Friday 16th June 2017

Work in all forms continues all over the railway including at Whitby with some interesting and some surprising. 

For example, I am sure you know about bogs and George Stephenson, but just in case I am going to tell you anyway. When George was building the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830, he came across Chat Moss which is a very wet bog, as bogs tend to be. Now in the early 1800’s earthmoving was only by horse and cart or man and wheelbarrow. In fact, it was usually easier and cheaper to build a bridge than move spoil about. So at Chat Moss he bundled up heather and twigs, wrapped them in sheep fleeces and chucked them into the bog where they floated and the railway to this day runs over them with, shall we say a degree of bounce (who said bouncy castles were a new idea?). Having track walked it, I can confirm that it does move about when trains run over.

So with this success in his pocket, when he came to build the Whitby and Pickering Railway 5 years later he did the same thing at Fen Bog. As I wasn’t on site when he did Fen Bog I cannot say exactly what he did. But when they cut into the hillside at the northern end where Summit Signalbox used to be, I think they carted the spoil over what is now the Lyke Wake Walk foot crossing and tipped it into the bog. But when they ran out of spoil they then used the sheep fleece and heather system. So basically the southern end of the bog floats and the northern end is solid. Of course where they change we have a continuing problem with the track, which we mitigate by tipping ballast and tamping the track.

Now Fen Bog is a nationally important site and is a Special Area of Conservation which is currently being surveyed for an eco-hydrological investigation by experts. On Tuesday I went with them and inflicted on them my version of what George did all those years ago. I must say they were very polite and listened to me before disappearing into the more remote parts of the bog to measure ph. Values, drainage flows and other things. I am used to people walking away and stifling yawns, but not disappearing into a bog! Their results will be some time before being available but hopefully they will help us determine what to do, if anything, with the track across the bog.

Photo A shows the area where the solid changes to floaty; you can see where the track top isn’t very good. There used to be a wooden P Way hut here on the right, but it met its match with some sparks from a steam engine a few years ago.

The view in photo B is the “solid” section from Lyke Wake Walk.

For several years we have been trying to resolve with Network Rail the issue of fitting derailers in Bog Hall Sidings at Whitby. There is a perceived problem with bullhead rail derailers which were recommended originally by Network Rail but then became “Not Approved”. With a change in leadership, I was able to photo work taking place in changing just a short length of each siding from bullhead to flatbottom ready to fit the new derailers in a few weeks’ time.

Photos C and D (above) show the work in progress with E and F (below) showing the spot re-sleepering of the rest of the sidings. Hopefully they will then be brought back into use.

Our S&T have been worrying about the bolts holding the rails in to double slip at Grosmont for some time. Being old they wouldn’t tighten up fully causing problems with the switch detection. So the answer is to muckle it! Normal bolts with a fixed head makes changing the bolts very difficult with the switch blades and all sorts of signalling stuff needing to be removed just to get the bolt out and a new one back in. But a muckle bolt has a slotted head as seen on the left in photo G with the burnt off normal bolt on the right.

So with a group of volunteers, Craig was able to change a number of the old bolts as seen in H and I.

By the way, you can see Network Rail staff across their line doing something with stone, but not sure what. Will have to go and have a nosey!

And just to complete a varied couple of weeks, I am working out the clearances for an HST that is coming to the NYMR in July. With a Mk3 HST coach being 75ft long the throws on curves need to be confirmed but more on this next time.

Nigel Trotter
NYMR Civil Engineer

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