SAK Rebuilt - Progress Report 14

Crane, Train, & Tracklayer!

In my last two SAK progress reports, filmed on the 27th & 28th October 2006, I had managed to catch up with all the work that had been carried out on the SAK from end to end, and although I expected further progress in the next few weeks, I genuinely expected that it would consist of 'more of the same'. Wrong!

The first indications that anything special was about to happen came on Monday 29th October when I got into work and checked the emails that I had received on my favourite railway mailing list (the 'scot-rail' list if anyone is interested), since I had gone home the previous Thursday night. As it happens, a message with the title 'SAK/Kirow Crane' sent shortly after I had gone home on the Thursday passed on the news that a Kirow Crane was due to pass onto the SAK at the Stirling end in the early hours of Tuesday 31st October, and might be on the SAK for several days. As if that weren't enough, another message sent on the Sunday added the information that a 'work train' of some sort was due to pass onto the SAK at Kincardine in the early hours of Wednesday 1st November and that both the work train and the Kirow crane were due to leave the SAK on Friday 10th November.

Subsequent emails included sightings of a Kirow crane at Stirling just after 1am on the Tuesday, and that the 'work train' had been delivered to the SAK by Freightliner loco 66525 on the Wednesday, the locomotive going away light engine afterward. And to top the lot, there was a sighting report of a Class 08 shunting locomotive [soon identified as being 08756] on a lorry heading west at Crombie in Fife. Could it be headed for the SAK???

Clearly I wanted to go looking for all these things as soon as possible, but as I can't always get time off work exactly when I want it, that had to be the following Saturday. And here is what I found...

1. Since the some replies to the emails I had read had suggested that the Kirow crane might be used at Cambus to lift the pre-assembled points and move them into place for the new loop I had seen under construction a mere 8 days previously, I started at Cambus, and hit paydirt immediately. Of course at a weekend I didn't stand much chance of catching the crane actually working, and it turned out to be parked for the weekend with it's jib sitting on the ground. Missing however, is the assembled point that was sitting on the scrap track to the right of the picture, so clearly the crane has been in use!


2. Zooming in gives a more detailed view, if a bit foreshortened. This crane is amazingly strong for one that is rail-mounted, as it must have picked up a long concrete-sleepered point (possibly not including the switch section at the toe of the point?), held it end on in front of it, travelled several hundred yards, and lowered it into place.


3. Of course, as shown in an earlier progress report, there had been two points pre-assembled at Cambus, and here is a picture to prove that the other one had also been moved from the worksite.


4. Looking the other way without using the zoom doesn't show all that much, although it shows why the points would have had to be lifted end-on (in case anyone was wondering why I made that assumption) since the trees on either side are too close together. Of course the point would have to be lowered into place end-on anyway so the crane has to capable of that anyway!


5. Zooming in reveals a marked change in what was basically a single working week! The Kirow crane has indeed lifted a point into this end of the loop, and while the point seemed large when seen in isolation on the Cambus station worksite, the divergence in this foreshortened view looks quite sharp! It will be interesting to find out what the speed limit will be for a train 'going inside' here!


6. Using the full extent of the zoom on my camcorder doesn't show much detail of the other end of the loop, although, as might be expected, it does look like the other point is in place and fully connected up. The dark object seen in the distance in the previous picture is clearly some sort of trolly, but you can't see any details of it here.


7. The view of the trolly isn't much better from the other direction either, although this view shows the loop quite clearly, and for good measure the Kirow crane at the site of the former Cambus station can just be seen in the distance. Success so far, but I was a bit pushed for time so it was time to head for Kincardine and see what had been delivered there!


8. When I arrived at Kincardine, I quickly located both the work train and the Class O8 shunter that had been seen on a lorry. Of course, in hindsight, a Class 08 is a good choice for moving a work train around on a project like this, as high speed isn't needed as much as reasonably high tractive effort and good control at slow speed, but it never occurred to me that one might show up until it happened!


9. Zooming in clearly shows that the work train is basically flat bogie wagons sitting between the temporary platforms which are presumably being loaded by the hydraulic machines. Since the machines can lift directly onto the wagons the platforms may simply for the workers to stand on to allow safe access to the whole deck of the work train.


10. Zooming some more is can be seen more clearly that just behind the locomotive there is a brown stack of what looks like the ends of steel sleepers, and more sleepers further down the train and it is no great deduction that the work train is intended to transport sleepers along the SAK as track is laid from this end. Clearly there will be no sleeper bundles sitting at intervals on the eastern section!


11. Looking the other way from the bridge I was standing on reveals that tracklaying has already started on the SAK 'main line' to Alloa. Clearly the unfinished tracklaying I had seen in progress exactly a week earlier had been completed the previous Monday or the work train couldn't have been delivered, but I was glad to see a start being made so soon in the direction of Alloa!


12. Zooming in reveals that this track hasn't been ballasted since it was laid and the curve isn't perfect, but that's only to be expected at this stage!


13. I moved to an adjacent bridge and filmed the new track from above, where the imperfections are a little less obvious. But how far does the new track go and how was it laid? the answer to both questions was not hard to find...


14. ... as all I needed to do was turn round and cross to the other side of the bridge! I didn't know in detail when I filmed this what I was looking at, but I definitely wanted to know more!


15. Zooming in didn't answer any questions. Obviously some kind of track-laying plant, but nothing I had seen before. Time to move a little closer!


16. I moved onto the bridge that the tracklayer was sitting underneath and, since I had seen the back section already, concentrated on the other end. The first thing I noticed was that while most of it was clearly sitting on the newly laid track like any normal railway vehicle, the very front of it was gripping the two welded rails that had not yet been fastened to sleepers, and thus the front had to be sitting directly on the trackbed.


17. Panning up a little revealed that the two welded rails ran right up the trackbed and out of sight, which meant that the tracklayer would not, once it got started, have to stop for some time provided the supply of sleepers was maintained, even if it wasn't clear how they were to be fed to the machine!


18. I then moved sideways to get a better look at the front of the tracklayer and it is indeed sitting on some sort of non-rail bogie at the front. Although I don't know for certain, I suspect that the tracklayer must have been brought in by road and that only it's supply wagons were brought in by 66525 as there seems no way that it could be towed like a conventional railway vehicle. It certainly brings new meaning to the term 'road-rail'!


19. A closer view of the 'road-bogie' on the tracklayer reveals that it a small set of caterpillar tracks, and given that track will frequently have to laid around curves, will have to be steerable. (Although it looks in the picture like the bogie is steering a bit leftward, it is actually aimed straight with the rail curving outward!)


20. A side view of the SAK in the Kilbagie direction, with the pair of rails down the middle of the trackbed looking uncannily like heavily ballasted track! No question but that the tracklayer would be heading that way first thing on the Monday morning...


A very successful trip this time out, and all done in less than an hour on my way to my usual weekend preservation activities in Fife! A relatively new rail-crane in the 'Wee County' that had just installed new pointwork would have been unthinkable only a few years before, seeing a Class 08 shunter working on the SAK reconstruction was marvelous, and on top of all that I had seen a specialised tracklayer machine ready to head into Clackmannanshire, which had me very excited indeed.

But one thing bothered me just a little bit - could the tracklayer lay enough track in the four or five available days before it left to allow it to actually make it into Clackmannanshire? If so, was there any chance of seeing the Class 08 shunter there as well? I hadn't seen tracklaying done this way before and simply didn't know the answers to these questions! However I had to take a leave day on the following Wednesday for other reasons, and by the early afternoon was free to go hunting for the tracklayer to see if it was anywhere near the 'Wee County'. But that's a story for the next progress report!!!


Click Here To Go To 'SAK Progress Report 15'


Click Here To Return To Jeff's SAK Pages - SAK Rebuilt!


These pages are owned and maintained by Jeffray Wotherspoon. The storage space for these pages is provided by the University Of Stirling, but it is in no way responsible for the contents of these pages. Please email me at if you have any questions, comments, problems etc.