Tuesday 15 December 2015

Ballasting the new track

A start was made today with ballasting the first 200m of new track laid. We have 6 Dogfish, and these were filled at our  ballast depot at Stanton and brought out by the class 73.

The train was pushed carefully over the headshunt beyond the loop, and then on to the new track laid, up to the footpath crossing at the start of the curve in the distance.

On board the 'SHARK' brake van, Steve and Rick are discussing today's  planned manoeuvres. Behind them you can see the recently repaired embankment on the left, and the reinstated track immediately in front. This forms part of the Laverton Loop headshunt, a piece of track that will need to be replaced as part of the extension works.

A bit further along, it is easier to see the difference between the temporary headshunt, and the start of new track laying.

The headshunt this side of the loop was roughly laid around 2011 in a slightly lighter rail, which will be replaced with the standard rail we are using for the definite extension. There is no ballast at all here, so we progress very gingerly.

The ballast train is parked so that the first Dogfish is on the start of the curve. A full hopper will treat 1 1/2 track panels, so we need to be about 10 panels away from the start, and work back.

The other way, in the curve towards Broadway, is at this point not quite ready to receive ballast, as there are still some remains from the welding crews in the four foot, and a number of sleepers at each weld need repositioning and straightening.

With the train stationary, the plough is lowered, and all the centre doors on the Dogfish are opened at once. Some of the ballast falls out, but is soon stopped by the pile that builds up underneath. The train is then pulled over the stretch that needs ballasting. You can see this here:

This is the view from the rear - all the ballast has been dropped, and the SHARK plough has pushed the excess over the rails and outside the sleeper ends. In the distance the newly laid track curves to the right towards Little Buckland, and Broadway beyond. The embankment has been cleared, and there is new fencing down both sides. A lot of work and expense has already gone into this area, but is not well known about.

Looking the other way, towards Laverton Loop, we can see the temporary headshunt undulating in the weeds. The empty train will now return to Stanton for refilling with fresh ballast, which takes about 2 hours.

The small gang of 5 today take this 2 hour gap to prepare the next piece for ballasting, the curve towards Little Buckland.

After the sleepers have been checked and adjusted for positioning, the alignment is improved by little tweaks with the JCB here and there.

One guy doing, two guys giving orders - well, isn't it always like that ?

Dave and Peter point which way the track has to move. Many times they agreed with each other too.

Behind them is the piece that was ballasted an hour earlier.

With the curve reasonably kink free, we sat down for a brief lunch. Not a good place to do this, here. The wind whistled down off the Cotswolds today, and the ice cold rail, when sat upon, has an amazing ability to soak all the heat out of your backside.

Meanwhile, back at Stanton, the train has been refilled with fresh ballast. Unfortunately we lost our loco driver in the afternoon, so this drop on the curve will be for another day.

The JCB then moved up to Little Buckland to clear the area, just south of the bridge, where a pipe running through the embankment has to be replaced, as it has collapsed in the middle. Another one of those unseen jobs, but they have to be done. Good working drainage is crucial on this line along the Cotswold edge.


  1. Starting to look good up there. Did anyone see my earlier question about why Laverton Loop is being taken out in March? I would have thought it'd make more sense to wait until you get to where the outer loop over the Childswickham Road bridge will go, and then transfer the Laverton loop to there. That way you can continue to run trains as normal instead of having to top and tail the trains for a couple of years (which will increase costs and manpower requirements) until Broadway is ready.

    1. Hi Lee,
      I can't really comment on that question. What I do know is that the plans for the second loop at Broadway (between the two bridges)are shelved at the moment due to the need to conserve cash for the most essential parts of the extension. I'm sure they would reconsider if the share issue at Easter is really successful.

  2. Excellent YouTube video. Many thanks for the link.
    Southern Man in Exile.

  3. Hi Lee,

    Yes it would be nice to have the loop there for one more year, but the P'way team have a heavy work load to get us to Broadway as well as complete their routine maintenance, and so the loop must be taken out at a time which fit into their programme. For the next couple of years all train to Laverton will use the DMU and it will still pass over the viaduct but will stop at the footpath where it previously stopped (before the loop went in). This is reflected the 2016 timetable.
    Alan Bielby

  4. Please explain why you need to move the Laverton loop at all. Won't it be very useful (being roughly midway between Broadway and Toddington) to allow northbound and southbound trains to cross on busy days? Mick