Bluebell Railway Infrastructure News
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.
Nine days later, the Sunday Permanent Way gang worked on the relaid trackwork on the Saturday, clipping up the new rails and the S&T were to be found working, in slightly better weather conditions, on the Sunday on the new point. As of Sunday 13 November, as seen in David Chappell's photos below, there were still some track panels to lay to reconnected the line, ballast to drop, and lots of other little jobs just to finish. Note the signal wire running though the base of the relocated S&T location cabinets.
Our workforce engaged on replacing the Leamland point received some additional help. Through Community Investment work with the Princes Trust, the Charity which assists getting un-employed 18-25 year olds into paid work, Costain have been helping 5 candidates work towards attaining PTS accreditation for use on the National Rail Network.
What better way to help in this undertaking than giving some hands on experience at the Bluebell when they, together with 2 Costain Engineers, visited the railway on Friday 11 November. A confidence boost for the candidates, and an opportunity to improve social skills and provide a constructive contribution to another volunteer led organisation. Ben Coughlan's photo below shows them at Horsted Keynes.
After a possession lasting three weeks (two weekends), we rather hope that River Slip isn't slipping any more, after propping up the embankment with sixteen deep piles and about seventy tons of reinforced concrete.
Mike Hopps' photo on the right shows the completed capping and regraded embankment side/formation.
Quite what we will call it now that it is no longer on the move remains to be seen - perhaps Lindfield Bank is appropriate. Cue for a competition perhaps? Hats off to Matt and his team for a job really well done in the face of the sort of unhelpful weather that we have come to expect when doing jobs like this.
Track laying went according to plan with eleven panels laid, and the tamper finished off the job in time for the line to be reopened to traffic for full working the following Saturday, as seen in Mike's two photos below.
The next week saw the remainder of the cables connected up by the S&T Department as well as general tidying up, concreting around cable duct chambers, landscaping and some final ballasting near Holywell Bridge.
The tamper was in action again on the following Tuesday, working south from Holywell and on the Wednesday it was busy north of Horsted Keynes.
This week the Infrastructure gang moved to Freshfield Bank where the plan was to relay three sixty-foot panels, connecting up with the sections previously relaid.
Our usual method of formation improvement with a terram / polythene sandwich is applied before ballasting (re-using existing ballast - seen in the photo on the right), levelling and compacting, laying the new panels (photos below) and the tamper was on hand to finish the job afterwards. There has been a speed restriction there, so drivers will be very pleased to see this lifted now we have completed this work.
This month's engineering work during our 3 week (2 weekends) closure is focussed on rebuilding the formation at "River Slip" in Lindfield Wood, just south of Waterworks/Holywell Bridge. This has always been a problematic area and was pressure grouted in the 1980s, which went some way to arrest the problem, but did not effect a long-term cure. Work had been undertaken nearby, earlier in January, including improved drainage and work on a culvert. Now the line is closed the formation is being dug out, to undertake the work described below. All the photos here are by Mike Hopps, taken last week (as always, click on a photo for an enlargement). That on the right shows the work site; there is plenty of ballast available, since additional ballast had been added over the years to maintain the correct alignment and level as the formation gradually moved.
The slip is being stabilised by layering with plastic grid netting like that which we used on unstable areas of Imberhorne tip. This is being done to the slip depth of about 1.5 metres, now that we have found the slip plane. Rather than digging out the bank completely, the decision has been made to pile the foot of the slip and cast a retaining wall to link all the piles together. Sixteen 500mm diameter piles, 4.5 metres deep and each reinforced with an old rail, are spaced about 2 metres apart. Another old rail is set in front of the rails in the piling and the whole arrangement is encased in concrete using the same shuttering that we recently used for the culvert headwall near Holywell.
The sequence of photos below shows the first eight piles, being linked together, then the process will be repeated for the next eight to complete the job before the ground behind is compacted ready for relaying to take place. Other topside drains have also been cleared and new drainage will be linked to those as soon as the polythene/ terram sandwich is laid. Finally, new S&T ducting will be laid to replace the old concrete troughs which are in a poor state of repair.
Following the highly successful Cash for Cover appeal, focus is now on planning the carriage shed construction. Initial work will be directed at clearing the site, a mammoth task in itself. Existing sheds, offices and storage all have to be relocated and some temporary facilities provided. Important though the new shed is, it's equally important the day to day business of repairing and maintaining our carriage fleet is able to carry on unhindered.
All this is likely to take some months meaning it will be well into 2015 before the construction phase gets under way. Meantime there is much to do behind the scenes to award contracts and mobilise internal resources to carry out enabling work. The timely effort to commence foundation work this Autumn has given the project a useful kick start when some early knowledge of ground conditions were captured and will help the tendering process.
In case any readers wonder why we are not ready to start construction now, it was in fact a conscious decision of the September steering group meeting to wait the funding appeal outcome before attempting to plan the project any further. Sufficient funds needed to be in the bank to justify mobilisation against a plan that would deliver something tangible, as it happens the results were all that we could wish for and a shed will emerge in due course to match the appeal objective.
A fuller report will appear in the next Bluebell News.
Chris White, Infrastructure Director
Mike Hopps' photos illustrate the opening of the new loco lobby which took place on Thursday 16 October. The structure of the "Above Workshop Facility" had been completed as the final part of the HLF-funded Operation Undercover Phase 3 project at Sheffield Park, but the fit-out had to await the availability of funding.
The first phase of the fit-out has included the loco department facilities; toilets, showers and the new lobby. It also provides these views, one over the locomotive workshop, where the boiler of the Maunsell Q-class is seen, along with the SECR H-class which is currently receiving a few new stays and its annual boiler exam, and a fine view over the loco yard. The second phase will eventually cover the fit-out of offices and a classroom.
The photo below shows the assembled members of the department, with Chairmen Roy Watts MBE and Dick Fearn, and special guest Chris Green.
22 March 2014: New No.23 points at Horsted Keynes
Brian Lacey's photo on the right shows the completed work, with the new points and the re-aligned and improved approach to platforms 2 and 4 at Horsted Keynes.
On Sunday 2 March the final work was done by the Alf Brown Gang to complete the replacement Horsted Keynes Down Advance Starter, as seen in Robert Hayward's photo below. The work to replace the No.23B points at Horsted Keynes is also seen, as of Wednesday evening, 5 March (photo from Alan Dengate). The following weekend, whilst trains ran over the new point, it was clipped and padlocked, and as a consequence trains passed through platforms 2 and 3 at Horsted Keynes.
Finally we see the U-class No.1638 with the first service to run over the new No.23B points at Horsted Keynes on 8 March (Richard Salmon). The new point was fully commissioned over the next week.
Click on any photo for an enlargement.
24 February 2014: Freshfield Bank relaying and new points at Horsted Keynes
The first big job of the year, relaying a quarter of a mile of plain line on Freshfield Bank, was successfully completed on time and handed back to the operators ready for the February half term service. This has used all-new (bought-in) rail and stone, along with concrete sleepers from stock, and has enabled this long running temporary speed restriction to be lifted. Like so many line side tasks these days, the weather once again did its best to make for 'mission impossible' but it goes without saying that deadlines still had to be met and with the usual perseverance from Matt and his team, all went to plan.
Attention has now turned to the final preparation for renewal of Horsted Keynes 23 points in early March. This piece of fairly complex point-work has been prefabricated complete with signalling attachments and will be lifted into place in 3 sections with minimum disruption to traffic. It has been possible to use materials left over from the NEP project which has shaved some £15,000 off the cost of this work, although these are flat bottom and not usually deployed within station limits they are out of sight of the platform ends and so in the circumstances dispensation was granted for their use. Once completed all temporary speed restrictions will have been removed from the single line and Infrastructure will have done its bit towards the 2014 time keeping initiative.
With these two big track work jobs out of the way, a period of more routine tasks will follow before the winter possessions in November.
Chris White, Infrastructure Director
The first photo above was taken on 22 January and shows the amount of plant etc. needed for the quarter of a mile of track-relaying on Freshfield Bank. Before this photo was taken, the old track was removed, the formation completely excavated down to bare earth, geo-textile fabric laid, and the whole formation sub-ballasted and levelled. A pre-assembled 30-foot track panel is seen been brought down to the site ready for laying once the track alignment has been checked. After the photo was taken, all the temporary 30 foot rails were removed and replaced by brand new 60 foot rail and the two ends of the railway rejoined. (Pat Plane)
The second photo above shows the 09 with the ballast wagons being loaded from the track-side stockpile, on 31 January. With the top-ballasting done, the track was tamped the following week, whilst the volunteers, staff and contractors moved to Horsted Keynes to work on No.23 points, which are the ones right at the South end of the station. (Mike Hopps)
Patrick Plane's photo to the right, taken on 17 February, illustrates the work which is well advanced in pre-assembling the new points at Horsted Keynes, as the H-class departs for Sheffield Park.
Yoshi Hashida's photo below shows the visiting LMS Black 5 No.45231 with its train climbing the newly re-laid section of Freshfield Bank on Sunday 16 February.
Not surprisingly the main focus of attention through December and into this year has been weather related. Numerous trees have come down all over the line, several losses of power supply impacting on signalling, roofs damaged, and flooding all of which have resulted in resources moving from one crisis to another. Notably the big show stopper, literally, has been the two slips just south of the tunnel which closed the line between Horsted and East Grinstead just before Christmas.
This could not have happened at a more inconvenient time, not only did it impact on the train service but disrupted preparatory work for the forthcoming Freshfield Bank relaying programme. This resulted in some rapid rescheduling and diversion of resources to address the slips and reopen the line to traffic as No.1 priority whilst still maintaining the relaying programme.
A first look at these slips is likely to prompt a "what's all the fuss about" reaction, the volumes of material involved are not great and can be dealt with reasonably easily. A closer inspection will however reveal a number of more worrying concerns, the slips are in fact secondary slips which have occurred along a much bigger slip which in turn follows the downside boundary fence and clearly occurred many years ago. There are different soil strata present and water is flowing off the adjacent fields between these exposed strata causing movement. Consider this slip area as a whole which extends some 100m along the cutting side, which is covered with very tall weak rooted trees, and the continuous volumes of surface water flowing down the cutting face and we have a very high risk of further slips occurring, not to mention the risk to those working on the site or passing trains.
The approach has therefore been twofold, first to stabilise the area making it safe for the passage of trains and secondly to buy time so a design solution can be prepared and finances put in place to effect a permanent repair. The stabilisation work has included large scale felling of trees that were at risk of collapse from further surface water or embankment movement.
Meantime the relaying of Freshfield Bank remains on schedule to commence Monday 13 January, crucial deliveries of stone and rail have been delivered and pre-assembled rail panels are in the process of being ferried to site ready placing in position once the old formation is made good with new drainage and stone.
Chris White, Infrastructure Director
The photos below show:
Meantime the fairly major repairs to the structure of Horsted Keynes signal box are nearing completion. This is another of those "simple" jobs that has turned out to be something rather more serious and taken a lot longer than planned but the results are looking good. Completion of the roof repairs which involves the acquisition of matching tiles followed by completion of painting will leave the structure well prepared for the winter and indeed years to come. And yes, before I receive any more emails reminding me, we do know this is a listed structure and all the repairs have been undertaken with this in mind using appropriate materials.
Finally talking of Horsted Keynes I would be interested in hearing from anyone who is interested in being part of a Friends of Hossted Keynes group. FOHK does not roll off the tongue but no doubt someone will come up with an acronym that does. Basically we have successful "friends" organisations at Sheffield Park and Kingscote who help with Infrastructure jobs but we could do with one at HK. The idea is the group would undertake general repairs, maintenance and decorating tasks within their comfort zone and help give the station some TLC. Anyone interested please contact me.
Chris White, Infrastructure Director
The photos below show:
The arrival on 10th Septmeber of the first steam hauled special from the main line with the famous Tornado in charge (photo by John Sandys, showing Tornado easing on Bluebell metals at East Grinstead) has of course been a further significant milestone for the Bluebell, following the opening of the extension back in March. What may be less obvious is the preparatory work that has progressed quietly in the background for some weeks to enable this to happen both on Network Rail and Bluebell. Special route clearance was required between South Croydon and East Grinstead with numerous speed restrictions to lessen the impact of its 22 ton axle loads on structures. Platform and bridge clearances had to be compared against the locomotives dimensions and our own Bridge Engineer had to undertake a special exercise to confirm that the loco could run on the Bluebell, and through which platforms etc. So the message is when a special like this runs it involves considerable preparatory work and liaison between departments to make sure everything runs smoothly and of course safely.
Meantime planning is also underway on another outstanding NEP action, resolution of the Kingscote issues following its end of use as a terminus. This is proving quite complicated to close out for a number of reasons but meantime it is recognised the situation facing our customers and staff is not acceptable long term as it is both confusing and difficult to administer. We still plan to finalise the crucial sale of tickets and refreshments along with use of the picnic area by the end of this year but this is heavily dependant on agreeing a way forward with all stakeholders.
Chris White, Infrastructure Director
Meanwhile a great deal of time and effort is focussed on fitting ice prevention measures in the tunnel to make sure any really cold weather does not in future prevent trains operating over the whole railway. Having opened the extended railway it would not look good if we cannot run trains in and out of East Grinstead. (David Chappell's photo shows the structural steelwork supports for the ice shield, which were delivered in July).
There are four main areas where heavy water penetration can cause ice build up on the rail head and tunnel fabric. To prevent this happening 5m sections of curved corrugated sheeting are being fitted to the roof in order to deflect water away from the track. Sounds simple but in order to ensure the solution is both safe and fit for purpose, the metalwork being used to support the sheeting is substantial to say the least. Each supporting bracket is secured by 4 stainless steel bolts that are grouted into the brickwork to a depth of 0.4m. and so far 40 brackets have been fitted.
The work commences each evening after the train service finishes and continues through the night until around 0500 each morning. Long tiring shifts in a cold, wet, hostile environment. The team is made up of 3 contract staff and 2 or 3 volunteers, led of course by Manager Matt Crawford, so it goes to prove the Infrastructure gang are not just good at building railways but will take on all sorts of challenges.
After that job is completed around the end of September we must get on with renewal of No.23 points at Hortsed Keyens before the Santa service commences, and after that, well the list goes on and on.
Chris White, Infrastructure Director
At East Grinstead station the ticket office canopy is complete and the water tank is now safely planted on the newly completed brickwork (see John Sandys' photos below). It just remains for the water column and associated plumbing to be installed. New close board fencing is being installed between gates 1 and 2 which replaces the dilapidated chain link fence and also discourages onlookers from standing in Firbank Way to watch the trains and putting themselves at risk from road traffic in the process. This together with the new main gate 'Bluebell Railway' entrance sign and other finishing touches helps bring together the whole station appearance for approaching visitors.
There are lots more jobs to cross off the completion list but overall good progress is being made. Meantime focus is turning towards other jobs further south including ice prevention measures in the tunnel before winter returns and relaying No.23 points at Horsted Keynes. For those who may not be aware of the significance of these points, they control the south end throat to the station and currently have a 5mph speed restriction imposed over them pending renewal. Apart from being in a difficult place for drivers to recover from when travelling north, there is a impact on train timings which needs rectifying. Because of the critical role of these points, trains cannot arrive or depart from the station southwards without them, the planning process involves preassembly on site with a short possession to lift out the old fit the new without disruption to trains, a new approach for us and if successful then it will be developed for other similar renewals.
Chris White, Infrastructure Director
Earlier reports on the Northern Extension Project
Earlier Permanent Way and Lineside News.
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