours truly and Rod taking the spoil away, to be dumped at the rear of the platform, where it disappeared out of sight.

You can see the future full width of the platform. Rear edging slabs still need digging in, then lamp post sockets dug out, and the underground electrical supply set out here.

Here is where we dumped the spoil, mostly made of genuine GWR ash. How nice to know that, as it blew into your face and hair, that this was genuine GWR heritage.
Keith, Brian and John O spread the stuff out at the back, helped by Steve who flattened it for us, so that the dumpers could have a firm, non-wobbly trip to the dump site.

This is as far as we got today, almost to the end. We're about half way down the slope, and as you dig deeper, the quantity shoots up. Eventually, we will go right through to the L/C at the end, so that race goers can have an uninterupted walk off the train and on to the race course, or platform 1. Sitting outside the cabin in the sun looks a bit more limited now though.

A nice surprise at the end of the day was finding a gift from the head of the Cheltenham area Group, as a thank you for all our hard work on the platforms - two packets of biscuits. It was a pleasure, Bob! Nothing like a munchie to go with the tea or coffee.

The CRC2 gang is in fact divided between the Mini Swiss Roll enthusiasts, and the digestive biscuit afficionados. No need to explain which one was most grateful today!

See you again next week.

Monday, 6 July 2015

A quiet day today, with just the 5 of us in attendance. One of the regulars is on holiday, the other packing up to move house. A third has just returned from a short illness, so there's been a bit of coming and going in the team.

So, as they used to say in that Pontins ad, 'What fun could we have?'

The first thing to do was punish Keith for spending a whole month away off work, towing a caravan round France and making it unsafe. It was decided by the other 4 that he could break into hardcore a broken piece of slab we had lying about, in a further effort to tidy up the site and make it ready for tarmacing.

It wasn't as easy as it looked. The concrete slabs at Broadway break up dead easy, often with a single blow, but these at CRC are made of genuine rock and while they spall terribly, they won't break up.

After 5 mins of sustained whacking, Keith takes a rest and is subjected to some pensive comments from John. A man leaning on a shovel is always ready with some helpful suggestions like 'I wouldn't do it like that if I were you'.

At the northern end of the site JC was wound up at finding some fly-by-night fly tipper had tipped a load of patio slabs just where he was about to take a roller driving exam. That would have been a bumpy session indeed - I wonder which idiot did this to us?

A nervous hand was raised at the back in reply. 'I was that idiot' came a sheepish answer. Names are being withheld to protect those that had the courage to confess their crimes.

Then Fairview arrived with a long awaited delivery of 200 new concrete edging slabs. These will be laid at the back of the platform, to give the tarmac and edge to work to.

The trick with this heavy stuff is to get it off the lorry straight on to a PWay trolley, in order to avoid onerous double handling. We managed this with 80 of the slabs, and here they are being trundled down to the far end for unloading.

Brian in the meantime had loaded up the sprayer with biodegradable weedkiller, and was giving the platform surface the treatment. We hope it did its job before the afternoon rain came. In the background John and Keith lay out the slabs. Next to Brian you can see a steel peg, one of a row which delineate the extent of the platform, and hence the line of the edging slabs. This needs to be dug out still.

Here John and Keith start unloading the edging slabs. Some are needed at right angles to form the end of the platform, and you can also see the steps that were cast. Looks quite neat really.

The final job was a fill in - will it rain before we are finished? We needed to remove the surplus spoil from the excavations for the running in board posts.

It then indeed started to rain, just as predicted. Before that we had seen some dire looking clouds creep over the distant Malverns - how long before they got to us? About 20 mins it turned out. We hurried indoors, and ate our lunch. More next time then.

Next Monday the digger and dumper and 30 tons of infill will be there, and we will finish off the back filling, and make a start on widening the platform to its full extent, and digging the channel for the electrics for the lamp posts still to be placed.