Thursday, 17 April 2014

Thursday 17th April 2014 - and not forgetting....

The Bracket Signal Base was finished today!

Three thank yous.......

To the sponsors who made it possible....
To J&S Piling for doing a great job....
and to John Crawford who made it all happen this week!

Now where that signal post......

Thursday 17th April - Avonmouth Brick Recovery - Part 2

Jo spent another day today supervising and working at  the recovery of the remaining bricks from Avonmouth. Here is Jo's report:-

Hi Bill,

I am pleased to report that we had a very successful day at Avonmouth. I was a bit worried to start with, as my team of willing men shrank as the hours went by, until only 4 were left at 7.30 this morning. And then, out of the blue, a phone call from John S just as I was picking up Mike, that he was free and could come to help. Brilliant ! So 5 able men arrived on site, with 20 new dumpy bags in the boot. We threw ourselves at the 6 broken bags scattered about the old marshalling yard, and within the hour, all were re-bagged with new.

We then cast a critical eye over the remaining 38 bags and decided to rebag several more. In order to save on costs, we had been too keen to accept gifts of second hand bags, and under a critical eye they were not up to scratch. We re-bagged those too.

At 11.00 the Barry Proctor lorry arrived. We waited for him at the port gate, and then led the huge truck through the port to the old GWR sidings. We were in a groove, and nothing could go wrong now. How pride does come before a fall….. the Moffett wouldn’t start. Nooooooo! Turning the key just produced a ’click’. I heard quite a number of these clicks, I didn’t want to hear them any more, and turned away. Tomorrow is good Friday, then the Easter weekend, and Tuesday the BPC contractors come to take over the sidings, and we are prevented from accessing it and all our bricks would be lost. Disaster! More clicks, then a long silence. Suddenly the Moffett roared into life – Yesssss!!!

On Tuesday during the first collection, we lost a large percentage of bags – about one in four – to broken loops. Having scratched our heads over this, we were armed this time with two plastic drainpipes slit down their length, which we pushed over the forks to create a loop friendly round surface. This worked a treat, and during today’s session we lost only one bag, and one broken loop, easily fixed (you can tie a knot in them, if broken in the middle). The loading proceeded steadily, although taking nearly three hours, given the careful manoeuvering over the old sidings. At the end of the day we had loaded every single bag on site, including several new ones (from bricks removed in an effort to lighten the loads on some of the older bags) and one bag of S & T gear found lying about the site.

At 14.30 the lorry left Avonmouth, and we raced ahead to meet it at Broadway. Here, two of us unloaded everything in only 1 ¼ hours, and we now have a large pile of dumpy bags of engineering blues in the open area to the right of the drive. 28 bags on the first day, and 38 on the second. 66 bags of blues in all.

We were very happy with the services of Barry Proctor, and recommend them to anyone. Their towing unit is beautifully painted, their drivers are lorry enthusiasts, aand they attend rallies too. Drivers are required to take their shoes off before they climb into the cab! And just nice people to deal with. Thank you!

Thank you also to everyone form the BAG that gave a day at Avonmouth. We couldn’t have done it without you. 7.500 bricks, imagine that. Many hands make light work, and we did it as a team. Thank you to all of the players, and see you on the next project (I have something pencilled in J  )


I can only reiterate Jo's words - a fantastic job, not least by Jo himself who kept at the task until it was completed.

16th April 2014 - Broadway Footbridge - A Report from Wishaw

Jim Hitchen sent me a report on the Broadway Footbridge reclamation work, currently being a carried out at Wishaw:-

 A glorious sunny day in Wishaw on what turned out to be a somewhat frustrating day as far as progress was concerned.  In view of the heavy committment earlier this week at both Cheltenham and Avonmouth, it was hardly surprising that we could only put out a small but very select team of four volunteers, Roger J, Peter Q, Ian H, and myself.  This was further reduced at lunchtime when yours truly returned to Broadway to attend a meeting..

Ian wrestling with some guttering
The main success of the day was a meeting with a local shot blasting company to discuss the way forward with the various footbridge components.  Unfortunately the main span and the two staircase sections are too big for this firm's workshop and as they don't shot blast on site, we will have to look into other similar companies. Subject to an acceptable quotation the two tower sections and the two staircase mid platform supports will be treated as one job and we are hoping to have these prepared for treating by the end of this month.  However we hadn't realised that all the loose rust has to be chipped off by hand before shot blasting, so we will have our work cut out to achieve this.
Peter  doing the same on the other tower

On our previous visit we had been pleasantly surprised by how easily most of the low level bolts were coming off.  Well today was different.  It took all four of us about an hour to prise off four high level bolts and that was with the aid of a seven foot scaffold pole.
Three men undoing one of the high level bolts,
 it actually took four but I just had to stop and get the camera out.
We did manage to complete two quite important tasks.  The most important one being to cover both staircase sections with tarpaulins so as to stop the rainwater collecting on the steps which are now in a horizontal rather than a vertical one. The second was to complete the stripping of the walkway timber from the spare footpath span.  Unfortunately the promised storage container was still not available though we should be able to move all our materials in to it on our next visit.

Finally I now have a firm date to meet with a consultant whom I hope will be able to undertake the design work necessary to produce the design details for the foundations and the modifications necessary so that the footbridge will meet our requirements when it is finally installed at Broadway.
Jim H.

Thanks to all who went to Wishaw today. It's  a daunting task in anyone's book, but such a rich  reward to see it all back in place at Broadway.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Wednesday 16th April 2014 - A Busy day!

The sun shone and 20 Volunteers made the best of this first sign of Summer.

Erratum - Jo had taken this picture but not passed it on...

The most productive part of the day was probably that which had no pictures taken and that was the laying of a full row of blocks on platform 1C. Roger B, Peter H, Clive and Steve plugged away on it all day and laid 84 blocks along the full length. It was a remarkable achievement. Next Wednesday the rear blocks can be laid, followed by the rebars on the following Wednesday. Then it will be all systems go to bring the wall up to bricklaying height. We will have to give our photographer a bike to get around the site! Unfortunately Jo is in the dawg house with his good lady, for all the hours he is putting in this week. Here he  is trying the bunch of flowers trick.... mm it might take more than that Jo!
Jo Prepares his flower ends (or prepares for his end)

On the opposite side, Platform  2B, Rod dumpered in  loads of rubble to go behind the wall for infill. Its a pains taking job then to hand lay the rubble to a single layer.

At the southern end JC, Paul and Tony were preparing a new hot tub for the steamier days on site. We wish - in fact its the shuttering to contain the signal bracket post foundation, which is due to be poured and finished tomorrow.  A big thank you to those who have sponsored the Bracket Signal foundation. We are still a little short of our target and so if anyone would like to move us towards our target , it would be much appreciated.

In the same area on site Mike Speake arrange for the cherry picker to come in to place the two lanterns on Platform 2A. Very fine they look too.

First thing this morning the Avonmouth Bricks arrived and were unloaded in the driveway. The second lot will be retrieved tomorrow and that will be the job done, for now.

Back up to the  cabin and Dave  and  Bill V were putting undercoat on the new site office. It really is coming along nicely.

Here Jo gets his own back with a pic of yours truly having fun on the cabin roof. Not the most flattering shot I have had taken, but I suppose the camera can't lie...!

How many bricklayers does it take to level a course ..
quite a few.....

Last but not least Bob, JC,  Paul and Tony put another course  of bricks around the wings of the Signal Box. Its now up to the plinth where the brickwork will change to red.

David talks to Jim H on footbridge matters...
We had a very interesting hour or two with David Redfern from Steelways. There isn't much he doesn't know about railway architecture and the use of modern materials to replicate the past. It was a very productive session and no doubt we will consult with him further on the Station design and  renovating the footbridge. 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Tuesday 15th April 2014 - Collecting Bricks from Avonmouth - Part 1

Jo and 5 other Volunteers made the trek down to Avonmouth to assist in the loading of the bricks from the  Midland turntable. It was never going to be an easy task, given the remoteness of the site and  so it proved. Here is Jo's story of the day:-

Hi Bill,

Here are today’s pictures.

Cutting to the chase, there is a 26 ton lorry on its way to Broadway with 28 dumpy bags on board. He will arrive tomorrow at 08.30 to unload – Vic will be there to help, as will I. He will return to Avonmouth on Thursday at an hour still to be advised.
The ‘Moffett’all terrain fork lift was only just able to carry the bags, the terrain was really a bit too rough for it, but thanks to the lorry driver Mark, after checking with HQ, we decided to give it a go and in the end it did work. A lot of dumpy bags unfortunately either burst (too old; they decay in sunlight) or else their loops got cut by the sharp forks of the brand new lift truck. We must try to improvise something to protect the loops, perhaps an old inner tube from the garage? At the end of the day the field was littered with the wrekkage of broken bags, and we had quickly used up our small supply of new bags reserved for back up. We also decided to lighten the load of each remaining bag to give it a better chance of surviving the bouncy trip across the old sidings, so this means we will need say another 20 bags on Thursday to bag up the overflow, and also re-bag some of the older ones, which are not going to stand the strain of the bumpy ride. We took the best and newest bags today.

We were a team of 6 on site – Mike, Vic, Terry, Brian, Pete Davis and yours truly. However, for Thursday we may be one or two fewer, so any additional hands to help re-bag the blues in the older dumpy bags would be very much appreciated. We must be off site by Thursday pm, as the BPC are expecting contractors imminently to start clearing the sidings site, and during this period we will be barred from attending, and our gatherings may be lost. In any case, it is likely that up to 8 bags may have to be left behind, as we had 64 bags on site, and only 28 got taken. The poor driver bounced around for 3 hours in an unsprung fork lift, and had to stop when various aches & pains started to manifest themselves. He did his best under very trying circumstances.

We have also assembled a pile of +/- 100 bull nosed large edging bricks and these may be collected at a much later date, when the contractors have moved off site again. They are on the turntable side of the fence and out of the way, so no harm done.

Best regards,


Sunday, 13 April 2014

Saturday 12th April 2014

A surprisingly chilly wind was blowing up the track bed today - or maybe I'm just getting old! There were 12 of us on site and the trick was to keep busy to keep warm.

John C  attended for the morning to excavate out the bracket signal base, prior to preparing the shuttering on Wednesday. The piling contractor will then return to cut the piles to the correct height for fabricating a reinforced cage. Concrete will then be poured. We're getting there!

Further down the car park Phil and Jo were retrieving more blues from the Mythe Pile, which had been turned over by the JCB on Wednesday.

As well as several loads of "good " bricks,  a couple of loads of brick rubble were taken up to be placed behind the  Platform 2B wall for infill. As you can see the Mythe Pile is gradually reducing.

One of the spin offs from the Mythe spoil has been the large amounts of Cotswold stone mixed in. This has been put to good use for landscaping. Here Jo has captured a nice shot of Vic's  labour of love adjacent to the car  park on the driveway. A great job.

The refurbishment of the new project office cabin continues at a pace. Its gradually getting there, with a lot of hard work taking place,  removing  grease, paint and such like before painting. The painting has now started and the cabin is beginning to look habitable!

The downside of such work is that the smell of the cleaning agents tends to "cling" a bit. I was shown the door when I got home, until such time as I had freshened up a bit!

The other work going on? Well Robin and Peter continued there brick cleaning. Dave B got rid of a huge amount of rubbish with a bonfire and John B sorted out the southern security fence.

The one thing I missed today, which I was really kicking myself about (we were in a Safety Briefing), was that we had a visit from a posse of Austins 7's and others, doing a tour of the Cotswolds.  Fortunately one of our regular supporters, Graham Smith (of Routemaster  fame)  was on hand with his camera.

He sent me some pics and a report:

Hi Bill
These guys were just leaving as I arrived but I did manage to find out that they were from somewhere in the New Forest.

They were on a tour of the Cotswolds and someone told them about the work going on at Broadway so they called in.

I understand they were going to Toddington but not before Marguerite had sold them all manner of goods.
I also understand that another gent gave them lots of Info about Broadway Station and they left carrying "Bridges to Broadway"paperwork.


 The last picture of the van particularly pleased Marguerite (Goodman), although a conversation with the owner established there was no family connection.

Thanks for that Graham

It was great to have our latest BAG recruits working on site today - Bill V, Phil and Dave H. They have arrived at a time when they've been landed with a good deal of 'domestic' stuff to do, but have settled in very well. If you feel you would like to join us and make your contribution, call in by and have a chat. We are recruiting!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A Volunteer's Story - Mike Speake

 Its been a little while since we've  had one of the Broadway Area Group Volunteer's stories.  Mike Speake is a long serving member of the gang and  is a member of the band 'The Rambling Boys', who have been so generous in raising funds for our efforts at Broadway. Here is Mike's story:-

 I spent the first  eleven years of my life in South London, so my earliest memories of railway travel were green Southern EMUs up to Charing Cross and the wonderfully noisy loco-hauled brown rolling stock on the Metropolitan going to visit my grandparents. In 1958 we moved to Nottingham so I suppose I experienced steam-haulage then – I do remember “The Master Cutler” from (I believe) Nottingham Victoria to Marylebone. (Or was it Midland to St. Pancras?)

 The awful admission to make is that I was not a train spotter and it was only due to the enthusiasm of a school-mate (Mel), that I started to take any interest in trains – and this largely through model railways. I started with 00 when at school, later built a couple of model trams, then over the years, dabbled in N-gauge, then O, when Lima started producing cheap models, sold that and went for 00-9, sold that and finally ended up with 00!

After gaining a degree in engineering, I changed direction and trained to teach, spending the next 32 years teaching physics in an independent grammar school. 

The interest in railways bubbled along and around fifteen years ago, on a camping trip to Blue Anchor, I decided that it would be good to play with big trains and joined the West Somerset Railway as a TTI.

 My proudest moment doing that was the occasion when I worked a through train from Minehead to Bristol Temple Meads. (This experiment was tried for one season, Mondays and Saturdays, I seem to remember, but then the TOC pulled out of the deal, so it never happened again.)  Here I am at the head of the  train at BTM.


My biggest leisure activity has always been music in various forms. While at school, I got together with a couple of guys and formed a “folk group” - (this was the sixties!) and took up playing the double bass. After leaving school, I rejoined one of the guys (Mel) and two others and we became “The Rambling Boys” 

- a name which has stuck with us for over forty years – and we still perform three or four times a year. In fact some of you reading this may have seen us perform in Broadway earlier this year, when we made over £1500 for the station project.
Having moved to the area with my wife Sue in September 2011, I felt the logical thing to do, living just round the corner, was to join the Broadway Area Group and since then have spent many happy hours, with a great bunch of mates, doing all sorts of jobs, all furthering the aims of the group to see steam return to Broadway.

What will I do when the Station is finished? Haven't decided yet!