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Work in Progress: 8th November


Roadworks TriangleAll is quiet - almost!

With the main operating season behind us and the railway only open this Sunday and then next Tuesday, the essential maintenance continues.

More sleeper replacement and other odd jobs around the site make up this weeks report from Roger Bye.

1. No steam engines, trains or passengers at Woody Bay today and also, no General Manager as he is away overseas - and not just to the Isle of Wight this time!

2. Despite the apparent abandoned look of Woody Bay, the works train in the platform is evidence that for the Thursday Gang, work goes on.

3. Under grey skies that threatened but never delivered the forecast rain, work is underway on the track near the beech trees.

Over time, rail joints settle due to the repeated impact of the train wheels. The track over Bridge 67 has also settled somewhat, so on Friday last week (a sunnier day) a few of the Thursday Gang worked overtime and joined Alistair, who works for Network Rail, but also volunteers on the L&B, to "jack and pack" part of the line.

4. Here the jacks are seen positioned to raise the track to the required level.

5. As regular readers will know, we usually undertake "jacking and packing" manually but for major sessions we use a tamping attachment on the excavator. The yellow ends of the arms are pushed into the ballast each side of a sleeper and then the ballast is squeezed under the sleeper while vibrating the ballast until the jack can be removed. Using the excavator does enable the work to be done quickly but...

6. & 7. ....the weight of the excavator on the sleepers can "test" the security of the track fastenings and reveal where replacement is needed. Some of this work was tackled today. Armed with the usual array of power and hand tools, Tim, Dave, Dave, Malcolm, Steve, Roger, Jonathan, Nick and Kevin set to work under the eagle eye of Graham.

Sleeper replacement comprises several tasks: clearing the ballast, releasing the clips and plates, removing the old sleeper, replacing the new sleeper, refitting the plates and clips, drilling the sleeper for the screws, driving in the screws and packing the ballast around the sleeper. These tasks are shared amongst the gang - not least because most of the work is physically demanding and none of us are as young as once we were!

8. We usually use a traditional T spanner to drive the two 100 mm (4 inch) screws per plate into the sleeper, as seen in use by Malcolm in the above picture.

9. Today we commissioned a petrol-power impact driver being used by Steve in the above photo. Dave is inserting the screws and giving them a start with a good old-fashioned hammer! The machine reduces the effort and time considerably. Mind you it is good when we stop using the powered equipment and we can once again hear the sounds of the Devon countryside!

10. Other work underway this week included Brandon, Dick and Don working on the lever frame at Rowley Moor...

11. .. and Geoff and Jim (two of the Paint Shop Boys) touching up Carriage No.17

12. Dave was finishing off the insulation of the cabin that will house the water-treatment-plant when it is relocated from the station building early next year.

13. LYN was over the pit (a view not seen by many!) in preparation for its annual boiler inspection next week.

14. LYN's blast pipe and nozzle has been descaled by Dave and the parts repainted ready for refitting. The four larger holes in the nozzle are for the exhaust steam and the four smaller ones are for the blower.

15. Graham and Dave were working on preparing AXE for Remembrance Day duties on Sunday.  Notice the reflection of LYN's number, AXE's coupling gear and the pit safety rails in the immaculate paint-work of this 103 years old engine.

16. Finally Dave called time on the day's efforts by testing the wartime minesweeper bell fitted to AXE for the weekend events.

Words and photos by Roger Bye, apart from 4 & 5 by Chris Shields and 10 by Dave Bloomfield.

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