Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Bala Lake 2013: Track Gang...

Hello guys. After a good meal at the Eagles last night, myself & Eddie joined the Bala Lake Track Gang today, which traditionally operates on a Wednesday. We arose at the normal time and began preparing the P-Way train. Rob & Bruce built a rail vehicle, known to many as "The Thing", a year or two ago. "The Thing" is a 2ft gauge answer to a Wickhams trolley. It has 4 seats, a petrol engine with chain drive to the rear axle, tea making facilities and a tool trolley which tags along behind it. It can carry 4 men along the railway to the designated work point and can then be easily removed from the track using a clever turning device. This device allows it to be placed at the trackside by 3 people relatively easily, with little effort. The line is then clear for trains to operate throughout the day before "The Thing" rejoins the track once passenger operations have ceased, ready for the journey back. It is a nifty bit of kit and is perfect for P-Way work on any scale. Myself & Eddie were very impressed with it! We left the base after the morning cuppa' at 10:30 and proceeded along the line about 3.5 miles to a location in the woods. "The Thing" was then removed from the track and the 4 of us set to unloading the tools. Roy also came to help aboard the first steam run, which past at around 11:35. Roy then got the kettle on...
"Kettles On Lads!"
Today's job was to jack & pack the sleepers. This is done in the same way as it is at Shackerstone, just on a slightly smaller scale. The ballast around the sleeper ends is dug away before a jack is placed beneath the rail, lifting it until the overall rail length is as level as it can be with no dip in any associated joints. Chippings are then tightly packed beneath the sleeper in order to take away the 'slack' if you like. Once you have jacked & packed a good few sleepers the train will approach under caution and will pass over the associated section. The weight of the train will crush down the rail against the chippings ensuring that the track comes level again. The result is checked again once the train has passed before the ballast is shovelled back into its original position. The difference that this task makes is substantial and increases both rail and fishplate life. The general make up of Bala track is rail and fishplate, as standard, but it uses stakes (pins) to hold the rail butt against the sleeper, rather than chairs and keys as is standard gauge practise...
"Job Well Done"
We made good progress during the day and it was a nice feeling to be putting something back into the railway after all the enjoyment we've had on the footplate here. The occasional pass of "Maid Marian" with the service train also meant that we were not completely without a steam fix today! As we were out on the track and trains were running, everyone wore a hi-viz vest as is correct practise. Below, "Maid Marian" passes the track gang with the final train into Bala of the day...
Once "Marian" had passed us again on her way back to base, "The Thing" was quickly re-railed and started off. Then, away we went! "The Thing" chugged happily through the beautiful scenery and, apart from running out of petrol on the bank(!), got us back in good time. It is a great piece of kit and the railway must be grateful for Rob & Bruce having built it...it certainly saves time and promotes the P-Way regime. Well, its off to the Eagles again..."Pint Please Barman...and a Coke for Eddie". Cheers guys, Sam...

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