Monday, 15 August 2016

We close the gap

Another successful day today, with a good 70 blocks laid, and now more need to be fetched from Winchcombe again.

We still had just under 40 blocks topside, and a similar number down on the foundations, so Lyndon started to shuttle the top ones down, until we had about 80 trackside. There were no trains due at all today.

We split into two teams - one on blockwork at the southern end slope, and another in the area of the catchpit, building its somewhat complicated wall.
In this picture you can see Paul, returned from his holiday up the Kiel canal, laying the lower course of blocks on the last part of the concrete foundations that was cast a little lower. Earlier, we had Stevie Wonder round with a petrol powered disk cutter, and he cut the lower row of blocks down to a thinner size. Now they fit.
Jim H made them a huge mound of mortar to be getting on with.

Meanwhile, Jim G was on weephole making duty.

It's quite slow but satisfying work. You chip away patiently, until you have a semi circular hole on one side, then turn the block around and start again on the other.

But spot the deliberate mistake here... this block ended up with 3 weep holes. It seems that the Olympic commentary on the little portable radio that Jim brings in was very distracting, and you chip away in a little reverie.

Then suddenly, just as John was passing with a heavy concrete block, the Olympic news feed stopped abruptly. We whirled round, to find John standing empty handed, a block by his feet, and a little crushed radio underneath. Jim couldn't believe it! His poor little radio had the imprint of a 25Kg concrete block on it, and was silent. It had expired, it was no more, it was an ex-radio.

More towards the centre of the site, Lyndon and Tim spent the day in the catch pit, measuring and cutting, and carefully laying the blocks around it. They need to rise to a shape at platform level that mirrors the shape of the concrete ring and its standard sized concrete lids.

It's quite complicated.

The second row of the platform wall has just been added behind Tim. You can see that the mortar is still wet, although that didn't show for very long as it was quite hot today, up to 25 degrees, and we were working under the full sun. Lyndon and Julian had to sprinkle water every now and then on to the mortar piles, as well as on the blocks to be laid, otherwise the mortar doesn't stick to them.

Because the sun was rather unrelenting in front of the container today, it was decided to have our elevenses down in the cutting. It seemed just as hot. Jim was 'mother' and brought a hot steaming teapot; yours truly a tray of mugs and a packet of doughnuts, while John added variety with a packet of biscuits. They were  treat, this is why we come.

Do you reckon that's going to come out level?

Having extended southwards to the tip of the southern platform slope, Paul now worked slowly backwards towards the tower laid last week.

Here he is with a plank across the gap, making sure that the next course up to the individual block on the right is level.

There seemed to be some sceptics in the vicinity though.

Round about lunch time a mile stone in the build of our new platform wall was reached - we laid the last block in the bottom course. There are now some blocks - one, two, three or four courses high - all along the platform. Many more blocks, on top or behind, are still required, but you can now see the complete shape of what will be.

Jim is 'buttering' the end of the second to last block, while Julian is preparing a nice thick bed for the last block, about to be laid by Paul.

In the background you can just make out Lyndon and Tim.

Looking through the road bridge, you can see our gang of 8 today, split into two groups, with Jim H on mixer duty today.

Yours truly drilled all the remaining rebar holes through the blockwork, now that the bottom row is fully in place.
Unfortunately the generator was being very difficult today. It allowed several holes to be drilled, then started to play up by sputtering whenever power was demanded of it.
Jim had a go at diagnosing the problem. Is that a brickie's hammer we see there, Jim?

The doctor with his little hammer says it's probably fuel starvation due to a dirty carb.

Right down at the southern end now, a third course has started to go on. Again, because of the heat and bone dry concrete, the blocks need a sprinkle of water to make the mortar stick, otherwise it just falls off again. Julian is doing the honours.

As this bit is on a slope, the second course is at the level where Jim G is standing, while Paul and Julian put a third course where there were none first thing this morning. With the 70 or so blocks we laid today, we are once again at the stage where more pallets of blocks need to be fetched up from Winchcombe. But where to put them all? All the available space on the foundations is now used up by the wall. As it is meant to be, of course.

Back at the catch pit, Tim is slowly being walled in, like some mediaeval nun. Luckily one of the four walls is still at ground level. Next week he will lay the rest from the outside.

Our end of the day shot today was taken from the road bridge above. You can now see the full extent of the new platform wall, two coaches long.
At this stage, only the half beyond the two volunteers standing in the middle has a second, rearmost row of blocks. You can see that we've left ourselves a little gateway in the middle, through which we bring all the supplies from topside. A little bridge made of two pallets brings the barrow road to the rail edge.

The location of most of the blocks laid today is plain to see, as the mortar is still dark.

The project is going really well, we are on budget, and morale is high!

Finally, you might be interested in this timetable extract of our line:

Believe it or not, this was photographed on Thursday, in situ, on an old GWR poster board, still attached to the station building platform wall. It dates from 1944. Where? Ahhh, that will be revealed after the September holidays. We are planning a small heritage asset recovery.

The timetable confirms what several people have related to us i.e. they took the train to go to school in Cheltenham, both from Broadway and indeed from Hayles Abbey Halt, where the first train of the day duly stopped. You can see that it started off from Cheltenham at 06.40, ran up to Broadway, did an about turn and then stopped at all stations down again until it was back in Cheltenham at 08.20, where the school was. Do schoolchildren still do that today?


  1. An ideal shady spot for the tea and lunch breaks seems to me to be under the overbridge. Only trouble is that the cool under the bridge may be too much of a draw and a mutiny started at the mention of getting back to the job ! Anyway, great work lads. Regards, Paul.

  2. An excellent days work, as per. But that vegetation behind the platform really needs to be dealt with ASAP before it starts to seed, multiplying the problem next Spring. From experience!!

  3. Well done lads! my only concern is that Tim can escape as his dungeon only has three sides, when you leave site he will wait a while then wonder off!! Now, you only work for tea, doughnuts and biscuits? I have some blockworks that needs doing so I will pay the aforementioned plus sandwiches for a days work. seriously though you guys a doing a great job, Can't wait to see it fully finished!

  4. Had a thought as to where the extra blocks can be stored until used. There is plenty of room on the other track that is not going to be used. Now, if the blocks were brought up by train, say, on a flat wagon drawn by the C & W shunter, off loading to track would be relatively simple and avoid the descent from te roadway to track level. Just a thought. Regards, Paul.

  5. Just because someone not interested in the Olympics, no need to smash the

  6. Fascinating to see the old timetable, especially as it's survived against the odds on a wall for so many years. It's interesting that Broadway was seen as a relatively major destination, with some trains starting and terminating there, rather than covering the whole line.

    One day it would be nice to recreate that timetable - at least, as far as possible given the artificially low speeds present-day trains have to stick to. I see 5 minutes were allowed between Laverton Halt and Toddington, which suggests a speed of 40-odd mph. The current journey time is 9 minutes at 25mph - but with a lengthy 10mph restriction north of Toddington. If that was removed, I reckon a similar timetable would be do-able.

    'School trains' still exist, even today. The entire timetable of the Esk Valley Line (Middlesborough - Whitby) is structured around school hours. The morning and afternoon trains are absolutely stuffed with schoolkids - you board at your peril!

    On a slight tangent, I recently found a collection of photos showing Toddington, CRC, and other locations along the line just before, and in the very early days of, preservation. The 1981 shot of a partly hand-written GWRS working party poster is a real period piece. Things were primitive in those days.

    It's also interesting to see some signals were left behind after the track was lifted - including a colour light signal at Weston-Sub-Edge. This was installed when Toddington became the only signal box between Lansdown and Honeybourne. A semaphore signal so far away from the box would have been too long a pull.

    There was another colour light south of Honeybourne - again, too far from Honeybourne West Loop box for a semaphore to be practical. There was one more colour light at Lansdown Junction, connected to Gloucester panel. This one remained connected, showing a red light, for about two years after the track had gone.

    However, I digress. The photos are here (scroll down a bit):

    1. Thanks for that, Michael, I had a good look and enjoyed.
      Interesting for me was the shot of the trackbed next to the goods shed at Broadway.
      If we ever get to Honeybourne, it may well be that the signals will also be remotely controlled, from Broadway box.