Monday, 22 August 2016

Hayles Abbey halt has moved!

Following a request from our project supervisor Tim, we have moved the Hayles Abbey Halt reporting to a separate blog.
As this project gathers momentum, more and more people are taking an interest and would like to see what it is we are doing. Hence an own identity - you can see the new blog here, with today's progress already on line:

The Building an Services blog will of course continue, so check them both out to see what we are up to.

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?

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

CRC's slag wall finished

The busy bees of B&S have been about the railway again, principally at Cheltenham Race Course, where
repairs to the slagstone wall that has been falling over, and was barricaded off, have finally been completed.

You can see the wall building up at the rear, with a lot of rubble left over at the end. All this was barrowed away out of sight.
Slagstone is hard to find (formerly an easy to get waste product) so you have to re-use it sparingly.

Here is the final result, all tidied up of earth, rubble, blocks and left over timber. The pressure from above, which caused the bulge and subsequent collapse, was relieved when the cutting side was regraded nearly 2 years ago.

The team then moved on to Toddington, and completed the construction of the new porch to the office. A final coat of paint will see this job ticked off.

Platform 1 at Winchcombe also saw some attention when a number of members barrowed topsoil to the border behind the rear wall of the platform extension. The same wall has been nicely finished off with slabs.

All that remains to be done is to fit the replica GWR lamp post in the space reserved for it. The state of play here is that the new pattern, kindly sponsored by a member, has been completed and a first trial casting delivered for inspection. A couple of minor improvements were requested, and these have now been addressed by the pattern maker, so that the design is now an exact copy.
The actual production run will start this week, but delivery won't take place until after the holidays. A little more patience is required, but so far so brilliant.

A bit of history

John Diston, a former member of the railway who died in 2012 took this interesting photograph sometime in the mid 1960s.

With the help of readers, we would be interested to know where he took the picture, and perhaps what was going on. The centre driving axle is missing - that's not something you see every day. It looks as if the loco has been pushed into this space by another loco behind, coupled up to a barrier wagon. There seems to be some sort of bridge over the area, with a lamp post on top.

John made two prints of this picture, and one says Toton, and the other Heaton Mersey shed. An internet search of photographs does not provide an image which would help to identify the place, so has anyone got any ideas? Another 9F in the background is still in steam. The shunter's pole suggests a movement going on.

9F 92135 in the picture has a shedplate of 25A Wakefield, which was also its last shed in 1966. The loco was scrapped in 1967 by Drapers in Hull.

About 100 of John's steam age photographs survive, and they can be seen in a special album created for him here:

This one will be added when all sources of information have been exhausted.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Another good day

Seven valiant members turned up today, which isn't bad given that several are on holiday. We had another merry day laying concrete blocks, after a delayed start due to a last minute announcement of a photographic charter passing through.

It duly trundled by, headed by P&O, so large that it put our little halt platform in the shade. After its passage we were able to get to work, as it would not be back until 15.30.

Then, good news, Jim read out his nominations for the honours list. You too could be on it - just make sure he owes you for something. Tim has clearly already scored.

Tim then hopped into the catch pit, and together with Dave, completed the square of concrete blocks around it at the bottom. When this has gone off, they will be raised to just below platform level, and the opening finished off on top with a final standard concrete ring.

Due to the overlapping nature of the block spacing, they ended up with a half block wanted. Dave D here does the honours. It's a skilled job, those blocks crack if you are not very delicate with that lump hammer.

A second and third team set to work on extending the current length of platform. One team led by Dave worked along the front, while the second led by Lyndon, worked on the second row behind.

A problem which soon became apparent was that sooner or later we are going to have to build across the bottom of our footpath, and today was that day.

It meant having to stop with the wheelbarrow at a dodgy angle and with no brakes to secure it. Julian takes a v e r y careful shovel full out of it, while Dave, looking on and astonished, can't believe that he can do this without overturning the barrow.

Due to the warmth and the wind today, the mortar was going off in double time, and a call went out for a bucket of water. No problem, and no need to walk all the way topside, just ask Tim down the catchpit to give you one from between his feet. 
Tim duly produced the bucket of water from down the hole, but with an added extra:

We let this one go again! We're not open for passengers yet.

In this picture you can see the area of activity today. We are lengthening the platform by building across the bottom of the footpath. New blocks laid first thing have darker mortar, as on the left. We laid 86 blocks today, so felt very happy, esp. with the early stop due to the return of the charter.

The middle team, with Lyndon and Julian, were laying the back row of blocks.

Here you can see them laying a block that has been cut to allow for the pipe for a weep hole.

Of course the dang thing doesn't fit, so it has got to go back to Jim with his hammer for some last minute fine adjustment.

Dave P then shows them how to do it - make sure there are no other blocks nearby. Always get a fit like that.

A final view at the end of the day shows that the platform has grown by several feet in length, and that the bottom of the path now looks blocked off. It's OK, next week we will be laying a wheelbarrow path across it again, when the mortar has properly gone off.
The stock of blocks ready for laying has shrunk alarmingly, and we are also short of sand again, as we got through most of a dumpy bag of it today. We mixed around 8 barrows of mortar today, weighing something over half a ton. It's a breeze though, the barrow run is downhill all the way!

Lastly, at the Bloxham auction on Saturday, next to a GENTLEMEN and a WAY OUT sign which are a perfect fit for Broadway, we acquired some 12 ins running in board letters for Broadway and Hayles Abbey:
A cast iron A, B and Y.

We still need to have or borrow a D and a W for Broadway. Can anyone help us with a gift or a loan of these two? We would like to take them to a friendly foundry to have copies made for these two projects. The Cheltenham Area Group has lent us C, H, E and L, but we are still two short. Help !

With these last two letters, and O, A & R borrowed from a  friendly railway nearby, we will have all the letters we need to make a complete replica set for our two projects. The letters for HALT were donated earlier by a kind benefactor.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Wot - no rain?

Heavy rain was forecast for today...

In anticipation, your blogger went to Hayles on Friday to photograph the site with a few interesting trains passing, while the sun shines.

So here is the class 37 giving it a bit of welly, that at the sight of 5 diesel enthusiasts waiting on top of the bridge. They were very keen. One even stood on a pair of steps, whereas he was already standing high up on the bridge. That is keen.

The next candidate along was this class 33, the driver and second man in shirt and tie. Long gone are the dirty steam days ! The number, for those that are interested, was D6575, which is based on the WSR. Very nice in BR green, it is true.

The final shot that day was of this diesel double header, with a class 24 and a class 26. They are so long, that they almost completely obscured the little platform we are building. Alas, there was no room left for carriages.
The trains looked quite well filled, so this should produce some useful shekels for the railway. It's good to see some alternative traction for a change, and a new type of customer.

Back to today, Monday, and the day of heavy rain forecast. At 9am we were certain that there would be no block laying today, but before the heavens opened upon us, we might be able to fetch a few more blocks from the stack at Winchcombe. There was also a resupply of sand and ballast due on site today.

This duly came only moments later. It was a whole lorry load, about 8 dumpy bags, all of which has to be mixed up and used at some time in the future. In terms of tons weight, we are certainly shifting it here!

The company supplying us has been very kind, and part sponsored the cost of the materials. With our agreement, they provided us with a banner to let the public know what we are doing:

We were happy to return the favour by attaching the banner to our container, and today's crew can be seen beaming underneath it.

But Hayles Abbey Halt - Railway Station ? This isn't going to be Pickering, with an overall roof. It's a modest little halt, with a corrugated iron hut.

Before the rain comes then, let's unload some more blocks. Steve drove up from Winchcombe with a load of 40, which were duly stacked on the foundations. Later, he came back with a  second load, so that makes 80 stacked.

Even more blocks then arrived, as Dave D managed to borrow the Transit and got Steve to load him up, before Steve left to repair a case of damage at Bishops Cleeve. Now we have 160 new blocks on site, that will keep us going for a bit.

But no rain yet. Could we.....?

Yes, we decided to take the risk and lay as many blocks as we could, before the rain came. Today we started connecting two of the towers built last time.

Here are Dave P and Paul manoeuvering a block along from the pile in the background.

Do you want (concrete) chips with that?
Yours truly was on 'making weep holes in the blocks' duty today. It involves chipping away carefully, without breaking the whole block, until a half round hole has been made large enough to take the pipe.

The blocks with the holes in were used immediately, a much better way than trying to drill the holes through afterwards. After considerable drilling, hammering and chiselling,  the full length of the wall as now built has its weep holes and a pipe poking through each at last. From now on, we will make the holes beforehand.

During almost the entire day, we were subjected to a periodic shrill chirping sound, like a one second 'PING' every 5 seconds or so. It sounded like ASDIC heard from inside a submarine. It was nerve racking, we had sympathy for those submariners.

Eventually, we located the cause of the annoying chirpy PINGs -

- the farmer in the field next door (and indeed also the one across the road) had a roller out with a badly fitting bar on it. At every revolution, it scraped a high point on the roller, resulting in the chirp! And he rolled and rolled all day long...

A quick 'final shot of the day' before the rain comes. You can see us working on the second half of the platform now, it's quite clear. More and more blocks are being laid, we even had lunch in the dry. What about that forecast?

Having completed their section, which involved building the forward course of the wall across the second catch pit, Dave D and Tim started taking the  topmost rings off the pit in order to prepare it for a wall of blocks around it.

Tim then started laying the blocks right round. When they have reached platform height, they will be closed off with a cover which can be opened in case of need.

As we were now working non stop down on the track, Jim volunteered to bring tea down to us, so that we did not have to leave the site, and could press on. Dave P and Paul chew the cud. What do you reckon - shall we give it another barrow load of mortar, and lay another 10?

Taken from the wing wall of the bridge, this shot shows how the first two of the towers built last week are being joined up. At the end of the day, some of the blockwork was four courses high, all laid in a single day. We laid 75 blocks in all, an excellent result, and there was no rain at all until we were in the process of tidying up the site at 16.30. Nearly two pallets worth of concrete blocks built into the new platform. All the new lengths also had their rebar holes drilled out. More stacks of blocks have been piled up on the right, and await their turn to be laid.

Tim's section was only one row deep, as he had to deal with the catch pit behind it. Standing on the ledge at the bottom of the pit, he was slowly building up a wall around himself.

Can you imagine how much of Tim will be visible in this shot, if all the blocks are built four high?

Mental note; bring a small ladder next week ! And don't be put off by a dismal weather forecast.

No work this Friday, due to August running on Fridays. Back next Monday, and thanks for looking in.