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Phase IIA: Construction News

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John Barton, L&BR Construction Design Group Lead, sends us the latest news regarding the Phase IIa reconstruction

Please do not feel tempted to visit the construction site.

Bridges 54 and 55 – Progress Report Saturday 12th October 2019

This report covers a two week period.  The first photo taken on Friday 4th October below shows the stonework at Bridge 55 nearing completion:


1. 4th October - Bridge 55 progress.

This second taken on Saturday 12th October shows Bridge 54 with stonework to the Barnstaple abutment complete and the Lynton side approximately 50 percent complete.

2. 12th October - Bridge 54 stonework nearing completion.

John Barton 13th Oct 2019

11th October - with no report last week - John Barton was away from the internet this week - here is the man himself talking about the bridges.

With thanks to Trevor Garnham

Bridges 54 and 55 – Progress Report Friday 27th September 2019

This week, heavy rain and wind has severely hampered progress and most days the ground has been too soft to allow use of heavy machinery. Nevertheless, steady progress has continued on the stone facings with the masons working under a gazebo erected over their workplace. The restored face of the Barnstaple abutment looks superb and after a few seasons the new work will weather to blend seamlessly with the original.

1. Masons gazebo at Bridge 54.

2. Paul and 3. Ralf from Rural Stonework & Landscapes Ltd showing details of their work.

4. Reconstructed Barnstaple abutment at Bridge 54.

John Barton 2nd Oct 2019

Bridges 54 and 55 – Progress Report Friday 20th September 2019

Dry and sunny conditions returned to North Devon this week and the concrete deck of Bridge 55 was cast on Monday.

We now have two substantially completed new bridges. When the concrete at both bridges has cured sufficiently a waterproofing membrane and protective sheet will be applied. This will be followed by a layer of ballast leaving the bridges ready for track laying in the future.

The main task outstanding is to complete the stone facing to the concrete. This has now commenced on Bridge 54, but it is a slow process because each stone is individually selected for size and fit. Care being taken to search for the original quoin stones which have a dressed edge detail that can be seen in the photo below.

1. Bridge 54 - South side of Barnstaple wing wall.

Where the walls will be masked by reinstated soil, common concrete blocks are being used as they are much quicker to lay - leaving the valuable quoins for where these will be seen. In photo 2 below, you can just make out the end of a blue spray line representing the future finished ground level.

2. Bridge 54 - North side Barnstaple wing wall.

A number of small maintenance projects have been identified whist this project has been progressing. One such project can be seen in the photo below showing the approach to Bridge 55. At the base of the embankment there is a dry-stone-wall that stands approximately 3 feet high.  This is a very characteristic detail of the railway that can be seen at many locations along the line. However, years of neglect have resulted in a number of localised collapses and these will need to be rebuilt when funds and labour are available.

3. Bridge 55 Showing a future dry-stone-wall renovation project.

John Barton 20th Sept 2019

Bridges 54 and 55 – Progress Report Friday 13th September 2019

The beginning of this week was very wet slowing down construction progress but by Thursday there was an improvement in conditions and the deck slab of Bridge 54 was cast. 

A scaffold has been erected to enable the stone facing of the Barnstaple abutment to be made good.  Masons from Rural Stonework & Landscapes Ltd of Barnstaple have been on site since Thursday sorting through the original stones that were taken down and set aside for reuse.  Suitable pieces are being selected and cut to the required thickness using a large diamond saw in preparation for stone laying which is due to commence next week.

1. Bridge 54 in brilliant sunshine with deck cast and access scaffold installed for stone laying.

The access route along the trackbed to Bridge 55 is almost impassable due to softening from the heavy rain. You can see how rutted it has become in the photo below. However, Bridge 55 deck steelwork, reinforcement and shutters have been fixed ready for concrete on Monday by which time the good weather forecast this weekend should enable the track bed to dry out sufficiently to enable access once again.

2. Bridge 55 looking towards Wistlandpound. ready for concrete on Monday.

John Barton 13th Sept 2019

Bridges 54 and 55 – Progress Report Friday 6th September 2019

The site of Bridge 54 has seen quite a few changes this week.  All of the formwork has been removed and most of the soil that had been placed to enable access has been dug out from Pound Lane.  Steel deck beams and parapet handrails have been fitted and reinforcement to the deck slab is 90% complete. Masons are due to start laying stone facing to the abutments next week.

1. Bridge 54 – Looking south, up Pound Lane towards Wistlandpound Reservoir.

2. At Bridge 54 LBRT bridge engineer John Sreeves checks construction quality.

At Bridge 55 shutters and reinforcement for the bearing beams were being fixed ready for concrete due for delivery late in the afternoon.  Erection of deck steelwork will commence here on Monday.

3. Bridge 55 showing the bearing beams shuttered and awaiting concrete.

John Barton 07 Sept 2019

Bridges 54 and 55 – Progress Report Friday 30th August 2019

At Bridge 54 shuttering and reinforcement to the bearing beams has been fixed ready for concrete due for delivery this afternoon. The beams are designed to overhang the front face of the abutments so that the natural stone facing may be constructed after the bridge deck is in place. This is to minimise any delay in the construction process.

1. Bridge No.54. Bearing beams in place ready for concrete.

Meanwhile down the line at Bridge 55 a scaffold has been erected to enable access to the tops of the existing abutments.

2. Bridge No.55 with access scaffold in place

John Barton 01 Sept 2019

Bridges 54 and 55 – Progress Report Thursday 22nd August 2019

The steel beams and handrails for both bridge decks were delivered this morning. They were off-loaded at the site entrance and laid down next to prefabricated reinforcement cages for the bearing beams. in the day these components were transporting to the construction areas using the tracked excavator. The photos below show the shallow deck beams, deep edge beams and handrails.

1. Bridge 55 beams in foreground and Bridge 54 beams beyond.

Mass concrete work on each side of Bridge 54 is now up to level ready for the bearing beams to be formed. The bridleway is now completely infilled with soil enabling safe access at this stage of the work.

2. Bridge 54 ready for bearing beams.

Further work has also been undertaken at Bridge 55 where the old abutments have been reduced in level ready to accept the concrete bearing-beams that will support the new deck. The existing stonework is generally in very good condition but near to the top of the abutment some stones have been loosened by penetrating ivy roots. A scaffold will be erected so that this can be cleared away and the masonry made good.

3. Bridge 55 – localised ivy root damage

John Barton 23 August 2019

Bridges 54 and 55 – Progress Report Thursday 15th August 2019

Despite further very unsettled wet weather this past week, construction of the mass concrete work to the Lynton abutment is almost finished. Just the tops to the wing walls await further concrete to bring them up to embankment profile. The central abutment section is up to level ready to receive shuttering for a 400mm deep reinforced concrete bearing beam that will support the bridge deck.

1. Lynton abutment mass concrete nearing completion

The soil in front of the abutment in photo 1 is there to enable construction access. When the concrete and shuttering work is complete this soil will be removed and the lane will be returned to its original profile.  All of the exposed concrete will then be faced with stone masonry using reclaimed material from the original construction. If additional stone is required, this is available from Hanson’s quarry at Brayford.

The view from Pound lane has changed significantly since the Thursday Gang cut the first sod on 13th July.  Compare this weeks photo with Roger Bye's from his report of 13th July.

2. The view looking up Pound Lane 15th August.

3. The same view taken on 13th July.

John Barton 16th August 2019

Bridges 54 and 55 – Progress Report Thursday 8th August 2019

Short report this week as the majority of work has been concentrated on raisng the height of the Lynton abutment and wing walls in between bouts of heavy rain.

1. Looking towards Wistlandpound, with the new Lynton Abutment with shutters being set for the afternoon concrete pour.

The central portion is now level with the Barnstaple side with just one more lift aproximately 500mm high required on each side before the reinforced concrete bearing plinths can be formed that will support the bridge deck. 

Note how the front face of each wing wall is set at a 1 in 12 batter similar to the form of the original bridges.

John Barton 10th August 2019

Bridges 54 and 55 Progress Report Thursday 1st August 2019

Steady progress has been made at Bridge 54 despite some intermittent rain.  Mass concrete strengthening to the original stonework of the Barnstaple abutment has been cast to the level of the retained stones, and the new abutment and wingwalls to the Barnstaple side are also progressing well.  These are being cast in sections with concreting operations timed to avoid the worst of the rain.  Land drains have been placed behind and through both abutments.

1. The structure of Bridge 54 emerging from the ground.

2. The Barnstaple abutment. The retained original stonework of the Barnstaple abutment is now fully backed with concrete. The abutment has to be raised a further 500mm and then a reinforced concrete bearing pad will be cast to support the deck structure. To the right a new foundation for the wing wall can just be seen. This will be rebuilt by stone-masons using the original stones.

3. Looking down onto the new Lynton abutment and wingwalls from the Barnstaple abutment

Off-site, Stoneman Engineering have completed their fabrication drawings for the deck steelwork of both bridges and the various components are now being manufactured in their workshop at Willand.  After cutting, drilling and welding is complete all steel items will be hot dip galvanised at Cardiff Galvanisers prior to delivery to site.

John Barton 1st August 2019

Bridges 54 and 55 – Progress Report Tuesday 23rd July 2019

1. Behind the existing Barnstaple abutment, foundations have been dug and backfilled with concrete ready to receive strengthening concrete.

2. On the Lynton side the weak remnant stonework has been removed and a new concrete foundation pad cast ready for setting out and construction of the new abutment and wing walls.

Concrete is delivered to site in 15 Tonne loads in ready-mix trucks from Barnstaple. 

3. The ready-mix trucks back into the site compound and discharge their load into a 4 wheel drive dumper which then transport the concrete to the construction area for placement using the 32 tonne excavator.

The mass concrete abutments and wing walls will be shuttered and built up in stages over the next 2 weeks. Facing stonework will be added after the mass concrete work is complete

4. Loose stonework removed from the Barnstaple abutment stockpiled ready for sorting and re-use when the masons arrive.

John Barton 24th July 2019

Bridges 54 and 55: After a material start was made on 14th June, here is a progress report from Monday 15th July 2019

1. Our Civil Engineering contractor I&H Brown of Exeter have now established their site facilities within a secure compound close to the entrance to Pound Lane just opposite the Calvert Trust.

A temporary diversion of the bridleway has been set up as agreed with Devon County Council’s Public Rights of Way Officer and fencing has been erected to ensure the safety of Calvert Trust’s horses. 

2. A seasonal stream that has discharged into Pound Lane for years (since the abutment was destroyed) has now been diverted along a shallow ditch back through the original culvert in the railway embankment.

3. A tree stump has been removed from behind the existing Barnstaple abutment of Bridge 54 and loose, cracked stonework taken down and set aside for reuse in the reconstruction. The lower section of the abutment is in good condition and will be retained and strengthened by adding additional backing concrete.

4. The initial work undertaken by the Thursday gang to expose the original foundations to the Lynton abutment has now been completed with the aid of a 32 tonne excavator.  Unfortunately, the remnant foundation is in poor condition with loose stones and severely eroded mortar.  This will be removed and the stones set aside for sorting and reuse in the new abutment.

Devon County Council have an approval role at Bridge 54 because it crosses over a public bridleway. A joint inspection of the excavations was carried out on Monday 15th July by our bridge designer John Sreeves and Devon County Council’s inspector Steve Spicer. The excavation formations were approved and reconstruction can proceed.

Meanwhile at Bridge 55

5. The old bridge deck has been removed in sections.  The original steel beams are still in reasonable condition and will be retained for future use.  The concrete will be further broken down for use as fill to make up eroded ground levels between the abutments and to provide added protection to the bridge foundations. The deck appears to have been reinforced with lengths of old rail. When the concrete has been removed it will be interesting to see if this is original Lynton and Barnstaple rail.

6. Bridge 55 awaits its new deck.

Meanwhile off site, I&H Brown have appointed Stoneman Engineering of Willand near Cullompton to fabricate steelwork for the new bridge deck structures. Materials have been ordered and fabrication drawings are in preparation.

Words and photos John Barton

17th July 2019

June 16th

It begins!

The Lynton & Barnstaple Railway Trust has obtained a section 73 approval to commence work on Bridge No.s 54 & 55. The approval was issued on Friday 14th June at 14.50. With the granting of the section 73 approval we are able to proceed with specified work in advance of resolving a number of planning conditions. This work was intended to commence well before these dates but various problems arose including contractor difficulties which disrupted progress and as can be seen the granting of the application went right down to the wire. Fortunately, we had made prior arrangements and so a ‘material start’ was made with excavation work, site clearance, erection of site fencing and signs soon after.

Roger Bye has sent us these photos together with a report of work that was undertaken at Bridge No.54 - the "cutting of the first sod" of the L&B extension.

1.2 & 3. Some of the Thursday Gang trekked to the site of bridge 54 on the track bed near Wistlandpound. Although the abutment on the Barnstaple side is recognisable, that on the Lynton side had been demolished. Armed with picks, mattocks and shovels the Gang started to uncover the remainings of the stone abutment on the Lynton side. Please note that Steve has not been skewered with a crowbar - it is just an optical illusion!

4. 5. & 6. Not too far down, the line of the stonework emerges from the soil, the corners and face of the angled abutment are clearly discernable.

7. After making the site safe the Gang posed between the abutments before wending their way back with the tools to the vehicles and a well earned lunch! "One small step for the L&B, one hard morning's work for the Thursday gang"!

Our contractor I&H Brown Ltd of Exeter, have also made a start and hopefully will complete reconstruction of Bridge No.s 54 & 55 by late August.

The work entails reconstructing Bridge No. 54, where the northern abutment was demolished and removing and replacing the concrete deck of Bridge No.55 with associated repair works. Further work to follow will include reinstating the embankment to Bridge No.54 and fencing all the trackbed owned by the L&BR.

Altogether a very significant step in the rebuilding of the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway.

Peter Miles L&BR Chairman

PS: If you need a reminder of the section of railway under discussion please CLICK THIS LINK


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