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Rest of the World Gang  - Report of November 2012 working week

The Rest of the World Gang's November working week started in almost promising weather on Saturday 10th, when four old ROWG's, supplemented by a party from the Imperial College Railway
Society, met at Dinas. Our task was to remove the cranked ends of the guard rails through the Coed Helen Overbridge, OB20.95, (that's the stone one with the girders supports, just above Caernarfon). That part was quite easy but, as a splay was needed, the existing long, hardwood timber sleeper at either end had to be moved in and an additional one inserted at either end as well. That required digging out a lot of well compacted ballast. Once the sleepers were in position, the splay ends were formed by pushing the guard rails out with jacks, the sleepers drilled, base-plates inserted and track screws banged down to hold it all together. This part of the job was nearly finished by lunchtime. Once completed, two willing volunteers dangled off Kango hammers to re-compact the ballast round the sleepers and leave the job sturdy. Alas by this time, the almost promising weather from first thing had degraded into rain, supplemented by neck finding drips from the proliferation of trees overhanging the cutting and we were relieved to retire from the site around mid-afternoon. Our works train consisted of Castell Caernarfon, a DZ and the Combination Car.

Sunday 11th saw a similar number taking the train to the Aspinalls curves at around the 28.50 to 28.70 area, between Tryfan Junction and Waunfawr. The task was to prepare the track for a half
stagger to be inserted later in the week. The work required spraying the SA track clips and fish-plate bolts with diesel over a length of 11 panels, to aid a follow-on group, who freed them off. Fallen
leaves, which contaminate the ballast when they start to rot, were raked off the site as well. A certain amount of scorched earth bushwhacking was also done here. Cabaret was provided in the
afternoon by 143 running an ECS from Port to Dinas. Unfortunately it was running a bit late because the coal bunker was nearly empty and, with the current supply of best Welsh steam coal
being rather friable, the poor engine was being fired, non to successfully, with coal dust.

On the morning of Monday 12th, with ICRS having left yesterday afternoon, 6 old ROWG's met at Dinas. We spent the morning moving some 16 curved rails left over from Phase 4 and now required
for the Harbour station development. For the last few years they have lived life on the edge, on a pair of unloved flat wagons, shunted out of history onto the Long Siding, next to the carriage shed
at Dinas. The bolster-wagons were shunted parallel to them, on the mainline and connected with robust metal bars, over which the rails were slid with comparative ease. After lunch we took two Bwagons up to Aspinalls and cleared the accumulated brash from yesterday, dropping it at the site of Bettws Garmon station to await shredding.
Transferring rails to the bolsters at Dinas, 12th November 2012. Tim Evans
On Tuesday 13th, 10 of us spent the day like soldiers in a war, insomuch as for 90% of the day we sat around admiring the view and the remainder in a brief period of considerable action. The loaded
bolsters were shunted into a train in Dinas yard and then we set off for Porthmadog. Although the journey was comparatively uneventful, we were glad to be undercover as the sunshine today was of
the liquid variety. It took about half an hour to offload the rails at Llyn Bach, thankfully in almost dry conditions. Then we had the novelty of running round in Harbour station before the journey
back. I think it likely that this was the first time the Combination Car has graced, albeit briefly, FR metals.
The rails are delivered to Llyn Bach, 13th November 2012. Tim EvansCastell Caernarfon runs round a WHR works train at Harbour station, 13th November 2012, with the Combination Car paying probably its first ever visit to FR metals. Tim Evans
The work for the 10 of us on Wednesday 14th was to start creating the half-stagger on the Aspinalls curves. The ride on this section of line has been getting progressively rougher of recent, to the point
that there is now a 10mph temporary speed restriction on it. The cause appears to be due to the joints doing what we call “threepennybitting” (unromantic modernists call them 50p joints), where
the rails through the fish-plates have remembered that they used to be straight and so create kinks in the otherwise smoothly curved track. There is also the need for a ballast wall on this section.
The idea of a half-stagger is to have every joint on one side of the track, directly opposite the middle of the rail on the adjacent side. In effect, each single joint is now splinted by a full rail. Once
done, the threepenny-bit joints magically disappear (usually!), literally overnight, having been pulled back into a smooth curve by the greater strength of a full rail instead of the give of the
weaker rail ends. To begin the job we cut the first rail, (just before the curve starts), in half. The first half rail was then gapped and fish-plated back up, while the other half rail was transferred to the far end of the site. Using a winch, we then moved four whole rails, one at a time, the 9m to fill the gap. Track clips were left loose, but not off as we used to do, so making staggering on SA track considerably easier. Each rail was gapped, re-plated and fastened back down in turn.
We pulled the remaining six whole rails on Thursday 15th and then cut the plain end of the second half rail to the appropriate length (10mm had to come off to get the gaps right). (The term “permanent way” is not strictly true, as track does like to move about.) New fish-bolt holes were
drilled and the through line restored by the end of the day.
Winching rail to create a half stagger at Aspinalls, 14th November 2012. Bob Zeepvat
The previous day's work had presented us with a problem to solve on Friday 16th. The cut end of the two half rails was some 3mm proud of the extant rail ends, as a consequence of rail end wear. The problem was solved by using a pair of shims to lift the rail in the joint. A shim is basically a rightangled sliver of metal that sits on the top (or bottom, depending on what you are trying to achieve)
and the inner side of a fish-plate. They are a simple and effective way of evening out the consequences of rail end wear by moving the affected rail(s) up, down or across. We had also had to move or insert some four sleepers and these were consolidated with Kango hammers on Friday morning too With most of us ready for home and with long journeys ahead, Friday lunchtime seemed a logical
time to finish, but four of our number spent some of the afternoon in the Permanent Way Store in an attempt to put some order back into it. As ever, a very enjoyable and constructive week working on the most important part of the railway: the permanent way.
Digging out ballast to insert a sleeper in the half stagger at Aspinalls. 15th November 2012.Bob Zeepvat.Cutting the second half rail to size to make good at Aspinalls. 15th November 2012. Bob Zeepvat
Hope to see some of you on our next week in January.
Report by Phil Nock

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Authored by Ben Fisher; last updated by David Tidy 25th November 2012