SAK Rebuilt - Progress Report 12
Rapid Progress On The Western SAK!
Having missed the start of tracklaying on the SAK due to pressure of work in the late summer of 2006, I had managed to catch up with progress on it on 13/9/06, the results forming my last progress report (11). However I was busier than ever at work for many weeks after that, wasn't able to take much leave, and had no enthusiasm for doing anything much in the evenings after work either.
Of course I had seen bits and pieces of tracklaying progress on the western part of the SAK while driving by (usually while in heavy traffic and/or pouring rain!), so I knew very well that there would be much to see and film when I had the time. And one morning in October I noticed a Seacow ballast wagon being loaded at Causewayhead, at about the place where the tracklaying had got to in mid-September. Definitely time to try and get a day off! So on 27/10/06, over a month after I had had my first look at the tracklaying, I headed for Stirling, and got lucky immediately...
1. I started out by heading to the Stirling station side of the Forth
Viaduct, and immediately discovered that something was moving on the SAK
tracks behind all the vegetation. From the glimpses I could see that it was
a train of three Seacow wagons being pulled and pushed backwards and forwards
by a large road-rail machine. I filmed it, but as you can see the trees
2. However it was not long before the wagons had (I presume) used up
their supply of ballast, and the train then set out over the Forth
Viaduct. Alas, even a fairly beefy road-rail machine didn't stick up
far over the bridge parapet!
3. However once the train was on the viaduct I got a better view
of it. Of course it wasn't moving very fast, doubtless for safety
reasons, which made capturing still images easier than is usual for
a moving train.
4. I moved sideways a little to get another view, which, although a
little foreshortened, came out a bit brighter allowing a little more
detail of the wagons to be seen.
5. The ballast train stopped on the other side of the viaduct for a
short time before moving onward, perhaps to allow a machine to get
out of its way. For as will be seen in later pictures, there were
indeed machines at work on the track adjacent to the Causewayhead
6. Since I hadn't taken the time to film the Forth Viaduct at Stirling
since it's repairs had been finished, I spent a few minutes trying to
get a good view of it from further back. However my first efforts
came out a little on the dull side...
7. ...so I moved further back and tried again!
8. I then moved half a mile or so down the SAK (by driving perhaps
double that distance!) to see what was going on adjacent to the
Causewayhead Road. And the answer - lots! Quite apart from the
machines at work on this section, this picture shows panels of
steel sleepered track visible in the foreground, which seems
odd at first glance given that the track had already been assembled
here (as seen in my last progress report). However this is the result
of some of the brand new SAK track already having been replaced, for
a reason that can be seen more clearly in the next picture.
9. Zooming in reveals that a second track has now been laid over the
Forth Viaduct, and that a large concrete-sleepered point has been
inserted to connect it in. Installing double-track from here into Stirling
station will allow eastbound trains (especially coal-trains) to wait
for access to the SAK without blocking up the station platforms.
10. Zooming in as far as I could (and managing to hold the camera steady
enough!) shows that the point, like the track leading up to it, is far
from level - not too surprising since it has only just been
11. Looking the other way shows that the ballast train has already
been busy here. Of course the track here is also still in a fairly unfinished
state as it won't yet have been aligned, tamped, consolidated, or
whatever else needs done to create a modern high-speed running line! The
adjacent traffic light on the left of the picture looks uncannily like a
railway colour-light signal - here's hoping it doesn't confuse the train
drivers once services start!
12. My next move was to the 'Ladysneuk Level-Crossing' on the road to
Cambuskenneth. Looking back towards Stirling the long curve in the
track is quite impressive, but when this was originally a double-track
line there was not only a station for Causewayhead here, but reputedly
a severe speed restriction for god measure!
13. Looking the other way reveals the tail of the curve, still attched to
the old 'S&D' level-crossing track!
14. My next destination was supposed to be the bridge where the
A91 crosses the SAK, but as I was driving east out of Causewayhead
I was lucky enough to catch up with a piece of road-rail plant at
work. Using the zoom on my camcorder suggests that it is lifting a
pallet of the concrete trough sections used for the lineside S&T cabling.
15. The view from the bridge carrying the A91 over the road was
worth the difficulty of parking safely at it (difficult), as the
SAK ballast train has obviously made many, many visits here recently!
Concrete troughing has been installed over most of this section,
despite a gap being visible in the distance, and the lid sections
have even been put on under the road bridge for some reason.
16. It was much the same story looking in the other direction,
again with the slightly messy look of freshly dropped ballast that
hasn't been tamped and consolidated yet.
17. Zooming out a bit reveals that the concrete troughing only
runs as far as Manor Powis, but that the ballast shoulders go on, and on...
18. ...and on, and on!!! The full power of the zoom doubtless
exaggerates the 'wiggle' in the track at Manor Powis, but some
straightning out during the tamping will probably be needed here!
19. I missed out Blackgrange on this trip (didn't want to annoy anyone
that might be working at the level-crossing there by filming them from
close up - not everyone likes that sort of thing) so the next picture is
a zoom view of the new track at Cambus, showing the parapets of the bridge
that takes the SAK over the River Devon.
20. Pulling back the zoom reveals a slightly less impressive sight
however, since the new track is joined onto the S&D tracks through
the Cambus level-crossing with a bit of a wiggle, to say the least!
The SAK track is of course aligned down the middle of the trackbed
here (probably to make re-building the level-crossing easier), while
the single track that was left when the 'S&D' was singled
in the late 1960s or early 1970s was the original 'westbound' track,
causing this alignment problem. Note that the new point is still sitting
21. As usual, I turned the camera around and for the first time that day
found some new track that wasn't almost buried in ballast! I still didn't
seem to have found the full extent of the tracklaying though...
22. ...until I zoomed out and found tracklaying in full swing on the new
loop between Cambus and Alloa. As was the case at the Stirling end, as
shown earlier, the plan here is obviously to build all a plain track
right through, and remove sections to insert the points for the new loop
later. Some ballasting has also been dropped on the through line, carefully
avoiding the section where one of the new points will be inserted.
23. Moving to the next road bridge east and zooming out reveals that I
had indeed reached 'the end of the track', if not the end of my days
journey! Even the bed of ballast doesn't extend beyond the end of the
assembled track, suggesting that the tracklaying wasn't about to carry
on into Alloa for a while.
24. Pulling back the zoom reveals that the east end of the 'Cambus loop'
will not actually be all that close to Alloa, and (alas), that a lot of
zoom will be required to film trains in the loop from this bridge!
25. One of the reasons why tracklaying into Alloa couldn't be expected in
the near future [at the time of filming] is that work was ongoing at the
site of the removed Alloa West Junction level-crossing to create the
foundations required for the footbridge that had been promised here. Clearly
it would be a bit inconvienient for access to do this if another work crew
showed up and wanted to lay track through here before the foundations were
26. Puddles & mud! The cutting into Alloa is clearly being used as a temporary
access road at present, which in Scotlands climate can get messy!
27. Since I couldn't see what all the traffic through the cutting was for
I moved a couple of overbridges up and found that work was well under way
the reinforce the sides of the cutting to prevent embarrassing mudslides
in the future. It might look like overkill, but remember that a lot of
trees and vegetation have already been removed from this cutting (which
is why you can see the floor of it!) which reduces the root growth that
has held back the cutting sides over the years.
28. Machinery was of course also needed for this work, and it happened to be working
very close to the bridge I was standing on!
29. I then moved east to the Mar Place bridge and found that work was still
well under way at the original Alloa station site. Some concrete pipe
sections are still visible, but fewer than I saw on previous visits.
30. The view from the Waggonway bridge confirms that the drainage work on
the SAK inside Alloa is nearing completion, as the large holes seen on
previous visits are mostly filled in again.
31. Looking east I was delighted to find that the face of the new station
platform was now under construction. It isn't all that impressive right now,
but is a much better sight than the picture i took on 23/8/07 from the same
32. With a worksite as long as the SAK, it's normal to find
work being carried out simultaneously at many locations, but I was somewhat
surprised to find that Bruce Street footbridge enclosed in scaffolding and
had changed colour (well the parts I could see anyway!). I remeber this
footbridge from when I was a kid in Alloa, but up to now it has always been
a dull silvery colour.
33. Despite all I had seen, I still had time left of my leave day
so I carried on east to Clackmannan to see what progress had been made in
welding up the rail on the eastern section. And this picture shows that all
the long sections of welded rail have themselves been welded together ready
for tracklaying to start.
34. A closer view in the other direction shows that the two sets of welded
rails have been placed ready for use in the middle of the trackbed. However
there are no stacks sleepers visible here, so the tracklaying might not
happen right away. [The reason for the lack of sleeper bundles can be found
in a later progress report!]
35. Another bridge, another view, but this time without a pair of rails
down the middle of the trackbed. In fact they run out just this side of
the bridge in the distance, with others at the side up to the white mark
in the middle distance, but obviously there will be more rail for this
section somewhere close by...
36. ..which turned out to be at the side of the trackbed in the other
direction. A digger is at work in the distance, doubtless doing
37. My last visit on the 27/10/06 was to the overbridge near Kennet,
where a pristine trackbed awaits. No rail, no sleepers, but this
will be a good photographic location once the coal-trains start
running again (there's nothing new about running coal trains in
38. Looking the other way reveals more of the same. Track soon?
Well it was a long days journey on 27/10/06, but well worth the time & effort since I had seen a new point at Causewayhead, track laid right through from Stirling to Cambus, the start of work on the new Alloa station platform, and preparations clearly well advanced for tracklaying on the eastern section of the route.
However one major omission of this visit was that I hadn't made it right through to Kincardine to make a full survey of construction progress, but the next day was a Saturday, so I made a detour there next morning to correct that, as can be seen in my next progress report!
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