Monday, 27 June 2016

Block work accelerates

We're really getting into our stride now! No fewer than 72 blocks were laid today, as against the 48 on Friday. Work seems to be settling down to two days a week, Mondays and Fridays.

Could it be that the boost in our productivity is accounted for by our new recruit? Here is Jim H on the right, and what made the difference is that, with Tim on the left, a second block laying team was able to work and considerably increase the output. Welcome to the Hayles gang, Jim!

Here on the northern end the slope was defined, giving us the height on which the corbelling will be laid. Still need to infill the blocks with concrete though, that will be quite a job for the mixer and barrows.

Jim G is beavering away in the middle, and receiving instructions from both Neal and Paul. Let's hope they said the same thing.

A little further south, Tim was pointing up the first row of blocks laid today, while Neal was generating a lot of dust at the far end.

Neal had brought a powerful angle grinder, and is here finishing off the slope. Most of the blocks on this section were cut to size by him earlier.

When the dust had settled, it was a good opportunity to sit back, take 5 and admire your hard work. It was a hot day, and we all ended up with bright red faces as a result.
In the foreground is the start of the opening around the drainage catch pit. This will be completed next time.

This view from the road bridge gives a good overview of the site. At the top end, the blockwork is final; further towards the camera, where Dave is working, the blocks have only been laid out, but not yet set in mortar. However, two towers have been built, allowing the rest to be infilled easily the next time round. A substantial stack of blocks yet to be laid awaits at the southern end.

The number of volunteers today was such that the chairs earmarked for the teabreak were insufficient, and 3 more have been borrowed. Let's hope 8 will be enough next time. We hope the doughnut supply is also adjusted accordingly!

The end of the day shot shows how far we have got - up the slope, and along a bit. Don't forget that a second row of blocks also has to be laid behind the first, which is not so obvious. Paul and Dave are working on this second row in the picture.

Finally, three happy bunnies were caught today:

Yes, that hanky is to wipe the sweat off our brows. . .

Friday, 24 June 2016

Referendum special - and a few blocks

Today we had a team of  6, and we enjoyed a great day of hot sunshine, until clouds moved in and we escaped a first serious rain shower at three o'clock. It was the first day of proper block laying, after an initial tower built at one end to get our bearings.
Once again, it was a non-running day, with the head of operations advising just a single movement, for a driver experience course. It went by at a fair old lick, just as we were enjoying a first cup of tea, hence no photograph. The rest of the day was ours, as it were, so we set out our track gauges. The one in the foreground ensures the correct distance from the track, while the blue one in second place allows you to ensure the height of each row is correct. Paul and Dave measure the height, while Jim keeps a careful eye on the goings on.

Still working at the northern end, the gang is laying a first (of two) rows along the front. The gauge is just behind, which allows you to gently tap the block into just the right place.

Once we had a row of blocks in place, Neal came along with a genny and an SDS drill to drill a hole in each block for a rebar. They are calculated to be a tight fit, and the rebar is then hammered in.

As you can see, we were soon up to a third row. Once we had a line between two towers, putting a row of blocks on suddenly went a lot faster. There was a lot of trial and error to start with, and more concise instructions are needed to the muck maker as to the sloppiness (or not) of the mixture required. Now we know for next time.

The result of the referendum was discussed in a lively, and dare I say it, a pithy manner. Views were shared...

... and heard with some incredulity. Then it turns out it was all a wind up, and we fell for it hook line and sinker. You what?

Finally, Jim produced a radio and the further developments of the morning were heard as we stirred the mortar. No smart phones here!

As the hourly news were read out, we stopped to listen with great interest. It was a pretty momentous day really, and a good demonstration of democracy.

Finally, a distraction - what's this then?

It's another Hercules on a low level fly by. This one is about to cross over the Cotswolds edge, while we were standing at Hayles down in the valley. Low indeed.

While this was going on, Doug did a very nice job of pointing, filling all the spaces between the blocks with extra mortar. Isn't he meticulous? The extra blocks at the rear are for the second row, which was also started. The yellow line indicates the start of the slope on the end of the platform.

Neal took a line along the slope, and marked out with a felt tip where we would need to change from three blocks to two.

At the end of the day - marked by an ominous cloud arriving, which did indeed convert to a heavy shower - we had laid 48 blocks and took the hint to pack up. Not before we had a final cup of tea inside the container, now with added watertightness thanks to a large blue tarp over the top. No wonder it was free.

48 blocks is exactly 10% of the first shipment of blocks, so we felt pretty good about that. Next time, we will be working round one of the drainage catch pits in the cess, which will be an interesting diversion.

This 'end of the day' shot shows pretty much how far we got. Jim and Paul are clearly engaged in one of their pleasant dialogues, while Doug minds his own business.

At the end of the day, and unexpected historical snippet surfaced. Only three B&W pictures of the halt in operation are known to us, and we may have found a fourth. It is said to show a loco trapped in the snowed up cutting during the great freeze of 1963. The owner has promised to dig it out for us, so fingers crossed, we may be able to show it in 14 days or so.

The next session will be either and/or Monday and Friday next week. Stay in touch if you want to help.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Blocks !

Today was a day of blocks at Hayles Abbey halt. Despite the prolonged rain, there was a good turnout of 8 volunteers. It was all hands to the wheelbarrows, as the objective was to shift the 480 blocks that we had in pallets at the top end of the site down to the rear of the foundations, from where they can be laid. Luckily the rain gradually eased off as the day progressed.

Facilities on site continue to improve. We now have a generator, a stove, kettle, and an all important tarp over the top of our cheap, cheerful but very much leaking container. We also had 5 wheelbarrows (two borrowed from Toddy) so once the rain had reduced from downpour to drizzle at about 10 in the morning, a fleet of barrows was assembled with two blocks per 'driver'. Alright, Neal had 3, down from an overly enthusiastic 4 to start with, but the others decided to pace themselves more modestly.

Here is the 'barrow train' on its way down the old footpath to the trackbed. All the volunteers are there, including the two loaders at the rear. Neal's creaking load of 50% more than anyone else is at the rear - hope he had good brakes!

Here is the barrow train going down the temporary 'zig-zag', a short steep bit which bridges the original platform level with that of the foundations. We were unhindered by passing trains, as we only work on non operating days.

This is where the blocks went. They were stacked at the rear of the foundations, so that those laying the blocks can work freely. Our next working day here, which may well be Friday, will see a start made with actually laying the blocks. Do come along and help, just check with Jim that Friday is on.

The hardest job of the day was not barrow pushing, which is all downhill from here, but loading, lifting the heavy blocks into the barrows, time and time again. There were 12 pallets to start with, and it's quite tiring after a  while. Paul is taking 5 between loads, but mind those nettles there, Paul !

Aren't the Cotswolds beautiful? In this view of the site of the halt you can also see the village of Didbrook, the top of the pyramid at Stanway fountain reservoir, and the Cotswolds edge.

We will need a total of 1200 blocks to build the two coach platform, so today's effort was by no means all. Another 720 blocks will be delivered in due course and need to be ferried down, but first we'll be laying a few of those taken down today.

Towards the end of the day, more volunteers slowed down and took a rest. Some of those in the picture have volunteered since the late 1970s, (before the GWSR existed, I know) and are still going strong, as you can see. There must be something about work on our GWR line.

Or is it the tea?

Ah, I thought so !

The gang contemplates a job well done, and it's homeward bound with real job satisfaction.

Friday, 17 June 2016

In the dry

Good progress has been made by the B&S team in providing a dry porch to the admin cabin in Toddington. It's particularly important during this typical summer - it's been pouring with rain these last days!

Now that the concrete base has gone 'off' the actual porch can be built. Two of the three side panels have been erected, and the roof has been waterproofed. To give it a bit more style some tongue and groove paneling is being painted ready for mounting inside. Next week should see this go on, together with the third and final panel. This is the most important one, as it faces the prevailing wind.

The porch will also need some joints filling in, and a final coat of paint, so we are not quite there yet.

Here's a quick peek into the B&S cave, where the parts for the porch were cut to size and partly assembled.

Pat Green can be seen working on the tongue and groove panels mentioned above.

The B&S team do a lot of what is perhaps unseen work, but still essential for the railway's unhindered functioning. One of these jobs is moving the standpipe, which is currently located in the middle of Winchcombe yard. So far it has led a miraculous survival, with all the ballast being dumped, and scooped back up around it.

Some items of rolling stock, left in LT storage with us, are due to be moved and once again the standpipe will be in the way, so B&S are now moving it to a safer place.

This trench has been dug, to move the standpipe to the rear of the B&S shed.

Also at the back of the shed, the bunkers have been finished off with their sleeper walls. They look very neat, another great job.

Another job ticked off the long list is the repair of water pipes (for carriage resupply) in the middle of the trackbed at Winchcombe station. These received some damage when the tamper passed through after the track renewal.

The team will also set off on Saturday to collect a supply of bricks, using both of the railway's trucks.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Another picture of hayles

A quick visit to the site, to deliver a spare shovel and some chairs for the guys to have their lunch break on. Not much fun eating your snap standing up.

At the end of Monday the team had almost fully set out the site, with a row of blocks at intervals to indicate the line to be taken.
There's just a couple more to do at the far end by the bridge. The location of the halt has been brought forward a few feet so as to avoid locos standing with their chimneys under the bridge.

Towards the Toddington end time was found to construct a tower as well. However, the first build will be a line of blocks all the way along, as we will be drilling through these into the foundations to insert a row of rebars. This will resist any push from the infill.

Talking of which...
.... some useful infill was trundled down from Toddington yesterday, part of what was removed when the turnout for the loading spur was relocated (the current PWay job). For infill this is just the sort of material that is wanted.

The next working day is this coming Monday. Neal will be leading the team that day, so please come down and give him a hand.

Bring your own lunch - ample seating will be provided :-)

Monday, 13 June 2016

Work starts at Hayles

Just a short update to report that today was the first working day at Hayles Abbey halt.

Due to the heavy rain overnight and steady rain into this morning, the turnout was rather subdued this morning. Your blogger, at work at Broadway, came to deliver a brand new shovel that was offered as a direct result of the appeal in the last post. Amazing how this works. Thank you, Graham!

Today was a setting out day and the two that came were quite enough to achieve the day's objective.

Here we see Jim with the master plan, and Paul checking the height and clearance from the track.

A quantity of blocks sufficient to start laying has also been brought down, and this will no doubt provide the basis for the first day's laying work the next time there is a working day. This will be either a Friday or a Monday, so if you fancy giving Jim a hand, drop him a line.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Site meeting at Hayles

A site meeting was held today by Jim, the project leader, to introduce those who have put their names forward to come and help. Another will be held on Friday, for those that can't do Monday. The working days will be the two non running days, Monday and Friday, always in liaison with the ops manager.

Today was one of the non-running days. Here Jim is explaining the structure of the platform wall, which will be made of the concrete blocks you can see, faced trackside by wooden beams which will give it the look of being constructed in wood. There will be the usual corbelling of imperial blues, and then some of the remaining platform slabs ex CRC2. A supply of rebar was also delivered. We have access to a generator, and an SDS drill.

A mixer and barrows are now on site, a friendly gesture of the Broadway gang. We could do with some shovels still, and some plastic chairs or a scaffolding board to make a bench - we have to have our tea somewhere!

As this was a site meeting, we stayed topside. We did have the chance to position the water tank, and this will be filled periodically from a friendly neighbour nearby. The reopening of the halt certainly seems to have neighbour report.

It looks now as if the first working day will be Monday or Friday next week, depending on what is most popular after the second site meeting.

Another site visitor was this Hercules. We appear to be in a designated low flying area, which explains the regular Hercules and Chinook low flying traffic over your blogger's house in the valley. This one flew round Dumbleton Hill several times. It's always very impressive when they suddenly appear overhead. There was also a report of 3 B52s in the area - one was seen over Pershore - but none ventured over Hayles today. Now, that would have been quite something.

Near to Hayles Abbey halt is a fruit farm, and the owner is one of our supporters. He explained that he used Hayles Abbey halt when it was open (prior to March 1960) in his schooldays. There was an early morning train with a couple of carriages and about 30 regulars on board. He would cycle down to the halt, padlock his bike to the railings and take the train down to Cheltenham Malvern road, together with other schoolchildren along the line. (we have heard similar stories from older residents of Broadway). The train would then continue to St. James.

The fruit farm felt that a re-opened halt would benefit their customers, many of which camp in the grounds, so they were quite for it.

More news will be posted when work starts.