Thursday, 4 February 2010

Trackwork and Gallopers update

Track maintenance
Today's visit was to help do some work on the track. When the main season finishes at the end of October there is a five month window to do any track maintenance before things open again fully towards the end of March. Obviously this work needs planning around the Christmas and February half-term opening as some trains do run for these events.


Cranks that have been tested
Track days are organised for Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, with the latter being most popular with volunteers. Since I had arrived well before the start time of 09:00 I popped into the Locomotive shed to see what had been happening with The Gallopers since my induction day visit last year. Neatly lined up on a pallet were the cranks that I had helped to clean and polish, but this time sporting dabs of white paint - must be something to do with being tested I thought to myself.

Pins neatly stacked and colour-coded
All around them were pallets loaded with various other components that had been stripped down, cleaned, checked and painted. It will be interesting to watch it all being reassembled towards the end of March, and something that I hope to be able to arrange. Watch this space.

Brian paints the steps
Further round near the stationary and beam engines Brian was busy painting the platforms. Each one is stripped back and receives two coats of undercoat and either two or three topcoats depending on the amount of wear it receives. This year's colours are more in keeping with the original - biscuit and red for the steps which matches the base colour for the horses and the rounding boards at the top. The platforms are bright yellow and red. In total there are twelve to be done and Brian tells me that this one he's nearly finished painting will be the sixth to be completed.

This year's colours
I take the opportunity to ask about the white paint on the cranks (and other components like hooks). When tested for stress the white paint is used as part of the process and helps to indicate if there are any fractures or other faults. The good news is that testing so far has gone well.

An artist's "tools"

Painstaking detail on Oscar
With half an hour still to go Brian suggests that I might like to have a look at the Horses' Beauty Parlour. This is where the horses come (having been repaired at the Horsepital) to have their intricate paintwork applied. There are probably thirty or more different tins of paint stacked on shelves, and when you look closely you can see just how detailed the paintwork is. Little wonder that it takes around a month to fully refurbish a single horse. Are you artistic? Would you like to help keep the horses (and ostriches and cockerels) looking resplendent? Then give Bressingham a call and find out more about volunteering. Oscar would be very grateful next time he needs a nip and tuck!


Straightening bends with a jim crow
Back at the volunteers' Portakabin Dick, Christine and Carl have arrived. Today's work in on the 15" Waveney Valley line, so Dick fires up Bo Bo the little diesel locomotive, and with some help from Carl, couples up two wagons containing various tools and ballast. The three of us jump aboard to travel three quarters of the way round to where the work has been started. The reason for going the long way round is because the passenger cars have been left just before the arrivals platform and are in the way. Just after where the Waveney Valley and Nursery lines cross there is a long bed of freshly laid ballast where the Nursery Line should be - the track team have been very busy the past few weeks and there is still plenty more to be done. The 100' section that we are working on today is being leveled out as there are several dips which have been causing problems with the axle bearings on Rosenkavalier. Previous work had been done to dig out and remove the track, level out the track bed, re-lay the sleepers (replacing as necessary) and pin one rail in place. Today we would be finishing off.  The first task was to straighten out a few slight bends in the unpinned rail with a jim crow.

Gauging and pinning

Loading ballast
Once the rail is straightened the job of gauging and pinning can begin. The gauge tool is placed across the two rails to get the correct spacing and then the pins are driven into the sleepers to secure the rail. Hammering large pins into solid sleepers certainly warms you up on a cold morning. Shortly after we start, Chris the Site Manager arrives on foot and I leave Dick and Carl to finish off the pinning whilst I help Chris to lay some ballast around the sleepers. The timing is perfect: as Dick and Carl finish their pinning, we use up the last of the ballast and it's also elevenses time. Dick drives us all back to the Portakabin where Christine has the kettle waiting. After a drink and mince pies Chris fills the wagon with more ballast.

Jacking and leveling the track
With around three tons of ballast on board we head back down the line. With the track pinned in place it now needs to be leveled. As we move along the newly laid track, Chris and Dick jack it up where necessary so that it's level and we all shovel ballast in between the sleepers and tamp it down so that where there is space under the sleepers it gets filled to provide a secure base. Dick takes great delight in telling me that the likes of Network Rail have a big machine to do all of this hard work - then again standard gauge is somewhat heavier! With three tons of ballast in place it is time for lunch, and this time Christine has bacon rolls waiting.

Finished section of track (approx 100 feet)
After lunch Chris loads up another three tons of ballast and we are joined by John a new volunteer fresh from his induction. It doesn't take long to lay all of the remaining ballast and level up the remaining track. Before departing, Dick drives little Bo Bo and its wagons over the new track for a test - much better and well worth all of the hard work.


  1. What a fabulous post - no wonder you enjoy your volunteering time so much, bet you wish you could do more days like that (great photos too!)

  2. Thanks BilboWaggins. You are right - it's very enjoyable and all the people I've met so far are really nice.


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