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Permanent Way News Archive : Sep - Dec 2004

Our attentions over the past few months have mainly focused on work at Horsted Keynes, both north and south of the station. However, jacking and packing has also been undertaken at Black Hut, Monteswood Lane, Riverslip and at some locations on Freshfield Bank, while the visiting Tamper has seen action in most of the other usual places!

In mid September, a small party of our PW volunteers visited the Mid Hants to meet up with our counterparts on that railway. As per the exchange visit last year, the timing was carefully arranged to coincide with their gala weekend, and we enjoyed a pleasant walk down the bank to Alton in the company of some of their gang (photo right, just east of Medstead and Four Marks). And as per last year, everyone we met was cheerful and friendly, and always happy to stop for a chat, while the gala itself was extremely impressive and some of the sound effects were just awesome!

MHR visit 18/09/04
Ardingly spur 19/09/04

Back at the Bluebell, the Ardingly siding extension has progressed as and when time allowed. This has given the Sunday gang their first experience of working with flat-bottom rail, and opinions seem to vary as to whether it is easier or not than laying bullhead! The photo (left) from the 19th September shows the transition from bullhead rail laid on wooden sleepers to flat-bottom rail laid on concrete sleepers, with the first panel of the later in the process of being installed. Thanks to the assistance of our contractor John Millam, good progress was made before the main Autumn engineering work started (see below).

Ardingly spur 26/09/04 Ardingly spur 10/10/04
Progress being made on the new Ardingly siding, as the track sneaks further and further away from Horsted Keynes on
the 26th September (left) and 10th October (right), with the track at this point still awaiting tamping!

By the end of November, the new track had drawn level with the existing siding and the end of the present formation, although so far only half of this panel has been fastened down. A short section of the embankment beyond this point to the site of the former Sheriff Mill Viaduct was removed several years ago to provide material to level the overflow car park at Sheffield Park, and it is intended to fill it up again with material from the Bluebell owned section of Imberhorne tip on the Northern Extension.

This photo, taken by Chris Dadson on the 1st December, shows the Wednesday (Lineside Clearance) Gang doing what their name implies (and providing some on site ash ballast!!). The photo also shows the extent of the track at present, while the bonfire marks the point at which the formation starts to fall away towards Station Approach Road. If you are interested in joining their weekly meetings, starting around 9am from a pre-arranged location, please email Ian Aitken.

Ardingly spur 01/12/04

At the start of October, ten Bluebell volunteers visited the North Yorkshire Moors Railway over the weekend of their Autumn gala. After spending the Saturday gricing, with Southern interest including S15 No.825 and Schools class No.30926 ‘Repton’, we spent the Sunday with the PW gang. The drive from their PW depot at New Bridge yard, just outside Pickering, took us over the edge of the Moors and into the depths of Cropton Forest, and since there was not enough room for all of us in their own minibus (yes, they have their own PW department minibus!), the rest of us had to follow in two cars, the drivers becoming increasingly displeased as the roads became progressively steeper and slipperier! After a final descent of 1 in 5 on a road made mainly of mud (!), we emerged alongside the line at Kidstye farm, in the depths of Raindale, and set to work with a morning of fishplate maintenance, as seen in the pictures below.

NYMR 03/10/04 NYMR 03/10/04 NYMR 03/10/04
Working with the NYMR PW gang in Raindale.

The journey had been worthwhile however, because the location was absolutely stunning! With the forest towering over us on one side, and moorland reaching away on the other, we really were in the middle of nowhere, the peace only being shattered by occasional trains climbing past us up the 1 in 49 gradient! Although the weather was very pleasant at the time of our visit, it must get very harsh in winter in this part of the country, although it was a shame we couldn’t transport some of the scenery back to the Bluebell with us!

Our own period of Autumn Engineering work got underway with the end of daily timetabled running, although a number of extra mid-week passenger trains made life more interesting for the workforce! While the Alf Brown gang and S&T department began the task of installing the new bracket and signals at the north end of Platform 3, the PW volunteers and contractors made a start on removing the old trackwork, as shown in the photos below.

Engineering work 06/10/04 Engineering work 06/10/04 Engineering work 06/10/04 Engineering work 06/10/04 Engineering work 06/10/04 Engineering work 06/10/04
A few scenes from the first full week of engineering work, with the old track and pointwork
being removed and new cabling and drainage trenches being dug.

Engineering work 17/10/04 Engineering work 24/10/04 Engineering work 24/10/04
Left: By the 17th October, the trackbed was nearly prepared ready for the laying of the point
timbers, which had been shunted from the down-yard to the north end of 4 road (photo: Nick Beck).
Centre and right: Installation of the point itself was well on the way to completion a week later.

It then took a few weeks before the plain-line between the new track and Leamland junction was re-laid, with a number of factors contributing to the delay. However, it is worth remembering that this particular section of line was notorious for the problems caused by clay reaching the surface, and this can be seen in the photo on the right, where the loop line has developed some considerable dips after being used for just a few weeks. The new track was laid on top of various layers of ballast and plastic membranes, and so should hopefully be immune from these problems for a good few years - making it worth the extra wait! Note also the cabling and troughing on the right.

Engineering work 31/10/04

Engineering work 21/11/04 Engineering work 21/11/04 Engineering work 21/11/04
Left and Centre: Track re-laying began on Monday 15th November, and was completed, tamped and regulated by the Friday of that week, resulting in this very smart section, photographed with No.672 in attendance on the 21st November. Right: The PW gang have obviously caught the eye of passengers on the first train of the day, although we don't know whether they were looking at the new pointwork or the plastic bags that Paul Hailes had affixed to his ankles in an attempt to keep the rain out of his boots!

This mainline was re-opened to traffic the following week, and from now on, when trains pass at Horsted Keynes, the down-train will use Platform 4 while the up train uses Platform 3, a reversal of previous practice and a much more prototypical method of working. So, with this project complete, what have we got up our sleeves for the rest of this and next year?

For a start, there is plenty of jacking and packing to do on the main-line in the coming winter months, and a start has already been made on replacing 'tamperised' sleepers. It also seems likely that some renewals will be required in Sharpthorne Tunnel next spring after a survey of rail condition was undertaken in October. In November, we were visited by a group of volunteers from the Rother Valley Railway, and so a return trip is on the cards for next Spring. This is one of just 3 exchange visits already planned for next year, with another in the pipeline. So, if you would like to join in, then please do get in touch - you can email us for more information, or take a look at the volunteering page linked below.


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Last updated 22nd January 2005 by Jon Bowers.
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