SAK Rebuilt - Progress Report 4

East Of Eden? No! West Of Blackgrange!

Despite having discovered on the 19th of May 2006 that rails were already being welded together in long lengths in preparation for tracklaying at Causewayhead (see 'SAK Progress Report 3'), I had by the start of June 2006 hardly visited the western half of the SAK since reconstruction of the line had begun, and I really felt I had to do something about that. Time for another day off work, (which thankfully I can usually get when I need one) which I took on Friday the 2nd June 2006. This time I started at Blackgrange, where I left off on 11th May (see 'SAK Progress Report 2'), and managed to get a look at almost all of the SAK between there and the outskirts of Stirling station.

1. In a previous progress report I mentioned that the level-crossing lights at Blackgrange were still there, but since I had omitted to film them I couldn't provide a picture. I don't normally make the same mistake twice, so here, with the help of blue skies and bright sunshine, is some proof!


2. Last time I was at Blackgrange I was delighted to see the presence of a stack of rails waiting to be used. This time I was even more delighted to see very few of them were still there!


3. Looking eastwards it's obvious the rails weren't used here...


4. ...but looking toward Causewayhead it's a different story! Obviously the rail welding machine has paid a visit to Blackgrange in the last couple of weeks.


5. Zooming out reveals just how much rail is now welded up on this section of the line. A machine of some sort can now just be seen to be working at Manor Powis...


6. ...but zooming right out doesn't help at all! And the welded rails are still going! It must be a pretty fast welding machine to join so many 60' lengths of heavy duty rail together!


7. I moved on to the A91 bridge over the line near Causewayhead, which as this zoom view shows gives a good view back to Manor Powis where the usual preparation work has been done. The lengths of welded rail stop here for now, but surely not for long since...


8. ...pulling back the zoom shows that there are plenty more rails ready and waiting! The fact that this was originally a double-track line is very apparent here, and in fact until the start of 1988 the Manor Powis loop ran eastwards from here.


9. Looking more steeply downwards shows that along with new fencing along the line, crash barriers seem to have been fitted under the road bridge. Doubtless they are to prevent farm machinery and cattle pushing down the fences by accident, as they certainly won't stop a derailed train!


10. The A91 at this point is a fairly busy road, even on a Friday, but after a few minutes waiting I was able to cross the road safely and get my first close look at the trackbed between the A91 and Causewayhead. As you can see, as well as fencing, crash barriers and bundles of steel sleepers, work was in progress here on drainage at the start of June. I was a little surprised at this as the trackbed is on a low embankment here, but not being an expert on drainage I won't quibble!


11. In Causewayhead and another level-crossing - in this case one that is due to be removed soon. It once carried the road to Cambuskenneth but that was re-routed many years ago to another level-crossing west of here and this crossing was left to serve a few houses! Once this crossing is closed the occupants of the houses will presumably be given road access to the Cambuskenneth road instead. No welded rails in this view...


12. ...but in the other direction the rails are ready. Since we are almost at the place I first saw that rails had been welded together I believe this to be the place where the rail welding work started on the SAK in May.


13. This is another location where the control boxes for the level-crossing are still in place, but if these survive, it will be as empty shells since there will be no crossing here to control!


14. Back to the scene of my short 'Progress Report 3' and it can be seen that nothing much has changed on this side since 19th May.


15. In the Stirling direction however welded up rails have appeared which weren't there two weeks previously, along with the now customary sleeper bundles.


16. I'm beginning to get used to the speed with which things can change on the SAK project and thus wasn't too surprised to find that the welded rails go right round to the section of the line adjacent to the Causewayhead Road...


17. ...and onward to the viaduct over the River Forth. The question is, where are the sleeper bundles? For once, the work to distribute them down the trackbed is way behind the rail welding at this point!


18. Zooming out reveals a casualty of the reconstruction work - the distant signal for Stirling North has gone. I was very disappointed to see that as it was one remmnant of the old 'S&D' that I was sure would still be needed, even if the signal arm did need some attention due to being a bit rusty and without the coloured spectacle glasses.


19. A Bridge-In-A-Bag! This is what I found after driving round to the Riverside area of Stirling to try and get a good look at progress on the viaduct over the River Forth. For those of you unfamiliar with Stirling, there are actually two viaducts over the river here, but the one carrying the 'Scottish Central' main line had been well maintained by BR, Railtrack and Network Rail, while the 'S&D' viaduct hadn't! Before work started, the 'S&D' viaduct was in fact very rusty all over and had been regarded for many years as fit only to carry a single-track freight-only line.


20. Since this is the largest structure on the route of the SAK I wanted very much to film the work on it but the protective sheeting doesn't exactly help! Nevertheless I zoomed in with my camcorder and panned round slowly to show what there is to see close up, and this picture is the first of three taken from that piece of footage.


21. A close up shot of the middle of the viaduct shows not only that all the scaffolding is hung from the bridge structure, but that the contractor is not afraid to drive machinery onto the bridge deck to do work on it. This shouldn't be too surprising however as the loading it is getting here will be a lot less than the trains it was seeing until 1993, but the repair work will presumably mean it is getting stronger week by week anyway. And about time too!


22. The last of the three close up zoom shots reveals the biggest problem with where I was standing - the left side of the viaduct was obscured by a tree. Time to re-position for a better view!


23. Moving closer the the viaduct allowed me to get more of the structure into a single shot, albeit at a shallower angle.


24. From the same spot I had a good view of the small approach viaduct. There is actually a public road under it, but that is currently closed to cars to allow scaffolding to be put up to work on the approach viaduct which will presumably need attention also.


25. Getting close to the actual viaduct is quite easy here as it is possible to get right up to the bridge without tresspassing or putting yourself in any real danger. I proceeded to do just that and was rewarded with this view right up at bridge level. It will be a very good location to film a train on the SAK whe it is re-opened, but at the moment it just gives a different angle on the reconstruction work.


26. Zooming in a bit shows the current top surface of the viaduct. I'm not sure however if that is the base of the final bridge decking or some temporary surface put down to allow the machines access.


27. The fencing I was standing next to didn't allow me to reach very far over it to film, but I discovered that I could carefully reach through it with the camcorder and attempt to film along the bridge 'blind'. Not too good a picture I admit, but clearly a lot of work is being done on the top of the approach viaduct, perhaps for drainage purposes.


28. Looking over the fence it is easier to see in the other direction, but that just reveals that I had reached the end (or perhaps the beginning) of the SAK reconstruction! Beyond this point lies the throat of Stirling station...


Even as I was filming the images above at the River Forth viaduct, it was likely there might have been a train that should have gone over it to Alloa sitting doing nothing in Stirling Station. If this sounds fanciful, think again. Major passenger timetable re-planning isn't something that is carried out every year in Scotland and the last time it was done the SAK passenger services were actually put into the timetable! Of course until the reconstruction is finished the trains terminate at Stirling and sit idling until the time that they would have come back from Alloa. First Scotrail will also have to do driver training, fix up destinations, sort out on-train announcements and much else to extend the service, but that is routine stuff they know how to do. Roll on the reconstruction work!


Click Here To Go To 'SAK Progress Report 5'


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