Saturday, 12 November 2022

More fondue please

As remarked on in previous posts, we frequently have to adjust our planned work schedule to take account of changing circumstances. Sometimes this is because of urgent requests to deal with unexpected situations, sometimes due to availability of the team members or the plant, and sometimes due to the weather. The focus on the repair of the up side of culvert 7A came under the weather category. This year’s dry spring and summer has led to several streams drying out completely, and many more having a much reduced flow. 7A was one of these, during ‘normal’ times the flow of water here would preclude work without diverting the inbound channel or using a very large pump. Hence the desire to complete the repair before the autumn wet season came in earnest. We would have liked to include a few more of the ‘only possible in dry periods’ jobs – but with only a small team working one day a week time is against us. If you would like to help strengthen the team so that we can keep the drainage system fully functioning and thus the track bed dry and stable, please get in touch. In the the first instance, please contact the Estates Management HoD or the Railway Recruitment Office; alternatively email

Thursday 20th October

A small team returned to culvert 7A at Stanton with the special ingredient to effect the repair to the leaking up side headwall. This was a special quick hardening ‘underwater’ cement. For some reason our expert bricklayer calls this fondue! It has to be mixed in small quantities and applied rapidly; it certainly is very quick to harden. Whilst waiting for the pump to reduce the water level sufficiently in the outlet, repairs to the dry top course and copings of the headwall were made. The corner coping stones were patched – as we were not able to find replacement ones with the same geometry and size.

Completed repair to low mileage end of up side 7A headwall. On the wet side, level sufficiently low to allow Martin to climb down. (Photo by Dave)

Rapid drying cement under the pipe on the exit. (Photo by Dave)

Dry side void filled with concrete - normal cement mix. (Photo by Dave)

Finally, several loads of concrete (using standard cement) were mixed and used to fill the void on the track side of the headwall which the leaking water had created.

Another odd job, for the plant operator, was some maintenance on the dumper. This included fashioning a cover for the drivers seat; so that it should stay dry when we have to park it outside in the winter.

Dumper maintenance (Photo by Jonathan)

Thursday 27th October

For the first time in several weeks we had full attendance with all 7 of the team working. So we split into two groups.

One group of 3 spent the morning at culvert 7A, just north of B4632 Stanton Road bridge. They checked on the work of last week. This has been successful, there was no sign of leakage into the up cess. Water level was above the silt in the outlet ditch; so some flowing away. They pumped the pit dry; then used more of the fondue (rapid setting cement) to complete the repairs to the pointing. They also made a fence to cover the hole in the hedge were the digger came in two weeks ago.

7A up side exit chamber; holding water high enough for flow out into the exit ditch. No leakage to the cess! (Photo by Roger)

The second group of four resumed the internal visual inspection programme; starting at Toddington and working south. Three structures completed, being cross drain 14A, culvert 14B and culvert 15A. 14A inlet on the down side is the pipe and then ditch from behind Toddington signal box. The ditch is overgrown again, it was completely clear back in February after the work of the clearance teams. 14A has an overflow, as the pipe under the track (and then the narrow gauge line) is only of small diameter, during wet periods there is a flow at the foot of the down side embankment south to culvert 14B. This was still dry. 14B is the culvert where the upside outlet under the adjoining property is too high; so there is quite a deep pond. This was full of a watercress like weed, which was cleared, so the level in the pond dropped several inches. Finally at 15A on the down (inlet side); the displaced concrete slabs which form the low mileage side were reset - so all are upright now.

14A inlet on down side is an unusual tall chamber in a ditch. Requires the long handle grab to clear out - guess what we forgot to load today!

One year's growth in the outlet pond of 14B - before clearing....

... and after clearing. Note reduction in water level!

A three man lift team after resetting the slabs on the inlet (down side) of 15A.

A final task for the combined teams was in connection with the milepost project, the first activity for a number of months. Milepost 10 at Didbrook was at an angle and with one face missing. So this was completely removed – a four man lift job as bridge rail is heavy. Its replacement, a new head and a refurbished length of bridge rail is waiting in the workshop.

Sunday 30th October

The annual team day out at the Mixed Traffic Gala. All seven of the team were present. With the disruption to the timetable caused by loco failure (class 20) and signalling problems (at Gotherington) we spent most of the day riding in the FO ‘Mary’. By luck, we also rode on one of the workings with the Hall and the Manor at one end and the Deltic at the other – real super-power. We spent an interesting hour in the loco sheds at Toddington, chatting to our Steam and Diesel Loco colleagues. Finally we repaired to the Pheasant for a hearty meal. Very good value that was too – one course was sufficient without a preceding day of manual work!

Unrecognisable wearing 'civis'; 5 of the team at Toddington. Left to right: Jonathan, Martin, Dave, Nigel, Roger.

Deltic 55019 from the footbridge at Broadway.

Dinmore Manor and Foremarke Hall on the other end of the train.


Thursday 3rd November

A significant day for three reasons. First it was a team member's birthday; second we replaced milepost 10 and third we got the flail back into action after nearly two years waiting for a replacement throttle cable..

Again full team attendance. In the morning we split into two teams. First team of three tackled removal of silt from the inlet chamber (down side) of culvert 14A at Toddington. This was left over from the previous week, as it required the long handled grab. With the rain in the last week; the overflow from 14A to 14B down the toe ditch on the down side is now flowing. The team then moved on to erect the new milepost 10; a head on a refurbished length of bridge rail secured by two bags on postcrete. Then on to milepost 10 & quarter (by Didbrook No2 bridge) to remove the old damaged head and to paint the bridge rail. This length of bridge rail will be retained in-situ.

Just like new - MP10 at Didbrook. (Photo by Roger)

The second team of four undertook visual internal inspection of cross drains 16A, 16B and culvert 16C. Significant clearance on the area on the down side at 16A was undertaken; as there are three chambers here and a pipe run that goes along the boundary hedge to the road under Didbrook No2 bridge. There are breaks in this pipe which need fixing; one of which we will make into another inspection chamber. This repair is yet another that requires a spell of drier weather.

Broken section of pipe on down side - part of the 16A complex.

Inside the outlet chamber (up side) of 16A; all in good condition.

One of the smallest headwalls on the railway - 16B down side.

A job for our bricklayer, two courses of 16C low mileage down side wing wall need replacing.

Also having got the Efco flail working, we used this to clear vegetation alongside the former up track bed most of the way from 16A to south of bridge 17A (on the Winchcombe side of Hayles Abbey Halt). For most of this it was two passes, but on a level spot more we cut more width to create a new safe spot to enable vehicles to be parked the requisite 12ft distance from the running rail. The flail deals with most vegetation; apart from brambles. We found the best policy was to remove most brambles and any saplings with a hedge cutter first.

The Efco flail back in action. Great on level ground as long as the waist high brambles are removed first.

This was the first day this autumn we were working with no passenger trains running. However, we did have an ECS move and a light engine move to keep us on our toes!

In the afternoon the combined teams cleared vegetation around bridge 17A, this is the major culvert just south of Hayles Abbey Halt. As this is a large structure it is professionally inspected, so we do not perform a visual inspection, but annual vegetation clearance is vital.

The large bore of 17A - this is why this is a bridge not a culvert.

Thursday 10th November

Only four of us attending today; and an urgent request from the Structures Manager. So a reschedule on two counts.

The urgent request was to unblock culvert 24C at Gretton. This is on the low mileage side of Working Lane. The external examiners undertaking the detailed examination had found an obstruction about 3m (or 9 feet in old money) in from the outlet end on the up side. As this is approximately where the bore was extended to run under the haul road, we guessed what the cause would be.

Sure enough, the blockage was branches, twigs and leaves then a build up of silt at the join between the old brick invert and the slightly smaller diameter plastic pipe that forms the extension. A good illustration of why extending bores with smaller diameter pipe is best avoided.

The blockage - taken from a CCTV image during the inspection by Inspire Structures Ltd.

Three of the team spent all morning with the two sets of drain rods we have; slowly removing the blockage. One of the dampest and muckiest jobs we have tacked for a long time! After unblocking we carried on adding rods; but ran out of rods before the head reached the other end (down side). However we knew the bore was clear, as we could see torches from each end. Plus the water was flowing clear.


VIDEO - Rodding in action. Dave providing the muscle power; Jonathan providing the lighting.


Blockage cleared. View from up side (outlet), with the first of nearly 30 drain rods in place that still did not reach the other end. That length of rodding is heavy!

View in from the down (inlet) side - the camera has not picked up the pin point of torch light we could see from the other end.

Almost all of our larger red set of rods in use.

The fourth member of the team (plant operator and now chief flail driver) used the flail to mow the haul road vegetation from near 24C up to the top opposite the Royal Oak pub. He also discovered a patio umbrella from the pub which had blown onto the lineside. This was returned.

In the afternoon, all four undertook the internal visual inspection of culvert 24B. On the up side this included clearance of growth and silt from the spillway between the railway and haul road bores. The difference between the up and down sides here is very apparent. The up side structures are all in tip top condition, they were rebuilt in 2017 and 2021. Whereas on the down side, the headwall needs some major work; probably the first since the old GWR days. Hopefully we will have an external contractor attending to this early next year when the line south of Winchcombe is closed for bridge and PW work at various locations.

24B up side (outlet), built 2017 in fine condition.

24B down side (inlet), built approx 1902 now needing attention.

Thursday, 20 October 2022

Additions and deletions

Like all the other departments on the railway, we have quite an extensive set of documents including process descriptions, risk assessments and so on. One of the most important documents is a spreadsheet which shows all the outstanding tasks relating to the structures for which we are involved with. Each task has an assigned priority. This ranges from ‘Critical’ (currently none of these, as this category implies immediate action to enable safe running of trains) down to ‘Nice to have sometime’. During our annual cycle of visual inspections we update this spreadsheet frequently, ensuring task descriptions match the condition of the structure. Of course, we add entries for tasks to fix newly discovered issues. This year we have also been to complete some of the outstanding tasks at the same time as the inspection, thus we have some deletions from the list. Currently the number of deletions is just keeping up with the number of additions!

Thursday 29th September

Productivity of the team took a serious dive today as only three of the team were available.

Hence, the only activities were clearing and internal visual inspections of culvert 11A and cross drain 11B; plus installing a couple more blue mesh covers on the damaged concrete U channel cess drain on the up side at bridge 8 (B4632 Road bridge at Stanton). The most time consuming item was clearing the cess drain ditches which lead into 11; mainly grass but with overhanging strands of bramble from the hedges. Fortunately both were dry, as was 11B which is usually a very damp spot.

Culvert 11A has two bores; the first is a short pipe from the down side field. Usually the water level is too high to get this picture!
This is the exit of the first bore; into the extension of the brick channel constructed in 2019.

Another shot which is only possible with low water levels; the inside of the brick barrel which runs under bridge 11.

The exit of 11B on the up side is down there somewhere! Even with the dry summer the grass has grown well.

Working in a toe ditch at the foot of the embankment does mean some different views of the passing trains. Foremarke Hall on a down train rolls over bridge 11 at Stanton.

We also took another look at the water level at syphon culvert 7A. Unfortunately the rain in the past week had caused this to start flowing again, but only slowly. We have decided to bring forward the repair to this, starting next week hopefully before too much more rain falls.

Thursday 6th October

Back to an almost full strength team today, six again (so only one missing with a valid excuse).

We split into two groups of three. The first group undertook the clearance and visual internal inspection of culvert 11C, just south of the farm crossing between Stanton and Stanway. Once again this required quite a lot of vegetation clearance; as the last time it was dealt with was back in the wet spell in the winter when it was too slippery to cut in many places. This time it was bone dry. They also cut back the vegetation on the slip marker posts on the down side. All are still vertical and inline, so no sign of movement there. However there is plenty of evidence of past badger activity; the up side here is covered by meshing. This seems to have stopped the badgers using the setts that extended under the track.

The down side inlet of 11C. This is an extension pipe installed many years ago when the embankment was widened. The original headwall is some distance in. Eventually we will build a new headwall here!
The other end of 11C (up side exit). Original headwall in fair condition, but on this side the expanded embankment sits on top of the headwall.

The group also cleared around the crest manholes on the down side between bridges 10 and 11; and the high mileage access ramp at Stanton yard.

The second group headed to culvert 7A which is just on the low mileage side of the B4632 bridge (8) at Stanton. Using the big petrol powered pump they managed to remove the water from the up side outlet. The smaller electric pump was then used to keep the water level down. This enabled a closer inspection of the cracks in the headwall which is allowing water to leak into the cess. Also it revealed that the depth of silt in the exit chamber is nearly a foot. Hence the plan to dig this out manually were abandoned. Brickwork repairs were made to low mileage end of the up side headwall. The other end requires first an excavation; so next week we will deploy the minidigger for that; also to dig out the silt.

Polly repairing the 7A up side headwall. [Photo by Roger]

As the water flow through 7A has not increased significantly, we will now work on the up side of 7A before resuming the culvert/cross drain inspections south of Toddington.

Thursday 13th October

Only four members of the team in today, despite that it was a very productive day.

With grateful permission from the farmer we were able to get the minidigger to the top of the headwall on the up side of culvert 7A site through the adjacent field. This was a quicker and safer route than using the trackbed from Stanton Yard. Thus we were able to removed most of the silt from the outlet chamber; this was over a foot deep. Then with the small electric pump running we were able to get the water level right down; enabling a thorough examination of the bottom of the bore pipe. This revealed that the water leak is from under the bore pipe. We will obtain some rapid setting underwater cement to repair this, and the cracks in the headwall.

Some very careful digger driving by Jonathan gets the silt out from 7A exit. Bridge 8 (B4632) in background.

With the silt cleared, we can see the gap under the bore.

Digger job over; so exit back through the adjoining field.

We also used the digger and some hand digging to excavate on the railway side of the headwall to the bottom of the pipe; where the water collects when not being pumped out. This is now ready for filling with concrete – planned for next week. Our master bricklayer completed the repairs to the low mileage end end of the headwall; by replacing the original corner coping stone.

Copings replaced on the low mileage end of the 7A exit headwall.

Finally back at Winchcombe we fixed the flat tyre of the efco flail and made some minor adjustments to the dumper. So both of these machines are back in action. The flail had been out of use for nearly two years whilst a replacement throttle cable was sourced from the importers (the machine was made in Italy).

Sunday, 25 September 2022

Let’s Go Round Again

I’m always reminded of this song, a hit for the Average White Band in 1980, when driving around the ring roads of Stourbridge and Coventry. I’m now adding the commencement of the annual internal culvert and cross drain inspections and clearance on the GWSR. As in previous years we have started at the north end of the line, we expect to complete the programme south of Hunting Butts early in the New Year. We clear the access paths to the inlet and outlet chambers; remove silt and vegetation from the open ditches and rod out any pipes which are blocked with silt or other debris. As none of the team are qualified civil engineers, our inspections are only visual; essentially noting any obvious defects such as missing or displaced copings and cracks in brickwork. The exceptional dry spring and summer (and so far early autumn) has provided a great benefit to us. Many culverts are bone dry, and some that usually are a foot or more deep are now shallow enough to stand in with wellies. This has enabled some close up photographs of headwalls and interiors of pipes; something not possible at least for the past four years.

Our programme of inspections does not cover the large structures, such as the River Isbourne and the big culverts 17A and 42A; these are all classified as bridges. We leave those to the professional engineering teams engaged by the Bridges Engineer. We also omit the half-dozen or so culverts and cross drains that each year are included in the programme of external detailed examinations. However, for these we still have to clear the access paths and any inlet or outlet ditches.

Thursday 1st September

Six of the team working this week. Jonathan was dispatched to accompanied the external inspection team who were examining culverts 33B (Gotherington Yard) and 38A and 39A (Bishops Cleeve).

The other five started the 2022/2023 programme of internal inspections and clearance. They completed just two today - 3A and 3B at Peasbrook. There was significant vegetation growth at both. On the down side at 3A they started the repairs to the inlet wing walls, loose concrete secured and damaged bricks removed.

Down side of 3A; starting the extension of the low mileage wing wall replacing decayed sand bags over the toe drain inlet.

Another sign of a dry summer was spotted at 3A on the down side. Here a 40cm crack has developed above the inlet headwall. There is no obvious sign of a slip starting, but we will monitor this over the next few months.
Sign of the dry summer - only a trickle of water inside culvert 3B.

Final task was to clear vegetation from the unused farm gate north of bridge 4 (Peasbrook Farm). This is now fit for turning vehicles again, inserted a wooden post to mark a depression on the low mileage end.

A rare occasion when we are working on the sunny side of a passing train - and smoke box first too! P&O at Peasbrook. (I didn't request the blowing off though!)

Thursday 8th September

Once again six members of the team in today. Three members formed the construction and odd job team. They first visited culvert 3A near Peasbrook to complete the build of the extension to the down side low mileage wing wall over the toe drain inlet.

The extended low mileage down side wing wall at 3A over the toe drain inlet. (Photo by Jonathan.)

Then on to Bishops Cleeve foot crossing (Pecked Lane) to use a ratchet strap to realign the gate posts at the crossing. Both gates now working properly; now not able to go past the closing point.

It is not just drains we attend to - crossing gate at Bishops Cleeve. (Photo by Jonathan.)

The other three team members continued with the visual internal inspections of culverts and cross drains and clearance, tackling 4A, 5A and 5B north of Laverton Meadow Lane. They reported little change since the last inspections, apart from the coping crack at 4A getting marginally wider.

The crack in the up side coping of 4A - this is too wide for a quick fix of mortar. Another demolish and rebuild task to add to our list. (Photo by Dave.)

As expected after the dry summer there was no visible flow through any of them. Might be soon, as the day's showers merged into general nuisance rain, prompting a return to Winchcombe in time for a train ride to Broadway and back.

Thursday 15th September

Guess the attendance figure – yes, six again! (But each week it is a different absentee with a different excuse!).

This week all the attendees were involved in the visual internal inspections of culverts and cross drains and clearance. Structures tacked today were 5D, 5C, 6A and 6B at Laverton. 5D involved clearing of some smelly silt and a small bit of repointing.

You can tell by the colour that the silt in the up side outlet of 5D was smelly!

At 5C by the foot crossing at 6m 60c they filled the cracks between the downside headwall and wing walls; and began attending to the loose coping courses on the wing walls. Whilst there they also cleared vegetation on the footpath steps on down side.
Another tunnel shot - inside 5C looking 'down stream' from the down side.

Afternoon work was work at 6B by the other foot crossing at 7m 21c. This occupied the team all afternoon, it required a lot of clearing!

Up side (outlet) of 6B; all in good condition.

The very reduced level of water helped here. Last visit was November last year when the stream was quite high. Again whilst on site the team extended the clearance to include the lineside on the up side between the crossing and milepost 7 and quarter. This was the milepost that was lost in the undergrowth last autumn.
We will not loose this milepost this winter! Foot crossing in background.

No rain to disrupt work today; and a very pleasant temperature for manual out door work.

Thursday 22nd September

The attendance register count is still stuck at six, but one team member did sign on very early at 07:30!

The morning work involved two groups of three. The first group headed to culvert 5C at Laverton to complete the repairs to the wing walls on the down side.

5C down side, replaced bricks on low mileage wing wall. (Photo by Dave.)

The second group initially refuelled the telehandler, dumper and mini-digger; moved some items from Churchward House compound to Winchcombe Yard and repositioned vehicles in the compound. This makes more room to manoeuvre and park the vehicles. Then it was on to Stanton Fields bridge to continue with culvert/cross-drain clearance and internal visual inspections. First was 6C, a syphon cross drain. It has two pits on the down side and a single pit on the up side; all on the crest of the embankments. Also a chamber in the former six foot (between the up and down lines when the railway was double tracked), this contains the syphon wash out cover. We check this for any signs of leakage.

6C syphon washout cover. The pipe below connects this chamber to the cess drains.

The neighbour on the up side has reported standing water during wet weather. We could not find any obvious cause; so will need to return with rods and/or CCTV to determine if there is any blockage and whether inside our boundary or not. Certainly no sign of standing water today; the continuing dry spell causing this syphon cross drain to be bone dry.

Next on this was culvert 7A, another syphon just north of the B4632 road bridge (8). Again this was not flowing; and the standing water in the outlet pit on the up side was only a few inches deep. This standing water occurs as the exit ditch outside of our boundary is well silted. The low water level enabled a better examination of the cracks in the up side headwall which in wet weather causes leaks into the cess drain. Hopefully the dry spell will continue, as this will simplify the repair task. Even so it does require the exit chamber to be pumped dry.

After lunch the two groups combined to clear around the cess chambers between the aqueduct / footbridge bridge (9) and Stanton Yard.

A view that normally means getting boots wet - looking through the 'bore' of the aqueduct. (Photo by Dave.)

They also reset lids and in one case the top ring of up side cess chambers which had been dislodged, probably by a road vehicle. Finally the turning point immediately on the low mileage side of under bridge 11 was cleared. This will enable safe parking clear of the running line when we return to continue the inspections with culverts 11A, 11B and 11C.
Not our work! Walsh have resumed work on the River Isbourne bridge at Winchcombe. This includes replacing the last 20 yards or so of the pipe which takes most of the water from south of Greet tunnel that flows through the 6 foot drain at the station. A new inspection chamber will be built over the opened section of the pipe. Installing this new pipe was a tricky job - the flow of water could not be stopped. At least the flow was much reduced!