Tuesday, 11 April 2017

The opening date for the halt

The opening date for the halt will be Monday June 5th. The exact arrangements for the day are still in the course of preparation, so keep your eyes peeled for any press releases.

What we do know is that one of our little pet dreams will come true. We will be able to replicate the famous photograph of the 14xx slowing to a stop at the halt, with water coming out of the tank. The engine in the picture, GWR 1424, was cut up in 1964, but we have been able to find a worthy replacement in GWR 1450, the owners of which were kind enough to agree to help us out. The auto coach paired with it will be W238W, which, if we are not mistaken, is the same one as in the picture.

As a taster, here is a picture taken today of Foremarke Hall passing the halt with a regular service train.

Monday, 10 April 2017

A celebration

There was a record number of volunteers at Hayles tody, thirteen! A suspicious mind would wonder why this was so, and it would be right - it was the day of our celebration lunch for the completion of the halt. No, it isn't complete, but we are getting our 'revenge' in early. Somebody said, how about a lunch, and before we knew it, it was organised and an early date set.

With so many people on site, and with lovely weather to boot, we might as well get everybody working hard.

Here are the tools laid out ready to go: Boxes of doughnuts (already open....), and Paul's kit for beating lead, which you don't see very often. Now where is Lucky the Dalmatian?

Lucky came a bit late, and was very distracted. His owner explained that on his 2 mile daily walk Lucky had met a young lady, and hadn't stopped dancing about since!

Lucky shot off down the field towards Didbrook, back again, then off in a different direction, so we had the doughnuts all to ourselves today.

Notice the GWR 'Trespass' sign below. This is the original that we found, with a corner broken off. Here it is invisibly mended, shotblasted, painted and relettered. We will bolt it to a rail post and secure it with shear nuts, so that it won't go 'walkabout'.

The larger than usual team is seen here enjoying the morning sun. More drifted in during the day, until we were 14 for lunch. There's nothing like this suntrap first thing, with the view of the Cotswolds behind.

The first job of the day was to cut off the end of the steel posts that hold up the ballast retaining wall at the bottom of the slopes. Just to make them neat and tidy, and a bit less likely to cut someone. You never know.

The Gennie was much in demand today, and we had to queue up to use it. Dave P was first.

The posts holding up the hand rail got attention today, one of the many small jobs that remain before we can declare the new halt ready for opening. Not yet! Hold on, at the back there.

Julian is giving them a coat of Creosote here. Paul is working at the far end with his lead beating kit, giving each post a little cap to stop it rotting from the top down.

Jim followed on with a little tin of white paint, and a ruler to get the bottom edge straight. The tops have to be white, we saw that on the old photographs.

We gave the platform surface a critical stare, and decided it was a bit high in places. We would like to put the Terram down today.

A small team was assembled to sort this out. The excess was taken to the northern end, and the area around the shelter, where there wasn't enough infill yet.

Here's a view from the track level. The little halt is beginning to look quite good. You can see the team levelling the platform surface, and Jim is watering the grass seed on the slope. Wooden edging is being installed around the sides, where stone chippings will meet the grass.

Get me an off-cut, will you? OK....

Paul had his circular saw with him again, and cut the tops of the posts to shape, and made more little posts to hold up the edging. Another user of the Genny.

Another team was putting edging up the path leading to the top. At the end of the morning, they had got this far. You can already imagine what this will look like with chippings, but they will probably go in last, as we use this path a lot and don't want them to get dirty.

Then there was a 'toot' and the class 73 drifted by, with a wagon in tow. Mysteriously, an hour later it drifted by in the other direction, now pushing the same wagon. Judging from the grins in the cab, it had something to do with the Wartime event. Perhaps filling up with unexploded bombs?

Then it was time for that famous celebratory lunch. We thought it would be fitting for the whole gang to eat at Hayles Fruit farm, as it was nearby and had a connection with the halt - the proprietor used to take the 'Coffeepot' to go to school!

We had a fine old time there. The proprietor is an enthusiastic supporter of our halt reopening, and it was the first time he had seen the whole gang. After the very filling meal, Tim, Paul, Steve and Dave D are seen at the railings reflecting on life on the railway. And will there be life after the Halt?

A call came to photograph the whole gang, some of which were already back in the cars and manoeuvering out of the car park. Come back ! Group photograph!

Here we are then, this is us, we built Hayles Abbey Halt. Nice to meet you, come and join us in our next endeavour.

Meanwhile, back at the farm (or in our case, back at the halt), we decided to try out a first stretch of Terram and chippings.

We need to shift that enormous pile on the left there, and order some more.

The roll of Terram that has been jamming up proceedings inside the container is taken out at last.

Outside, Paul cut it into strips, which we laid out along the southern half of the platform.

Behind, you can already see the first barrow loads of chippings being taken down the slope. How do they find the energy after that big meal?

There was some serious shovelling to do.

Luckily we completed the southern part of the platform just about the same time as they ran out of puff shovelling the stuff.

Tim was raking, Julian was one of three on barrows, and Paul laid out the Terram sheets.

Jim H is finishing off the white tops, which Paul has provided with a nice lead hat as in the foreground. Julian returns with an empty barrow. Luckily the full ones are downhill.

This picture shows well the effect of the chippings. We had a debate about the colour, but the old photographs show clearly that it was chippings and not ash, and that they were light.

At the top, Dave P is busy recovering the original fence line between two bridge rail posts, the line between them defining our property boundary.

This bundle of greenery is not a hedge, it is a totally overgrown post and wire fence, choked by bramble and ivy.

At the road end, we uncovered the original end post, with its angled bridge rail support still partly covered in ivy. On the far right of the picture is the other end of the fence line, another bridge rail post at the start of the bridle path. Between them we will install a new fence of post and rail, with a pedestrian gate somewhere in the middle. This area still needs landcaping, as it is not only completely overgrown, but it was also used as a dump. Apart from rusty bundles of wire, twisted old bits of pipe  and angle iron, we found the rocker cover of a 4 cylinder engine.

Near the end of the day, this overview from the road shows you progress with the platform surface. It all looks very smart. We still need to paint the shelter, for which the paint (light stone) has already been ordered.

Next week is Easter Monday, so we will move our working day to Tuesday. There won't be a blog post for it though, as yours truly will be off for a few day's holiday. Back the Monday after that!

It may be possible to do a blog post in between, as we need to make public the official opening date, and how we will celebrate it. So do check in from time to time.

Monday, 3 April 2017

A happy day

A special day today, the shelter was going to be lifted in. The weather was beautiful, the doughnuts plentiful, the tea hot. We sat outside on the 'terrace' and marvelled.

Our neighbours DLF Seeds were very kind and gave us two big bags of grass seeds, some of which you can see John spreading here on the slopes, which he has prepared with a rotavator.

In the foreground, some edging has also been applied to the rear of the platform surface.

It's looking very neat here. The growing grass should suppress the weeds.

Inside the corrugated iron shelter much banging and drilling could be heard.

It was Tim and Jim who were fitting the angle iron bottom frame that was missing here.

Hurry up, Tim and Jim, a big Telehandler is due shortly to lift this little beauty up in the air!

Here is the new bottom frame that was made. It was measured up here, cut and drilled at Toddy, and fitted on site. This will make the shelter stable again, it wobbled awfully when we moved it here.

Julian and Dave made a little construction at each end of the platform slopes to finish of the ends, which had a bit of an awkward drop into nowhere before.

Paul brought his lead shaping kit and made these little caps for the handrail posts.

It looks like they will be better than the originals!

Lunch was sausages in Tiger rolls with ketchup. We had to fight off the rest of the volunteers to keep two for Stevie, who was working at Broadway this morning, but was expected at lunch time to guide the placing of the shelter on the platform.

Today was Jim's birthday! Jim was looking quite content, everything is going swimmingly and the Heritage Group is earning a good reputation for itself with its first project. Let there be more! Of course the smiles may also be due to the fistfuls of sausage rolls and the warmth of the sun.

Stevie arrived in time to snatch the last two sausages out of the frying pan (in the face of vigorous competition) and soon after our local farmer arrived with his Telehandler. This one had an extended reach and outriggers, and was ideal for the job of lifting the shelter over the fence and on to its new base.

Gingerly the big green machine lifted up the hut and crept over to the fence, from which we all had to remove our cars to a more distant location.

Down on the platform a reception committee of experts was waiting for the big event. All other work came to a halt.

Just then an A400 roared over at tree top height. Could this be a coincidence, with this big event? We think not!

As it flew over and up to the Cotswolds Edge, Steve was re-fitting the straps to the forks of the Telehandler. The machine had put the shelter down to change sides, otherwise it would go down back to front (we thought about this, you know!)

Then up it went, high over the fence....

... and down the other side. Would the Telehandler reach?

Of course the last few inches had to be manhandled this way and that, as it had to stand exactly on the row of bricks on the pad, with the corrugated iron projecting over and beyond the bricks to prevent any water from getting in.

Here it is in position. Now get out your guidebooks of the line, and see if it isn't just like the original.

This shot from the southern end of the platform shows the other rebuild of the end, done earlier in the day. Looks much better.

Loud bangs came out of the shelter, to persuade the new frame to sit exactly on the bricks. They were persuasive, it worked, with a thump the shelter came down the last two inches in the northern corner and now sits squarely on its new foundations.

This shot shows you the interior, and how the new ring round the bottom sits on the single row of bricks.

A call for a group photograph.... OK then:

This is the gang that put the shelter back in its place. Steve and the farmer were a bit camera shy and preferred a cup of tea by the container to celebrate. But we owe them too. Say 'Hi', guys.

As we were tidying up for the day, there was a loud claxon call from the road bridge, and a familiar Dalmatian rolled by.

It was Lucky, accompanied by its owner in a classic car that was being taken out for a spin.

Lucky is now familiar with us (and our left over bacon rinds and bits of last week's doughnuts) so gave Jim a friendly welcome with a few gruff barks.

What is this car then? It was a Lagonda, with a curious radiator cap.

This turns out to be a thermometer, which you can read through the windscreen. What a marvellous idea.

The car was a 1980s barn find, and is completely restored. The paintwork, now over 30 years old, is thick and like new.

The engine is spotless. It has a very advanced DOHC, but alas only a single carburettor.

Lucky and the proud owner enjoy our admiration.

Lucky was very well behaved, and sat meekly in his co driver's seat, getting out only when the tiny little door was opened.

Jim, the birthday boy, is thinking to himself - I wish I could have a go in that....

Two seconds later, and he was invited to go for a spin, sitting in the back like Lord Muck. We took the dayglow orange jacket off him, and at the last minute, just before the car puttered off, we also rememberd his hard hat. You don't go for a drive in a Lagonda in a hard hat.


It was a brilliant day today, and in the warm afternoon light the gang makes grateful use of the new handrail, which we know is just the right height.

In the not too distant future we are planning to have an official opening for the halt, and we are cooking up something special and very suitable. Can't say what yet, but you'll like it.