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 didn't help!


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 Road.


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. 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 installed.


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 ready!


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 location!


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 something useful!


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 Clackmannanashire!)


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!


Click Here To Go To 'SAK Progress Report 13'


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