Over recent years we have normally relayed a short stretch of track during the winter closed period, and this year was no exception. This year’s focus was on the stretch of track between the river bridge and the first cattle creep, a length of around 300 yards. This is one of the oldest sections of track and, although regular maintenance work had been undertaken, a number of sleepers were becoming life expired and it was evidently time to complete a thorough relaying of this area.
Initial work before Christmas focused on the preparation of new sleepers ready for relaying the track. This involved drilling four holes in each sleeper, to which the baseplates (which hold the rail in situ) are then screwed. With several hundred sleepers required, a significant amount of drilling and screwing was required – as the photos show, the platform (which was used as an easy area to work on the sleepers) soon started filling up!
Screwing the baseplates into place on the new sleepers
At the beginning of the new year the old section of track was lifted. Although some of the sleepers were life expired, some were of reusable condition and set aside for ‘spot replacement’ elsewhere, whilst the still-serviceable rail was also set aside prior to sale for reuse on another railway. Once all the track material was cleared out of the way, the ballast was scraped level using the ballast plough fitted to the back of our Fordson tractor.
Old ballast layer scraped level, ready for laying the new track on top
Track was then gradually laid out panel by panel, with the sleepers carefully positioned by hand before the rails were moved into place with some mechanical assistance.
Sleepers being laid out ready for the next lengths of rail
Rail clips being hammered into place
Several lorry loads of ballast were delivered to our car park and then moved up to the new track using our Simplex diesel locomotive and ballast wagon. The ‘dumping’ of ballast in place is via doors in the bottom of the ballast wagon, which are manually controlled by a member of staff on each side. Once in place the ballast is then hand tamped to give the appropriate levels and elevations on the track. Although undertaking all this work manually is adequate for our needs at the moment, we are actively investigating the purchase of a ballast tamping machine from China to help speed up the process.
Loading ballast into the ballast wagon
Freshly ballasted track awaiting final tamping
The relaying work was completed in mid February, well in time for the railway’s reopening at Easter. However, other areas of track have subsequently been the subject of attention; some minor adjustments were undertaken on the stretch of track relayed last year (after a year’s ‘bedding in’), and some sleepers were replaced in the platform and loop lines at Newmills.