SAK Rebuilt - Progress Report 2

Sunny Trip From Kincardine To Blackgrange

As can be seen in my 'SAK Progress Report 1', the rebuild of the SAK had go off to a good start by the 14th & 16th of April 2006. However on those days, since I had limited time and a freind with me, I didn't visit all sections of the line between Kincardine and the west end of Alloa, and had to stop at Alloa West Junction Level Crossing. What I needed to do was find the time to go by myself for a thorough inspection of progress, and after a few weeks delay was able to take an afternoon off on the 11th May 2006. (Actually I took the day off and had a lazy morning at home, but hey - that's what holidays are all about!) All the pictures in this (long) pictorial progress report are stills captured from the camcorder footage I took that sunny afternoon...

1. Part of the SAK rebuild? Doesn't look like it does it? However I then swung the camcorder round...


2. ... to reveal that this is the start (or the end depending on your point of view) of the SAK track renewal work. The SAK project actually includes some work between Kincardine and Longannet that was specially authorised in the SAK Bill, but the track at the site of the former Kincardine station seemingly isn't being replaced, and thus is currently the 'end of the line' coming from Longannet.


3. Round at the power station gates drainage work was still underway - perhaps it isn't as easy to get drainage working on level ground near to the level of the nearby River Forth?


4. The site of the Kincardine Power Station rail yard shows no noticeable changes since the 16/4/06, but since it is the largest storage site on the SAK rebuild project there may well have been materials and plant coming and going that can't be seen from here.


5. The cutting between the road bridges at Kincardine shows plastic pipes sticking up. No prizes for guessing what will eventually carry the drained water!


6. Appropriately for a section of the SAK that is seeing a lot of activity the worksite at Kincardine had aquired plant, materials, and the usual collection of portacabins and suchlike that you might expect to see on a busy building site.


7. Zooming in a bit on the trackbed shows a machine hard at work. It's not totally clear to me even with the zoom view what it's doing, but no matter - as long as the people doing the work know!


8. I had never visited the overbridge in the background of the last shot and since I had plenty of time and obviously want to find the best photographic locations on the SAK I then went to check it out. From it, there is a good view back towards Kincardine, although as the view is south-eastish I had to keep the camcorder pointing a bit downish to get a usable picture.


9. The real selling point of this bridge is the view toward Kilbagie. As you can see here, the Kincardine branch goes through a short rock cutting here with a long straight embankment on the other side which ought to be good for photography once coal trains start running.


10. With so much track bed visible I naturally zoomed out, but the result wasn't too exciting. Of course drainage isn't usually a problem on an embankment and I would guess that this section therefore requires less work to get it ready for tracklaying than other parts of the route.


11. Less work doesn't mean no work however. I stopped off at a convienient layby on the main road from which a freshly repaired and repainted underbridge on the Kilbagie end of the embankment was visible.


12. The view from the bridge at Kilbagie has changed only a little in the four weeks since I filmed here for the first progress report, but since the work here was on drainage the progress will all have been buried!


13. No further progress was apparent on the cutting at Kilbagie, but the next step will presumably be to put out bundles of sleepers prior to the tracklaying, and I don't know when the contractor will be ready to start that.


14. The same story applies a little down the line at Kennet. The bridge in this picture is no longer on a public road, and although the gate giving access to the disused road stands open during the day as one of the accesses for the contractors, I didn't see any need to try going there. Someday...


15. No sign of activity on the other side of the Kennet overbridge either. There is a worksite between here and Clackmannan that is just out of sight that I went on to try and film, but I didn't get much of a picture either from a layby on the Clackamnanan bypass or from the old main road between Kennet and Clackmannan, so I'll have to skip over that bit this time!


16. On the outskirts of Clackmannan there is an overbridge that I hadn't previously visited and it turns out that it is easy to get to and gives a very good view in both directions. To the east some workers and a machine were busy digging away, doubtless in connection with the drainage of this section.


17. In the other direction a Land Rover was driving down the trackbed in the direction of some machinery working in the cutting where Clackmannan station used to be.


18. In the middle (from a railway point of view anyway) of Clackmannan a lot of work was in progress on 11/5/06. These machines were drilling holes in the ground, which I would guess were in connection with the ground stabilisation work to prevent mining subsidence.


19. A closer view of the machinery working in Clackmannan. When a late cost escalation ofthe SAK project was announced to pay for the mining stabilisation work I was quite surprised - not because I didn't know that most of the route passed over old mine workings, but because trains ran on all sections of the SAK after the adjacent mines closed and if subsidence wasn't a problem then and hasn't happened since, it seems like overkill to spent so much extra money preventing it now ! Oh well, it's still worth every penny as far as I am concerned!


20. a view in the other direction from the same location as in the previous picture. There are two overbridges fairly close together in this part of Clackmannan and the one nearest Alloa is shown here.


21. Looking back from the bridge in the last picture shows that both these over bridges are of much the same design. The Kincardine branch was only ever single-tracked, and several of the the bridges will be barely wide or tall enough even for one present-day train!


22. Looking in the other direction from this overbridge gives what will eventually be a good view of trains approaching Clackmannan from the west. On 11/5/06 however there was only a bare trackbed and a digger just visible on the trackbed in the far distance...


23. which was much easier to see whe I zoomed in. My camcorder has a fairly good zoom feature but it needs to be steadied on something to use a zoom level like this successfully. Carrying a tripod would be nuisance so I rest my elbows on fences, bridge parapets, and even the roof of my car when I can, and try to hold the camcorder really steady when I can't!


24. As is becoming a usual occurrence I haven't got a picture to show progress on the SAK between Clackmannan and Alloa, although since most of the effort there is on building a new road and very little on the railway trackbed it's not that much of a loss at present. This means that this next view is eastwards from Hilton Road Level crossing, showing the that the usual drainage work has been carried out on the trackbed here, in this case on the north side of the line.


25. The view from the footbridge at the back of the former Alexanders Midland bus garage hasn't changed much looking east, which I suspect might be the case for some time as until the new road is built the level-crossing can't be closed and the trackbed between Hilton Road and Kincardine Junction can't be fully got ready for tracklay. There is also the 'small' matter of a missing bridge to take the line over the Clackmannan bypass...


26. However if the trackbed in Alloa isn't getting much attention yet, I was able to film something from the same footbridge that was! The girder bridge over the Whin Road in Alloa had been worked on for many weeks at this point and the top of it, comlete with fresh paint, can be seen in this zoom view. The holes in the trackbed on both halves of the bridge show (presumably) that the decking is being replaced on the whole bridge. Since the SAK project is only for a single-track line, I would guess that this bridge might therefore be expected by the SAK designers to carry a passing loop or a turnback siding as well as the 'main line'. Time will tell!


27. A view of the Whins Road bridge from the side, sneakily filmed (very briefly) from the driving seat of my car while waiting at the front of the queue for the temporary traffic lights that were here due to the scaffolding under the bridge blocking half the road. (Of course it took considerable skill and talent to get stuck at the lights without any vehicles in front to block my view!) The work on the sides and undersides of the bridge was done in two halves to save shutting what can be a busy road for long at a time.


28. Another view of the top of the Whins Road bridge, this time from the other direction. The work being done on the bridge must have been fairly substantial as the contractors have sited a container at it for storing equipment and materials for the work.


29. Two worksites for the price of one! As well as the SAK work, which hasn't changed much since 14/4/06, the old brewery site on the right of the picture has in that time sprouted the frame of what will soon be a new supermarket.


31. Looking the other way from the old Waggonway bridge reveals that although the trackbed at the east end of the old station site hasn't seen much attention other than track removal, the part of the old station bridge that the SAK track will go under is recieving attention.


32. A closer view shows that the scaffolding is going right under. As girder replacment work had already been done here, this must be to do further work on the underside of the bridge.


33. Looking from the station bridge shows the fairly sharp curve that the line will have to take to get under the Waggonway bridge. As a kid I remember seeing trains going under this bridge, but once the SAk opens I'll be seeing east bound trains travelling on what I instinctively think of as the westbound track! Of course, when I was a kid the right side of this view would have consisted of the Alloa station building, which was up at bridge level and spanned the current SAK!


34. There's not much to say about the view in the other direction from the station bridge other than that there is plenty for a single track here. Of course, it won't follow the shape of the original station platform as the old track did, but you can't have everything!


35. Looking over the same trackbed from the Mar Place bridge shows a few small signs of work in the form of some orange plastic worksite fencing. It can't be for drainage, since that would involve much plant, people and materials, so it must be for something else.


35. Looking the other way from Mar Place shows that installing new drainage is thoroughly necessary in the middle of Alloa. Of course removing the track and digging out the old ballast (along with a couple of decades of tree roots and suchlike) just allows the lack of drainage to be more easily seen!


36. Moving up the line a couple of bridges the view looking back towards the centre of Alloa isn't too different, with a fairly large puddle down the side of the trackbed here as well. To be fair, although it was a nice day on the 11th May we do get a lot of rain in Central Scotland in the spring, but that of course makes suitable drainage even more important!


37. As usual, I took a view down the deep cutting leading to Alloa West Junction. Apart from the absence of track, this looks much like it did a quarter of a century previously, and it is hard to believe that less than two years previously I took a view from this same spot (picture 5 on my 'Where's The Track???' feature which shows nothing but trees!


38. A zoom view shows that Alloas last signal post is still loyally guarding the level-crossing! I remember both of these from the early 1970s and it's sad that both will soon be gone...


39. Looking west from Alloa West Junction level-crossing shows far more steel sleepers stacked up than was the case four weeks previously. The likely reason for this will be apparent in a couple of pictures time!


40. I moved onward into territory not covered in my first progress report and here is a view from an overbridge a little further westward of Alloa West Junction. The stacks of sleepers seem plenty for the line at this point, but when I turned round and moved to the other side of the bridge...


41. ...I discovered that the process of laying out the sleeper stacks down the trackbed was not complete, thus accounting for the extra numbers at the level-crossing which is obviously where these stacks are being brought from.


42. Zooming out toward Cambus shows that the stacks of sleepers resume quite soon and run all the way to Cambus. It's very ironic that some of the 'old' track between Alloa and Cambus was the best quality track on the whole route of the SAK, being continous welded flat-bottom rail on concrete sleepers, but saw little use once put in due to through trains ceasing to run!


43. This view at Cambus shows that drainage works have already been carried out. I believe that the Cambus level-crossing is to be kept, as the road over it isn't too busy, but as very little is left of the original crossing, a complete re-built will be necessary.


44. Looking the other way it was claer that some work was going on a few hundred yards down the trackbed at the junction for Menstrie. I don't yet know if the former 'Alva Railway' is to be re-connected or not, and will probably have to wait until the SAK track is laid to find out.


45. The fine sunshine that had marked the first half of the afternoon had turned to clouds by the time I reached Cambus and when I moved onto Blackgrange level-crossing, which is less than a mile westward again the clouds were quite dark. My camcorder coped with the light-level though and this is a view looking back toward Cambus taken there.


46. Looking the other way shows that placement of sleeper bundles has already taken place west of Blackgrange. Since this next section is quite straight, I naturally zoomed out and found...


47. ...that not only were there sleeper bundles for quite a distance, but clear evidence that the drainage works on this section were complete.


48. The crossing lights were still in place at the Blackgrange level-crossing (albeit a bit vandalised) and additionally the control-cabinets were still in place as well.


49. Last in this report, but possibly the most interesting, was this stack of rails on the worksite adjacent to the level-crossing at Blackgrange. You can't re-instate a railway with sleepers alone, so this cheered me up even as the prospect of rain caused me to give up for the day!


As mentioned in the last caption, the weather was getting a bit gloomy by the time I reached Blackgrange level crossing in late afternoon of the 11th May. Having seen evidence of a lot of hard work over most of the SAK route, and a stack of new unused rail for good measure, I was more than satisfied with my afternoon out, and felt I could catch up with progress on the rest soon enough. Which I did...


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