February 2018 Working Weekends

The track gang held two very successful working weekends in February, the first was held on the 10th & 11th February and the second on the 17th & 18th. The weather wasn’t particular kind on the first of these with rain all day on the Saturday, followed by a cold but dry day on the Sunday with even a few flakes of snow in the afternoon.
Numbers were again bolstered over both weekends with a small number of new working volunteers plus volunteers from Mott Macdonald, both old and new, to swell the numbers to approx. 16 on the first weekend and approximately 20 on the second.

On the first weekend, the working party split into three groups, one group concentrating on the Hunt Crossing, another on jacking and packing of the extension and a third small group commencing the work to install a number of the fence posts.

The group working on the Hunt Crossing re-positioned a number of the concrete sleepers in order to move them closer together to support the Strall crossing mats. The work at this location also included digging one of the deep holes – approx. 3 ft – into which the metal hanging post for the crossing gate will be concreted in.

The second group concentrated on jacking and packing a number of  panels up to and just beyond the ¾ mile marker post ready for passenger train operation in March. For the time being this will be the new limit of passenger operations until the remaining ¼ mile is completed later this year. This group also dropped the remaining 20 tons of ballast just beyond the ¾ mile marker and started lifting the track here. Although more lifting and ballasting will be required to bring this stretch of the extension up to passenger train standard.

The third group commenced the task of installing the straining post and a small number of the intermediary posts into the ground. This work is challenging as the ground is compacted ballast and it’s extremely difficult to undertake any kind of digging in the hard surface.

For the second working weekend the weather was kinder with dry weather over both days and less windy than the previous Sunday. Again three groups tackled the Hunt Crossing, a small amount of slewing, jacking and packing and fencing. The decision was made to widen the Hunt Crossing, with additional Strall crossing mats at one end to increase the overall width of the crossing to users. Once the gates are in place – planned for installation over the next couple of weeks - then the crossing will be complete.

The group focussing on the permanent way slewed one of the panels just to the north of the Hunt Crossing and lifted the line by a few inches to level it off. The main effort on the second weekend was the installation of the fence post. Three straining posts were installed and over 40 intermediary post – every 10 feet – along the part of the extension.

Overall the two weekends were a great success with a lot of progress made. There is however still much to do in order to get this section of the line ready for running when the Jinty visits in March. All of the fence wires still need to be strung up and fastened, the crossing gate posts concreted in and the gates hung. There is probably also some further ‘fettling’ of the permanent way in order to ensure as smooth a ride as possible for passengers when the trains are running.

Plans are in the early stages for further working weekends this year, one is being planned which will focus on the station area. This will likely include a general tidying up, painting and cleaning of some areas in order to present a smarter appearance of the station area to visitors. If wielding a paint brush is more your thing than a pick or shovel, then why not keep an eye out on the website news and come along when the Station spruce up weekend takes place.

With still much work to be done later this year to complete the final ¼ mile of the extension, further working weekends will be planned when we can complete the track laying on our current extension and open it to the general public.

Finally a big thank you to all those who attended over the four days, it was great to see you all and thanks for your assistance. See you at the next one.

Published By:

Somerset & Dorset Railway Heritage Trust 9th March, 2018

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