Saturday, May 11, 2019

April 2019

Sunday 14th April:
Today we were taken down to one of the rakes of coaches at Winchcombe and taught about the role of a Guard and a Travelling Ticket Inspector, such as how to refill the water tanks for the toilets and charge the batteries. We also learnt other things such as how to climb up into a carriage safely, the easier to understand part of vacuum brakes and where the cylinder is, how to reset the brakes, how to switch the couplings on carriages between buckeye and the hook as well as looking at the couplings on some of the wagons, the difference between Mk1 and Commonwealth bogies, how to release the brakes after the emergency chain is pulled and other parts of the carriages. Afterwards, we looked at a brake van and the braking systems in it before making our gas mask boxes towards the end of the day in preparation for the Wartime Weekend. 

Saturday/Sunday 27th/28th April

1940's Newspaper boys.
This weekend was the Wartime Weekend, where we had the chance to dress in 1940s clothing and were handing out event programmes and ID cards at the entrances of Toddington and Cheltenham Racecourse stations. 
An Army Officer passes the "Newspaper Sellers"
Various visitors also appeared on occasion, such as Winston Churchill and King George.
Laurel and Hardy provided entertainment for the troops and civilians

After the stations quietened down, some of us went home and the rest rode the trains and went to various exhibits throughout the day, where we got to see various displays such as a makeshift war room at Winchcombe Station and various war vehicles at Toddington. 

Don't Panic Mr Manwairing!! The Home Guard waiting for their train.
They even had a working spitfire in the car park, and its mighty Merlin engine would be started every hour. It was a great event and everyone had a great time.
The Spitfire in Toddington Carpark.

Written by Jake.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

March 2019

Welcome to the Blog for March.

Saturday 2nd March

Today we met with some of the organisers for the Wartime Weekend, who explained a bit about the background of the War, and the event itself, before moving on to what we would be doing: selling newspapers. Or rather, giving out the programme of events for the weekend at Cheltenham and Toddington stations. So, for those of you planning to visit the Wartime Weekend, ensure you pick up a copy!
We also had a bit of a discussion about suitable 1940s clothing, the most important part of which is wearing shorts! (Weather permitting.) There were also suggestions for making cardboard gas mask boxes to add to the authenticity and period feel of the event.

We then recapped some of the topics discussed at previous meetings, such as signalling (what’s the difference between a distant signal and a banner repeater?) and the permanent way. This was useful for those who had missed the days where these subjects were discussed at length.

Sunday 17th March
Corrour Station

Today, in the comfortable setting of the meeting room in the Tim Mitchell building, we had a presentation by Helen on various aspects of the West Highland Line in Scotland.
Construction of the line from Craigendoran Junction (Helensburgh) to Fort William began in October 1889. The line opened in August 1894, with 3 trains per day each way.
Huge obstacles to building a railway had to be overcome by the engineers of the line, notably Rannoch Moor, a very wet, boggy landscape; the eventual solution was to float the railway over the Moor. The mountainous terrain through which the railway wended its way resulted in many interesting features, such as Horseshoe Curve. Corrour Station, inaccessible by public road, is the highest mainline station in the country.
Rannoch Moor

An extension of the line to Mallaig opened in April 1901. Its most notable features are its many concrete viaducts (at the time a novel construction method), the most famous of which is Glenfinnan Viaduct (featured in the Harry Potter films). There is a local legend that there is a horse buried in Glenfinnan Viaduct; modern investigation has shown that this isn’t true. However, there is a horse and cart buried in another of the viaducts.
Glenfinnan Viaduct

In the afternoon we took a ride on the DMU to Broadway and back, watching the signals on the return journey. This was an interesting activity, making great use of the excellent forward view in the DMU.

Written by Anders

Sunday, March 10, 2019

February 2019

Welcome to the February edition of the OnTrack blog. We had 2 meetings in February to learn about signalling on railways, the permanent way and the history of the GWSR.

On Saturday 9th we learned about signalling: its history and development, semaphore principals and modern colour light principles.
Initially, policemen stood at intervals along the railway line, who let trains pass after certain time periods had elapsed. However, there was no way of knowing where each train was in the section between policemen, nor whether the train had stopped for whatever reason.
This system (or different versions of it) was fairly quickly replaced by signals on posts at fixed points, based loosely on the French semaphore system: if the line was clear, the signal arm was hidden inside a wooden box; if the line wasn’t clear, the arm stuck out of the box horizontally. However, this method wasn’t particularly safe; after a crash at Peterborough, where the signaller pulled the lever in the signal box to set the signal to danger, but the signal had frozen stuck inside the wooden box, an Act of Parliament was passed, mandating that the signal arm must be visible at all times, and must fail safe.
The result was the semaphore signal recognisable today. Combined with the invention of the telegraph system, which allowed signallers to communicate with each other (using bell codes), railway safety increased significantly.
Semaphore Signals at Worcester Shrub Hill
The principles of semaphore signalling are fairly simple if a bit confusing at first.
The area controlled by a signal box is known as the “station limits” (regardless of whether there is a station!). The line between each signal box’s limits is the block section (‘single line block section’  or a ‘one train section’ on our railway), for which a token is required if the line is single track.
Stop signals within the station limits and in the rear of (approaching) the signal box are home signals, and those in advance of the signal box are starter signals. Both of these types are red, with a white stripe. These cannot be passed if they are “on” (horizontal).
A Stop Signal in the "On" (Stop) Position

The Same Signal in the "Off" (Proceed) Position
Prior to the first home signal and outside station limits, there is a distant signal (which may be fixed in the on position). This can be passed when “on”, but the driver should be prepared to stop at the next signal. A distant signal (yellow with a black chevron) can only be cleared if all the following signals within the station limits are cleared too.
A Distance Signal Fixed in the "On" Position
This differs from a banner repeater, which merely duplicates the message of the following signal (as on Platform 1 at Winchcombe).
The Banner Repeater at Winchcombe. (The signal it repeats is obscured by the bridge)
We also briefly looked at ground signals and how they differ from “normal” semaphores.
Finally, we looked at the principles of modern colour light signals, which some members had previously found a little confusing.
Modern signals can have two, three or four aspects (colours), these being: red or green; red, yellow or green; or red, yellow, double yellow or green, based upon the maximum line speed of the track. The spaces between the signals are fixed blocks; as the train moves past the next signal, the occupied block moves too (but this should not be confused with moving block signalling).
The (four-aspect) signal at the start of an occupied block should display a red aspect. The next signal behind should display a yellow aspect. The next one behind should display a double yellow aspect. The next one after that should display a green aspect (pass at line speed).
This is further complicated by feathers indicating different routes.
All in all, it was a very interesting day.

The second meeting of the month was on Sunday 24th. In the morning we learnt about the permanent way.
An Overall View of the Permanent Way Today
We started off by going through the history of the p-way; the earliest use of a railway track was in mines and quarries. These places were usually wet and muddy and it was hard to move the wooden wagons around, so timber planks were laid down on the ground to push the wagons along with a bit more ease.
We then listed the parts that make up the permanent way today:
A Piece of Each, Flat Bottomed and Bull Headed Rail
·         Rails (steel rails that the trains run on).
·         Ballast (the stones that stop everything from moving around and make the permanent way ‘permanent’).
·         Sleepers (wooden or concrete blocks that the rails and rail chairs are fixed to, which keep the rails in the same gauge).
·         Rail chairs (cast iron blocks that support the rails to keep them in place and are fixed to the sleepers).
·         Fishplates (plates that hold 2 pieces of rail together with a gap between to allow expansion of the rails in the heat).
·         Rail keys (Steel “keys” that slot in between the rail chair and the rail to stop the rail from moving around in the chair).
After having an early lunch outside in the sun, we learnt about the history of the line, from the obtainment of the act of Parliament in 1899 up to the present day and the re-opening of Broadway. One of the many interesting facts of the day that I learnt was that in 1999, Railtrack (the equivalent of Network Rail) expressed an interest in using the line as a diversionary route due to increasing traffic on the former Midland route (now the Cross Country route). However, this interest never progressed.
The day finished with a short wait in the lovely sunshine.
A Rail Chair and Key holding the Rail to the Sleeper
A Fishplate Holding Two Sections of Rail Together

Written by Tom and Anders

Thursday, February 14, 2019

New Beginnings.

January has been a significant time for the young people at the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR).  The previous Leaders, Mike and Richard, retired at the end of 2018, and we would like to take this opportunity to thank them both for the work they have done in the pastFor a while the Railway board was uncertain if new leaders could be found in time, but then, near the end of 2018, a glistening light appeared in the form of Helen and was quickly joined by David, both of whom have different experiences with young peopleand they agreed to take on the youth group.
It was a busy end of the year to get things ready for the young people.  The decision was made to rename the group "OnTrack".  The group also had a cabin that needed looking at. The first thing the new leaders wanted to set up was an induction, to ensure the members were aware of the changes, and to ensure they knew the risks and responsibilities associated with working on and around a live railway.  So all of the existing members were invited to an induction covering these points.  The parents were also invited to a meeting at the end of the day to meet the new leaders, to get a brief overview of some of the changes, and also to have the opportunity to voice any concerns they may have had.  The turnout to the induction days was fantastic and really has provided the new leaders with the confidence that their work will pay off. 

The Cabin From The Outside
Looking Through the Door.  Some Tidying Needed.
Looking Down The cabin.
And Looking Back the Other Way. 
(Here you can see some of the damage to the floor covering)
The first job, however, before we could do any railway stuff, was to make the cabin fit for use.  The floor covering needs replacing, so on the second meeting the old floor covering was removed, the boards were removed from the walls and the furniture was put into tempory storage.  This enabled us to see if there were any holes in the walls and if there was any major damage to the wooden underflooring.  It seems as though all will be fine.  The next jobs on this are to put in new floor covering and possibly to paint the walls to make it lighter in there.  It is hoped that the cabin will be ready for use soon, but due to the evidence of some damp, we are waiting for the maintenance team to just have a quick look and see if there is any major damage.

Flooring Gone and Walls Washed.
Looking Back the Other Way.
So, looking forward:
We hope to be learning a lot more about railways, their safety and operation, the various types of traction and development of locos, rules and procedures, and to have a lot of fun doing so.

April 2019

Sunday 14th April: Today we were taken down to one of the rakes of coaches at Winchcombe and taught about the role of a Guard and a...