Monday 6th November 2017

Now that trains stopped running last Tuesday, work was able to be started on relaying the track between bridges 12 and 13 on Levisham straight near Farworth. This is the southern part of the straight we relaid a few years ago from Levisham station 2 Points to short of bridge 13. The present section was relaid many years ago and was mostly softwood sleepers with bullhead rails. The short section just south of bridge 13 was bullhead on E type concrete sleepers. The wooden sleepers were poor with the chairs indenting into the wood and the chair screws were also loose allowing the chairs to move about under load from trains. So after careful consideration, we decided the most cost effective option was to completely relay rather than re-sleeper.

Bridges 12 and 13 are waybeam bridges with some extra strengthening cross girders we put in more years ago than I care to remember. We have some original drawings for these bridges dated 1894 and there is some doubt whether they were second-hand when put in. I think they were included in the list of bridges altered or strengthened in the 1908 works on the Whitby Branch that included bridge 27, 25 and 24 at Goathland which are the subject of the Heritage Lottery Fund appeal. Photo A illustrates bridge 12 with B showing bridge 13 without track to the south.

The formation in this section of Newtondale is interesting with underground streams and the whole area around Farworth being quite wet. I think it is due to the natural strata that slopes down from the Whitby area when a large mound was formed there in glacial times. These strata sub-crop thus allowing the natural underground water to come up to the surface. (You can tell I did geology!)

To prepare for the relay, Martyn and the P Way gang were loading up the old track for disposal via New Bridge they came across a long straight crack in the former second track formation. This is about 2 lengths (120 ft or 35 metres) long and about 10” or 300mm wide. You can see in photo C, Jim standing in it.

At this point in my dialogue I am tempted to ask why is it that boys (of all ages) have to stand in holes and puddles? Anyway, back to the relay, when Norman and Martyn wanted to push something in to probe the depth of the crack they didn’t use Jim but a crowbar as seen in D. 

The crack is up to about 4ft or 1.2 metres deep in places. We don’t know what caused it as the ground on either side of it is level and the side embankment doesn’t show any significant bulges which we would expect. We first of all thought it was a new crack but it could have been there for some time and was only exposed when Pete flailed the vegetation. Certainly yesterday it wasn’t any different but was now having the excavator running over it as seen in E.

We will put a line of survey pegs in to monitor any movement in the future. The bank alongside has some interesting plants growing but don’t ask me what they are though! All I know is we cannot disturb them. 

Anyway back to the main purpose of the work; relaying the track. By the time you read this the old track will be all lifted up with the chaired sleepers going back to New Bridge for stripping and disposal. The ballast in the track bed will be regraded to provide a level bed for the new steel sleepers to be laid on. One of the advantages of steel sleepers is that they can work very well on smaller depths of ballast provided it is graded level. The new flat bottom rails will then be laid on them and the joints welded up. With steel sleepers you have to have either all joints welded or wooden sleepers at each joint which of course isn’t an economic option. So we will weld all the joints to have Continuous Welded Rail (CWR), but this has to be stressed and requires adjustment switches, known as breathers, at each end. As bridges 12 and 13 have timber waybeams we cannot take the CWR over them as it would produce a discontinuity, so this will be a section of about 5/8mile for now until the bridges are replaced allowing ballasted track over them. When this is done sometime in the future and the track back to Kingthorpe is also relaid we can move the breathers and have a much longer length of CWR. 

Photos F and G show the track being uplifted yesterday with H showing the freshly repainted 08 shunter, very posh! 

We also have a degree of competition between groups of volunteers each claiming the record for the number of lengths of track lifted in a day. Not taking sides but they range between 8 ½ and 9, both of which are fantastic.  Let’s see what happens when they start relaying with the steel sleepers where the record was 301 laid in a single day in January 2015 at Beckhole. For anybody reading this from other heritage railways, bet you cannot match our rates of relaying! And to a very high standard which reflects great credit on all our staff and volunteers. It gives me enormous pleasure to watch them all doing it, especially as I seem to have left my gloves behind yet again!

That’s all for now, next time more on the relay, renewing the platform copes at Goathland and some of the S&T, that is if I can find them when I have a camera with me. Trust me I will now be inundated with photos from them!

Nigel Trotter
NYMR Civil Engineer

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