Progress Report - July 2024

Following erection of the steelwork in February, we received the second delivery of new plinth stones, which proved to be a rather greater quantity than the first 'half'. Once stacked on the concrete base we found that there was little space left and we have had to engage in a regular game reminiscent of those sliding tile puzzles where there are 15 tiles and 16 spaces! Thankfully this becomes easier as the blocks are installed in their correct places.

Complex foundation layers for the porch

At the beginning of May Chris Griffith, bricklayer and stonemason, began 6 months of contract work with us over the summer.  He began by marking out all the measurements for the building and laying the foundation layer of blocks and brickwork.  The foundations for the outer wall comprise two rows of heavy 140mm thick concrete blocks each topped with a row of engineering bricks (This supports the plinth stones and the original stonework). The foundations for the inner wall comprise a single width of engineering bricks three layers high and incorporates gaps for the underfloor ventilation ducts (This supports the inner lightweight block wall). Both inner and outer walls foundations incorporate lintels to allow for entry/exit of services where appropriate.

Foundation layers under construction and a congestion of palletised plinth stones

We initially left the foundations for the platform side recess due to the plinth stone congestion noted above!.

In May we also took delivery of the remaining materials required to take us to the top of the plinth stones layer, including wall vent telescopes, wall ties, damp proof membrane and frame cramp brackets as well as the rather attractive cast iron air ‘bricks’.

Cast iron air vents being painted

On Wednesday 12th June we were delighted to welcome Isambard Kingdom Brunel's great-great-great-grandson, Jim Noble, and Jim’s son Zeb to lay one of the first plinth stones. We considered Jim to be the ideal person to perform this role for a Brunel inspired 1850s station building. Jim has been a great supporter of Didcot Railway Centre.  In 2010 he donned his stovepipe hat and led the parade at Didcot Christmas Street Fair and he also joined the celebrations for the 175th anniversary of the opening of the Didcot to Oxford line in 2019.

Didcot volunteers, Tom Sweeney, Alan Whiffen and Ann Middleton, flank Zeb and Jim Noble, with the newly laid stone in the foreground

The plinth stones are newly cut stone, as the originals were so massive that they had to be left in the ground when the station was demolished. We have been fortunate that a benefactor provided a specific legacy to allow new stones to be cut, in the style of the originals. The new stones are significantly smaller than the originals, not needing to fill the full thickness of the walls (as the new building will feature a cavity wall) and separated into two layers horizontally to allow for the insertion of a damp-proof course. They are, however, by no means small, with many at over a third of a ton!

Bottom layer plinth stones in place, with marking out for the platform recess underway in the foreground

By the end of June, all 64 of the bottom layer plinth stones had been laid, including those in the platform recess. The next stage is to bring the inner, blockwork, wall up to the same height, incorporating the air vents, insulation materials etc. so that the damp proof membrane can be laid, prior to fitting the top layer of plinth stones.

We continue to progress with painting the steel framework structure, though progress has been limited due to the quantity of materials initially stacked on the slab and the seemingly continuous damp weather.

Away from the building itself we continued our fencing activities, with recent work on the station approach. We have erected a further length of post and wire fencing, with bridge rail terminal posts and also a length of ‘spear’ fencing on the loading dock. More recently Mark Werrell has cut up some old sleepers for us so that we can construct a short length of wooden post and rail fencing on the London side of the station approach.

Completed spear fence on the loading dock

If you can help, please contact Tim Part or via the Didcot Office, or turn up any Thursday.