Thursday, 24 December 2015

Saturday's pictures

Here are a few more pictures from Saturday:

The wall by the former slope is coming along nicely. The track in the foreground is coming out in the new year.

Here is the other end, so that you can see the planned extent of the new platform. Block laying has reached the end, here lying flat because of the slope. We will be laying similar blocks at Hayles Abbey halt, and if anyone wants to help do this next year, we would be delighted to hear from you.

These two pictures show the southern end of the extension, and the tricky transition from the old platform slope to the new bit. All is becoming clear here, but no wonder Pete and his gang had to have a couple of tries at it, it looks complicated.

For those escaping from screaming grandchildren (like your blogger, in his study), here is another puzzle picture:

It's one of John Diston's, and he hasn't put a caption on it, so it's up to us to work it out. The loco number, the only polished bit on the loco, is 41304 with a shed plate of 6D, which was Shrewsbury from 1963 to 1967, and this fits in with John Diston's travels around the country. So did he photograph it at Shrewsbury?

Any other useful remarks about the picture?

Merry Christmas to all our blog watchers, and thank you for your interest and support!

Friday, 18 December 2015

Wednesday's pictures

As promised in the previous posting, someone has been kind enough to step forward with regular pictures, so here is the first set, covering Wednesday 16th.

Thank you Mike !

A last, quick question to our readers re the lighting of Hayles Abbey Halt.

This was provided by oil lamps hung on hooks fixed to the top of wooden posts at the back of the platform. Does anyone know what such a lamp would look like?


Further to Michael Johnson's pictures of lamps at GWR halts, I now realise that I have seen them before at another railway.
Here are two pictures, a close up and one in context.
The KESR Bodiam gang went to a lot of trouble to make Bodiam station as authentic as possible, and selected this lamp from a well know supplier. I think they got it pretty well right !

Thank you, Michael!

Thursday, 17 December 2015

More blocks

This report covers work done last Saturday and Wednesday. The pictures for this week were taken on Tuesday, when yours truly was passing through early on a grey, grizzely day.

On Wednesday, two of the gang had to do some remedial work at Toddy, where the wind had lifted the ridge roof flashing off part of the small waiting room on platform 2. Once done, they joined in the fun at Winchcombe.
This picture shows all the sleeper type corbelling blocks removed, and a new line of bricks being laid in front, to continue the former slope as part of the extension length. The signal is 'off' but there isn't really a train due - the class 73 was about with the ballast train at Stanton.

Wednesday was spent by the gang continuing the rebuilding of the old slope section and extending the concrete blocks towards Cheltenham.
Due to a bit of over enthusiasm last Saturday we had to redo a short section to get us back on level so it should be all systems go from here on in.
What also makes this build difficult is the fact than the wall is on a continuous curve so it's a case of short sections at a time.
Progress on Tuesday. The blockwork has been extended since then, and it's piled up ready to go.
One other job that we have been doing is preparing an area behind the B&S shed which will be used for storing edging slabs from CRC2 and other building materials. 

The sleeper ends that were in use as corbels, as well as some original slabs
Most of the work has now been completed, and now that a member has got his telehandler ticket we can get the slabs in from Cheltenham and get them sorted. These slabs are the natural stone ones not re-used at CRC as too damaged. However, there are good ones among them, and they can also be improved by turning on their backs, and sawing off the rough sides. A number have been taken to Broadway for use in the two gaps (now only one) that remained in the platform. Others will be used by B&S for this Winchcombe platform extension, while more still are pencilled in for Hayles Abbey halt, which will be reinstated as a heritage project next year. Did you know? We even have an authentic little waiting shelter for it.

Here's what it used to look like:
Photograph: G.Daniels - GWR collection

Further on a heritage theme, we need a number of GWR cast iron gate posts, the ones with the ball on the end like these:

It might be worth having our own cast, like the lamp posts at Broadway, but we need to order several to make commissioning the pattern worth while. Is anyone else interested? Surely there must be some areas on the railway that would be improved by genuine gate posts?

Further to last week's poser picture, here is the answer:
Yes, it was indeed Cheltenham Lansdown, with 7005 Sir Edward Elgar. In fact, Sir Edward took over from another engine that brought the train in, and John Diston took a picture of that as well, in fact it was the first of the two he took.
Here it is:

The reason I didn't show it first is that you can see the running in board under the canopy, and 7005 waiting patiently in the yard behind - too easy ! The incoming engine was 45552 SILVER JUBILEE. The headboard of The Thames, Avon and Severn LCGB Rail Tour has already been taken off.

You're not going to jump on the track, that chap on the left, are you? That tweed jacket may be the uniform of the day, but it gives very limited protection from passing trains.

We have now found a photographer for the B&S activities, so we hope to be able to show you regular photographs of the work as it progresses.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Blocks go down

Sorry no pictures this week, just a progress report.

Wednesday saw a gang of 6 on site, and a start was made on laying the concrete blocks. About 60 were laid, which is quite a row. More was also done on the front wall of the old slope area , but this still proved problematic, and had to be taken down and relaid or adjusted twice.

Some back filling was started in the same area, and hopefully now the novices know what to do progress will be faster next time.

Two pillars were raised in front of the concrete blocks ready for the facing bricks to go in next week for the first three rows.

I'm sorry there are no pictures this week, so as a consolation prize, here is a historical one by John Diston, taken on 12th October 1963.

Can you guess where it was taken? Any other comments you have about it? (I know where it was, but I'm not giving it away :-)   )

 Over to you!

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Brick laying starts

We have found some pictures of the work going on at Winchcombe, with thanks to Peter Muir.

This report gives the situation as of Saturday. In the picture above we can see a growing pile of new bricks, which have been shuttled over from a supply of 11 pallets at Broadway that had been donated to BAG, and that were now surplus to requirements. The final 2 collecting trips were made on Monday. We do help each other, and it was nice to see the B&S guys at Broadway and get a friendly wave.

Saturday was a dry day and the team decided not to miss the opportunity to start the brick laying itself, the slope having finally been freed of its reluctant concrete sleeper ends.

Here we can see the slope being levelled out.The team commenced with rebuilding the slope area, as this had been levelled into steps in short sections. However, it soon emerged that the wall was not only concave lengthwise, but also vertically.
After several checking measurements it was decided to build a pyramid  section and then align the rows to it. This did the trick, but obviously there is still some misalignment,  but it is not so noticeable to the naked eye.

With the coming and going of the Santa specials some delays where encountered, but with some back filling also done progress for the day was deemed acceptable.

A final view down the new length of platform shows how the new wall is rising out of the old.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Reluctant corbels

We have an update, but due to technical problems, no pictures this time. Transmission of pictures from site to blog is proving problematical.

So a written update this time, which covers last Saturday and Wednesday.

Saturday being dark and damp with rain at times, we only managed to remove half of the platform slope's top layer of short concrete capping sleepers .
What didn't help was the breakdown of the small Kango we were using.
We managed to get into a sequence of removing them which was continued on Wednesday .
With more bodies and a new small Kango the rest of the capping sleepers where removed by lunch time, so the slope is now clear for rebuilding.
What held up the progress was one sleeper at the bottom of the slope which was very firmly attached to a large lump of concrete, and despite much cutting of the concrete it refused to budge.

The facing wall was attacked to remove the sloping edges and is now ready for brick laying to begin.
Much preparatory work was also done to get items into place ready for next Wednesday so the rebuild can begin ( that's if we can't start on Saturday ). Another two van loads of bricks were also recovered from Broadway, leaving two pallets still to go.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Some more demolition

Wednesday saw a start made on building the platform extension, with a gang of 6 on the job.

Outside the station building materials have arrived, in particular concrete blocks for the lower rows, as at CRC,

Inside, along the platform, bricks have been stacked ready to lay.
These are being brought down from a surplus at Broadway, 1000 at a time. Another 2000 remain to be collected.

The day started dry but it soon became a day of steady light rain up until mid afternoon, when you photographer dropped by after a day at Broadway.

At the start of the day the shuttering pegs etc were removed and any voids filled to make a safe working area.
Several measurements were then taken to establish how much more spoil, if any, would need to be removed. This fortunately revealed that very little extra will have to go, and it will probably be a pick and shovel job.
Next on the agenda was to remove the slabs on the slope, so once we had all the right kit in place we commenced with lifting and rolling them uphill to store them at the back of the platform ready for re use when the wall is rebuilt.
This was all done by hand and foot and rollers in about an hour and a half (this brought back memories of when we laid them many years ago). They will be replaced however using a small 360 digger with straps.
In the picture above you can see that the platform slabs have been removed, and a start is being made on removing the small concrete sleeper ends that were used for corbelling when the platform was first rebuilt. Pat is giving them a very hard stare.
The slabs were on with surprisingly hard mortar, but they have to go, as the slope is being moved along by 20m to the new end of the platform.
One gang member is using an SDS drill with chisel bit to penetrate the mortar, while Pete is on the crowbar to remove a sleeper end that has been loosened.
Your photographer then got itchy hands and also had a go. 

Not as easy as it looks. What did they use for mortar 20 years ago? It's tough. After 10mins of rattling away, one obliged by coming away, leaving yours truly all a-tremble.
These sleeper ends are the 'pots' from lightweight army concrete sleepers, not suitable for main line use, so they found a new use here. They all have to come out before you start brick laying on the extension, and carefully so, as they will be reused.

As we were packing up in the failing light, a 'train' came along. The PWay gang in the Landie - beep-beep !
All in all a good days work despite the weather.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Concrete arrives

On Wednesday a mixer lorry came to pour the concrete for the platform extension footings at Winchcombe.

The mixer lorry and the pump have arrived on the road above the station
It was quite tricky working out how to make the concrete up, and how to get it to the footings, which were in an awkwardly inconvenient place. One option was to get a gang of men and barrow it in from the front of the station building, but a rough estimate of the weight of the spoil removed (10 dumper loads) and the likely weight of fresh concrete to be barrowed helped us to decide that ready made, and a pump, was the most workable option.

The location chosen for the supply of concrete and pump was on top of the road bridge, which gives a good view over the site. There were 6 B&S volunteers, and as most of the work was going to be done by the concrete supplier and pump operator, two volunteers were detached with the blue van to go to Broadway and collect more bricks.

All is ready - start pumping!
Setting up the pump lorry only took 20 minutes or so, but once the concrete started flowing through the pipe, blockages were met and the supply became somewhat intermittent. This was relieved by a well aimed series of blows with a lump hammer, clearly a well accepted cure for that ill!

Here we can see the concrete flowing freely, and beginning to fill up the trench.

B&S volunteers helped with filling and levelling, so that the whole pour, once set up, only took an hour or so.


 In the meantime, the lads were back from Broadway with a supply of blues, so once the concrete has gone off, brick laying can commence.

Half way there
The use of the pump can clearly be seen here - how else to get concrete to this inaccessible site?

...and looking north, towards the rest of the platform.
The completed pour, looking south...

As the pour came to an end it started to rain, so the day was completed by unloading the blues from Broadway.

The B&S gang would now like to progress as quickly as possible, because in a separate operation the PWay gang will be relaying the track in platform 2 (looking rather weedy in the pictures above) as well as the southern part of the track in platform 1. The spent ballast that will come out is ideal for use as infill behind the new wall. 

The track works will start at the end of the Santa Special season, i.e. in January, so that wall needs to be up by Christmas. The next full working day will be Wednesday next week, and more volunteers in B & S are always welcome to help get the work done on time.

Monday, 9 November 2015


Hi there, nice to see you! You are reading the new blog for the GWSR's Building and Services department. This blog replaces the Flickr site the department was using, which is unfortunately no longer active. This blog will resume the department's record of activities, and it aims to provide a bit more narrative too.

What marks the B&S department out is that it is very versatile. It can become involved with almost any building project on the railway. A bit like the fire brigade really - you call them, and they come and help with a building job. The department has been around for a long time, and has assisted with many structures that are just plain part of the railway today - Winchcombe station building, the toilet block there, the platforms, the footbridge, Toddington footbridge, Toddington waiting room conversion, the new foot crossing at Toddington, CRC2 platform, painting CRC station and its water tower, the base of the new hut that has just arrived there. This is by no means a full list, but you get the idea.

Crew numbers are surprisingly modest for such an interesting department - just 6 or 8 of them, and they do Wednesdays and Saturdays, usually kicking off at Winchcombe, their base, at about 9.30. In fact, the post of head of department is currently vacant, so if joining them looks interesting, why not give it a go? Just ask for Pete at Winchcombe any Wednesday or Saturday. Often they are round and about in one of the two little vans that the railway has.

So here is our first report.

A new job that was started today is the lengthening of the southern end of Winchcombe's platform 1 by a further coach length. This has been on the railway's 'to do' list for quite a while, and now we are gripping the bull by its horns.

Today was the day we dug out the foundations.

Here is an overview of the site, taken from the road bridge. The platform extension required has been marked out in white paint. It's going to be 20m long, just about right for one coach. As you can see, platform two is already this long, and the missing bit on platform 1 is a nuisance for operational reasons.

Just to compare, and underline what the volunteers have already achieved since we bought the line, here is a picture from 1985, when the station was at its nadir:

Not a lot there, is there? Just the goods shed in the distance. Certainly no platforms.
So, today we had two dumpers on the go, a one tonner, and a two tonner. The first job was to make the narrow site wide enough for the dumpers to come and go. Again, because the site is very narrow and difficult to access, we only had a very small mini digger, so progress was a a bit slow to start with, but got better as we gained familiarity with the terrain, and not least, S&T were kind enough to move their signalling wires to one side for the day. Thanks, guys!

Here's the site seen from the top of the starting signal. Neil has just started excavating the trench itself. It wasn't easy getting the very small digger to reach into the bucket of the somewhat larger 2T dumper, but we got into the swing of it after a while. Lots of original clay down there too, as well as some of the remains of the first row of bricks of the original platform. Remember, when the GWSR bought the line, there was nothing here - no rails, no station building, and no platform. Today's platform 1 was built by us, but is slightly shorter than the original, if the foundations may be believed.

Here Neil explains the modus operandi to a rather incredulous looking Pete. You what ??

Pete then set off in the loaded dumper. You can see why we picked an out of season period to do this job, as we have to run along the platform to get the stuff away.

The Coffee Pot cafe was closed and much missed, but Malcolm (Head of S&T) made us very welcome in his Mk1 HQ at the other end of the yard.

At the end of the afternoon we did, in the end, manage to lift out the entire trench, taking away 20 - 25 tons of spoil. It's amazing what comes out, not just clay and bits of 1950's blanketing, but also quite a number of useful imperials, which can be re-used for backing up the extension brickwork.

The bricks with which the extension will be built are modern imperial blues, left over from the Broadway platform construction. Nothing goes to waste round here!

The next job now is to set out the concrete infill. It looks like ready mix with a pump will be used, as the volume required and distance involved is too large to do it by hand, even if we had lots more volunteers.

A couple of pictures from Winchcombe yard might interest you too:

A ballast train with 6 Dogfish and a Shark (brake van with a ballast plough, just visible above the rails, behind the loco). No, it's not for the Broadway extension, but this freshly loaded train is going to drop ballast along the existing running line, in preparation for a visit from a tamper. Not an everyday sight then.

Something that is involved with the Broadway extension is this:

A collection of freshly painted signal posts, behind Winchcombe signal box.

We enquired with Malcolm, and yes, they are destined for Broadway! Good to see that other departments too are revving up for this.

And this one too. Strange, isn't it? A newly refurbished signal post standing in the middle of nowhere, far away from any rails.

The answer to the mystery is that the post is being tested. This post is a bit more complicated than your plain signal, so it's best to do a dry run to make sure that everything is there, and that it works.

In fact, there is something that isn't there. The indicator panel should have a frame with glass, and the frame seems to be missing. Anyone know where it is?

This post is also destined for Broadway, being the future inner home from Honeybourne. The indicator will tell footplate crew which platform they will be using.

That's it for today, B & S will report further at intervals, so do drop in from time to time. Any questions, or perhaps you'd like to join them, let us know and we will try to help.