The WHR Project - Trackwork volunteer working party reports
of the World Gang - Report of November 2012 working
The Rest of the World Gang's November working
week started in almost
promising weather on
Saturday 10th, when four old ROWG's, supplemented
by a party from the Imperial College Railway
Society, met at Dinas. Our task was to remove the cranked ends of the
guard rails through the Coed Helen Overbridge, OB20.95, (that's the
stone one with the girders supports, just above Caernarfon). That part
was quite easy but, as a splay was needed, the existing long, hardwood
timber sleeper at either end had to be moved in and an additional one
inserted at either end as well. That required digging out a lot of well
compacted ballast. Once the sleepers were in position, the splay ends
were formed by pushing the guard rails out with jacks, the sleepers
drilled, base-plates inserted and track screws banged down to hold it
all together. This part of the job was nearly finished by lunchtime.
Once completed, two willing volunteers dangled off Kango hammers to
re-compact the ballast round the sleepers and leave the job sturdy.
Alas by this time, the almost promising weather from first thing had
degraded into rain, supplemented by neck finding drips from the
proliferation of trees overhanging the cutting and we were relieved to
retire from the site around mid-afternoon. Our works train consisted of
Castell Caernarfon, a DZ and the Combination Car.
saw a similar number taking the train to the Aspinalls
curves at around the 28.50 to 28.70 area, between Tryfan Junction and
Waunfawr. The task was to prepare the track for a half
stagger to be inserted later in the week. The work required spraying
the SA track clips and fish-plate bolts with diesel over a length of 11
panels, to aid a follow-on group, who freed them off. Fallen
leaves, which contaminate the ballast when they start to rot, were
raked off the site as well. A certain amount of scorched earth
bushwhacking was also done here. Cabaret was provided in the
afternoon by 143 running an ECS from Port to Dinas. Unfortunately it
was running a bit late because the coal bunker was nearly empty and,
with the current supply of best Welsh steam coal
being rather friable, the poor engine was being fired, non to
successfully, with coal dust.
On the morning of Monday
12th, with ICRS having left yesterday
afternoon, 6 old ROWG's met at Dinas. We spent the morning moving some
16 curved rails left over from Phase 4 and now required
for the Harbour station development. For the last few years they have
lived life on the edge, on a pair of unloved flat wagons, shunted out
of history onto the Long Siding, next to the carriage shed
at Dinas. The bolster-wagons were shunted parallel to them, on the
mainline and connected with robust metal bars, over which the rails
were slid with comparative ease. After lunch we took two Bwagons up to
Aspinalls and cleared the accumulated brash from yesterday, dropping it
at the site of Bettws Garmon station to await shredding.
On Tuesday 13th,
10 of us spent the day like soldiers in a war,
insomuch as for 90% of the day we sat around admiring the view and the
remainder in a brief period of considerable action. The loaded
bolsters were shunted into a train in Dinas yard and then we set off
for Porthmadog. Although the journey was comparatively uneventful, we
were glad to be undercover as the sunshine today was of
the liquid variety. It took about half an hour to offload the rails at
Llyn Bach, thankfully in almost dry conditions. Then we had the novelty
of running round in Harbour station before the journey
back. I think it likely that this was the first time the Combination
Car has graced, albeit briefly, FR metals.
The work for the 10 of us on Wednesday
14th was to start creating the
half-stagger on the Aspinalls curves. The ride on this section of line
has been getting progressively rougher of recent, to the point
that there is now a 10mph temporary speed restriction on it. The cause
appears to be due to the joints doing what we call “threepennybitting”
(unromantic modernists call them 50p joints), where
the rails through the fish-plates have remembered that they used to be
straight and so create kinks in the otherwise smoothly curved track.
There is also the need for a ballast wall on this section.
The idea of a half-stagger is to have every joint on one side of the
track, directly opposite the middle of the rail on the adjacent side.
In effect, each single joint is now splinted by a full rail. Once
done, the threepenny-bit joints magically disappear (usually!),
literally overnight, having been pulled back into a smooth curve by the
greater strength of a full rail instead of the give of the
weaker rail ends. To begin the job we cut the first rail, (just before
the curve starts), in half. The first half rail was then gapped and
fish-plated back up, while the other half rail was transferred to the
far end of the site. Using a winch, we then moved four whole rails, one
at a time, the 9m to fill the gap. Track clips were left loose, but not
off as we used to do, so making staggering on SA track considerably
easier. Each rail was gapped, re-plated and fastened back down in turn.
We pulled the remaining six whole rails on Thursday 15th and
the plain end of the second half rail to the appropriate length (10mm
had to come off to get the
gaps right). (The term “permanent way” is not strictly true, as track
does like to move about.) New fish-bolt holes were
drilled and the through line restored by the end of the day.
The previous day's work had presented us with a problem to solve on
The cut end of the two half rails was some 3mm proud of the
extant rail ends, as a consequence of rail end wear. The problem was
solved by using a pair of shims to lift the rail in the
joint. A shim is basically a rightangled sliver of metal that sits on
the top (or bottom, depending on what you are trying to achieve)
and the inner side of a fish-plate. They are a simple and effective way
of evening out the consequences of rail end wear by moving the affected
rail(s) up, down or across. We had also had to move or insert some four
sleepers and these were consolidated with Kango hammers on Friday
morning too With most of us ready for home and with long journeys
ahead, Friday lunchtime seemed a logical
time to finish, but four of our number spent some of the afternoon in
the Permanent Way Store in an attempt to put some order back into it.
As ever, a very enjoyable and constructive week working on the most
important part of the railway: the permanent way.
Hope to see some of you on our next week in January.
Report by Phil Nock
Back to Get Involved, or the WHR Project homepage
Authored by Ben Fisher; last updated by David Tidy
25th November 2012