SAK Rebuilt - Progress Report 18
Track Returns To Alloa
By the beginning of 2007, as shown in previous progress reports, the SAK reconstruction work had resulted in track at the western end of the route from Stirling right through to the new loop on the Alloa side of Cambus, and at the eastern end from Kincardine to Helensfield, and also on some of the short distance from Helensfield to the outskirt os Alloa itself. A new bridge had just been put in at Helensfield, and work on the new road intended to replace Hilton Road and the level-crossing on it was progressing steadily. All well and good, but would the pace of tracklaying slow down with only a couple of miles of track not yet laid? No!
At the end of the last progress report I mentioned briefly that tracklaying into Alloa from both sides in December 2006 and January 2007, but that it was about a month after the installation of the Helensfield bridge that I got a chance to survey (& film!) the fresh progress. In fact, I did so on 17/1/07, and here is what I found...
1. I chose to start at the site of the former Alloa West Junction, as any new
tracklaying from the west could easily have reached there and, sure enough,
it had. Since the closure of the level-crossing here didn't remove the right
of way for pedestrians to cross, and since the new footbridge planned for
here was still not in, I was able to get a camera angle to film the new track
which won't be possible once the footbridge is opend and the trackbed fenced
2. Facing the other way reveals that the track now definitely goes right into
Alloa, although the work on the tracklaying has not yet gone out of sight.
3. Zooming in reveals that both the welding machine and another piece of
road-rail plant are sitting on the track and in use. This wasn't a good
viewing angle to see the work however, so it was clearly to move!
4. Same cutting, opposite viewing angle, and the (current) end of the line!
The machines are clearly working to assemble fresh lengths of welded up
rail rather than assemble track today, and doing it this way means it
won't have to be moved far before it is used.
5. Zooming in from this side didn't reveal much either as most of the work
going on is being done in the middle of the track between the machines!
6. However two men were working where I could see them. Beats me what they
are doing though as they aren't welding rails together, and surely won't
be cutting rails apart. Perhaps they are making sure the rails meet squarely
so that the welding machine can join them correctly?
7. Looking a bit more downward shows that the trackbed is ballasted beyond the
end of the new track...
8. ...but only for a few yards! No shortage of sleepers, but the trackbed
isn't ready under this bridge yet...
9. ...although most of the rest of the distance to the next bridge is ready
for tracklaying! Having caught up with tracklaying progress here, it was
time to check out what progress had been made in the east of Alloa.
10. On my way across Alloa I stopped off at the Bruce Street footbridge,
which I had omitted to visit since I saw it surrounded in scaffolding
in late October 2006 (see Progress report 12, Picture 32). The work on
it is clearly now finished, and it has re-opened for business! I suppose
I ought to mention that this, like most other metal bridges on the line
within the current boundaries of Clackmannanshire, has been painted in
Clackmannanshire Council colours to match local bus shelters and suchlike!
(After all, I suppose it is just about possible that this page will be read
by people who,live outside the 'Wee County'... ;-)
11. Climbing up on the bridge shows that it looks almost new. I don't suppose
there has been a footbridge to this design built for decades, but you could
just about fool the unsuspecting about that as this bridge may now have looked
this good when it was new! (Not that I know exactly how old it is, alas.)
12. Once up on the footbridge I first chose to point the camera eastwards
towards the Hilton Road level-crossing, which shows that tracklaying has
carried on into Alloa from this direction as well.
13. A closer look reveals that there is distinct 'wiggle' this side of the
level-crossing, which as you might expect if you have read my previous SAK
progress reports, is to connect the new track to the old S&D tracks through
the level crossing temporarily. On the other side of the level-crossing there
seems now to be a point installed at this end of the new loop, but it isn't
yet connected to the level-crossing tracks. (There are better views of that
later in this progress report.)
14. Looking westwards toward the centre of town, the new track extends right
over both the stone viaduct and also the adjacent metal Whins Road bridge.
Since it has just been laid, it lacks ballast, but there is no telling how
soon any will be dropped as a through connection from one end or the other
will be needed for the SAK's short ballast train to get here!
15. As usual, I zoomed in but all that revealed was that the track curves out
of sight. [Note - there is no picture here to prove it, but the track end
was in fact only just out of sight as will be seen in the next progress report
filmed 10 days later!]
16. Since it was difficult to see what exactly had been done east of the Hilton
Road level-crossing the obvious next step was to go there, which didn't take
long. In this picture the connection between the old and new track can again
be seen, along with the Bruce Street footbridge in the distance.
17. Looking the other way reveals that there is indeed a new point here, and
it is less than a hundred yards beyond the level-crossing, but that there is
indeed no track connecting them yet!
18. The zoom view reveals that the object at the tow of the point is some kind of
stop board to show the drivers of road-rail plant where the end of the track is.
Perhaps it is even strong enough to stop a moving machine, although it doesn't
look to me like it could.
19. One piece of progress on the SAK project that I haven't previously filmed or
reported (mainly due to bad weather and the difficulty of getting parked!) was
that the raised roundabout to connect the new SAK link road and it's approach
roads had by this time been completed and opened to traffic. However this is a
suitable place to mention it as this picture of the end of the loop and the
Hilton Road level crossing was filmed from the pavement going up to the roundabout
from the Alloa side.
20. Swinging the camera round reveals that the new road is not yet finished, although
clearly getting close to completion. The vicinity of this bridge and the roundabout
I was standing at ought to make a good vantage point to film from when trains start
running, especially as the bridge is over the middle of a passing loop!
21. I picked my way round the edge of the roundabout and had a look at the trackbed
beyond, and the current extent of the loop tracks on this side can clearly be seen.
22. Swinging the camera back towards the bridge shows that some preparation of the
trackbed is now underway, suggesting track will be laid under the bridge soon. It
seems likely that the laying of the middle sections of the loop trackwork was
delayed until the road builders were sure they didn't need any further access to the
underside of the new road bridge, since that is easier with no track present, and
that the go-ahead has now been given.
23. Having caught up with progress to the east of Alloa, and with things getting
gloomier, I decided to head back westwards to the Cambus level-crossing to see
if there was anything to see there. By the time I got there it had started
snowing (well it was January!) but that didn't stop me filming a hydraulic
road-rail machine and a Seacow ballast wagon sitting at the former station
there, with men doing some work in the foreground...
24. ...with the help of a lorry-mounted hiab crane! it looks from this like
unused or old rails are being removed from here. Well they've got to tidy
them up sometime although doing it in a snowstorm wouldn't be my choice.
(But I'm just mad enough to film in one!)
25. Looking the other way I couldn't see much through the snow until I zoomed
out and as you can see there is either one or both of the other Seacow ballast
wagons parked in the new Cambus loop. I was less sure about what the lights in
the distance belonged to...
26. ...so I zoomed out all the way and still couldn't be sure! Although there is the
arm of a hydraulic machine visible the light cluster doesn't look right so I think
there must have been two machines down there. I could I suppose have gone to
investigate, but I was getting a somewhat cold and wet and decided not to!
After the excitement of the previous few progress reports, this one may seem almost a bit of an anti-climax, but track has been laid into Alloa from both directions (albeit with a few gaps between Alloa and Clackmannan!) totalling perhaps a mile of new track in just over a calendar month - maybe it's not too much of an anti-climax after all. And work was still going on...
That's all for this progress report, but you can of course visit the next one in the click of a mouse!
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