Monday, 22 May 2017

The last two furlongs

Just one more working day to go - next Tuesday, although people may pop in between times for odd jobs.

The big news is this:

Picture by Alan Miller
The container has gone! Surely a sign that we are nearing completion. It was taken away last week, on the day the Broadway signals were planted - this saved us some money, as the crane lorry was already on hire.

It's bad news though for those hoping to sit on the 'patio' and also have sausage tiger rolls for lunch. It's over chaps, we'll have to wait until the next project.

So where to have tea now?

Well, we set up camp on the platform, down by the shelter, on a baking hot day.

We thought Lucky the Dalmatian would never find us down here, but alas.

Lucky found us alright, and made a bee-line to Paul.

Now, dog, let me eat my doughnut in peace.

Some hope. An intense stare was focussed on the doughnut owner. It worked.

We had a large crowd today. In fact a visiting head of Pway today remarked that this gang was bigger than his, laying the extension! It must be the sun, and the fine food that we enjoy here.

The main job today was to finish off the post and rail fence from one GWR bridge rail corner post to the other, by the road. Here Rick is excavating one of the post holes.

During our diggings, we found what we take to be the rusty catch from the original gate that was here up to 1960. Paul is holding it up for you to see.

It was a bit further down than the spot we have chosen for our gate, but we got it nearly right.

As the row of posts for our replacement fence goes in, another group was filling barrows with chippings, which were taken down to the platform for a bit more infill. We need to get rid of this pile, it's in the way of the path to the gate.

Down on the platform, Rick is levelling the barrow loads that are being brought down.

Isn't the shelter looking nice?

Here's a look inside, after a day's painting by Jim H and Dave P.

They have completed all the angle ironwork now, and the three notice boards have been put up.

The notice in the corner is this one. Isn't it great? It thanks our principal sponsor BPS, and has three 'time lapse' photographs of the halt through the ages. Great pictures. More notices are still being made.

As the container goes, another arrival was greeted today: A replica GWR bench with scripted ends, donated by GWR Benches Ltd of Moreton in Marsh.

We are very grateful, thank you!

The bench will be positioned at the top of the slope, the exact spot is being debated at the moment. The bench found immediate use too.

We didn't have quite enough chairs for our lunch, so two of us stayed at the top and picnicked on it, the rest of us were on the platform and had a fine time with our sandwiches in the sun.

After lunch we were investigated by this enormous Merlin helicopter. It flew by, banked, dropped down, then passed us slowly at treetop height.

Hi there, chaps !

Julian tidied up the outside of the shelter, and by his feet you see the neat noticeboard made by Jim H. It really is a 'tour de force', well done Jim!

The board was later put up inside, and it will display the tale of the rebuilding of Hayles Abbey Halt.

Yours truly put up the Hurricane lamp hooks on the lamp holder posts. They were made by Neal in the loco dept. and look just right. This one sits on top of a little lead cap, fashioned by Julian, to stop the rain getting in from above. This post should last quite a while. Of course it is held off the wet ground by the grandpa post below.
The running in board is almost ready, and will arrive on Wednesday. We're going to put a sheet over it, so you can't see it until it is unveiled on June 5th.

Then, another low level fly by - two C130 Hercules transports. What is so fascinating about us?

Up at the top, the post and rail fence is nearly ready. We've discovered a drawback - it's now a much longer walk for us if we want to get anything. Now we have to go through the gate.

At the road end, the post and rail fence was nearing its completion. The last rails are being nailed on, and the GWR bridge rail end post has been painted black. While doing this, we noticed some faint inscriptions on it:

DOWLAIS STEEL, as part of the rolled rail, and VII  LXXXII hammered into the foot afterwards with something like a chisel. We think this is a reference to the date that the rail was turned into a fence post. (August 1882, 10 years before the end of the broad gauge)

It got very hot today, and at some point a loud voice said 'let's get some ice lollies for all of us' so Jim G vanished for a few minutes up to the Fruit Farm to get 12 lollies. Here we are enjoying this piece of luxury, seated on the new bench (which has disappeared under this large number of volunteers).

The first lolly went to the man who had the brainwave - our very own Paul.

Oddly enough, the hottest people wern't those working under the sun, but Jim H and Dave P inside the shelter. It was a sauna in there, and yet it has no doors. The wonders of corrugated iron.

Here Dave is repairing the putty on the glass in the southern window, which used to leak. No more.

Towards the end of the day, and with the floor of the shelter still awaiting a coat of sealant, it was decided to 'park' the new bench with a friendly neighbour two doors away. That bench is heavy... nonethless, the railway has suffered thefts before (benches were stolen from CRC in the past) so this one will be securely bolted to the ground next time.

There was ballasting on the extension today, and at the same time the 400 sleepers we had stacked on Saturday were loaded at Gotherington on to the two bogie bolsters and Conflat.

Actually, it was 360 sleepers loaded, the Conflat was only half filled.

Here the Class 73 pushes the loaded supply train past Hayles towards Toddington. Later on, they were propelled out to the extension, for further track laying later this week.

In other news...

The canopy parts for Broadway are now just about ready. Today they were stacked outside in the car park, after pairs of fascia boards were joined together to make fewer, but longer fascia boards.

One GWR station canopy, please.
Here the major parts are all laid out in the Toddington car park. Purlins on the right, then the fascia boards, 6 trusses and on the left, the ridge purlins with their arches. Everything is rivetted up, a great effort by the members of the loco dept. A brilliant job, this will look great and earn us a lot of respect.

A trial assembly is next, after the gala has taken place, and the space in the car park can be taken up without hindrance.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

A saturday special

A Saturday special, because a gang of 4 went to work at Hayles yesterday to get the job nearer to completion for June the 5th, our official opening day. So much left to do!

All of the interior steelwork has now had a coat of primer, which turned the steelwork green.

Dave then followed with a coat of banana yellow - that is the undercoat of the official colour.

It's a long fiddly job getting all those angle irons painted, especially when you have to be careful not to get any on the corrugated iron sheets just behind. They will be left 'au nature', just as they were.

Then, on a bit we did earlier, the topcoat went on in the SW corner.

In this shelter we found some lengths of wood screwed to the wall that would have held various notices, so we kept those, and Jim H made some lovely notice boards. Some of these will tell the history of Hayles Abbey halt, while others will hold useful information (timetables etc) and another for acknowledgements to our kind sponsors.

Outside, Jim G was found giving the white line an extra coat of paint, supervised by ''I'm not in charge - he is'' Paul.

In the bottom LH corner you can catch a glimpse of a patio chair - we've moved some of them down here now, you'll see more of that on Monday.

Pete from B&S dropped by, just to check he dimensions of the running in board posts, to which he will scew the running in board that B&S have manufactured. You don't want the board hanging in a void on the day, do you. That day, the fitting, now looks like Wednesday. We can't wait to see it!

The gate leading to the halt has now been fitted (after a bit of trial and error) and Jim G made a lovely notice for it, so that walkers can see what the path leads to.
We've still got to complete the path just behind this gate, and we intend to fit a seat at the top of the slope, so that you can sit there and watch the trains.

Finally, here's a nice picture of the shelter, now with its top coat of GWR light stone on it. This is the final coat, so it's going to look like this, not the banana yellow you've seen these last few weeks. And the grass is finally growing!

Tomorrow is the usual working day again, so it should be busy. See you then!

Monday, 15 May 2017

The clock is ticking

.... and soon it will be opening day. People are now putting in mid week days, just to hurry the job along a bit. A large crowd turned up today, and attacked the shelter painting and the extension of the footpath to the GWR corner post.

During last week, B&S responded magnificently to our humble request for another 8ft post and granpa post for it. We duly found it by the container. During one of the additional days on site, a couple of us drilled out the granpa post (it had conical holes), found bolts for it, and bolted the wooden post to it. Great!

Today yours truly buried the post in a hole dug previously ('here's one we dug earlier'), concreted it in, and painted it black with creosote. This post held the second hurricane lamp, directed at the area at the bottom of the slope. You can see it in the middle of this picture.
Also during an extra day on Friday, Jim came down with a small gang and worked on the shelter. A trial area of topcoat (light stone) was applied to the northern end, as you can see.

Today, as it rained quite a lot of the time, Jim, Dave P and Julian finally addressed the inside steelwork, a job that we have kept to one side for just this sort of occasion.

Here you see Dave P carefully painting the structural steelwork with green primer. The corrugated iron is being left 'au nature'.

There's a topcoat still to go on. Let's 'hope' there is another rainy day for this.

There are only 3 Mondays left to finish everything off, and one of those is a bank holiday.  Cripes!

One of the things we have to do is tidy up the site. There are spare building materials, a container, chairs, cooking facilities, scrap iron and general rubbish.

We borrowed the Transit from Winchcombe, took the two wooden doors from the shelter back to where they had come from, then drove down the trackbed (Oh, the joys of formerly double track!) from Toddington to Hayles Abbey halt. It's only just round the corner by Didbrook, it didn't take very long.

We loaded the flatbed with ripped out greenery from the upper end of the footpath, some scrap and a pile of pallets for recycling.

As we set off from the halt, there was a sort of 'rubbery' sound from one of the tyres at the rear. Oh no!

We did indeed have a flat. Heads were scratched. After consulting the head of S&T, we followed his advice and made the short journey to Winchcombe garage, where they were indeed most helpful. A large piece of steel was found embedded in the tyre. They put the spare on for us, allowing us back on our way, and avoiding the unfriendly need to leave the Transit with a flat for the next user.

Finally back at the ranch, we found the gang working on the upper part of the footpath. You can see on this picture that, after clearing the ivy and bramble off the original fence line, a new line has been set out, this time to be constructed in post and rail, instead of strands of wire as before. Although we have seen 3 or 4 historical pictures of the halt now, no one (unsurprisingly) ever photographed the top end of the footpath, so we do not know what this area looked like. We are therefore going for post and rail, with a gate where the path runs out of room to continue further.

In this picture the chaps are setting everything out, to get the alignment and spacing right.

Behind the camera, Tim and John M - nice builder's cleavage, John - are preparing a strip of Terram as the path turns round the corner at the top of the slope.

This will becovered in chippings from a pile behind the camera. That pile itself also has to move shortly, so we'd better use it up.

Lunch was eaten outside, but under a threatening sky. And the threats weren't empty ones either, because we had regular downpours all day long. We've been very lucky with the weather though, we've been able to eat outside almost every time.
Note that as soon as John and Tim had spread the chippings along here, we got the chairs out and sat on them to christen this new section of path.

After lunch we looked at installing the gate posts, which are quite a bit fatter than the fence ones. This is quite complicated stuff, getting the spacings right, the height of the hinges, the alignment of the posts, the fittings that have to be screwed on at the right levels, then verything concreted in. We were very happy to have Paul back, as he has a lifetime of building experience to share with us.

All too soon it seemed to be tea time again. What, again? Well, it was to celebrate a trial fitting of the gate to its post. All was going swimmingly.

For a diversion we had the visit of a member of the 2807 loco group, who came to deliver a boot scraper that had been specially requested by Rick.

Here is Rick, clearly delighted with his long awaited acquisition.

For those who did not know, to raise funds 2807 manufacture these boot scrapers out of bullhead chairs, beautifully painted up and with a brush fixed on top. They cost £40 and you can buy them at the Flag & Whistle, and at the Coffepot at Winchcombe. The company name on the chair is a bit pot luck (GWR, LMS, BR, LNER etc) and they come in a shade appropriate to the railway company, but if you ask nicely, they will look out for a particular type of chair for you.

This is what Rick did. He wanted a GER one, and he was very patient and waited a long time. The result was worth waiting for though, don't you think? All the details are picked out in gold on a lovely GER blue. It's a 85lbs chair, dated 1907.

Further up the path, almost by the sharp end by the GWR bridge rail corner post, John is digging out another post hole.

During the excavations here we came across this cast iron pipe. It's quite heavy, not a gutter down pipe. There is a bit of yellow paint at one end, would this be a piece of old gas pipe? What could it be doing here?

Back at the gate, a trial fitting is taking place.

Concrete is now in scarce supply, as we have used up all the ballast. In the barrow is a bit left over from planting the lamp post with the 'granpa'. Luckily Dave D found some left over ballast at home, and half a bag of cement, left over from a shed he built almost 10 years ago now! Are you sure you can spare it, Dave?

As the gate is wrestled into place, Peter steps right back to give guidance as to the alignment with the rest of the fence. The gate post hole seemed unusually large, and it was explained to your blogger that that was because 'we had to move the hole'. Ah.

With everyone happy with the alignment, Minnie the Mixer was got our one last time. She was spoon fed the ballast and cement ingredients, and obediently spat out the resulting concrete into the barrow. This was then shovelled into the moved hole.

Next week, we return for some trial slamming of said gate.

Monday, 8 May 2017

On the home straight

A busy scene at Hayles today, with lots of volunteers doing lots of different things. It was sunny and windy, ideal weather for painting, so that's what some of us did.

Right at the beginning, it was time to move the sign for one of our principal sponsors over to the fence, so that we can envisage moving the container. It should be taken away very soon, so that we can tidy up the site.

Talking of tidying the site, the road end is still a bit of a jungle, although we have exposed the GWR bridge rail fence post at the end.

Rick here is having a go at the rest of the vegetation, so that we can clear our fence line and put in a replacement post and rail fence, with a gate in the middle.

A bit further along, a group was shovelling chippings into barrows to beef up the path on the slope, and the rear of the platform, where it was a bit low.

This also gives us the space to build the post and rail fence through here.

Today we went to fetch the running in board posts prepared by B&S. As Julian was there, with Paul's lead working kit, we asked him (nicely) if he would put some of those lovely caps on the ends. Which he did, as you can see.

B&S also found two 'grandpa' posts for us to use. We noticed on the old photographs that the RIB posts were on such supports, concrete posts in the ground that hold up the wooden ones, which stops the actual posts from rotting in the ground.

Good idea, we'll do that too!

Got to dig deep post holes in stony ground though, a bit of a struggle but we got there.

At the end of the morning, the RIB posts were actually up - here is proof. The grandpa posts hold them up from behind. The Loco Dept. provided the 200mm bolts, another fine example of departmental cooperation. When the concrete has gone off, the actual running in board can be bolted to the posts. Shouldn't take too long, but we are ready for it.
You're going to say, hey, that RH post is taller than the other one. You weren't going to say that? Well, it is. It's nearly 2ft taller, and the reason for that is that it will hold a hurricane lamp from a metal hook at the top. That was the basic lighting this halt had. Those lamps were brought out from Toddington each day.

Julian was very busy about the site today. Here we see him touching up the white paint on the handrail posts.

He was then seen sweeping the platform. Eh?

That seems a tad OCD cleaners, or is it?

Ahhhhh, it's to have a nice clean, dust free surface to paint the white line along the platform. Well. Julian did have the white paint out.

It's quite a slow job, so today he got about half way, the rest will no doubt follow next week.

Chop-chop-chop - CHINOOK  ! We heard this one before we could see it, it came from the east out of sight, emerged over the Cotswolds edge, and then swooped down into the vale over Toddington.

It just about missed Hayles, and turned steeply twoards Dumbleton Hill. Jim G reckons we are in a designated low flying area here, and we do see these transport aircraft at treetop height quite a lot. Great fun, our boys up there.

This is now our plane observation rail. Did you see it , lads?

Nah, we were just drinking tea.

Lunch time was brilliant. Here we are on the 'terrace' with our mugs of tea after eating our sandwiches. Mrs. Dave baked some cakes, which Dave very kindly shared with us all. A railway magazine was passed round. The newly arrived swifts circled in gangs overhead, it was a lovely spring day.

Great was our joy when Paul came back to see us, after an uncomfortable stay in hospital, now somewhat better.

Paul is almost back to normal, and hopes for a cooked lunch next time are rising. We certainly missed those beefburgers in tiger rolls with ketchup.

Paul was in fine spirits and full of fighting talk, that's how we know him !

After lunch, the greater part of the gang started to address the remaining part of the path up to the end of the bridle path. The ground is uneven, and some unkind person has tipped a lot of old motoring rubbish on our land - a rocker cover, a headlamp bulb, an air filter, a rod with a gearwheel on it, a car jack were some of the bits we found. All that is interspersed with rusty thick GWR wire. It lasts 100 years, we can see that.
Here the guys are putting up the first of the posts for the post and rail fence.

Then the next post, which Paul is holding up, while Peter is shovelling in the concrete. When all was done, the whole thing turned out to be too low, so a lot of pulling took place afterwards. Now it's about OK.

In the background John is sorting out some topsoil for us, while flattening the bank of a pile of dirt we found there.

We had the use of the blue railway truck today. It took away a whole pile of rubbish - there is more - and while it was available, we used it to fetch  the gate and the posts for the entrance from the bridleway.

These were given an immediate coat of Creosote, before they are dug in next week.

Here's that gate. Doesn't it look good? Dave has all the bits for it too. That'll go up next week.

Today we had a visitor from Cornwall, who knew all about us from reading this blog. Amazing. He was kind enough to bring us two rolls of chocolate biscuits for next week. They will go very well with tea. A nice example to set, any more out there? We like biscuits, and cake.

All, day Jim H and Dave P scraped and sanded that shelter, to make it ready for painting. Finally the northern end was ready for the first coat of primer.

Dave P had a good go at the front too. Here the yellow paint that it originally came with turned out to have been applied to the corrugated iron beneath without a primer many years ago, and as a result was bubbling and peeling. Not a good surface for a repaint, so it all had to be scraped off. This side is already in banana yellow undercoat.

Meanwhile Julian, unperturbed, continued to paint his white line.

Jim very carefully painted the window frame. We had a bit of a discussion about the colour (peering at old photographs) and the colour white was agreed on.

At the end of the day, freed from paint scraping, Dave P had a go at the tree stumps below the container.

Chop them with an axe, that's right. Give 'em what for.

This was less successful than you might think, as the roots were very rubbery. The ultimate weapon was then selected to finish them off - a chainsaw. That worked.

The chainsaw buzzed as the others looked on in amazement. It's a rather untidy bit below the container, as it is dominated by a sawn off ash tree, which is sprouting again from multiple little branchlets.

No trains today, so you'll have to make do with this zoomed in shot of the painting works in and around the shelter. Behind are the two long and short posts for the running in board.

The grass has been sown all over the bank, but it won't grow as there is no rain. Several voices have called for rain. You don't hear that very often in an English spring.