13 February 2019

The Week after the Snows

By: Buffs

After the weekend’s snow Western Depot slowly came to life. The chill in the ground seeped slowly into the morning sky creating a gentle haze over the canal at Pikes Lock. The ice which had crusted the water held fast and in the shadier places was still there as we left in the gloaming. Along the cut our boats worked created crazy paving over the water as they passed through. The yard, washed over with a muddy brush, was soon to be patterned by the deep cut soles of our boots.

A slow start as snow depth stories were swapped and the sign in sheet crept to nearly full. A bench to be fitted so off went 4, the dredger to be worked on - away with another 6; fittings to be turned and joints to be welded - 3 to huddle in the workshop around the potbellied stove to soften cold joints before delicately caressing the machines. 

The yard soon echoed with ring of hammers on metal and the scream of a grinder as the current ‘sculpture’ hanging from the A frame was worked into a working HIAB crane for the heavy barge Delilah. Frames and fixings were measured, cut and shaped to be welded into their final form.

Now the hiss and splutter of the burning torch as it was coaxed into life and steel was cut to size for the deck of the dredger. The always fascinating dance of the white hot molten steel spray driven away from the flame to hiss and twist into red then grey as it cooled on the muddy ground.  

The sun crept through the barn warming the part painted parts allowing second coat to be applied with every prospect of it drying before the end of the day.  
The Office rang to say that the new van would be ready for collection ‘soon’, but alas as the day wore on soon became tomorrow which means Wednesday.  

Wednesday came with a high demand for movements. Tower scaffold to go back to its owner and could we pick up a pillar drill on the way, the van to collect from Gloucester, the small pick-up and deliver jobs with the two Mitzis and not enough drivers signed on. Not entirely true as most of our drivers have other skills which were needed throughout the yard on Wednesday so it fell to the duty manager to spend time behind the wheel. 

The Office finally confirmed that the new van was ours and had all the correct papers in place. Off to Gloucester went the driver and the van returned to the yard before lunch. The general comment was ‘It’s red’ followed by have we got enough white/ green/purple paint for it. And a common aside ‘we can put some Wergie stickers on it and blame them if anything goes awry’

After lunch a more detailed inspection generated a jobs list for the next couple of days but none of these will stop it being used if required. It is reported to have a reasonable turn of speed and it stops when the brakes are applied. It will have a long and fruitful life with us.
The WD volunteers have become accustomed to the lunch call and musical accompaniment being provided by the raucous scream of an angle grinder on metal. Someone forgot to tell John D this and he started to cut the hinges from the old engine cover from the Dredger far too early in the day. The sound of stomachs rumbling in a Pavlovian response to the siren call could be heard in the far corners of the yard. John proceeded to break the pattern further when he stopped for lunch. You just can’t get the staff these days