Thursday 11th January 2018

First of all, welcome to 2018 and here is the first of my Infrastructure Diaries for the year.

As many of you will have read in December’s Moors Express, work has continued throughout the Christmas and New Year period maintaining and renewing our railway’s track, structures and signalling ready for another busy season including Tornado’s visit in March.

You may recall I said last time that the section of track with Mills clips near to the former Newtondale Signalbox was a problem. Mills clips were an early invention introduced by British Railways when they were changing over from bullhead to flatbottom rail track after the Second World War. As also happened with the rapid changeover from steam to diesel, various firms rushed in and produced a variety of designs for this new market. All the early designs for track fastenings in the UK have now been replaced by standard ones from Pandrol.

The accepted way of establishing that Mills clips were secure and holding the rails in position was to walk past and listen to hear whether they were rattling when trains went by; if they were they were loose. However whenever I walked this section of track I was more concerned about not being run over than listening to rattles! We knew they were poor but, as with many things in life, it is only when you look more closely did we find out how bad they were.  The readily visible parts looked worn, but after over 60 years in various tracks both on the NYMR and previously on BR they were obviously well past their best. When taken out the hidden undersides were almost non-existent and in obvious need of replacement. So our gang of volunteers replaced about 2000 during the Christmas and New Year period with Jim and Alastair seen in photo a doing the work with Bryan behind the camera.

Examples of the old and new clips is seen in B.

As we had to buy a minimum amount we have some for sale, the new ones that is, at a very reasonable price. So if you know of any other heritage railway that has Mills clips put them in touch - and if anybody wants some old ones, please take them away.

You may also recall I said we were going to relay the ½ mile long reverse curves at Northdale starting at the 6 milepost just north of Newtondale Halt. These reverses are similar to those at Kingthorpe we relaid in 2016, but have slightly sharper track curves. With the big steam engines we run on the NYMR, we always have to ensure the track is strong enough to carry them safely. The existing bullhead rails, although not quite at the absolute minimum depth are well worn and carried on E type concrete sleepers which are nearly 70 years old. Although we have a speed of 15mph through these curves their condition has been a concern for some time, so it is time they were renewed. The relaid track will be new flatbottom rails on heavy G44 concrete sleepers spaced at 28 per 60ft length which will ensure a long lasting heavy structure. When fully ballasted, with cants of up to 95mm, we will be able to run through these reverse curves at 25mph.

Martyn and the P Way gang laid out the new rails and concrete sleepers in last year’s autumn and have already uplifted the old track as seen in photo C. In photo D, you can see Peter regrading the existing ballast ready for the new track to be laid, as seen in photo E.

Meanwhile in view F, lonely Chris with his Bob the Builder helmet is digging out the ballast ends of the flatbottom concrete sleepers ready to provide a good run in for the new track.

This section of track is in one of the more remote areas of the railway as seen in view G looking northward from the ends of the relay towards Fen Bog.

The plan is to finish the track laying part of this relay ready for ballasting at the end of this month as there is still plenty to do before we start running trains at February Half Term. Starting on Saturday 20th January, we will be uplifting the section of track between Pickering 6 Pts crossover up to bridge 8. The plan is to relay the 11 lengths in the week including ballasting before going back to ballast and tamping the Northdale reverse curves.

Other work in progress is the replacement of the “temporary” timber platform in platform 1 at Pickering built in 2012 to fill the gap where the stone slab were damaged during the works to renew bridge 7. The new slabs will not be as big as the broken ones but they have been approved by Ryedale Council’s Conservation Officer and I doubt anybody will notice, so please don’t tell anybody. The new slabs came from Richmond station and have been in our store near Helmsley for some years. As part of this work, Construction Marine Ltd are also fitting supports to the rest of the platform slabs to ensure they are safe to carry the crowds of people we hopefully will have in the coming years. Photo H shows the area of the hole with CML staff building the internal underfloor support walls, the cage isn’t to keep them in, but to keep you out while the work is being done!

That’s all for now, more next week.

Nigel Trotter, NYMR Civil Engineer

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