Thursday, 17 February 2011

Trackwork 2011 - First session

New track nearly ready for 2011
With a lull in my project at work I have finally been able to arrange a day away from the office and indulge in some rail therapy. My normal day job is IT and things have been extremely busy for the last few months (I suppose I shouldn't grumble) but turning my hand to something totally different really does relieve some of the stress, even if it makes me ache afterwards!

Waveney Line carriages

Completed carriage
Arriving early means that I can wander round the workshops and catch up on things that have been happening over the past few months. In the Horsepital John (who I met on my induction day) was finishing off the Waveney Valley Line carriage that I saw just before Christmas. John's winter task is to strip everything down and repair the damaged areas by cutting out the rot and fitting new boards before painting and varnishing everything ready for the new season. With several more carriages needing attention he will be a very busy man. All of the carriages will be mechanically checked, and components such as braking mechanisms adjusted as necessary.

Repaired and varnished floor

Maker's plate now legible

Even the brass nuts have been polished

Tidying up and a surprise visitor

At 9:00 I wander to the Site Manager's office and meet up with another volunteer doing trackwork today. Chris tells us he has to attend a meeting shortly, and suggests that the two of us grab a wheelbarrow and rake and collect some piles of leaves that John (another volunteer — there seem to be lots of Johns working at Bressingham) has raked up at the Garden Line station, otherwise they will get blown about again.

Four trips with the wheelbarrow later and all of the piles are gone. It might be a trivial task, but rotting leaves accumulate and eventually will block the drainage channels in the Garden Line turntable causing it fill with water, as well as interfering with the smooth operation of the sets of points leading from the station. No little boy wants to be told that the train isn't running today because of leaves on the line!

Cleaning the frogs
Wheelbarrow duly returned I see Chris, collect some tools and wander towards Peat Field 1 which is the field you enter on the Nursery Line after you pass the dodgems and cross over the Waveney Line. On the way I see John (who raked all the leaves up) cleaning out the muck and dirt that has accumulated in and around the points by the Waveney arrivals platform. With the Fifty Years of Volunteering project in the back of my mind I stop and (with his permission of course) take a few photographs of him doing his work.

A magical moment
As I continue on my way a barn owl appears from the trees on the right hand side (where the standard gauge line is) and proceeds to fly around the field looking for prey. This is the first time I have seen a barn owl at Bressingham, and I find myself watching it fly around for about five minutes before disappearing. Sadly I only had a 28–70mm lens with me, and although I did shoot some frames, it's little more than a speck in the centre of the frame. Next time I will bring something a bit longer - and of course the owl probably won't oblige.

New track

Drilling pilot holes for the pins
Following the track through Peat Field 1, I enter Peat Field 2 and today's objective. As its name suggests, the ground here is very sodden as it drains into the ditch that runs parallel to the track. As a consequence, the sleepers were in a fairly poor state and needed replacing. Around 700 feet of track has already been lifted, and the trackbed has been raised with ballast so that the drainage will be improved. Brand new creosote soaked sleepers and heavier 35lb/yd rail have already been put down (replacing the existing 20lb).

Today's task is to continue with gauging and pinning the rail — around eighty sleepers still need doing. Work started on this section of track on 9th January and thanks to Chris and the trackwork volunteer gangs it is nearly complete. Good job too as the line needs to be open for the start of the 2011 season in late March!

Yours truly hammering in pins. Note the yellow gauge in both images - this ensures the spacing between rails is correct.
One rail has already been pinned along most of its length, so we need to gauge the second rail, drill three holes alongside it (one on the inside and two on outside) and then hammer the pins in to hold it in place. The pins are about four inches long and it's quite a bit of hammering to knock them fully home. We manage well over half the sleepers, around 100 feet before meeting the point at which the first rail is no longer pinned. A good place to break.

When completed, there is a short section near the glasshouse that needs replacing before the winter track maintenance programme is complete. Around 400 sleepers will have been replaced at a cost of around £7,000.

Each sleeper costs around £15+VAT

...and replaces rotted ones like this

Gallopers horses

Cosmetic dentistry is on the cards for this horse
In the new paintshop, Brian is dismantling yet another horse from the Gallopers for repair. This one has quite a lot of water damage — even with covers on the outer horses some water still gets in, and with a bit of wind the second row is not immune either. Brian also points out some previous dental work has left the teeth out of proportion, something he intends to address as part of the restoration.

Rear section removed

Water damage on the mane

Lettering awaiting guilding
Since my last visit just before Christmas, Merlin is now on the Gallopers and the rare Orton & Spooner double horse is in the Beauty Parlour having the final touches applied. Once of these touches will be the gilding of the maker's lettering on the side of the saddle, followed by the painting of a shadow line to give the lettering more depth. Once he gets going, it only takes Brian (and his helpers) a few weeks to turn a horse round.

George Sholto (Bill Harvey) locomotive

Gauges and pipework still to be fitted

Smokebox end showing the boiler tubes
Now that Statfold has been returned (it was on loan following Bronllwyd's departure last year) Bevan will be taking up duties on the 2 foot Nursery Line come the end of March. To share the load and allow two locomotive running on busy days, work has started on rebuilding No. 994 Bill Harvey a Hunslett 0-4-0 'Large Quarry' class locomotive. The chassis has already been completed but as it is now stored under a large tarpaulin I can't get any photographs today. However, work has started on fitting the brand new boiler so I am able to get some photographs of that. With luck I will be able to get some more as it all comes together.

When complete it will revert back to its original name, George Sholto and share duties with Bevan on the Nursery Line.

Slate wagons

Bressingham's two foot locomotives such as Bronllwyd, Gwynedd and George Sholto spent much of their working lives hauling slate from the quarry face to the processing mills at Penrhyn near Bethesda in North Wales. Unfortunately no suitable slate wagons from Penrhyn were available, but Ffestiniog Railway had a similar design that they were able to loan to Bressingham.

Removing rust and corrosion
So far four slate wagons have been brought to Bressingham and work is under way to restore one or two of these to show how they would have originally been used. It is hoped that they can even be run behind one of the locomotives on the Nursery Line for special event days.

Earlier they had been doing some riveting, but by the time I found out it had all been finished, however I was able to add another contender to the Fifty Years of Volunteering image collection whilst Chris, a volunteer, was cleaning up a set of wheels.

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