Winter Works for Heritage Lines Underway in the Annual Closed Period

Published on 28th February 2012

A Roundup

Here is a roundup of this winter’s heritage railways’ major infrastructure projects around the country which can only take place when no passenger trains are running.

South Devon Bridge Renewal and Relaying

The South Devon Railway was severed for a month while a £50,000 renewal of South Port Leat Bridge was undertaken by contractors. The project commenced on January 9 after the track over the 140-year old original SDR bridge was lifted. The work included removal of the deck and changing a beam. The structure was shot blasted and repainted, with appropriate protection of the water course to avoid any contamination.

An additional complication surrounded there being no road access to the work site. A locomotive was based at Staverton, enabling delivery of all materials to the work location by rail.

The bridge works were officially signed off as completed on February 8 with track reinstated in time for the SDR to reopen on February 11.

While the bridge works were in progress, the SDR also set about relaying the half to three quarters of a mile section of line from Nursery Pool Bridge, round Caderford curve and along Stretchford straight.

SVR Completes Bewdley Tunnel Project

The Severn Valley Railway was severed from January 3 through to early February while a £250,000 renovation project of Bewdley Tunnel, which included lifting track through the 480yd bore, was undertaken.

The work meant the SVR did not actually run any trains on the day of the 150th anniversary of the first SVR train, which ran on February 1 1862. Although it turned out to be tight, the line was reconnected for the resumption of operations on February 11 to cover the schools’ half-term holiday period, February 11-19. Engineering possessions continue between February 20 and March 16 to enable completion of all aspects of the project prior to the SVR’s Spring Steam Gala.

This project means the SVR has spent £1.5 million over the last three and a half years on infrastructure renewals.

Rebuilt Paignton Queens Park Station Heading for Launch

Dartmouth Steam Railway & River Boat Company’s reconstructed Queens Park station in Paignton is due to open on March 31. The £1.2 million redevelopment project has encompassed demolition of the old building. The foundations and steel frame for the new structure were in place at the beginning of February.

Described by the DSR&RBC general manager, Andrew Pooley, as being, “a modern interpretation of a Great Western Railway station but it won’t look entirely like the GWR,” the new station incorporates water saving devices, movement sensors, air source heat pumps, super insulated cladding and roofing panels, sun tubes and patent glazed canopy’s. Local building firms have been employed as much as possible with materials arriving by rail rather than road.

NYMR Replaces Bridge at Pickering

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway’s major winter project has been replacement of Bridge 7 (Mill Race Bridge) at Pickering. A new concrete deck is being cast in situ by contractors while the water beneath is diverted through pipes. The new deck has troughs for the rails, which are held in position by glue (!) supplied from The Netherlands.

Associated with the new bridge arrangement, the curvature of the track is being eased from seven to ten chains radius. This removes the need for check rails, but does mean adjacent platform coping requires modifications. The old bridge has been sold for scrap.

New Building for Elsecar Heritage Railway

The Elsecar Heritage Railway is erecting a new building on the platform of Elsecar station to accommodate an improved ticket office, buffet counter and waiting room. When completed, the old booking office will be converted into a toilet block.

At the far end of its line, trackbed on the route of the planned Cortonwood extension is being cleared by Trans Pennine Trail rangers. This is being undertaken in exchange for the railway agreeing to the trackbed being used as a temporary alternative route by walkers while the adjacent trail is resurfaced.

North Norfolk and Swanage Renew Station Track

The North Norfolk Railway’s big winter project at Sheringham station commenced in mid-January. This involves major renewal of both platform roads, which dated from the 1940s, and was undertaken by contractors and volunteers. The track was lifted, old ballast and clay excavated, new drainage pipes installed, around 250 sleepers were changed and new ballast dropped. The existing rails were in good condition and reused with the project being completed for half-term week services commencing on February 11.

The Swanage Railway also undertook major trackbed works at its terminus station. An eight-week, £100,000 project, aimed at reconstructing the drainage systems at Swanage station involved lifting all tracks, digging out the underlying clay (and existing drainage) to a depth of up to six feet in order to lay a modern drainage system. The railway was maintaining a weekend DMU service between Norden and Corfe Castle until February 26 with steam services over the full line to resume on March 3.

Toddington Loco Shed Extension

Construction of an extension to the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway’s David Page locomotive shed at Toddington commenced in early February. The extension will add another two roads to the existing four-road building, the extra space being for the use of G-WR based diesels, in effect replacing the old corrugated iron ‘Dowty Shed’ in Toddington yard. The shed work is privately funded, the railway’s own efforts being devoted to financing repairs at Chicken Curve – see story below.

Repairs to G-WR’s Chicken Curve Severance Start

More crucial than any winter development project, work to repair the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway’s collapsed Chicken Curve embankment started on February 6. The railway has been severed since a major landslip in January 2011 at the embankment location.

Repairs to the embankment, just north of Winchcombe station, are going to cost £670,000 with finance coming from the line’s Emergency Appeal which aimed to bring in £1m. As the project commenced, the G-WR launched a ‘Last Push’ effort to raise the £170,000 to complete the work. Contributions can be made as donations or by purchasing shares, see

The repairs are expected to take about four months with the G-WR aiming to be a complete line again in September. However, to avoid making a radical change to its timetable that late in the season the railway will continue to be operated in two parts. The Toddington-based DMU service will be extended to Winchcombe where passengers will change to a steam service operating between Winchcombe and Cheltenham.

Bridges Accelerate Rother Valley Revival

The day when trains return to the Rother Valley Railway between Robertsbridge and Bodiam (the terminus of the Kent & East Sussex Railway) has taken five big steps closer.

Four of the five replacement bridge spans required at the Robertsbridge end of the RVR trackbed were craned into position on February 1. The fifth should be in place by the end of March. The ‘new’ spans (actually 1904 bridges recovered from the main line near Staplehurst which became redundant when the route was upgraded to handle Eurostars) have been professionally restored following their purchase by an RVR supporter.

With the bridges in place, RVR expects to lay track between Robertsbridge and Northbridge Street in April. Point work for a new layout at RVR’s Robertsbridge base should be completed by Easter, followed by a start on constructing a new five-coach platform and station terminus. Work on the latter will continue into 2013.

RVR says it is in the process of securing the crucial level crossing approvals required to cross the A21 (to link Robertsbridge station to the rest of the trackbed) and Junction Road (B2244) to connect the line to the already revived section of RVR between Junction Road and Bodiam.


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