Friday, June 22, 2018

The Stand In

by: The Reluctant Manager

As the last of the lunchtime tea was being swallowed and the cups were being passed to the duty washer-up the Depot manager cleared his throat.  To the assembled throng crowded around the table he declared “I’m off on holiday for two weeks and I need a volunteer to cover organising you lot while I’m away.”

His gaze surveyed the down cast eyes and was occasionally dazzled by the reflected sunlight as it caught one of the many shiny pates of the assembled depot team.

“Well,” he said “in view of the unanimous, or did I mean ominous, silence I’ll have to select one of you at random.”  Chairs scraped across the floor as the room emptied quicker than the scramble for the last fig roll (a prized delicacy at WD).

With the yard clearing rapidly a hapless volunteer just back from a job entered the mess to take his lunch. “Just the man” said the manager “your team mates have unanimously selected you to be depot manager whilst I spend two weeks away.  You’ll have to arrange the daily work and make sure this list”.  He waved at the board full of one line task descriptions, “are finished by the time I get back.  Here’s the order book if you need anything to support these.”  Then he disappeared in a cloud of dust.

“Bu##er” said the hapless stand in.

The following Monday the stand-in manager stood before the sea of upturned expectant faces.  He knew that half of those before him were promised to the flighty Patricia.  The remainder would not be enough to complete many of the tasks. ‘How to prioritise’ he thought.  So began an auction.  Who knew anything about any of the tasks?  Who could be persuaded to join those who knew the tasks? Reaching back to his management jargon memory bank he grasped at these: which will give me a quick win, which are the low hanging fruit?

Miraculously small groups selected tasks from the list and work on them commenced. Some grass was cut.  Stuart’s job list was started.  The office rebuild carried on and some logs were sold.  The broken wooden rail under the by pass was made safe – by removing it.  Better to have no rail than one which looks good but could collapse on contact.  The bonus ball was that this rail does not belong to CCT or SDC but to Gloucestershire rights of way who will decide what to do next.

The sun burned off the clouds and the yard was humming. ‘This is easy’ thought the stand in. ‘I don’t know why the boss looks harassed’.

Wednesday brought a small handful of volunteers to the depot which made things even easier for our stand in.  The ocean bridge was swung and some repairs were effected.  Stuart was cleared and cleaned.  Patricia’s deck plates were painted.  Small engines were brought back to life.  And the sun shone all day. ‘Easy’, he thought ‘what can go wrong?’

The second week of the substitution arrived.  The mess was full to overflowing. Where did all these volunteers come from?  ‘I’ve got to find things for them to do’.  The log team were back from their breaks quickly disappeared to collect yet more wood for splitting.  The dragon’s teeth for Stuart needed bending and fettling, the spots where they were to be welded on were cleaned of paint and the launching and loading bracket was made and welded on.   Grass needed cutting and grass cutters needed banksmen.  The first hour rushed past in flurry of requests for helpers, of teams departing and manipulation of priorities. Juggling with greased balls seemed an easier task for our stand in.

Even a simple task of collecting a small tool from a local supplier turned into an odyssey.  The correctly labelled sealed box contained a different item.  So back to the shop. “No problem, I’ll see if we have got the right one” was the response at the counter.  They did not have one. “We’ll have one tomorrow”.  Another Job slowed.  During the day the list of jobs got smaller.  A long day for the stand-in.

Wednesday and good news the Depot manager was back!  He had got back early and could not keep away.  He is one of our electrical types and thought that with a stand-in he could help make some serious progress with the new office refurbishment.  The duties were shared and during the afternoon, with some prescience, the yard was filled with white smoke.  Not the election of a new Pope for the yard but a small engine burning copious amounts of oil.  A repaired engine had some obvious problems fixed but on test it was evident that there is a deeper problem within the cylinder.

What did our stand-in learn?  Planning of tasks with volunteers who can choose when to come in is not easy.  Not all the skills needed for a task are guaranteed to turn up.  WD has wide range of engineering tasks and many of the skills needed to perform them but the number and range of tasks we are asked to perform often exceeds our capacity to do them promptly.

This last point is illustrated by the amount of grass cutting and towpath clearance we are asked to do and are committed to do.  We have good kit but often lack people to use it.  There has been some coffee time discussion about summer only volunteers dedicated to grass management and possibly having dedicated grass cutting days.  The discussion has included having Tuesday and Thursday opening in the season just for grass and banks management with dedicated teams of new volunteers for the task.

Swan and cygnets below Pike Bridge. This pen is serene but devoting all her energy to her cygnets she can no longer control her feet. She has to stand on the bottom

An Easterly Intermission

Getting away from work for a moment. An almost peaceful meander along the T&S section west of the Gateway Centre.  The constant noise of the PPI funded pan-European highway, that is the A419's concrete drag strip was broken only by the wide variety of bird song from the adjacent woodland.
What little water there is that puddles the bottom of the canal teamed with much wildlife.  Minnows gathered in the shallows taking in the warmth.  Dragonflies zipped about with a dazzling electric blue shimmer.  The aquatic plants displayed their finest blooms. 
The restored lower lock at Wildmoorway waits patiently for the days gates and paddle gear arrive.  Let's hope its condition holds good.
The upper lock looks more forlorn, but nothing that can't be fixed.  Remnants of a bottom gate break the surface of the duck weed.
There are great plans to re-water this section.  It is also quite likely that the T&S mile stone will resemble that at Capel's Mill in the near future.  In all, a very pleasant wander after a substantial lunch over at the western end in the sunny gardens of the Daneway pub.

SDC Thursday Gang

by: Ian Moody

We were at the Bowbridge ramp again and, as usual, the day started with a briefing.
The main task was to install the concrete edging at the lower end of the ramp and set some fence posts along that section. On top of that a small team headed up to Griffin Mill lock to remove the stop planks and tidy up the vegetation.
The tipper team had a number of jobs to do but the main task was to remove the Heras fencing from the Brewery Wall and erect it at Brimscombe Port in readiness for the forthcoming WRG training weekend. 
The poppies are looking stunning and it’s not often that we get to frolic with fencing through wildflower meadows.

So that’s Brewery Wall done.  Tick!
Next up - Bowbridge Wheelbarrowfest...

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Western landing stage at Lodgemore takes shape

by: David M

There are two main types of landing stage – single-level, and those with an additional lower level for canoes.  However they all differ in other ways depending on the nature of the location.  Lodgemore West is a single-level stage, but the bank is high and the space has no extra width for the landing stage to have a sloped bank.
Due to the vertical bank face, we had an extra week or two of hard work transporting, wire-brushing, painting and fitting steel plates to sit behind the rear OBB piles to hold back and support the towpath.

First to go down is a weed-deterring membrane, and the wooden frames sit on steel cross-pieces every 3rd pair of piles.  The slight offset of the frames one with another is for aesthetic reasons, as the aesthetics don’t matter once the anti-slip green topping is in place!
Armco is bolted to the front face, top surface screwed down, and bollards concreted in.  The final touch from the high bank is a set of steps, made of bricks and concrete lintels.  The cygnets are bigger now, but still paying close attention.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Nearly There!  Dredging week beginning 18/06/18.

by: Andrew Rendell

Dredging in present pound coming to an end although Dredger No.5  is needing a rest and refit, we are battling on.

1.5 metres deep through solid silt at Griffin mill end just before the bund.
Dry dredging team supporting fully by emptying hopper whilst we are loading, so quick.
As next 2 pictures show Les in long reach excavator clearing between bund and Griffin Mill Lock, all sorts coming out which will make it easier for Dredger and hopper to do final clear up below and in lock.
Andy in 8 ton excavator is emptying hopper as well as landscaping.
This week, 2 new volunteers to dredging turned up to see what it's like and are returning next week. Rachel and Richard

Also this week. Thanks to the main Dredger trainees and crew Alex, Frank and John S as main operator.

We've been struggling with an old war wound on a buoyancy tank where a leak on a weld below water means we are lifting the tank off Monday 25th for Chris P to weld. 

As we say all in a days work, variety makes life more interesting although frustrating.

We are getting excited though as the dredging teams can say again, "we have made navigable another section of the canal".

We hope the grand occasion happens at the beginning of July.
Pat's Progress

Wow, what a great day.  The morning kicked off in the usual way, but very soon we had the pleasure of our estranged Team Leader, who had popped back from his eternal holiday to make a state visit to site.  There was much to see - but also so much more to be missed Bob....

The rudder is now sitting securely in its new bearing, together with the gland packing clamped in place and the actuator connected.  Our prop' also sports a '3-Phase' recognition of our well bronzed Team Leader.
Up front, the ladies were in full flight painting the white hand rails, the engine room air vents, followed by the internals of the control and the welfare cabins.  They are really starting to look quite smart now (the cabins, that is!).  It was a busy work area with the wiring of the bilge pumps also in progress.
The main jib cylinder required fitting.  This is a very heavy lump, but careful checking of the pins, surfaces and extension permitted a relatively straight forward installation followed by hydraulic hose connections.
All of the spud leg pins also received their retaining washers and split pins, as the legs were to receive their first exercise for quite some time. 

As lunch time approached, we extracted two drums of hydraulic oil from the store and set about putting 50 litres into the tank, in readiness for testing.  A systematic inspection of all the hydraulic joints was made to ensure all had  received the attention of at least two spanners.  The control lever console was manoeuvred into position and bolted down.  Lunch was then taken.
A short discussion followed after we had been fed and watered, to map out how and what we were going to test and in what order.  We did not want anyone getting in the way, especially as we hoped that there would be the movement of much metal.

The engine easily fired into life and an initial inspection of all the hydraulic joints revealed no problems.  Then, one by one, we set about exercising each of the controls over their limits of travel to check operation and to look for any issues.

Firstly, the propeller motor was run.  This was then followed by each of the spud legs and then, finally, the jib actuators.     It is pleasing to report that each step ran very smoothly with no faults or issues.  The only uncertainty is whether or not the jib controls are mapped for JCB, ISO or HLM!  We will need to check into this next time.

(turn your telly!)

Not content with having trundled past this mighty milestone, we filled the hot water system for the first time, connected the radiators, opened the valves and span up the pump.  With the engine having been on for half and hour and settled at about 80 deg C, it was not long before we had heat in the rads.  Again, we checked for leaks and there were none.
See - just how hot this radiator is!

To celebrate our many successes and a most rewarding days effort by all, we clinked the quality Western Depot porcelain and had a toast to Patricia with a fine cup of tea!
SDC Tuesday Team

by: Ian Moody

Tuesday saw us split into three teams.

The first team continued the edge boards at the Bowbridge ramp, a little distracted by the presence of BBC Radio Gloucester who were recording interviews for a feature on volunteering.  The wooden edge boards are now complete with only a few concrete edgings to install then we are ready for the aggregate.
The second team set off up the valley from Bowbridge to do some much needed vegetation management. After the late spring everything seems to be growing with a vengeance but that section is now looking much more loved.

The third team headed over to Saul Junction to make some progress on workboat Flea.  There was but one objective: lift the flooring planks to get to the silt and water trapped under there. There were a few challenges but eventually the planks and the retaining bolts yielded and we were able to shovel out the silt and scoop out most of the water

We knew some of the planks were rotten but it looks like we will be able to reuse most of the others. A good, if somewhat messy, day.