Thursday, 19 October 2017

Fifty Years Ago

Fifty odd years ago  I spent my summer whiling away my days at the local swimming pool or just messing around on the river. I had left school and did not know if I had got a job or not. I had been turned down by AERE Harwell and was waiting to see if I had gotten apprenticeship at Hyraulics Research Station.  Sometime during the holidays I received a letter telling me I had been accepted  so on the 26th of August 1968 I got on my bike and rode to work for the first time.

Which went through Wallingford and ended up going along this road which at the time was the main road to Oxford (now it's just access)

Then through these gates a very nervous young lad

The following photos were taken at HR Wllingford as it is known now back in 2009 when I went to watch the start of the Thames run and show how the place looks now. It was here I met the other apprentice Trevor

And after going to personal then  being taken through our induction and signing the official secrets act we ended being taken to this place the main Workshop

This end was where the Heavy Gang were the side where all the welding was done. I spent two wonderful months working with this crew towards the end of my apprenticeship learning to weld, at one stage I had Arc eye after welding which was painful. I was also one for playing tricks on one of them called Tom Sanderson. He smoked rollups and I would nail the tin to his bench , tip it upside-down so it looked like the lid was on and when he picked it up the contents would fall out. 
This end was the changing rooms and managers office one day while changing to go home I flicked Toms bald head with a steel rule then when he riled up (he was not impressed with me flicking a steel rule on his bald head) so I ran through the workshop only to have a hammer thrown at me I literally had to dive out the way and heard it hitting the machines behind me. I was pulled up before the manager the next day for a right dressing down.

And this was where Trev and myself ended up. The Apprentice workshop where we would spend out first year learning our trade. The workshop was equipment with a lathe, milling machine, shaper and pillar drill along with a couple of benches and a small soldering hearth. By the time we left we knew how to use all the machines use a file and hacksaw correctly and had an idea how to solder.  After finishing we were supposed to go into the main workshop and be placed with a craftsman. We stayed with him for six months before moving on to another. Problem was we were kept in the workshop a little longer that we expected and given jobs from the main workshop. This all stopped when my mate Trevor ended up being dragged into the lathe he was working on (no guards then) . By the time I hit the emergency stop he had pulled away leaving his cloths torn off my. I ran to get the first aid officer. Lucky he was ok apart from a a few scratches but we were soon moved in to the main workshop

 Trevor and I showing off the work we did during our first year in the workshop

 The product of a years training and work in the Apprentice shop, I still have a few of the items I made though they are not as pristine as you see them there

 Above is a view over the boundary hedge towards the main workshop

The workshop is the tall building with the high glass which at the time had a smashed window caused by another apprentice who had fixed a counterbalance weight on a lathe faceplate forgetting to tighten it up. He also forgot to lower the speed. The result was the lathe started up and the weight shot off the faceplate and out of the top most window through the glass landing in the grass beyond. That  happened before I started my time there. In the next three years I spent my time working in different parts of the workshop learning different disciplines and perfecting my trade though I admit to having some moments like braking a lathe and milling machine which had to be fixed.

Some of it took me to the main hall which was in the above photo. When it was demolished I could not tell you but the place was huge and the road in the foreground was the perimeter road

Above I found this photo on the internet and managed to save it. It was taken after I left as the building you see on the right was not there at the time The rest was and shows the size of the hall, You can make out the manor house near the bottom. The building nearby is the office block and beyond is hall where all the models were made to replicate the work that needed doing. A couple that come to mind was the Morecambe Bay project and the Thames Barrier both of which I did bits of work on

 Photo taken by Hydraulics Research shows the Thames Estuary, the model was built in a building over at Milton where we all got taken to see it by coach

Above a clipping I found on the net which shows the inside of the Hall

This used to be the second entrance & exit and over on the left used to be a row of Nissen Huts 
that were left over from WWII some had experiments going on in them. In the first B&W photo you can see them top right. Now a  new building had been built which at the time I too this photo was being constructed

So this was where the Main Hall was

and this is what took  it's place. It stands on what used to be a lawn where we used to have PE once a week that usually ended up with us playing football and were I broke my wrist giving me a couple of weeks off work, after which I managed to come my Lambretta on the way to work  missing the back of a truck because I was late after sleeping in due to being off work with the broken wrist. I might add if it had not been for the guys in Transport being in the cafĂ© by where the crash took place I might not be here writing this as they saw it happen when I slid by on my side and ran out to stop a van driver moving off as I was under the wheels. The look on the drivers face was a picture to behold. They picked me up and asked if I was OK I said thanks and shot off for work. I was put in the accident book as late for work after coming off my Lambretta as I came through the main gates

The Back of the manor house built by William Setmour Blackstone
I presume this was his coat of arms above

This building was part of the stable block and the apprentices had a youth club here.

The transport section was situated here in the old carriage buildings

now they are all converted to offices

Looks a very nice place to work

This was the car park though admittedly I parked outside the workshop. Over to the right were some tennis courts we used

Looking towards what was the transport section

This used to be the electronics building near the workshop where they made all the electronic equipment used in the place
Photo taken off Wikipedia HR Wallingford Ltd - HR Wallingford Ltd. The extension on the right is where the canteen was, and every day one of the apprentices used to go on the bun run collecting the rolls & cakes for the craftsmen in the workshop. Need less to say two of us used to give the ladies the run around and were always happy to help make the rolls, the fact we never paid for ours as we slipped them in the box went unknown. We also made the tea at tea brake on occasion and came away with a profit, what a bunch of rouges. 

The Main House from the road as it is today. After four years  of learning my trade I became a craftsman as they were known then though never took up the position electing to take the advice of the older craftsmen and go out in the world and make my own way, so after I received my apprenticeship deeds in August 1972 I left to go and work at Oxford Instruments were I spent the next 31 years but that is another story.
Dedicated to the Former Apprentices and Craftsmen of HRS where ever you are now.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Three Bridges

The planning for the electrification of the GWR was in the offing for a long time in fact back in 2009 preparation started  started with the bridges that were too low being replaced.The low bridges were at Purley, Lower Basildon, South Stoke, South Moreton Didcot & Oxford. The bridges at Purley were held up due to a local group objecting saying they were Brunell bridges and needed preserving and it was taken to court. When I found out about the bridges were to be demolished I set about recording the old bridges before they were gone

One that is only see if you walk up the track is the one over the Moreton Cutting only used for farm traffic

I visited the day they were surveying it for the work that was going to be done

 The bridge looking from the Sands road bridge along the line, the Moreton sidings can be seen on the other side

Further up the line the Sands Road bridge crossing the line between North & South Moreton
The bridge looks quite new in the photo that is because a few years previous they upgraded it by straightening the bridge approach. The old copping stones which had graffiti on them I'm told ended up at the local school

The bridge along the side and on the right you can see how low the arches are

One thing you noticed was the sign waring you of children around

another view of the bridge arches
You can see the blackening on the arches from the old steam trains that ran through years ago

The bridge deck for the sands Road bridge was built a couple of months before in the field nearby and was  ready by the 23rd of December

Christmas Eve the crane was being assembled and the bridge made ready for the lift 

They had closed the bridge in the middle of December 2009 and work on the bridge  at Moreton and work started

Over to the right is footbridge to keep the two communities of North & South Moreton connected
below on the bridge you could see lines cut deep in the Victorian brickwork

We waited for the work to happen

Just before midnight on Christmas Eve work was supposed to start after the last train had gone through

Down below men were moving around

A huge crane was erected to move the new bridge in place

You can see the new bridge in the floodlights where it was built in the field
The whole area was floodlit

Next morning on Christmas day

Little seem to have changed
But on the opposite side a crusher waited

Under the bridge an excavator moved huge pieces of wood in place to stop the track getting damaged

It was not long before things started to happen

The peckers went across the bridge removing the parapet

 The two peckers at work

Down below another pecked the bridge was well

I must admit it seem to take a long time

as they carefully removed the sides, mind you there seem to be a fair amount of rebar in it

Work carried on all day
and eventually the bridge was gone by the next day
The large crane waited

Men prepared the base for the new supports that were to go in

dusk came and that was it because the crane that had been brought in could not lift the deck in place so I heard

Next time I visited was the end of December
The huge crane

Up the line you could see the new bridge in place near the Moreton cutting, this was taken from the Fulscot bridge near Didcot
The Bridge supports were in place for the Sands Road Deck

They looked very sturdy and heavy
 The precision used to fit them amazed me

There seemed to be very little left to do to finish the abutment off
You could see the bridge bearings on the top that supported the deck

From a distance on Cholsey hill you could see a huge crane

Two days later the bridge was in place, I had missed it. Seems it was lowered into place at around two in the morning

Work had slowed up

but the new bridge deck was in place

Seemed odd looking at an unfinished bridge

It would be another two to three months before it opened.

A year later work was due to start on this bridge at Spring Farm near Goring, found out because going to Reading on the train I spotted the temporary bridge that had been built nearby.  The bridge allows access to the Leathern Bottle and some houses built nearby the River Thames

So again I took some photos of the old bridge before it got demolished.

Even the graffiti I found
The bridge itself with the wider arch that used to be for the wide gauge rails that the GWR used to run on when first built

Towards the end of the year work started

and huge foam slabs were laid along with sleepers

Then it was all removed. Turns out the work was running late and rather that submit to paying a million pounds a day for over running the demolition was rescheduled

You could see the marks were they had to cut the bridge down to

A year later on Christmas Dan (again) I popped back to see what was going on and found the bridge sections nearby

An excavator was down the bank were the bridge was

No wonder there were bridge sections standing around

The bridge itself was gone and they were removing the spoil from it

All looked very interesting to me

It was a hive of activity though I was spotted taking photos and was taken to the managers office who kindly took me to a place I could get some photos of the work going on the other side

The bridge had stood for over  a hundred years

and in the space of a short time was removed. The two excavators here have wagons on the back and move to the bridge fill them up and back up where they are emptied and then the cycle continuses

They looked like  a lad of insects devouring some remains

a couple of days later it was all gone and the foam was piled back up

All that remained was the stump in the middle and the bridge sides, the rest had gone

All you could see of the old bridge was some neatly cut off brickwork

Looked a little odd seeing the bridge gone

I wondered when the new decks would be installed

Turned out over Easter

As I found out by chance

butthe new decks were in

though it looked a little odd seeing a square arch

The joins looked neat

and there was scaffolding all around it

so the workers need not worry about not being safe

and trains were running

So how did they look finished, well the first one I showed looks like this

The bridge approach had been straightened out and it was wider

The central pillar had gone

and the parapets were steel clad

looking along the track to the second  bridge at the Moreton Cutting you could see that was finished as well

Up at Spring Farm the bridge was finished and looked a lot better
on the approach

The central pillar was retained

and the whole bridge had a nicer look finished in brick

even the joins with the old bridge looked better

where you could see the join between the old and new
Spring Farm after it was finished
There were other bridges which had new decks on at Oxford, Lower Basildon, and Purley which I found out about after but I think the one which caused this last one to take so long was the one that was built in Reading. Watch the Video and you can see why.