Bluebell Railway Infrastructure News
Archive of Infrastucture News: 2013-14 - 2015-16
Archive Reports: Northern Extension Project - Permanent Way and Lineside News (2007-2011) - P-Way News (2002-4)
Report with thanks to Jon Goff, John Sandys and Bruce Healey.
Our focus of attention has briefly switch from OP4 to OP3 (Sheffield Park Carriage Shed), as our prime job. The sheds were emptied to allow us to work, as seen in the last photo of the previous report, but as seen in John Sandys' photo on the right, carriages were back in the shed from the evening of Thursday 6th through to Sunday 9th for the busy "End of Southern Steam" event.
Two paths are being made between the roads at sleeper height. This will make it much easier and safer to walk back shunted stock into the shed as the gap between the roads was just rough crushed concrete/brick etc. Also two new conduits are being installed to carry power to new power points along the length of the shed, so incorporating them in the walkways was the easiest way to accommodate them.
Unfortunately there were three well-built brick drainage pits which were in the way of the new conduits. These had to be broken out and recreated using wood shuttering to provide enough room. The concrete will then integrate the pit cover with the new walkway.
As there will be only about 2 inches of concrete over the ducts, reinforcing steel is being laid flat on top of the ducts. The conduits are strapped down to the concrete base using steel straps screwed to the base concrete so that they do not float up to the surface of the wet concrete. During the pouring of the wet concrete, one strap broke allowing the conduits to float up over an 8-foot length causing a lot of digging out of wet concrete to re-strap them down.
Twelve cubic meters of ready mixed concrete (around 30 tons) has been poured, tamped, floated smooth, brushed and edge-rounded so far, which is approximately half of the job done. However fitting the new connection pits will add a significant amount of time.
Bruce Healey's picture on the left shows the concreted walkways in Sheffield Park Carriage Shed.
Report with thanks to Jon Goff.
Right: Horsted Keynes down yard - the way to OP4
Everyone will agree that this is not our best piece of track but it is the track leading to where the new points are needed for OP4 access. Clearly there is a lot of work to be done before we can put stock into the new shed. Also B-road is isolated (seen with the wheel sets on it) and needs a new bullhead right hand turnout next to the water tower. The points in the foreground splits the engineering siding off from the head shunt and needs to be refurbished and re-laid to the correct geometry as the OP4 points will be connected to the engineering siding.
The new set of points will be required just in front of the tamper in the engineering siding, to provide access to OP4 so this new set together with the engineering siding set will effectively become a crossover. As can be seen in the photo sbove, a lot of realignment work is necessary.
All this requires a lot of new pointwork that we just don't have. We would like to re-lay all the pointwork in the down yard but this clearly cannot happen due to the time and expense. We have laid out the best parts of what we have got in stock but this is nowhere near what we need.
Some of the best crossing timbers we have in stock
We have started to lay out the new OP4 turnout but we do not have all the metal work for that. We have some second hand rail but no check rails or check rails chairs and no slide chairs. We have even less for the B-road points, I think just one half-set and no crossing nose, check rails chairs, timbers etc. But we have started! If we used the few timbers we have in stock we would have to use these actual one in the photos. Obviously we want to use better but as always, money is in short supply.
On the brighter side, work inside OP4 trundles on. To keep the cost down, we are doing most of the masonry work ourselves. The foundations of the old shed were uncovered when putting in the foundations for the new shed and were found to be very shallow. There is no ring beam like the new shed either, so to ensure the long term stability of the old foundations a low wall with concrete infill is being built to cover them, and the old rainwater down pipes are being changed to couple into the new drainage system.
OP4 - low wall providing foundation cover for the old shed
In John Sandys' picture on the left the stone is being cleared from the six foot between sleeper ends and shuttering made up ready to pour the concrete.
Full report below with thanks to Jon Goff.
Following the frenetic track laying season through winter accomplishing more track relaying/renewing in one winter than ever before with Leamland points and its approaches, 1/3 mile at Waterworks and Horsted platforms 2 and 3 with their technical problems, the next job was another 200 yards (plus 35mm!) on Freshfield bank at the end of the Temporary Speed Limit. IN ONE NIGHT!!!
Yes, in one night, so trains were not interrupted at any time! Never attempted on Bluebell before and probably never attempted on any heritage railway before!
Immediately south of the new track laid three years ago on Freshfield bank was a section of old bullhead track on old BR concrete sleepers in very poor condition with railhead burns and where the concrete sleeper fixings are coming loose. This defined the end of the 10mph temporary speed limit and urgently needed correction.
After initial inspection, a plan was hatched between infrastructure director Chris White and infrastructure manager Matt Crawford where it was decided that six 60 foot panels were required but when surveying and planning for that it was decided to extend the job to 10 panels after finding a particularly bad joint between panels 9 and 10.
The first plan was to use the short rails seen beside the digger in the picture above to build up short panels which would have all the sleepers put onto them at the correct intervals for when the 60 foot rails when they would be swapped over later. This is because the roadrailer could manage to lift panels up to 12 sleepers in length but certainly not a 60 foot panel with 28 sleepers weighing 9 tons. This would have required a lot of trimming and drilling of the rails to make up the short panels. Which would have been built on top of the old track laid out to look like a third road to Ardingly.
It was then decided that if we hired in two large Colmar roadrailers, one day for transporting the finished panels to site from Horsted and one night for the changeover, then we could build the 60 foot panels directly thus saving a lot of work on the short panels, and an army of volunteers on and extra nights' work to change over the short rails to the proper ones. That would have required 52 pairs of fishplates to be removed, 22 replaced, 1120 track clips removed and replaced as well as the handling of 50 short rails and 20 long rails.
In addition we would not have to get the cut of 182.915m exactly right first time as we could cut in the last panel in as it was laid as a closure panel. This was a worry as tape measure calibration was showing to be an issue where 3 different tape measures measured three different lengths and would have given us a potential gap of just over 2 inches!
Consequently the idea of making the long final panels was quickly adopted. The ground was bulldozed smooth and the "third track to Ardingly" was laid with old short panels (from Leamland) up to 100 yards in length, enough to lay out five new panels on top at once. The old short panels acted as a very good base to build new track on and will be used again to build the points for OP4. The sleepers can be moved to the correct position of 653mm centres and put into a straight line much more easily than on the ground.
Thanks to Matt Crawford and his deals through his plethora of useful contacts, we had built up a good stock of insulators, clips, rubber pads, fishplates, bolts, nuts, washers and just enough good condition second hand concrete sleepers to make up the 10 panels. Much of it having been donated. 20 new rails were bought and 600 tons of ballast but that was all that had to be purchased.
Each panel was built by laying out 28 sleepers at approximately the correct centres and the rails dropped into place on top, all lifted into place by the "resident" road railer. Each rail was measured precisely and marked up with each sleeper centre. The sleepers were then pushed into their exact positions by men with iron bars, all squared up and then clipped up. The fish plate holes were then drilled in the ends of the rails to complete the panel. All ten were built up in a stack of two on top of the old bullhead panels.
OP4 progress - May:
Meanwhile, OP4 (Operation Undercover Phase 4, the Horsted Keynes Carriage Shed Extension) has also been quietly progressing in the background. There were just enough people to split the gang between building the new track panels and progressing drainage and ground work in the OP4 shed.
Below is a photo of the north end of the shed, "borrowed" from John Sandys' flickr.com site. It shows second grade track ballast used to bring up the floor level closer to the required level suitable for the shed track work. This was recovered from the Waterworks track relay earlier this year and is the darker material in the picture.
In addition, many of the gutter outlets have been drilled and spigots fitted together with the down pipes and are now carrying the rainwater away through the drains laid mainly last year. This will continue as a background project until all down pipes are connected and functional. We are carrying out this work as it will save a lot of contractor cost.
Also visible in John's picture is the infill between the old carriage work roof and the higher new roof. This will stop the rain and showering the pit in "E" road and the maintenance staff.
The last of the containers in the storage section of the shed have been relocated to their new sites out of the shed and the last bit of ground that they were on has been levelled, where the nearer machine, the loadall, is sitting. More detail is available in Bruce Healey's April/May report below.
Freshfield Bank - Wednesday 24 May, 5am:
Over the next week equipment was taken down to site, including the laser guided bulldozer, the 22 ton tracked digger, all the fishplates etc. and many hand tools. On the preceding Sunday, Jon Bowers' Sunday gang dug out several beds of ballast at the bottom end of the job ready to give the bulldozer a starting level and to facilitate some re-alignment of sleepers on the existing track.
The photos below show panels being delivered in the early morning mist, the last three panels loaded and ready to leave Horsted Keynes, and "steerage class" travel for the staff at the back of the ensemble.
Monday 5th June, 4pm - the track changeover:
The team assembled at around 4 pm on the Monday which included several contractors from L & W to drive all the required plant. Three of us caught the last train down and were dropped of early to get the laser set up and to check and mark out the exact cutting position on the existing rail.
As soon as the last train had cleared the section, a track possession was taken and a convoy of roadrailers etc. made their way down to the work site.
At this point the rain started and continued through to about 5 am. Unfortunately it got into my camera and so I failed to get any more pictures after these three from the top of the distance signal post. Those below show the laser bulldozer waiting, looking north, and with rain bonnets on, the roadrailer gets ready to lift out the first track panel.
Andy Palmer, Matt Crawford's right hand man, set up a time lapse camera which produced some good film which he is currently processing and hope it will be available shortly. Another two man film crew were there for the first part of the job and we hope their film will also be available soon.
The first cut into the old rail was made one sleeper back from the measured distance to give a safe overlap in case of measurement error which did eventually prove unnecessary but was done all the same. All the 60 foot panels over the whole 200 yards of the job were cut in half, unbolted and lifted out and taken up north of the job, out of the way.
As each of the half panels were removed, the laser bulldozer dozed the existing ballast to the correct depth, pushing the excess off to one side. Fortunately this area of the line does not have a drainage or a clay pumping problem as it is on top of an embankment and so did not require a membrane under the ballast. This saved time and cost.
Andy Palmer's photo shows all the track removal completed, the bulldozing finishing off, the triple vibrating whacker just behind smoothing out the ballast and the 22 ton digger coming up ready to start lifting the new panels in. All this was done just as it was starting to get dark.
At the top (north end of the job) the joint to the existing good rail was re-cut square and the holes re-drilled to make a good fresh joint. The first of the 10 new panels was lifted into place by one Colmar road railer on the rails to the north and the 22 ton digger on the ballast to the south and then bolted on. This was continued down for all ten panels ensuring that the gaps were the correct size and square.
Before the last panel was connected the track was aligned by eye by two people standing astride the track shouting instructions to the driver of the 22 ton digger. This stood to the side of the track and simply pushed or pulled the track around with its arm until it was straight. The last panel was laid in overlapping the old rail so it could be measured off and cut in exactly the right place. This was then drilled and the fish plates fitted, thus re-joining the line sometime after midnight. The diesel, towing the tree ballast hoppers, which had been waiting a little way to the south of the job then pulled up and dropped the ballast onto the sleeper ends to stabilize the new formation enough to run trains over the next day. We packed up and started back to Horsted just on first light. After putting away tools etc. everyone had left by about 5:15 am in a very wet state - just as the rain finished!
Below are several photos taken by Dave Wilson (of London Underground and 9F club fame) taken during the night: Track alignment using the 22 ton digger, crafty ballasting, the 09 with the ballast train, and the soggy Track Gang.
The following evening was spent firstly pulling back and reusing the spare ballast pushed over by the bulldozer the previous evening and dropping more ballast from the hoppers, ploughing it and the tamping the whole stretch of new line. The tamper also did the final alignment to get the new line completely straight. While this was going on, some more conversion fishplates were found in our stock for the interface between the old worn bullhead rail and the new flat bottom rail with the right amount of "lift". This corresponds to the amount of wear on the rail head. In addition shims were fitted to the top joint to eliminate the bang when wheels passed over that joint. A final run over the replaced stretch by the tamper at a test speed confirmed the smoothness of the new track.
Andy Palmer's photo shows the team riding back at the end of the night in the tamper.
The last job was to move the temporary speed limit signs from the top of the replacement job nearly 1/2 mile south to the bottom end of Freshfield Bank at the end of the straight, next to the 7 mile post. This removes a large section of the TSR which should help with the train timetable.
So what's next?
Like so many jobs, the list of minor tasks to finish the Platforms 2 and 3 track re-laying seemed to be endless. The foot crossing at the south end of Horsted Station was almost finished by the middle of April, with just a couple more bits of anti slip material required. The nuts holding the track chairs down over the subway need regular checking until they have settled down with use.
One of the more surprising consequences of the recent work is the need to re-concrete a manhole on top of the spoil heap in the triangle at Horsted. A drain runs under the spoil heap and each time the spoil heap is added to (or subtracted from) in that area, the manhole needs to be adjusted to avoid being a hazard to anyone one on the spoil heap (usually digger drivers).
Of course, Infrastructure get involved in other activities and we have undertaken a few tasks for the Flying Scotsman visit. Some picnic tables were collected from Parkers near Kingscote Station and delivered to Sheffield Park, and some 'heras' fencing was erected at Leamland across the access point from the north end of Horsted car park.
The second photo below shows S&T replacing a signal wire which had a broken strand at the south end of Horsted Station.
Wednesday 3rd May:
The photo on the right shows the electrical supply conduit trench being back-filled.
The photos below show the two hired cherry pickers, ready to install the gutter downpipes, the used ballast recovered from the Holywell track relaying, which will be reused in OP4, and the stanchion next to the manhole which will have the gutter running down it. This connects in to the manhole from the right of the photo. The cross drain to the left of the photo already connects at a right angle to the main drain running down the centre of the 4 road shed. There is an extra connection to the manhole for future use.
The photo on the right shows the upper side panels being installed to prevent rain coming in around the raised section of roof, which is above the carriage lifting jacks.
The three photos below show:
Replacement of track in Horsted Keynes Platforms 2 and 3
Completing the track replacement at Holywell early was a bonus because it allowed us to start the time critical replacement of the formation in Horsted Platforms 2 and 3. Platform 3 was tackled first. This was to prove a bonus as the work turned out to be more difficult than expected. Unlike the Holywell work, there were a number of 'unknowns' such as the water supply for the water columns at the north end of the platforms and a number of cross drains. However, by far the biggest unknown was the pedestrian underpass - as it was intended to reduce the height of the track by 4 inches in platform 3 and 8 inches in platform 2, it was suspected that the underpass would cause problems - as turned out to be the case. The reduction in track height was needed to bring the track down to the correct level for comfortable access to carriages. The first job was to strip out the formation on platform 3 and see what we had.
The next photo below, from Stewart Moon, shows the chalk infill covering the drain. Further along it also covers the water column feed pipes. The feed crosses 3 road at right angles which can just be seen in this photo.
The final photo below shows the finishing touches being applied. The compactor can be seen in the background. The shuttering round the area shows the extent of the side concrete beams and the raft over the top of the subway. All of this will be on top of a waterproof layer.
By Friday 17th evening, the reinforcing cage over the subway on the platform 2 side had been completed, as seen in the photo below taken from the cab of the road-railer. The south end of Platform 2 has had the centre drain dug, the terram (fibreglass) - polythene - terram sandwich laid, the drain pipe put in place and the section ballasted and compacted as seen in the second photo, prior to track laying. Both these photos were taken by Barbara Watkins.
Jon Goff now brings us up to date as of the end of last week.
There will be a rubber pad placed on top of the (fast-setting) compound and the rail chair placed on top of that.
The next photo below shows the application of levelling compound completed for the west rail in 3-Road and, with the east rail compound set, rubber pads were cut out and put in place and the chairs fitted ready for the rail to be inserted. Some final tightening of the nuts and a bit of juggling with some of the ferrules is all that is required.
Work then concentrated on the shuttering and the reinforcement for the concrete over the subway. This proved to be quite intense but with help from "the little people" this was completed on Thursday together with dropping all the studs (316 stainless) to be set into the concrete for the rail chairs. To do this the rails were supported slightly higher than the finished height so that an extra nut could be fixed under the chair to stop the studs wobbling around during the concrete pour.
While this was going on further digging out, levelling, drainage and ballasting on a waterproof membrane was carried out on road 2 with two-thirds now done.
The track chairs over the subway in 2-road are being readied. The concrete pads have been cast. Rubber pads are located between the chairs and the concrete. This task was completed by the end of the day.
The ballast is levelled using a laser and receiver on a staff. The new track in 2-road will be 8 inches lower than the old and the difference needs to be graded in. The laser has a gradient function simplifying this task.
Friday saw three more panels go in including the closing rails which had to be cut to a precise length in order to connect up with the existing track. Work was heavily inhibited but almost continuous use of road 3 for the diesel gala. The road-railer had to use road 3 for very short periods then disappear quickly before the next train was due.
The final photo above shows the whole length of road 2 connected and tidied up for the weekend. It was then ballasted and ploughed on Saturday and will be tamped straight next week. There are still some details to be finished off on both roads over the subway. Road 2 is not yet fully screwed down and both roads still require the plastic membrane sealed against the sides of the concrete pads with a silicon sealant below the ballast level. The foot crossings at either end of the platforms still need to be reinstated.
The final tamp of platform 3 road was completed on Wednesday 3rd April and platform 2 has now also been released back into service (as seen in the photo on the right). However, this is some way from the end of the job, as there are still the inevitable tidying up and odd jobs to do.
The triangle at Horsted Keynes has been used as a dumping ground during the work. With 4 inches of material removed from 3-road and 8 inches from 2-road, a large amount of spoil has been added to the triangle. This has now been graded to improve the appearance (as seen below).
Now the tamping has been completed, the crossings between platform 2 and 3 need reinstating. The reinstatement of the one at the north end was well under way by the end of Wednesday.
73082 'Camelot' is seen below at the north end of Platform 1 dropping off some wagons and vans. The locomotive also shunted a wagon into the Ardingly spur.
The photo on the right by Barbara Watkins shows the reinstated foot crossing at the north end of the platforms completed last Friday. This can easily be lifted and replaced for maintenance unlike the previous one. It also now sports a very good glass fibre/resin/grit anti-slip surface, with which we intend to cover all wooden walkways as wood can be very slippery when wet.
The month-plus line closure in early 2017 was to enable the relaying of about 1/3 mile of life-expired track near Holywell, to the south of Horsted Keynes.
Mike Hopps provides these four photos showing fantastic progress in just the first week. The Infrastructure gang had been out in force and at close of play on Tuesday 10 January, 10 new panels had been laid, as seen on the right.
The job was going well so far and was on target time-wise. The photos below show the old track being lifted out, new sleepers laid on the re-graded trackbed, and rails being installed.
At close of play on 25th January the new rail was almost all in. Of the 29 track panels, 28 were in and the last one, the transition panel was half in. The transition panel consists of a half panel of flat bottomed rail laid on 11 concrete sleepers and 3 wooden ones which connects to a half panel of bullhead all laid on wooden sleepers.
This last northern part of the relaying has always suffered from the embankment bellying out on the west side. The side of the embankment has been excavated and successive layers of plastic mesh and compacted soil put down to stabilise the formation.
While it might have looked like the work was almost complete, there was still a lot more to do. The track needed slewing to its final position and about a third needed clipping up. The whole section would then be ballasted and tamped. Then there was the breaking down and removal of the old track panels, clearing the site and finally scraping out the existing ditch on the east side. We were well ahead of schedule and confident of an early completion.
We would like to thank the Saturday and Sunday gangs for their help and in particular the 9F club who energetically and competently assist in clipping up the track.
The photos from Bruce Healey show:
If the relaying of a third of a mile of track does not sound a lot, the following items were used:
By the beginning of the final week of work, the new track at Holywell had been aligned, ballasted and tamped. The track now has the correct cant for 25mph operation. The week was occupied with removing the replaced track panels and completing clearance of the site. The photos above and left show the restored track, looking in either direction, as of 8 February. Work was also started that week on lifting the track for re-laying in 3-road at Horsted Keynes, but that's another story.
Archive of Infrastucture News: 2013-14 - 2015-16
Archive Reports: Northern Extension Project - Permanent Way and Lineside News (2007-2011) - P-Way News (2002-4)
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Last updated 6 July 2017.
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