Friday, 29 January 2016

Hayles Abbey halt

As you may have heard, the railway's Heritage Group have received approval to rebuild a bit of our heritage, this being down side of the former halt at Hayles Abbey.

The halt was part of a drive by the GWR to secure more local traffic, in the face of bus competition. It was opened in 1928, at the same time as a new museum at the ruins of the nearby abbey. It was constructed with minimum cost, being built of sleepers and with a corrugated iron hut for a passenger shelter. 32 years later, the halt was closed again. This was on 7th March 1960, when passenger services were withdrawn along the whole length of our Honeybourne line.

This picture, from the collection of Tim Bazeley, shows the halt as it was. A sleeper built platform, a corrugated iron hut, lighting by means of oil lamps suspended from hooks on wooden posts.
The platform came under the control of the Toddington stationmaster, and was lit in the evenings by hurricane lamps. There was a path each side down from the roadside.

For a modest sum the Heritage Group have had a proposal accepted to rebuild this little halt as near as possible to the original situation. The actual platform walls will be constructed of concrete blocks on a concrete foundation along the down side, i.e. alongside the track where it is now. There are no plans to rebuild the up side (unless we go double track to Winchcombe, but this is very unlikely at the moment). The concrete blocks will be faced with timber, to give the impression of a timber built platform. A slight variation from the original will be required on top, where platform slabs are needed to conform with today's requirement for an overhang. The slabs will be sourced from the pile that is left over from CRC2 (others have gone to Broadway and Winchcombe).

This is what the site looks like today:
Compare with the picture above - there is no trace of the original platform or any earthworks. But this halt was always lightly built, to save on costs. As will be the reproduction.

The Heritage Group has also acquired a couple of items of original kit:

This is the shelter that will be installed, it is a near perfect example of the original. The building came from Fosse Cross, and is currently located in the garden of a Heritage group member.

The running in board was also made of wood, and had the words



on it. Thanks to a generous donation from a member, we now have some original GWR letters for HALT:

but not yet for ' HAYLES ABBEY'. They are made of cast iron, and are 12ins high. Can any one help? Even one or two of the letters?

The excavation of the foundations, to be poured in concrete, are expected to start within the next few days. We hope to provide some updates as work progresses.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Wednesday / Thursday update

The Winchcombe platform extension is rather in the middle of it all at the moment.

Wednesday saw work on the platform by the B&S gang, as well as further ballast removal by the PWay.

Today, Thursday, fresh ballast was ferried into platform 1 and levelled, so that the relay can begin on Saturday.

First of all, platform slabs from CRC2 were collected and brought to Winchcombe yard. Some of these are for the platform 1 extension.

In the foreground is the drainage gang's little store - aren't they neat !

With the PWay gang present, the telehandler was available to ferry enough slabs down to the platform 1 site at the end.

Wednesday was a unique 'window' to do this, as the trackbed in this area was devoid of rails, and fully dug out. Thursday the ballast went back in,. and Saturday the rails go back in ! Quick !

The lighting conditions this time of year are poor, so apologies for the grainy picture here.

We can see the B&S gang busy laying further blocks - they have almost finished now, but ran out of blocks. More were delivered today.

At the same time, more spent ballast was dropped behind the new wall, and there is now enough to back fill to pull forward into the gap newly created. It still needs compacting though. You can already see people walking around as if they were on the new bit of platform.

Today, Thursday, a large 100T supply of fresh ballast was steadily scooped into the dumper during the day, and bit by bit trundled over the foot crossing and down the trackbed to the southernmost part of the loop. Here it was dropped in a series of neat piles, calculated to achieve an 8ins layer once spread out. On top of this will go the reinstated track.

As you can see from the loading picture, the weather was dire to start with, although basically dry. After a dozen or so dumps though, the sun broke out, with this view under the bridge. Isn't it beautiful!

Don't think the whole day was like this though - it did start to rain after a while (sleet was forecast) and we took this opportunity to revisit C&W's canteen in the hope of further chocs and tea. Instead, we got cheese rolls; they do know how to look after themselves up there!

Downstairs in the changing room was another hungry worker - he is sitting on a row of coat hooks, and was quite unafraid.

Got any crumbs then, mate? How about it, eh?

 Back outside, and we spotted S&T loading the B&S van with bits of kit. All nicely restored and greased up. These are lever guides, and they are for - BROADWAY. All the different groups that make up our railway are working together for the same goal.

Lunch was taken in Malcolm's S&T den, accompanied by good humour and - another hungry worker! This one flies in through the gap in the door, and is quite happy to potter about inside in between the items of kit being restored.

After lunch, more loading and dumping. Steve had judged the quantities brilliantly, because here he is near the end of the 100T pile, and the last few gaps in the trackbed were also being filled.

Here is the gap, and the last dumper load parked up next to it. We left the last load in there, so that we could take it where it would be needed once the piles had been graded.

Seen from the footbridge, there is a neat row of piles of ballast up to and under the bridge. Job done !

Now for Steve to level it with the mini digger. A special gauge has been made to allow him to rake the piles into just the right height - platform top to rail level, rails, chairs and sleepers - then the ballast bed.

This last picture gives you an overview of both jobs. On the right the platform 1 extension, with the blockwork almost completed, and the piles of spent ballast for back filling in evidence. Two piles of slabs are ready to be laid at the rear. The corbelling will be achieved by re-using the half concrete sleepers previously used, but double spaced to make them stretch further.

In the centre is the re-ballasted southern end of platform 1. Steve in the mini digger has just started levelling what was dropped earlier in the day.

To the left of the mini digger, and onwards to the northern end of the platform, is the No. 2 road that still remains to be dug out. This is 2 more days work. Steve has no dumper driver tomorrow - anyone fancy the job?

Saturday the No.1 track will be relaid.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Digging out the platform roads

A few more photographs were possible today, when yours truly on the dumper supported Steve in the mini digger while digging out the platform roads.

Readers may or may not know that the PWay plan at Winchcombe is to completely replace the sleepers and ballast on platform 2, and for about a quarter of platform 1, the rest having already been completed a few years ago. It was certainly clear which part of the platform 1 road was rebuilt, and which part wasn't - the untreated bit was all full of weeds and earth!

In this picture, taken in the morning,  Steve is working his way down the platform 1 road from right to left. He made a start on this on Monday. The spent ballast is being loaded into the 6 ton dumper, a tight fit in between the platform edge and the centre drains, with an awkward turn in and out of the foot crossing by the signal box. But we got there. The spoil is being collected in the PWay yard in a big pile; some was also spread out at the far northern end of the yard to fill in a clay-ridden hole.

Here's a close up of the platform 1 extension works. The method of construction is different from that at CRC2. At Winchcombe, the bulk of the wall is made up of concrete blocks, with only the facing wall in actual brickwork. Once finished, the effect will be similar (all stretchers at Winchcombe, whereas at CRC2 the rows alternated with headers). Given that the RH end will form a slope, the B&S gang have done pretty well already, with probably something over half the blocks already laid. A small length of the finished blockwork was also back filled by Steve with the mini digger in spent ballast, where that was possible.

The weather was cold and damp, with threatening clouds skidding across the sky. After a couple of hours high up on the exposed and windy seat of the dumper, yours truly expressed a wish for warmth and tea. Steve knew exactly where to find that! We made a bee line to the C&W canteen, where we were made very welcome by Dave Clark with not only tea, coffee and good company, but with a box of Roses choccies as well. No wonder they get so many volunteers !

After tea, we addressed the platform 2 road, starting near the southern loop points. About 12ins of spent ballast is scraped off, down to a layer of fine chippings which protect the trackbed from the underlying clay. One dumper load gives you approximately 2 yds of cleared trackbed, so you can imagine that progress is steady rather than breathtaking. Each load has to be reversed back up the platform road to the foot crossing, then along an undulating cart track zig-zagging to the PWay yard, then back again.

Near the end of daylight we had reached a point near the footbridge, with about 70yds dug out. Some of the spent ballast tipped into the platform extension can be seen on the right. The target for the day was a centre track drain, and we reached that, with a little more for good measure. Steve was very happy with that.

The ballast removal will continue on Wednesday, concentrating on the platform 1 road, so that it can be relaid as soon as possible. The platform 2 road will then follow. A large quantity of new ballast is already in store opposite the signal box.

We should be able to give an update on the platform extension works, and the ballasting, on Thursday.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

It's been windy

The gang was happy to lay more bricks, but first of all they needed to repair the damage from the high winds we had in the recent storm. Something about water dripping in your tea from above....

The gang had to nail patches to the roofing felt - we've been lucky here, because in other cases the wind has ripped all the felt off at once! B&S were more fortunate and only got holes.

While up there, one of the gang took this rather unusual and rare picture of Winchcombe yard. You can see that it lies a little lower than the original ground level on the left, and if you remember the picture of Winchcombe yard being constructed in the last Cornishman, you would have seen the steam powered excavator digging here. In the background is a small area of the yard that was sold off in the early days of the railway. The typical GWR pines are on the far right. The C&W extension building is also on the far right, nearer the camera.

Meanwhile, work did not stand still on the platform extension, and Wednesday this week saw further block and brick laying.

Here a tower has been constructed (is that mortar the right colour?) so that a line can be drawn between two points and the intermediate space filled in nice and straight.

However where the rain had got into the brick holes a turkey basting pipette was used to remove the water and very successful it was too. The CRC2 gang has a patent pending for this trick, where a car battery testing pipette was used.

The edging slabs from CRC2 also arrived in two loads. These are now stacked in the yard ready for sorting, before final storage at the rear of the yard.

A further delivery from Fairview ensured the gang had sufficient materials to keep going as fast as they could.

This last picture shows how the wall is constructed out of concrete blocks, with a facing row of blues. A steady curve also has to be maintained here. More concrete blocks await laying on the right.

The p/w boys started the track removal through the station on Wednesday, so the pressure is now on to complete the work before the next season, all good fun. Fishplates were removed and the rails tipped out, in readiness for the complete removal of the platform 2 (and a part of platform 1) track. The spent ballast will then be dug out.

No reaction for the mystery picture last time, so here is another one, for which there are no notes. Can anyone help?

3808 was last stationed at Newport Ebbw Vale, so could this be the place? It's a big looking shed, so does anyone know? What type of loco is that on the right?

I've been given an envelope with all sorts of steam locomotive photographs taken by John Diston (who died in 2012) and his brother very kindly let me scan them in and post them on my Flickr site, so that they won't be lost, and people can enjoy them. They are unique echos of the past, after all.

You can see them here:

At the moment there are 49 photographs up, and I will be posting more, bit by bit, once I have repaired them from the heavy wear and tear that they have had. The first 30 or so are in the GWR region, then the Southern, and then further north and so on. John traveled around in his spare time from working at Gordon Russel's and it's amazing how far he got! All are of steam locomotives, but many photographs had no caption, so I've had to puzzle them out myself, and any help is gratefully received.