The track relay at Esk Valley has progressed very well and is now almost complete being stressed today and scrubbed up tomorrow ready for moving our coaches from Pickering to Grosmont and from Grosmont to Pickering. It’s an annual procedure that has happened ever since I started on the railway. Perhaps one day we will have everything exactly where we want it, but I am not holding my breath!

Last time I said we were well past the access point so that Haigh Rail could get access to complete all the joint welding. They did so and today are undoing things – fun isn’t it? I will explain in a minute.

We arranged with DB Cargo and Network Rail to bring in over 500 tonnes of stone ballast using the Autoballasters seen arriving at the Northern end of the site in A with Martyn and the operators getting ready to tip – nice track alignment in the picture! The train was hauled by DBC’s Class with our Steve and Jim conducting their driver. The way we work is that the Class 66 brings the train from Doncaster and propels it into platform 2 at Grosmont before running round and then pulling the train up the hill. To bring it back down again our mighty air braked Class 08 driven by Chris is seen below.

After 3 trips up and down it was all tipped ready for more ballast to be tipped on the next two days and then tamped by John and Duncan with Nick and Bryan using the Regulator. Tipping ballast using traditional hoppers is very hard work especially trying to control the flow of stone using the screw hand wheels. The Autoballaster is controlled by two operators “strolling” alongside with their remote controllers and tipping almost precise amounts where needed. It's no wonder that Nick, Chris and Mark, seen below, as veterans of fighting the hoppers were enjoying the whole business that took well under a couple of hours.

After tamping and regulating, the track was more or less at its final position, as seen below (notice the difference), and I across bridge 37 the viaduct.

Time was taken on Monday to uplift some of the recovered E type sleepers ready for disposal via New Bridge. Our contract digger driver Harry is seen in his cab lifting and Martyn and Mark slinging the loading onto the wagons.

I said earlier that it is all now welded, ballasted and tamped it is time to take it apart. Well today it is being stressed and in preparation Jim and Paul are seen cleaning off around the rail fittings near bridge 39.

When I said that after they had done that, there was another 680 metres to loosen off, they weren’t very polite, so I scarpered out of the way. Now to stress the whole length of 950 metres between the breathers at each end of the relay there is a 135 metre long section at each end next to them that are not stressed so the clips don’t need taking out as they form part of the anchors. 

Today it is being stressed which requires all the clips taking out and rollers fitted to support the rails while they are being pulled. The Stressing Engineer then takes the rail temperatures using special thermometers and calculates the amount of extension needed in the rails to have a stress free temperature of 38 degrees Centigrade. The rails are cut at the marked pulling point, pulled and then clipped up and the two cuts welded up.

When done, Craig will reconnect the insulated joints tail cables and all will be well and ready to run trains on Friday as planned.

Only enough space left to tell you about the renewal of the signal bracket arm on platform 2 at Grosmont. Photos L and M show the work. As the route directly to the MPD via the scissors crossover isn’t possible, as we have never put it in, the signal for this has been left off.

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