Monday, 28 September 2015

A splendid day today, a case of Indian summer. Just like the old days (well, a month ago) as we sweltered in the heat, and then sat on the terrace with tea.

It was a beautiful morning, with mist in the vale from Broadway to Winchcombe, then none as the road climbed up to Cleeve Hill, with this view back down towards CRC from above, basking in the sunshine. An island in the sun indeed.

We had about 30 slabs left to lay at the rear today, so we set off with vigour. Bob and JC are laying in the background, while Keith and a new recruit Peter are digging out the line of the future slab row to the correct depth in the foreground. It was so much easier today as the ground was dry, so no 'clay clogs' for us this time.

 We were soon out of aggregate for the concrete, but just in time Richard from Fairview hove into sight with a welcome delivery. That dumpy bag has to go there, and this one - here.

John O, recovering from a delicate operation, is not allowed to lift anything. Is this lifting? I say it's not. He just could not sit at the sidelines and do nothing. Here he is showing our new recruit how to mix concrete. Then it was Peter's turn...

Peter, who graduated in Physics this summer, was keen to muck in, and - we let him. Aren't we terrible. Only 11 more shovels full to go, Peter!

Worse still, we let him push a barrow of his own making up the slope. We were only slightly disappointed to notice that he managed it faster than us experts.

The line of new slabs seemed to advance more rapidly than ever today. Bob and JC have run out of concrete and are waiting for Keith to heave up a fresh supply.

This was a little intermittent today, as the mixer drum kept clogging up. Not sticking to John O's secret recipe, see. We warned you!

Nearly finished already! Just up to the lamp post still to go.

Then the final slab went down. Notice JC's new kneeling pad with handles. Pity he only discovered it on the last day of kneeling.

Is that last slab a bit 'on the piss'? Surely not?

Your blogger was taken to task today for describing the string the brickies use as a 'string'. We are happy to stand corrected; that string is not a string, it is a line. This is how you roll it up (you have to explain everything to the youth of today).

With the final rear slab set in concrete, we did a bit of mopping up today to sort out various odds and ends. One of these was to cast the final step at the south end of the platform, using some anonymous pieces of plastic scavenged from the store under the bridge for formers. Worked a treat.

We were back to wheeling 90kg barrows for 200m, we had forgotten that pain. Or at least John S had, he did the walk twice while some looked on.

Looking back north over the cabin and ramp to the platform, this is the bit we have to address next. We have to join the platform to the level crossing. This involves digging out the slope further than in the picture, putting edging slabs down both sides, and a fence between path and railway track.

The rest of the platform, after settlement, will receive a layer of fine stone, be rolled again, and finally receive a layer of tarmac.

Those who work on the railway get an occasional reward, in this case a free look at a chartered freight train with visitor 3850. Here it comes trundling into CRC1.

It contained a quantity of railway photographers. Are they waiting for yours truly, with  bright orange jacket and non-GWR wheelbarrow, to get out of the way? Oh, alright then, sorry.

3850 was facing the other way, allowing a different sort of photograph, albeit full into the sun.

Finally, can readers help with identifying a loco?

On a date unfortunately not recorded, John Diston took this shot of the morning down Cornishman racing through Broadway. The picture would have been taken about 11 o' clock in the morning, as it was 10.36 off Stratford. In the background you can see the running in board, with the approach to the horse dock behind. This area behind the platform is now occupied by the garden of the old stationmaster's house, sold off in the 1960s.

The smokebox number is obscured by the duty number, so can anyone hazard a guess as to the name?

Here is a zoom in on the name plate. Is it my imagination, or does it not end in 'castle'? Is there something underneath the name as well?
Your educated guesses would be most appreciated, so that we can annotate the original photograph correctly.

We stopped early today, the main job of laying the edging slabs having been completed. Three of us then set off for the embankment just south of Broadway station, where a large digger was known to be working today. More about this on the extension blog - see you there.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Six men today, and lots of progress. Despite a very dreary start, and at one point the gang's refusal to leave the tea hut in the rain, we laid 41 slabs, with which we are well pleased. As we laid the final 3 slabs, the sun burst out and we left the scene on a high.

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it's off to work they go. John O and Keith march down the new platform... find JC with a hired in mini digger lowering the infilled platform surface slightly, and more importantly, the line of slabs still to be laid, which was a bit too high (and very difficult to dig out by hand, with all the clay and roots)

Then a quickie left over from last week, laying a missing slab around a duct that came in at just the wrong height. Have you got a large diameter angle grinder handy, with a diamond cutting wheel?

Thought not.

We did today though, so the slabs were cut perfectly to size and this bit was signed off as finished. That's the southern half all slabbed up at the rear, and a good start made on the northern half.

Then, before we could carry on along the second half, we had to set out the next lengths of rear slabs to be laid.

We measure the distance from the platform edge, then the height using this long piece of 2x4, and a level. Adjust the string accordingly, and don't step on it. Yes, you there!

Is it going to stop anytime soon? Nah, mate...
An impromptu boot scraper, frequently in use

While we do this, the rain continues to drizzle down. This has two effects: those who are doing hard work end up with giant clogs of clay round their boots, which is very irritating. Those that aren't doing much work huddle round the container with cups of tea and discuss what they would be doing, if it weren't raining quite so much.

Then, a glimmer of hope. After last week's dark picture of the Malverns, a beam of light lit them up today. The rain became episodic, then eased off, and work became quite pleasant.

For those not living in the UK, this is the valley of our second largest river, the Severn. Those Malvern hills represent the other side of the valley, then comes Wales.

We laid 20 lengths, then stopped to set out a further 20. You can see where this would take us - only two lamp posts to go if we finish there today. JC and Keith check the height of the new string.

The height of the string above ground level has to be checked carefully, otherwise the bed of lean mix and the edging slab won't fit. If the ground is too high, that's when the poking around in the gluey underground and the roots starts. Bob has a special gauge - a piece of ply, with a stripe on it. Works every time!

Once the ground is at the correct height, we can start slabbing again. Keith has just brought up another barrow full, while Bob is picking up an slab, which JC, who spent most of the day on his knees (no, not in front of the Finance Director!) is bedding down on the mix. That sign on the right seems to indicate 18 slabs to go, 111 laid. Nearly true ! We actually laid 41 slabs today, and have 31 to go out of the original 200 to be laid. One more good day should see us through.

During the idle hours in the rain, we calculated some statistics about the work we have done so far:

50.000 bricks laid
2000 concrete blocks laid
1200 barrows of mortar wheeled down the platform
240 Km of barrows pushed
90 tons of mortar made up
2 tons of cast iron planted

And only one work related accident. Paul pushed a barrow wrong. Yes, you might well ask yourself, how can you push a wheelbarrow in the wrong way? It's simple technology, no certificate required. We now know that it is possible, because Paul managed it!
In a fit of enthusiasm, he came rushing up with empty barrow and gusto, lifted the handles a tad too high, the front wheel guard dug into the ground, the barrow stopped dead, and Paul - sort of scrambled over the top of it. Ah. The injury in question was to his pride. Now healed, as he is still regaling us with his tales. Many tales. Many, many tales...

From the inner home signal, a view of CRC2 towards the end of the day, showing how far we got. 41 slabs laid in all today, just 31 to go. Nearly there. After that, the ramp to the level crossing remains to be done.

A last look of the day, at rural Gloucestershire. Sheep may safely graze. The sun has lit up a nearby hilltop. Imagine our surprise when a Chinook turned up one day, and deposited a group of soldiers on it!

As last week's historical picture clearly gave pleasure, here is another from the collection of Broadway photographer John Diston.

The picture was taken in 1959, and shows Jubilee class 45667 Jellicoe leaving Cheltenham Lansdown station with a Newcastle - Bristol train. This loco was scrapped in 1965 in Liverpool, its last shed.
The junction in the picture is where the rival Midland and GWR lines met, just south of the Cheltenham town centre. Our Honeybourne line is the one on the right. Malvern Road GWR station was just out of sight up our line, and is a builder's yard today. CRC is a couple of miles north of here.

As last week, any comments and additional information are very welcome. I have been allowed to borrow these pictures from John Diston's brother, and it would be nice if I could give them back with more details on them. Thanks for your help!

Monday, 14 September 2015

A day of heavy showers was forecast today, and it was true. Cleeve Hill was enveloped in low cloud, but as I came over the top by the golf course, a marvellous view opened out below - Cheltenham race Course, bathed in light ! It was wonderful.

If you can't see Cleeve Hill.....
Looking back up the other way after arriving at CRC2, this is what you could see. Moments earlier, I was in those clouds. Down here, all was sweetness and light. What a great day.

Great merriment ensued upon the return of John O, fresh out of hospital after an operation to parts we can't mention, this being a family blog. We were really pleased to see him back, and clearly in excellent form. Restricted from lifting any thing heavy for a few recuperative weeks, John busied himself around the site, clearing out the storage container, and giving freely of his advice on how to achieve a dry mix that doesn't stick to the side of the mixer drum. Needless to say, we disregarded this but, hey, how nice to see him back again!

Bob too was back among us, and it wasn't long before we got into the old token problems again. You'll never be an engine driver like that, Bob! You're going down the up line here.

Meanwhile, the weather window we had down at CRC closed and soon we were working in the rain. We carried on a bit, thinking it would surely blow over, but it didn't. Tea then.

We sat inside the cabin for a good half hour, plotting our next moves. This would be rear slab laying up to the CRC2 toilet block foundations, and then beyond, clearing out the container as much as possible, with a view to relocating it elsewhere on the railway, and laying out the second lot of 100 slabs along the platform edge.

During a brief, rain-free spell we ventured out again, to see this evil looking cloud moving NW wards over the Malverns. There was even a clap of thunder, but luckily we missed that one. Stunning colours.

We continue to struggle with poor quality tyres on the wheelbarrows. The walls are made of string and eventually give way, allowing the still intact inner tube to bulge out. You won't pass an MOT like that !
Luckily Keith, the Wheel Doctor, made a welcome return and soon sorted us out. Here he is fitting a wheel that he found at Broadway. It has a history - it came out of a skip in my garden, where the builders working on the house had unceremoniously dropped it, as the barrow had broken. I fished out the good wheel and tyre. Note the lump hammer, for fine adjustment to the wheel bearings.

The slabbing team was soon up to the old toilet block foundations, and started on the next stretch north. Here is Brian, chiseling out the very tough old GWR foundations, so that a new slab can be fitted.

Job done, Brian stood back and let JC carry on with slabbing. He does a very neat job of it, so us others just stand back and admire.

Look at that sky - another near miss.
One of our objectives, as mentioned above, is to start clearing out the container of stuff we will not need here in future. In the picture the gang is loading some concrete reinforcing, surplus from when the platform founations were cast here. We can use this at Broadway for the floor of the signal box tunnel.

Matting, black for mortar, battens, spikes, tools etc. all went in.

We aren't finished here yet, but this is stuff we won't be needing here any more.

Temporarily unemployed while JC loads up his truck, the slabbing gang take 5 and chew the fat. Did you see that Rapide fly over Broadway the other day? So slow.

The trench on the right is as far as we got today - 20 slabs laid. Rather less than usual, but there were interruptions and heavy showers to contend with.

Back at the container, two Johns were having a heated discussion. John O proposed that we ran the shuttles down to Pittville using a coach converted to electric traction, and battery powered. John S is explaining why this wouldn't work, and how GWR was that?

What exactly did they use at the hospital to put you under, or have you been smoking something, John?

Then, more rain. It rattled down on the roof, as we all took shelter in the container.

How about a friendly photograph of the gang huddled together out of the rain?
I'll take that as a 'Maybe' then....

To conclude today's posting, how about a little history?

Here is 1024 County of Pembroke drawing the 10.35 Paignton to Wolverhampton Low Level out of Cheltenham Malvern Road on 31st August 1963. In a few minutes it will be accelerating hard past the spot where we were working this morning. Eight months later the loco was withdrawn, and scrapped at Swindon, one of only 30 built after the war.
This was a typical holidaymakers' train, from the Midlands to the south coast and back again. It was replaced by the M5, and our line closed. This is what we are trying to preserve on the GWSR.

Wouldn't it be great to welcome 1014 County of Glamorgan, the replica being built by Didcot?

If readers can add anything to the information about this photograph, we would be interested to hear. The photographer was John Diston, one of the gang of schoolboys that used to stand at the horse dock at Broadway in the late 1950s - early 1960s. John took many photographs at Broadway, but occasionally he would venture south - this is one of those occasions. Enjoy the picture!