A marathon three- day track weekend with a 6pm finish on Saturday saw concrete sleepered track successfully installed through the “Up” side of the level crossing, and the Stock Siding and headshunt physically connected together.
Work commenced on Friday, with the collection of Northumbria Rail’s batch of F23 concrete sleepers from Cramlington and delivery to Whitrope. The hired HIAB lorry was then used to shift the point components from the compound to the level crossing in preparation for the May track bash.
Saturday brought the arrival of Tony C’s mini- digger, and with a formal closure of the haul road agreed beforehand with the Forestry Commission, the existing compacted fill was quickly dug out down to formation level. The concrete sleepers were dropped into place one at a time before the rails were dragged into the housings using a Tirfor winch and the whole lot clipped- up. Although it doesn’t sound like a great deal of work, it has to be remembered that its mostly accomplished using bars, jacks and good old muscle power.
Cutting, drilling and fishplating the joints were the first tasks for Sunday, followed by kango- packing the concrete sleepers then replacement of the hardcore fill in the crossing itself. To preclude settlement under forestry traffic, the fill was compacted using a vibrating plate. As the work drew to a close, Duncan fired- up the wee Ruston for a test run over the newly laid track and the headshunt: the first train movement over Whitrope Summit since the final demolition trains of 1971, a gap of 42 years!
As already stated, the installation of the switches and crossing nose (to complete the crossover) is planned for May, followed in June by what’s already been dubbed “Big Shunt”. The Fowler shunter and the Mk2f BSO will be the new residents at the south (compound) end of the Stock Siding, well placed for ongoing restoration work, while the two heritage centre coaches will take their (temporary) place at the north end, opposite their current position on the running line.
The P.Way department continues to deliver its considerable workload, and welcomes all assistance, both physical and financial.