A Last Look At The BR Tracks!
Even although the 'SAK Bill' had been passed by the Scottish Parliament in July 2004 and was to be fully funded, mainly by the Scottish Executive, I was not expecting work to start immediately on the re-build as it takes time to do the specific design work, sort out the environmental paperwork, do the contractual tendering, and suchlike. And I was right about that! The rest of 2004 went by without much evidence that anything was going to happen soon.
one important environmental factor these days (apparently) is that clearance of
large-scale vegetation has to be done to have minimal effect of local
bird-nesting, and thus a start of sorts was made by the contractors in early
2005 by clearing back vegetation right along the route. Naturally once I heard
about it I took the time to go for a look, and toured the Alloa area on the 13th
March 2005 with my camcorder to see what they had uncovered. The pictures on
this page are stills from that camcorder footage and was, as the title above
suggests, my 'Last Look At The BR Tracks'
1. On the day I went for a look I didn't
have time to look at the line west of Alloa, so this set of pictures
starts with a view down to Alloa West Junction from an overbridge in
Alloa. This view is taken from more or less the same place as the first picture
on my 'SAK History' page, but although the track is visible in both pictures the
effects of 20 years of vegetation growth have messed up the trackbed to
the point where the track looks like it is laid on
earth rather than ballast!
2. A zoom view from the same spot showing Alloa West Junction level-crossing and the remains of one of the signal posts. I don't know why some track is missing here, although as all of it was to be replaced by new track when the re-build got underway it wasn't too big a loss.
3. Still at the same spot but this time looking down to see some of the results of matching chainsaws against the bushes and trees that had choked the cutting in the previous couple of decades. No contest!
4. Looking the other way from the same overbridge again produces a picture similar to a 1980s picture I have included on my 'SAK History' page. Again the trackbed has suffered badly and clearly the drainage gave up a long time ago! Notice also that the bridge parapet has been damaged in the intervening years and then repaired somewhat unsympathetically!
5. Moving down a couple of overbridges this is the view backward from the bridge just west of the site of the former Alloa station. The higher up of the two bridges seen here is the one I took the previous pictures from. On the left is uncleared vegetation where the Alloa Harbour branch diverged and went into a tunnel. Now I think about it, there used to be a school right above the tunnel, although I'm not sure offhand if it is still there now. (Alloa has changed a lot in the last couple of decades, usually when I wasn't looking!)
6. Looking eastward from the other side of the bridge shows that the piece of the trackbed that BR chose to keep at the site of Alloa station follows the line of the westbound track. While the large island platform of Alloa station is gone, the track faithfully follows the shape of it! A picture postcard of a Victorian photograph I got at Alloa library 20-odd years ago shows two coach sidings to the right of this track, but I don't know how early on they were taken out.
7. The same piece of line viewed from the other end in a picture taken from the road bridge that went over the station platforms. The 'Leisure Centre' that now occupies most of the site of the station and it's adjacent goods yard can be seen on the right.
8. Swinging round yet again here is the view eastward from the station bridge. The bridge that carried the Alloa Waggonway across the main line is in the middle of the picture and the reverse bend on the track again hints at the shape of the platform. However this track also had a connection to the Tillicoultry branch whose trackbed can be seen on the left of the picture, so that trains to/from that direction could call at the correct platforms. (No duo-directional running at Alloa station in the steam era!)
9. A closer view of the waggonway bridge, also showing the rotting remains of a small goods platform that probably lost it's track in the 1960s or before - I lived in Alloa until I was nine and never saw track in it.
10. The view from the waggonway bridge, giving a clearer view of the bridge over the station than was possible when the station was open as the forecourt in front of the station building was actually built over the remaining track on this side of the bridge.
11. A closer view of where the track goes under the station bridge. The metal girder supporting this piece of the bridge gives quite a contrast to the purely stone construction of the rest of the bridge, and was probably added when station was re-built in 1885 to increase the capacity and modernize the layout at the time the 'Alloa Railway' was built. It is clear from previous pictures that the waggonway bridge position isn't that well aligned for a track having to go under this piece of bridge, so the rather severe reverse curve here is ultimately the fault of the Caledonian!
12. Looking then other way from the Waggonway bridge it is instantly obvious that the connection to the local brewery has outlasted the brewery itself as the point for it was still there in 2005! The connection once split into two just inside the gate, reduced to one track at a later date but didn't go very far in with correspondingly low wagon capacity (apart from a siding I'll mention in a couple of pictures time).
13. A zoom view from the same spot shows that someone has decided to unfishplate and roll out a rail for some reason - perhaps someone wanted to steal it for scrap and then found it to be too heavy to carry! (Looks to me like it might be a 30' rail of 95lb bullhead which would be nearly half a ton...)
14. Another zoom view, this time of a point buried in concrete inside the brewery site. As I mentioned above, the connection originally split into two tracks just inside the gate, and the siding furthest from the main line had this point on it to connect a longer siding kicking back toward the bridge I am standing on. When I was a kid that siding was always covered over by kegs and things and was never used. This was probably because there were never more than two or three wagons inside the brewery, for which the tracks in use were perfectly adequate.
15. Moving further east there is a footbridge over the line at the back of the former Alexanders Midland bus garage, and this is the view back towards the centre of Alloa from it. The vegetation was quite thick here, and the trackbed correspondingly messy once it was all removed.
16. The footbridge normally gives a good view of Alloa Hilton Road level-crossing, but on the day I was filming someone had left a large digger parked on the trackbed...
17. Naturally I had to go and have a look at the machine that had triumphed over so much vegetation, and it's very clear why when you see the size of that claw! If you are wondering why it is sitting idle, I was filming on a Sunday, although it is quite possible that it had also run out of trees and bushes to uproot!
18. Looking back past the digger the footbridge at the former bus garage can be seen from the Hilton Road level-crossing. It will make a good vantage point for filming freight workings once the line is reopened.
19. Looking east from Hilton Road there wasn't much to see as the line curves gently away amidst the remain of the vegetation. There used to be a signal-box to control the level-crossing and a cross-over on the main line here, but those had been removed for more than twenty years when I took this picture...
20. This picture was taken from a piece of camcorder footage I got by aiming the camcorder out of the front windscreen of my car, setting it going, and then driving under the bridge I wanted to film (giving 100% attention to the road and none to the camcorder of course!). Surprisingly this crude method worked first time, and a good thing for posterity too as it turned out that I was filming a doomed structure! This is the bridge over the Clackmannan bypass on the Kincardine branch, which was removed shortly after work started in earnest and will doubtless be replaced by something longer and stronger, to allow a wider road and heavier coal trains. But they cleared the 15'+ high trees off it first!
This was a promising start to the SAK rebuild project, but things went very quiet after this with very little activity for month after month. And when activity started, it wasn't on the railway at all, but on the road bypass authorised in the SAK bill to allow the Hilton Road level-crossing to be closed where plant and machinery started work in late 2005. None of that was all that photogenic, even if I had been able to get close enough, which I couldn't as the edges of the road between Alloa and Clackmannan sprouted zillions of roadcones. What was still needed was someone to actually start working on the railway trackbed...
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