Permanent Way Department News

4th March, 2022 by Simon Bending

2021 began in spectacular style when we managed five Civ weeks in a row from January through to May. That's 50 days, when (among smaller tasks not mentioned) we: 

-Created a ditch on the north side of the line to take away the run-off from the farmer's field just east of Maesdown Road Bridge - this was the first time we had met Jason and he has been at all the jobs since Adam left, providing great humour, and muscle when needed. A real part of the team. 

-Removed rail chairs on the entrance to the Cripple Siding to correct the gauge so that it could be brought back into use, whereupon all the stock that had been at Cranmore, had been safely berthed there. 

-Laid out sleepers between the Mendip distant to the west where a gauging issue requires attention. 

-Dismantled 6 panels of track to the west of the cattle crossing to begin the completion of the run of concrete sleepers that commenced at the Cranmore distant many years ago, and began reinstatement. 

-Undertook the continuing task of vegetation clearance around the Tanker Sidings, including tidying up rubble/rubbish, and moving all the junk on the stone dock, which Adam levelled off very nicely so that it could be used for ballast deliveries again. 

-Completed the above 6 panel relay just to the Shepton side of the Cattle Crossing. 

-Started and completed the 'cutting and shutting' of rail joints from the Merryfield Lane Bridge on 17 panels of track towards Cranmore, including replacing all the wooden sleepers across the bridge. This involved cutting the ends off all the rails and drilling around 100 holes. 

-Re-laid 6 panels of the track with concrete sleepers in three track panels around the Mendip Vale distant signal. 

- Measured the whole line in 10 metre lengths for Tamper calculations to re-align the track. 

-Re-laid 2 panels of track in 1 road where the timbers had been held to gauge with tie bars. 

-Installed safety fencing around the Depot picnic area. 

-Spot re-sleepered at Merryfield Lane - Chris was a welcome sight part way through the task, as this is one job, that I for one, dislike!

-Cleared and disposed of the dense vegetation and rubbish dumped around the head shunt at Mendip Vale, drawing out the old rolling stock that has been stabled there for years, so that we can renew the fencing in an effort to reduce trespass by local youth. 

-Accepted delivery of several thousand tonnes of ballast beginnning at 6:30am one Wednesday. 

-Ballasted the line to around Maesdown Road Bridge, which was quite a heavy task in itself as both the Dogfish hoppers are in dire need of remedial work with stone becoming jammed in the corroded doors, so make the use of a large pair of Stilsons and a lot of effort is the only way to turn the control wheels. 

-Reinstated the ground frame at Merryfield Lane - 15 point - together with all its rodding and associated fixings. 

-Replaced a nose bolt on the points leading from the loop to the Tanker Sidings - easier than it sounds, but the score after a lot of verbal encouragement was Bolt )-Us 1. 

-Regularly cleaned and oiled the various sets of points - 17 at the moment - in addition to the fortnightly line inspections carried out by Steve. 

- Measured up for a replica Cranmore West Ground Frame Hut to replace the original - from Cossington Station - that has been vandalised. Subject to approval, Steve & Phil will clear the site and construct this in non P-Way time.

-Created and completed The Memorial Picnic Garden, a project undertaken by Steve & Hilda. 

From then on, it was back to the usual monthly 3/4 visits for June to September, when we achieved among other things:

-Recovery of approx. 40 lengths of rail for scrapping. 

-West end of Mendip Vale loop - remedial work. 

-Measuring up for the new stanchions to form replacement safety fence on occupation bridge near Mendip Vale and for installation on Merryfield Lane overbridge. 

-Measuring up for new point work at Mendip Vale. 

-Provision of What3Words posters covering access information for various locations, including those along the line for placing Guards' compartments. Steve M found his location particularly amusing!

-Steve, John & Phil cleared years of Ivy from the aforementioned bridge near Mendip Vale so that the inspector could visualise this structure when he visited a couple of weeks later. 

-Steve decided that he would revamp the drainage system for the gents' urinals and completed this project a few days later. 

- Steve continued his regular line inspections, we attended to various 'minor' jobs as well as point maintenance and we had a good tidy up/sort out of the PMV. 

October and November reverted to the usual 10 day weeks. 

-The Tamper (spoken about for many months) finally arrived from its home 'up North', witnessed by Steve, Phil & Jeff (Choularton). Most of one road was tamped, and then the whole line from the Cattle Crossing to the 'End of the World' at Mendip Vale. Apart from a few broken chairs, and keys having to be hammered back in, the results was very pleasing, especially for the loco crews who reported delight at being able to run at 20mph between those two points apart from a very short 10mph restriction around Maesdown Road Bridge. It was good to see all those relays finally becoming smoothed!

-November was a mixed bag- we excavated number 13 point behind the workshop which leads to the Diesel Depot as there had been some subsidence and rails quite wide to gauge. Work was suspended when we found that the power feed from the Workshop to CTMS was very close to the surface! So, holding repairs were carried out without disturbing the cable, and a nearby panel, also out of gauge, accross which visiting lorries have to pass to and from the yard was removed, dug out and reinstated. (January was to see the complete removal, excavation and replacement of the point.)

December arrived to round off a very busy year, but whilst we had looked forward to very little in the way of work, Tom ensured that this was not to be!

- A delivery of two lorry loads of concrete sleepers (192) had been scheduled for Monday 6th December, but they didn't materialise, so we spent a couple of days tidying up the Tanker Sidings, and disposing of many of the scrap timbers that had been stored there. (7 lorry loads were due during December and January = 644 total!)

- The concrete crossing from the Depot to Cranmore West was removed and all the cabling located and exposed as part of the preparations for the February/March 2022 relay. 

-10 metre marker stakes for accurate reinstallation of track were installed all the way from the west end of Cranmore loop to 7a points at the Ground Frame Hut-this is the scope of the aforementioned relay! 

One of the safety features which will become apparent later is the manufacture and installation of stanchions for the road overbridge at Merryfield Lane was provided with them, our vandals have rendered them useless. So our friendly and always helpful Workshop staff have cut, welded up and painted the 22 items required to complete the job. Many thanks to Gary, Jeff, Malcolm, Elliot and Steve for all their help. 

Finally, the highlight of the August Civ Weekend was the unnounced visit by Steve & Phil to see Tel down at West Bay, where he was helping to operate the local Model Railway Club's layout. Needless to say he was very surprised-startled even -to see us, and looked very well. He hopes to come back to Cranmore this year, although we'll have to keep an eye on him! 

As a well-rehearsed and compact Gang we have even surprised ourselves at how much we have achieved during 2021 and over the past years! We hope to have a successful 2022, but it should be borne in mind that of the regular 'gang of 3', Phil will be 72 and Steve achieves 70 this year. Tick Tock!

Phil & Steve  - OAP - Way Gang 

Tom - P-Way Supervisor 


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