Keith Theobald provides a report on progress relaying Dolgoch and re-pointing Ty Mawr Bridge.
Saturday 6th November
7 persons available for work.The available workforce was divided – three people working on Ty Mawr bridge pointing prep work, whilst the rest of the gang worked on relaying prep work and other miscellaneous tasks. First a loco and van went to Wharf to fetch the tool van and wagon No 71, after our return to Pendre we raided the PW store for the tools we required. We also got some equipment together for later delivery to the Ty Mawr gang. A new gang member also had his induction to go with his PTS. Whilst I went to Wharf by road to conduct a weighbridge tour for a party of 7, the train and gang went to just west of Ty Mawr bridge to load previously marked slate. The slate is needed for the work at the Ty Dwr site later in the month. After lunch we remarshalled the train to include the ballast wagons. With limited train paths available we turned our attention to removing a quantity of material from against the Gunpowder Shed east end gable wall in advance of the planned roof work. The day started damp and over cast, as the day progressed the gentle drizzle turned to rain.
Sunday 7th November
14 persons available for work.An early turn diesel driver and guard went to Wharf to round up some wheelbarrows before bringing them and train up to Pendre ready for the 08:30 gang. Before heading east, we added an ash wagon to the train. The ballast wagons were left in the siding at Brynglas. Other members of the gang went by road to Dolgoch to carry out drainage, vegetation clearance and leaf blowing work. On arrival at Dolgoch a lot of the tools and equipment were unloaded from wagon 71. The train then went to Quarry Siding via the burn site where some vegetable waste was offloaded. At Quarry Siding we shunted the sleeper wagon into the train and loaded more relaying materials and fixings from the shed onto the train at the same time. We were having to juggle our train movements with the requirements of the training train and service train. Our train quickly offloaded some of the relaying sleepers at Dolgoch before it had to run to Abergynolwyn to refuge and lunch. After lunch the slate block for Ty Dwr water column project was unloaded along with contents of the ash wagon. After a cup of tea we unloaded the rest of the relaying sleepers and some boscage at Dolgoch before returning to Pendre. A small gang dismantled the walkway in front of the down water column. A separate gang worked all day on Ty Mawr bridge diligently cleaning off vegetation in preparation for further pointing work.All gangs enjoyed the lovely sunshine which made a welcome change after yesterday’s dampness.
Monday 8th November
22 persons available for work.The gang left Pendre by train and road. An advance party went by road to Quarry Siding to liberate the 8×4 ft sheets of Stirling board that we use for protecting the platform surface. I carried out another two outdoor inductions before heading up the line. While some material including the 8×4 sheets was moved to Dolgoch others made a start on removing the fixing on the relay section starting at the west end, the rails for this length were moved west all the other lengths were moved east. As they became free, all the sleepers were moved east as well. The train on the east side of the planned break was remarshalled so the mini digger was at the west end ready for the digging to start on Tuesday morning. All the displaced rails were placed in the 2 foot over a number of lengths. The old track fixings were salvaged as we progressed along the length. During the afternoon we removed the remaining raised decking on the south side of Dolgoch footbridge. The decking is all rotten so once it was removed, we started backfilling the resulting void with old ballast barrowed from the relaying site. Also, in the area of the down water column a lot of the mud that was slipping down the bank was removed. Further progress was also made with the leaf blowing during the day. For a third day a small gang worked on pointing related work.Again, the weather was very mild, however it was very overcast with a light drizzle for most of the day.
Tuesday 9th November
22 persons available for work.Tuesday saw three departures from Pendre – two by road to Quarry Siding and a third by rail to Dolgoch. A small gang spent the morning rearranging the material stored on the racking in Quarry Shed and carrying out a general tidying up of the rest the building. Meanwhile at Dolgoch the railway’s mini digger was unloaded and a start was made on digging out the old formation base material in the relaying area. The displaced material was placed on the platform ready for being moved by wheelbarrow to the north side of the platform wall at the back of the east end of the platform. The material for providing additional support for the wall could only be moved once it was safe to do so. A gang of keen shovelers and wheelbarrow drivers during the day moved a large quantity of material off the platform. By the end of the day the platform clearance was complete. At the west end due to limited space and clearances a quantity of the material was loaded onto the east end of wagon 71 and offloaded further west. Before the close of play the mini digger was loaded back onto its transporter wagon and site prepared for Wednesdays activities (track laying). Others created a drainage channel in the NW corner of the excavation to aid drainage. The infilling work at the southern end of the footbridge was also completed during the day. A quantity of material was retained on wagon 71 for a task at Nant Gwernol later in the week. Everyone went home very satisfied with the days progress.Like yesterday the weather was very mild, however it was very overcast with a light drizzle for most of the day.
Wednesday 10th November
17 persons available for work.Again, the centre of activity was Dolgoch where we needed to get to grips with laying out the new sleepers and laying on the relocated rails. The 1st pair of rails needed cropping at one end to eliminate worn fishing surfaces and new bolt holes creating with the Rotabroach. The first pair of rails were placed in position and crowed (curved with a hydraulic crow) as required. Once the required curve was achieved the north rail was fixed down with our standard clips and screws. The south rail was gauged off and sufficient fixings installed to maintain the gauge. The second set of sleepers were laid out ready for the second pair of rails. Once the rails were fishplated to the previous pair they were crowed to shape and fixed down. As the day progressed the methodology was repeated until by the close of play the gap had been reduced to about a foot. We made full use of the ironmen to bring the rails to site from where they had been stored east of Dolgoch Station in 2019/20. Others cleared the leaves between the viaduct and milepost 4.5. At lunchtime, Chris Palmer and Oscar Hutchinson were presented with their NVQ Level 2 Diploma certificates, in addition Oscar was presented with certificates associated with his completing his apprenticeship and becoming a fully qualified member of the railways staff. Congratulations to both of them.Wednesday’s weather saw a return to glorious sunshine – a very welcome change.
Thursday 11th November
19 persons available for work.The various gangs as they arrived on site at Dolgoch concentrated on gauging off and fixing down the south rail, completion of the crowing at the west end, cutting the closure rails, digging out the old ballast in the closure area – 4 or five sleeper bays. Drilling bolt holes in the rail webs for fishplate bolts. Assembling the closure length. Others made a start on concentrating materials and tools ready for site clearance. A return trip was made to Brynglas to swap the full tipper wagon for the ballast wagons. All the lids on the southside troughing we lifted to enable any accumulated silt to be removed. During the day the leaf blowing gang continued heading west and were several hundred metres west of milepost 4 by the close of play. The ballast train, once it was emptied was returned to Wharf and refilled ready for the morning, while they were there the lorry arrived with further supplies. We made very good progress during the day but we are not there yet!The weather was still mild but not as good as expected. Some sun but mostly overcast with a light drizzle.
Friday 12th November
20 persons available for work.The Ballast train was dispatched from Pendre with some of the gang as soon as all the available seats were filled. Others went by road to Dolgoch, I went to Wharf to drop off the soup flasks first, next stop was Abergynolwyn to fix a sign and finally Dolgoch. The north side drainage pipe was wrapped in a geo textile membrane, the ballast was dressed and readied for jacking and tamping with the railway’s new tamper. The closure length was fine-tuned, more ballast was spread and dressed before another pass was made with the tamper. Some tools and equipment were returned to Quarry Shed using the train east of the relay siteWeather -disappointing for some of the time but still mild!
Saturday 13th November
8 persons available for workA train headed east bound for Nant Gwernol with a gang of keen shovellers. Their mission was to unload a tipper and wagon No 71 of spoil on the mountain side of the headshunt for one of the heritage projects. The train paused on route at Dolgoch to load some shovelling boards, more shovels and wheelbarrows. During the morning I arranged to be at Dolgoch for the passage of the morning train, the first over the relaying work. Lunch was enjoyed at Abergynolwyn Station on the platform. After lunch we went to Dolgoch to clear the site of all the displaced sleepers, shovelling boards, tools, barriers, other sundry items. The sleepers were graded as we loaded them, the station shelter was also swept out. The train then went back to Quarry Siding to a) clear the line for the passenger train and b) unload the shovelling boards, the other material that is normally stored there and load one of the large two section PW trolleys. On the way past Ty Mawr on the way back to Pendre we stopped to load the equipment used by the pointing gang. At Pendre we put all the tools away making full use of the available gang.
Sunday 14th November
2 persons available for workTree planting at Brynglas 1st thing. Site preparation around the Gunpowder shed, as scaffolding is to be erected there shortly to facilitate roof repairs. The weather dry but overcast.
A very big thank you to everyone staff and volunteers alike who assisted in any way during the week. It was mild but not quite as dry as we might have liked.21 people were available over the 9 days and they kindly gave 131 days of effort for which I am very grateful. It was especially pleasing to see some new faces to Many thanks again.Keith.