Richard Storey, Balfour Beatty's lead tunnel examiner, will return to Blaengwynfi to examine "the dark side" - the 100m of tunnel at Blaengwynfi that has been sealed since the late 1970s. D-Drill engineers succeeded in drilling a large hole in the over 2m thick concrete wall to allow access. Inside, we know that the trackbed is flooded to at least 40cm so those entering will need waders. We shall also be examining how the drainage in the tunnel works, and going back to the original drawings that were laid before parliament in the 1880s for clues.
The examination of the material used to fill the approach cuttings by Earth Science Partnership has one more task before completion. They have to drill boreholes down the track bed level at both portals. The difficulty has been the need to get the boring rig to the locations on waterlogged ground. The recent dry weather is very much helping.
Two Weeks of intense hard labour, but every second was another step towards the re-opening of the Rhondda Tunnel. The first 3 days saw us preparing the way for Balfour Beatty who was to carry out the Detailed Examination. Whilst Balfour Beatty began their Survey from the Blaencwm end, D-Drill began their work, stitch drilling the wall which had to be compromised for the Detailed Exam.
It took 7 days to drill through 2.5 metres of solid concrete. Finally, on Friday 4th May, at 5pm, the wall was broken through.
As it was very late breaking into the other side of the tunnel, it was decided to explore the 'Dark Side ' at a later date. As far as the eye could see was water, Crystal 'Gin' clear water. Blocked drain! We will find out within a few weeks.
We knew it was going to busy last week. Yet nothing, nothing could have prepared us for what the past week brought us. With military precision, we planned every move. The time had come for the detailed examination to begin. Day 1/ 2 and 3 saw intense preparation for the detailed examination on Thursday 26th April. Needless to say, things started to go wrong from day 1 when 'Speedy Hire' failed to deliver the equipment we ordered, which could have cost us dearly. However, late on day 1, we acquired the equipment we needed. Hammonds ECS came to our rescue. Thank goodness they were there. Hammonds/John/Jeff, thank you.
Day 4 saw the beginning of the Detailed Examination by Balfour Beatty. The Survey began from Blaencwm and is progressing with a spring in our step. With more and more people reading about our success, membership has gone through the roof. The Detailed Examination continues on the 30th April. Come join us, help us make history.
To the residents of Blaengwynfi: We are sorry that we have had to chew up the ground on the buried approach cutting to the tunnel. This was needed so that the material that has to be removed to re-open it can be examined for contamination. We have agreed with Hammonds that they will smooth it, but they suggest leaving it for a few weeks for the ground to dry out. It will be impossible to do with the slope so waterlogged.
(Tuesday 24th April. Day 2 of the preparation work in the Rhondda Tunnel continues in readiness for the beginning of the Detailed Examination. The Team entered the Blaencwm inspection Chamber at around 10 am and made their way to Blaengwynfi Air Vent where they were to receive the equipment needed for the contractors to begin on Wednesday 25th April. All equipment is now underground. Preparation work has now all be it been completed apart from a few things here and there. Today (25th April), the day will consist of transferring the equipment to the Blaencwm end and assembled in readiness for the contractors to start work. Work is now back on track. BBC film makers will be on site tomorrow (26th) and ITV next week. 'Skylight' Photo. Steve Jones Rhondda Tunnel. Tony Moon Project Secretary Emerges from the Tunnel. Photo Steve Mackey Rhondda Tunnel
At 9am on Monday 23rd April, Mines Rescue, The Rhondda Tunnel Society and SWCMR gathered at the Inspection Chamber ready for the descent into the Tunnel. Project Secretary Telephones with some bad news. The New Safety Harnesses we had ordered from 'Speedy Hire' had not been delivered. With no Harnesses, there would be no entry which would have knocked the schedule out by another day! Mines Rescue had none to spare so it was a quick Telephone call to John Martin of Hammonds ECS of Aberdare to see if we could borrow harnesses from them. Once again, Hammonds saves the day. A quick dash over to pick them up and all was well, or so we though!
The team was lowered into the Tunnel 2 hours late, however it was important to keep the DE on track so they trekked to the other side, Blaengwynfi. It was then the team realised they couldn't begin to work under the vent as Hammonds were preparing and cutting the hole for the new hatch! So it was down tools once again for about half hour for Hammonds to complete the work above.
Looking up the vent we can see the work that has been carried out by Hammonds and what a grand job indeed. The hatch being delivered and fitted tomorrow (24th)
With more water pouring into the tunnel vent than usual, the going was extremely tough as the material that needed to be moved was saturated and extremely heavy. I think it is fair to say that the team were exhausted but completed in part the task they set out to do. Well done guys.
One of the first tasks the team carried out was to pour a harmless dye into the Victorian Drain in the Tunnel while the team on top monitored the suspected exit point of the Tunnel water. It took over 21 minutes to flow out of the exit point from the tunnel. Another box ticked.
When we put in our bid for funds from the Pen Y Cymoedd Wind Farm Community Fund, we had to give some objectives. One of them was to increase membership of the RTS to over 600 this year. For many months, we have struggled to stop it falling below 500, but today's membership report says that we have 606 members. Perhaps we set our sights too low. There is no other campaign to re-open a tunnel that enjoys anything like the public support that the Rhondda Tunnel Campaign does, and our politicians who will ultimately decide its fate do know this. A huge thanks to everyone who has made the effort and spared the £10 to join - your support is vital in persuading those in power of the huge benefits that a re-opened tunnel will bring.
On Tuesday 17th April, the Geographical Survey began in earnest at the site of Blaengwynfi's Tunnel Portal. In appalling weather conditions the machine moved in to dig 7 trial pits (And then back fill them) to ascertain what spoil was pushed into the Railway Cutting way back in the late 70's. In torrential rain, engineers and workers worked their socks off to complete the work which supposed to have started on Monday. The work was completed by 7pm. Only a bore hole remains to be done now, but it has been decided that the weather needs to be a little bit more kind to do this. As Blaencwm's Portal is waterlogged at the moment, the Geographical Survey will be carried out in May. Due to the weather, the 'Main Event', the Detailed Examination will start 2 days late. Work was scheduled to begin on Monday 23rd April. It will now begin on Wednesday 25th April. Onwards and inwards!
Friday the 13th! The only unlucky occurrence that happened was the field leading to the Vent was turned into a little quagmire. "The weather has been very unkind to the workers and contractors, said Steve Mackey, Chair of the Society, luckily, the mess of slurry etc is only Cosmetic and will be put back to it's original state before the contractors leave the site." It will take a while for the grass to grow back but it will come back".
The Task of getting the Vent ready for the Detailed Inspection (which will begin on the 23rd April and run through until the 3rd of May) is on schedule and should be completed within the next week or so. The re-organising of Office Hours for the RTS has been Logistical nightmare. Thanks to Sue Warren, Shay Fisher and Lesley Crew for stepping up to the plate. Steve Mackey also said "The detailed examination will need them once again to step in, but I know that these guys will pull us through at this extremely busy time".
Photographs above : -
The Cut Cap being removed from the site with heavy machinery.
The 'Cleaned Cap' awaiting the new Concrete base for its new Steel Hatch.
A little bit of Surveying by our Engineers to keep us on track and on time.
The unfortunate slurry due to bad weather.
The Shuttered Air Shaft awaiting its new Hatch.
Photos. Jim and Steve Mackey