SAK Rebuilt - Progress Report 15

'Hunting The Snark'!

In my last progress report (14), I presented pictures of a Kirow Crane at Cambus, the shunting locomotive 08756 at Kincardine, and a strange-looking tracklaying machine sitting at Kincardine ready and waiting to lay track in the direction of the 'Wee County', none of which I expected until I heard they were about to arrive! (Not that I minded - I'll take surprises like these anytime!) If you have looked at that report, you might therefore be forgiven for thinking that I was a bit optimistic checking up on the progress of the actual tracklaying of the eastern section of the SAK on only the third day of actual tracklaying.

However on Wednesday 8/11/07 I had to take a day off for unrelated reasons, and was free in the afternoon to visit the eastern SAK (with a fellow railway enthusiast in tow, not that it makes any difference to the pictures!) and went hunting for the tracklayer to see where it had got to...

1. My friend & I started at the site of Kincardine power station, and the first picture shows our first discovery - 08756 wasn't there! Some of the bogie wagons from the tracklayers supply train are present...


2. ...but the zoom view suggests that some aren't, as there were more than this the previous Saturday. However the machines are hard at work to load the wagons up with stacks of steel sleepers.


3. Looking the other way from where we were standing didn't reveal anything new, so we switched bridges and instead of a view of the back of the tracklayer there is nothing but track disappearing under the other bridge!


4. Moving to the next bridge doesn't help much - I was delighted to find that the track went out of sight, but I wasn't in the least surprised, as however slow the tracklayer worked, it had had more than enough time to get well out of sight!


5. Before we went looking for the tracklayer, we doubled back to the site of the former Kincardine station both so that my friend could have a look, and so that I could film the completed connection, since there was still a gap when I had last visited there on 28th October. However the first things that we noticed were three Seacow ballast wagons parked in the old station platform. It is likely, but not certain, that these were the same three I had already seen at work on the western section. If so, they must have been moved by road as I would probably have heard via email otherwise.


6. The new connection is obviously well ballasted, but that doesn't disguise a slight wiggle! No doubt the tamping will sort this out, and it was a sufficiently good link for 66525 to deliver a train over a week earlier so it isn't fair to criticise too much.


7. My friend & I then drove toward Kilbagie, but although the long embankment up to Kilbagie is mostly visible from the road, we didn't see any sign of the tracklayer. As you can see in this view east from the Kilbagie overbridge, the tracklayer has been here...


8. ...and departed westward! I was quite impressed - in nearly 3 working days the tracklayer had laid over 2 miles of track. Fast progress, and over the boundary into Clackmannanshire for good measure! We hadn't found the tracklayer, its supply train, or 08756 yet, but they couldn't have go much farther that this, could they?


9. Within 5 minutes I had driven us round to one of the overbridges near Kennet but all we got for the effort of getting out of the car and walking onto the bridge was freshly laid track coming from the east...


10. ...and curving out of sight westward!!! OK, the count was now up to three miles or thereabouts, and still no sign of anything actually ON the track!


11. We continued along the old road to Clackmannan (you get a closer view of the SAk from the Clackmannan bypass but stopping suddenly there is NOT recommended!) and paydirt! Just far enough beyond Kennet that it couldn't be seen in the last picture was 08756.


12. A zoom view gives a reasonable view of 08756 sitting adjacent to the worksite at the Clackmannan bypass. There is someone visible in the cab, and I could just see exhaust fumes, so it was switched on and ready to move if required. But what of the tracklayer?


13. Swinging the camera round reveals the back of the supply train still loaded with steel sleepers,...


14. ...but the middle of the train is empty!


15. Swinging a little further round I met up (so to speak) with a white object moving in the other direction. I had seen this object on the tracklayer the previous Saturday, but hadn't realised that it could move like this! Watching it using the camera zoom revealed that it was an overhead crane rolling on special tracks along the supply train.


16. The crane was, as you might expect, fetching sleepers from the supply train for the tracklayer to lay as it progresses. Here you can see it positioning itself ready to pick up perhaps a dozen or so sleepers in one go...


17. ...and then heading back at a fair speed toward the tracklayer!


18. But what of the tracklayer itself? As luck would have it, it was mostly behind trees and bushes when I started filming it. But not for long!


19. Within only a few minutes (honest!) the tracklayer came out from behind the trees and bushes, laying track all the time. In nearly three working days it has laid over three miles of track and was still going, with only a few hundred yards in a straight line to go to reach Clackmannan!


20. I pulled back the zoom somewhat a couple of minutes later, as most of the tracklayer had come into sight and I wanted to get it all in shot at once. Of course, this 'speed machine' has nearly gone behind the next tree already!


21. Zooming right in shows the caterpillar tracks at the front of the tracklayer. It isn't all that clear, but the steel sleepers are being laid at an even spacing a few feet behind the tracks, with the welded rails being held wide to gauge by grippers at the front of the machine.


22. This view shows the middle of the tracklayer, where the rails are pulled back inward as the machine moves, pushed down onto the sleepers, and then automatically fastened down. And if the supply of sleepers keeps up, it need never stop moving!


23. A closer view shows how the sleepers get to the 'business end' of the tracklayer, as a line of sleepers dropped off onto the back section of the tracklayer by the overhead crane moves forward on a conveyer belt. Since a dozen or more sleepers are delivered each time, there will be more than sufficient time before they are used up for the crane to go and get the next lot. Efficient, or what!


24. After watching the tracklayer crawl noticeably toward Clackmannan, I turned my attention back to 08756, which moved off. The reason for this was quite clear - the tracklayer (and it's supply train which it obviously hauls behind it as it moves) had opened something of a gap by it's steady movement and the locomotive crew were playing catch-up!


25. Another good view of 08756. I can't think of a specific reason for including yet another view of it - but sightings of 'proper' locomotives in the 'Wee County' have been non-existant for well over a decade and I just can't resist the temptation to include all my best views of it! I should point out however that it is moving over track laid (I estimated on the day I filmed this) less than an hour previously!


26. These workers are true professionals - they use their machine to lay track at amazing speed, but when quitting time approached they simply stopped it and switched it off! I wasn't too disappointed though as I had got to film it in operation, and 08756 in attrendance for good measure.


27. Although the tracklayer had stopped for the day, my friend and I hadn't, and I took him round Alloa for a quick look at the new 'Cambus loop'. This view doesn't add much to what I filmed on the 28/10/06, except to prove that no further progress has been made in tracklaying toward Alloa from the west.


28. One reason why tracklaying seemed to have stopped here may be that some kind of drainage work was being done. I don't know why this work is being left so late - perhaps an unexpected problem has been identified.


29. Our last visit was to the Waggonway bridge in the middle of Alloa, so that I could show my friend the progress on the new Alloa station. Being November, the light was failing rapidly by now, and my camcorder couldn't cope too well with the light level, as can be seen in this view of the old Alloa station bridge. Even in this gloom, there is no sign of drainage work here now, suggesting that the trackbed may soon be leveled and ballasted ready for tracklaying.


30. Looking the other way the construction of the platform edge seems to be almost complete, although machines are clearly at work at the far end. Still a lot to do before the first train arrives!!!


Well over three miles track laid in only three working days! A 'proper' locomotive in Clackmannanshire! What a trip! Definitely not a day I'll forget in a hurry...

Of course the tracklayer hadn't finished, but as it couldn't fly it could only lay another mile or so through Clackmannan before it would have to stop due to the bridge being missing at Helensfield, and since the machine (or it's supply train anyway) was due to go away on the Friday, it only had one day to do it. After what I had seen so far I had every confidence it would, but couldn't go back to Clackmannan in daylight until the following Saturday to check. However you don't have to wait any time at all, as views of what I found there are in my next progress report!


Click Here To Go To 'SAK Progress Report 16'


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


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