19 April 2016
With our Gaffr Mawr heading off on holiday, we had to tackle a couple of tricky and unusual jobs on our own. Firstly, the erection of two smoke deflectors on the original footbridge at Tan-y-Bwlch which presented quite a challenge and secondly, we wanted to remove the slotted signal post, which had become rotten so that it could be replaced by a new one at a later date. Finally we headed towards Port’ to execute a couple of tidying-up jobs.
Strapped up in Minffordd yard were the galvanised sheet metal components to make two smoke deflectors for installation on the footbridge at TYB. The package weighed quite a bit and required the crane to lift it onto the train. Once all the fixing components had been sourced, we set off up the line following the first service train.
Due to the 4 train Saturday service, we had to spend some time stabled in the siding at TYB before gaining access to either of the roads. This period was usefully spent assembling the two halves of the deflectors and assembling the fish plate to couple them together. The units had been pre-drilled, ready for assembly to the bridge. The alignment of the holes was nominal at best and required ‘adjustment’. However, we thought it a smart idea just to check the spacing of the main fixing holes by measuring the girders on the bridge and lo! It came as no surprise that they were wrong, significantly wrong. So, 2 × 3 new 16mm fixings were drilled having checked and then double checked our measurements.
Erecting the beasts presented quite a challenge and various methods were considered. Using the crane to lift them into position was not possible due to the degree of lift required above the bridge. Our eventual solution was to drop rope from each side of the bridge and then winch the whole deflector assembly upwards, followed inserting the fixing clamps from the Cherry Picker.
The ‘down’ line was tackled first. The process worked quite well, followed by the ‘up’, after the last ‘up’ service train had set off for Blaenau. The second deflector, we erected in just 30 minutes, having learnt the ropes. The work site was barrier protected. Fortunately, not many members of the public were around during late afternoon.
For some time now, this signal had been looking decidedly shabby, in need of a paint job, but more concerning, attention to the rot that had set in. The decision to replace all the timber had been taken, so its removal to recover the metal fittings was our part of the plan.
The S&T train was stabled in the up line alongside and an investigation as to the method of planting undertaken. It soon became apparent that the top layer of slate waste and green growth was hiding a rather significant lump of concrete. There was no way that we were going to hoist this pole straight out of the ground like a telegraph pole.
What we needed was a demolition expert! A quick call to our Gaffr Mawr (retired) was made and the conversation went something like this: (Idle polite banter removed)
“Oh, hello Peter”. “Are you interested in a small demolition job?”
“Maybe, what is it? “Chop down the slotted signal at TYB”
“when? Sometime today?” “No, now! Any chance?”
“OK, give me about half an hour”……
So, a safe area was created and fenced off. We waited until the first ‘up’ train had passed and then set about the removal of the rodding before cutting the base whilst supporting the structure on our sky hook. All went well and the signal was soon loaded onto the train and the stump dressed ready for removal together with the concrete foundations.
All this was achieved before the ‘up’ train had departed Blaenau, so we managed to set off for Boston Lodge ahead of it, saving a useful period of time. At BLG, we unloaded the post and other components alongside the carriage shed.
This job required access to the old company signal post outside Spooners. Here we had to remove the hanging sign which had out stayed its welcome, both out of date and a bit shabby. With it dangling over the public highway we first considered the potential risks before commencing. A rope was threaded through the eyes and secured to the post so that the transition into the Cherry Picker cage could take place without fear that it was going to impact on a passing vehicle below. Two stainless M8 nuts ran quite smoothly up the stainless threads and the sign was soon ready to take away.
On our return journey, a couple of spare telegraph poles near Boston Lodge Halt were collected for the onward leg back into the yard.
We had hoped to pick up a disused interrupter cable languishing at Tro Keepers, but time did not permit. In all, two fairly challenging jobs were undertaken safely and we headed for home content with our achievements.
The next working party is 30th April to 2nd May, coinciding with AGM weekend.