News reports covering work on the track, lineside, buildings old and new, signalling, bridges and other civil engineering across the Bluebell Railway
Our contractors were on site again post-lockdown in mid-June to complete the task of cladding the walls around the OP4 carriage shed and adjacent Heritage Skills Centre at Horsted Keynes. A volunteer team look forward to when they are allowed to return to the works in order to progress the fit-out of the Trim Shop.
Richard Salmon’s photos from 25 June show the external cladding now all but complete. The fence-line alongside the shed will be replaced, with an internal pathway provided along the outside of the shed.
The first post-lockdown tasks for Infrastructure were to inspect the line and carry out some vegetation clearance since in places brambles were reaching the line.
Completing the track in OP4 is dependent on using the old concrete-sleepered track which will be lifted (hopefully in September) from around Palmer’s Cattle Creep, hence the plan of using the space in the shed for constructing the reinforced concrete sections for the replacement bridge.
Below is a brief report and four photos from Bruce Healey.
In poor lighting conditions, the larger sill section is being transported out of OP4. All sections were cast pre-lockdown.
The first bridge span casting is also ready to be moved. The estimated weight is 8 tonnes. Two more similar castings are needed and there will also be two side castings. The ends of these sections rest on the sills which go across each end of the embankments at right angles to the track. The “S” indicates south end.
Below, the sill sections are being readied for loading onto the road-railer trailer. The sill has been cast in 2 sections, the shorter one (weighing a bit over 3 tonnes) is to be placed where the second running line would be if we had one and the longer one (weighing a bit under 5 tonnes) goes under the running line. Another similar pair need to be cast for the other side of the bridge.
Back in OP4 still in poor lighting conditions, the sill moulds have the sides and ends replaced in preparation for the next casting. The 2 sill sections are cast together in the single mould.
This photo, by Dave Bowles, records that the Sunday PW gang were out for the second time on 26 July 2020. One gang, north of West Hoathly, were greasing fish plates and the second gang (pictured) were fettling the track alignment at Vaux End. P-way and lineside work are some of the easier jobs to do whilst maintaining social distancing, outdoors.
The lineside clearance volunteers of our Wednesday Gang (South) have been back at work for a few weeks now, and are seen in Deborah Carver’s photo working near Sloop Bridge on 1 July.
This report, from Bruce Healey, details track relaying work being done at Horsted House Farm Crossing, just north of Horsted Keynes.
Work started on relaying ten 60-foot track panels on Wednesday 5 February. This spot was chosen for two reasons. Firstly, the foot crossing needed replacing and secondly, the Temporary Speed Restriction (TSR) could be shortened. Whereas the recently completed relay in the cutting at Three Arch Bridge went extremely smoothly, this had a few challenges.
Matt Crawford always allows sufficient time to address unexpected snags and we found one. Normally, track that is above the level of the surrounding land is self draining and so does not require terram/polythene/terram underlay. In the area of the crossing, the formation was found to be unexpectedly wet and so the decision was taken to underlay this part of the line.
The wet ground required investigation and a collapsed drain under the formation was found. Two cross drains were put in to replace the blocked one. Yet further investigation found a previously unknown catch-pit which appears to drain the neighbouring farm, this had been completely covered with soil and was blocked. An existing ditch was extended and the offending drain rodded out. The land now appears to be draining properly.
The first photo shows the gap about to be closed. In the foreground is the extended ditch at the far end of which is the newly rediscovered catch-pit. The water in the ditch was previously seeping into the area of the formation. This view is looking north from the crossing.
Both sides of the foot crossing have had been given a good bed of used ballast.
As of Wednesday 12th, the track has been relaid, the ballasting is nearly complete and tamping scheduled. We are still within the allotted timescale.
One feature to look out for when the foot crossing has been completed will be recovered and donated South Eastern Railway ‘kissing gate’ which is in a very similar style to the LB&SCR equivalent.
This photo shows the relaid line looking south. The rails for the transition track panel are in the ‘4 foot’. The rubber ‘Bomac’ panels at the foot crossing are only temporarily in place; they were removed for ballasting. ‘Shoulders’ of used ballast were added later to give as level as possible pedestrian experience.
When joining flat bottomed rail to bullhead, we use a 30 foot flat bottomed transition panel. Special fishplates are required.
As seen in the first photo below, the final two sleepers are wooden to ease the passage to the existing wooden sleepered bullhead panel.
The final photo shows our Signal & Telecoms volunteers fitting the track-circuit bonding wires.
An update on the Operation Undercover Phase 4 (OP4) project at Horsted Keynes, with thanks to Barry Luck.
With the fitting of the windows and doors to both floors of the Heritage Skills Centre (HSC), its external appearance has changed dramatically. The most significant element is that the building is now weather-proof (right), and we can progress with the interior fitting out.
The first floor rear wall was substantially complete before Christmas, with a single bay left open. This is so that we can use machinery to lift the heavy sheet materials up to first floor level (first photo below) – there is no other easy way of doing this, unless we carry 8×4 sheets up the stairs when fitted (any volunteers?). With some additional assistance from the Trust we have sufficient funds for the first floor materials, and the completion of the first floor rear wall. Once this is complete we will be able to lay the remaining track in the last two roads, H and J.
On the ground floor we are assembling a small team of volunteers to commence fit out of the trim shop and moquette store (second photo below). We are very grateful for the recent donation which is sufficient to purchase the necessary materials.
The cladding contract is making steady progress, with the west side of the shed complete apart from a couple of minor snags, and work has started, as seen below, on the southern end of the shed.
As ever, I am very grateful for the continuing donations which enable this project to progress.
Barry Luck OP4 Project Manager (Infrastructure)
A full report of the completion of the work at Three Arch Bridge to the south of Horsted Keynes is awaited, but Jon Goff’s photo on the right (taken on 31 January) shows a line of dropped ballast ready for ploughing and tamping on the “extra” panels laid (in bullhead rail) at the north end of the relay, and also shows just how close the end of the job is to Horsted Keynes.
Horsted House Crossing Track Relay:
The next piece of track to be re-laid will be a short section that joins onto the November relay north of Leamland. It will be 200 yards long and extends the new track north of Horsted to about 50 yards past Horsted House Farm foot crossing. It will also take another 200 yards off the Temporary Speed Limit (TSR) that currently extends up to Vaux End. Jon Goff’s short video was taken on a phone and is from the cab of the 09 running up to the crossing. It bounces around quite a bit anyway when running light engine and this amplifies the effects of the dipped joints etc., causing the camera shake but clearly shows up the difference between the new and the old track.
The crossing will also be fully renewed together with the eventual replacement of the styles with a kissing gate. This was due to start yesterday if the remaining required sleepers arrived as expected.
This report, from Bruce Healey and Brian Kidman, is a brief midweek update from the track relaying project at Three Arch (Nobles) Bridge, just south of Horsted Keynes.
By the morning of Wednesday 22nd, the track relay extended well under 3 Arch Bridge and was only 6 track panels short of the end point. By the end of the day, the remaining old rail had been removed, the trackbed levelled and compacted and the sleepers laid for one of the remaining panels.
We expect to have the track joined up by Friday with ballasting on Monday and Tuesday. After that there will be tamping and a site clear-up.
Bruce Healey’s photo on the right was taken early on Wednesday morning. The new rail extends well beyond 3 Arch Bridge. By the bridge, our Signals & Telecoms volunteers are working at a lineside cabinet, with the Wednesday line-side clearance gang further on.
In recent weeks the Wednesday Gang (North) has been working alongside Matt Crawford’s re-lay team at Three Arch and, of course, they’ve been taking a keen interest in proceedings. The first photo below, from Brian Kidman, shows a general view looking south, with WG members working close to a major spring, one of several uncovered during this work. The cut-out at the foot of the bank shows the location where significant water flow has been channelled into the newly laid French drain (not visible as the cess has been backfilled and levelled). The presence of these springs explains the poor condition of the track formation through this cutting, which should not now be a problem in future.
Brian’s second photo (taken from Three Arch Bridge) shows the extent of the new railhead at lunchtime on Wednesday, with old track being lifted in the distance and 6 new panels remaining to be laid.
Brian Kidman’s third photo is included below to show the quality of workmanship being carried out by Matt’s team. The new French drain has been installed in the left (‘up’) side cess and backfilled with ballast; the formation has then been levelled and compacted to a billiard-table flat and even finish, enabling concrete sleepers to be accurately positioned to the painted line just visible on the right, before new rail is laid, plated and clipped, ready for new top ballast to be dropped in the next few days, and lifted a couple of inches by the tamper. Impressively, the new track alignment through the cutting is absolutely straight!We finish this report with another photo from Bruce Healey, taken after lunch on Wednesday 22nd. The final old rails have been removed, and the photo was taken prior to levelling and compacting.
Jon Goff’s report covers the period 11-17 January 2020, the second week of the track relaying project through the very wet cutting at Three Arch (Nobles) Bridge.
The photo on the right shows progress as at the end of Friday 17 January, taken from the top of the bridge just before we stopped putting out sleepers. Track has been laid just past the half way point, with 16 of the 29 panels put down and most of the sleepers put out for the 17th panel.
Barry Luck, the OP4 project manager, reports that the recent very wet weather has not helped, but work has nevertheless progressed with the new carriage shed extension and Heritage Skills Centre (HSC) at Horsted Keynes.
Inside the carriage shed, the infrastructure team completed another length of tramway adjacent to E-road before Christmas.
On the outside the cladding work is progressing and with a fair wind should be completed by the end of February. The first skin of grey insulated cladding is complete all around the structure, apart from the northern faces, where the support rails are currently being fitted (first photo below). The second layer of yellow cladding is similarly complete apart from the southern, gable end of the shed (second photo below).
As seen in the photo on the right, the ground floor windows and doors were fitted during the first week of January, and the first floor windows will be fitted w/c 27 January.Inside the HSC the first floor joists and floor are in place (first photo below).
The first floor rear wall studwork is complete apart from one bay which has been left open (second photo) to facilitate the delivery of sheeting materials for the first floor studwork, and another on the ground for temporary access.
The next stage will be to complete the insulation and sheeting on the carriage shed side of this rear wall which will enable us to lay the final two roads (H and J) in the shed, ready to hand over to C&W to complete the shunting of vehicles under cover.
The completion of the first floor rear wall and the fitting of the windows and doors will completely enclose the HSC, and open the way to the next stage of the project, fitting out the HSC (the ground floor of which is seen on the left).
As ever, I am very grateful for the continuing donations which enable this project to progress.
Further to Wednesday’s photos from Bruce Healey showing the first 100 yards relaid, this update shows progress over the following two days, with thanks to Jon Goff.
By Friday 10 January a large amount of groundwork had been completed in preparation for the next section of track. The photo on the right includes that first 100 yards visible in front of the road railer (in the top right corner) standing on the last panel relayed last year.
Drainage is exceptionally important in any civil engineering project and track laying at Bluebell is no different. It is a subject that is invisible to and not realized by many if not most people. Here at Three Arch Bridge we are installing a new French drain on the west side of the line and several cross drains feeding into it. In addition, after ploughing out as much good ballast as possible and levelling and compaction the surface, a waterproof membrane, sandwiched between layers of Terram, is being laid under the main ballast layer. This will prevent water and clay pumping up under the sleepers in the future, which is a problem well known in this area as well as thousands of network rail locations. The photo above was taken halfway up the side of the cutting above the 10 1/4 mile post looking south at the first half of the relay and shows the groundwork in full swing.
The next photo (below) looks north, and shows the first cross drain being laid in at the south end of the cutting. It shows Matt Crawford treading down the pipe while Bob (the builder) places some of the reclaimed ballast over it. Darren is driving the laser dozer levelling ballast in the middle distance. Next to it is a photo of one example of the reason for all the drainage work; one of several springs dribbling water into the new ditch.
When the Victorians dug out the cutting, they cut through several small natural aquifers, generating springs in the cutting sides. Clearly the drain on the east side was inadequate which is why so much clay pumps up over the sleepers in this area. The new ditch, in which will be the French drain (pipe covered with ballast) should prevent this from happening in the future and give us a much more stable track bed.
Turning around, the other end of the job can be seen where the sleeper piles stop beyond the bridge, 26 panels from the start, although we now intend to go another 100 yards beyond that making 620 yards in total and a little way into the final curve into Horsted Keynes. The new ditch can be seen stopping at the lineside phone which will have to be moved temporally for the ditch to continue. [Update – 23 January – the plan now is to lay 29 panels, so an additional 60 yards compared to that reported here].
Report and photos from Bruce Healey after the first week of our January maintenance period (as of Wednesday 8 January). Services are scheduled to re-start for the February Half Term week.
During the winter close-down, Infrastructure are relaying up to 26 sixty foot track panels in the cutting at Three Arch Bridge. So far the weather has been unseasonably warm and mostly dry. We started from the south end connecting to a section of previously relayed track. The first 6 panels are on embankment and had been relayed by Wednesday lunchtime (as seen in the photo on the right).
The remaining section is in cutting and requires terram/polythene/terram underlay draining into a new drainage ditch on the west side. The ditch has been completed up to the bridge and by the end of Wednesday a further length of old track had been removed and preparation of the trackbed was well under way.
These three photos show, above drilling holes for the fishplates, and then two showing the removal the old panels. In the second photo above, the first step (after removing fishplates) is to cut the 60 foot panels in half, and then as seen on the left, the half-panel is craned out to be transported off site and dismantled at a later date.
Operation Undercover Phase 4
The first photo below shows a project completed at Horsted Keynes before Christmas by the Infrastructure team. The extension of the tram road in OP4 adjacent to E-road provides a further area to be used for servicing bogies and wheelsets. This concreting adjacent to the divide between the maintenance workshop and storage part of OP4 is also a pre-requisite for construction of the fire-wall.
Finally, John Sandys’ photo, taken on 9 January, shows progress with the ground floor windows and doors of the Heritage Skills Centre (part of OP4) being installed by our building contractor.
Last updated 29 July 2020 by Richard Salmon
with huge thanks to Barry Luck, Jon Goff, Brian Kidman and Bruce Healey,
and with additional material courtesy of John Sandys, Dave Bowles, David Chappell and Deborah Carver.