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.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Pat's Progress

Well, we all felt that not much had been achieved, but on reflection at the end of play, our progress was quite satisfactory.
There are now two coats of deck paint on all the boat gunnel surfaces.  The preparation for this was woven around the assembly of the two remaining spud leg mechanisms.  The port side went together well, however, problems with the starboard side, referenced in our last blog, took a bit of dealing with.
Now, we had not imagined that the mighty mag' drill would be out again.  But investigations revealed that there was a twist in the pivot point at the bottom of one of the uprights.  There was no simple solution to this, other than re-drill to create a hole that a pin would insert in to.  The movement of the joint is very small, so should present no operational problems.  At least all the joints run free and above all, happy!

All the hoses are now in place for the hydraulic rams, so, apart from the main jib cylinder, which we will replace on Wednesday, the system is at a point where the hydraulics can be re-filled and powered up for testing.  
The rudder has made great progress.  Our cunning plan to trepan the bottom bearing with a 44mm cutter worked like a dream.  The pitted crusty surface was rejuvenated and will soon rest in the new machined bush that the workshop kindly turned up for us and fitted last thing today.
Elsewhere, some more paint was applied in the control cabin, below the front window.  Two more bilge pumps have been plumbed in and electrically connected, ready for testing soon.  We require some 28 large washers to sit between the split pins and the spud leg metalwork.  All the ones we had recovered were gathered together, carefully cleaned and then painted.  These too can be refitted on Wednesday.
So, as you see, quite a lot was achieved and we headed off content with our days effort.

Friday, June 15, 2018

SDC Thursday Team

by: Ian Moody

Thursday saw a return to the Bowbridge ramp and some great progress made. The majority of the edge boards are now in place so one more session should see them all done. 

Normally we would be laying the aggregate and topping as we go but due to the limitations of the site we have opted to do all the edge boards first and then get all the aggregates in as quickly as possible to minimise the disruption to the cul-de-sac. Sounds like another wheelbarrowfest opportunity to me!

And over at Lodgemore the trench got longer, and the trench got deeper, and the CAT scanner got buzzier, and, eventually, finally, at last, we found the cable we were seeking. Western Power Distribution told me that it might be quite deep and they were not wrong. So locating it is good news (and a great relief!) but the depth means that digging the access pit around it will be a much bigger task than we anticipated.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

All Quiet at the Western Depot

by: Buffs

The summer holiday rush has had quite an effect on Western Depot this week. The passing of the summer term break has seen many of our regulars disappear off for some quiet time away from the routine.

Monday started slowly with less than half a sheet filled with names by 09:00. Jobs were allocated: one group to Skew Bridge to start the repair of the towpath fence under the bypass, another to collect a picnic bench with a broken leg and work on Patricia going on. More names appeared on the sheet and work on the old Mess resumed.

But still the yard was un-naturally quiet. The syncopated cacophony of grinders, other power tools and hammers was replaced by the silent swish of paint brushes.  Patricia’s digger parts and her leg irons were flowering into the bright yellow of JCB under gentle caress of Jill’s paint brush. The rest of the yard was garlanded with muted red checker plates from Patricia’s decks slowly turning a dusty rose pink under the first coat of grey anti-slip paint at Leonie’s hand.

Stuart, the first of our depot produced work boats, now back in the yard to be finished was being stripped of her gunwale timbers in preparation for repainting and the fitting of the dragon’s teeth. The dragon’s teeth form the lashing points for the green weather cover seen on her sister Jasper and are welded to the hull. There will be other welding to do on this boat to bring her up to the same standard as Jasper.

With sun rising ever higher the picnic table with one of its legs splintered into two and showing signs of many years of service to the user of the towpath was brought back and gently laid at rest in the wood yard. This was soon followed by the broken fence timbers from the Skew Bridge. The cunning plan to dig out the rotten timber from the concrete thwarted by the way it was fitted. A different solution is required.

Lunch was taken in just one sitting.

The dragon’s teeth were being cut on the reciprocating saw. There are 42 to be cut. The metronomic beat of the saw as it worked through the steel became the accompaniment to a slow, hot summer’s afternoon. Leonie applied the second coat of anti slip to the deck plates which matured from rose pink to a soft glowing grey.

And as the afternoon cooled the tranquillity was cut by the roar of a newly cleaned and maintained trimmer being brought back to life ready for more work on the canal.

Reflecting on the day the signing in sheet was almost full, many of Reg’s tasks had been completed, Patricia is becoming more colourful and some long outstanding little jobs had been finished. Almost a cue for Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9.
SDC - Mega Blog!

by: Ian Moody

3-in-1 today. No, not the lubricating oil, just a catch up on a busy week.

Last weekend we hosted Newbury Working Party Group at Dock Lock, Eastington. NWPG are regular weekend visitors to the canal project and always deliver good results.

They continued the towpath and fencing work and made some more progress on the tricky curved steps at the tail of the lock. 
They also began the repairs to the old spill weir on the offside of the canal where the first, and not insignificant, task was to make a safe working area by blanking off the very deep outlet at the back of the weir. 

"You're gonna need a longer spade". 
On Tuesday most of the team went over to Dock Lock to do some more towpath and fencing plus a bit of digger training. 

Meanwhile a team of elite spade-wranglers went over to Lodgemore to dig for electricity.  Despite their best efforts the cable proved to be elusive so we'll be continuing the search on Thursday, having sourced that longer spade. 

SDC Squared.
On Wednesday SDC hosted SDC.  I was a bit worried that we'd disappear in a puff of logic but it seemed to work out. This time the location was the ramp at Bowbridge where the team continued the edge boards.

A good day's work which was enjoyed by all. We just about managed to squeeze in a team photo.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Dredger Wildlife - A welcome sight of life

by: Andrew Rendell

Over the last month on the Bowbridge to Griffin pound we've been kept happy with the sight of a variety of ducks and small fish. 

As we know ducklings have a hard time and many don't survive in the first weeks.

This week 3-5 week old duckling families have survived in part except for one family still have 9 ducklings.

The interesting thing is two families mums are cross bread with a male mandarin ducks
Great to see and makes our volunteer work worthwhile and an appreciative public.
Pat's Progress

With a fine day in prospect and the forecast of rain later, we pressed on with further painting.  This time, it was the hull related deck surfaces and gunnels on the boat.  These required quite a bit of chipping away at the multi-layered heritage coats of paint+rust.   Great progress was made, with almost all the surfaces red oxide and coated with non slip deck paint.
At the same time, we were working at the front cabin installing the windows.  The one new window took a bit of time as that required a different set of mounting holes.   Once they were in place, the gutters and locking eyes that support the anti vandal covers were pop riveted in place.  Now we have glass in place, the shields will need to be up when we are not about.

We had hoped to get all the remaining spud legs pinned in place.  Difficulties with the front port side assembly quashed that ambition.  We have an alignment problem, which is going to take a bit more time to sort out.   However, the two stern leg cylinders were coupled to their new hydraulic hoses.