SAK Rebuilt - Progress Report 44

Inside The Fences!

During late October and November of 2007 my efforts to document progress on the reconstruction of the SAK had ground to a halt. The main reason for this was that I was unable to see any progress on the SAK from my usual filming locations, particularily those overlooking the new Alloa Station, and thus had no material for any new progress reports. In fact, as late as 15th December I actually attempted my first filming since 10th October and when I tried to set captured pictures from it up as a progress report discovered that there was nothing new visible in any of the pictures to comment on and thus had to give up!

Since it didn't look like the scaffolding would come off the new Alloa Station building in the near future, and since I have no official connection with the SAK project, (yes - I do all this just for fun!), I couldn't just walk into the worksites to see more and film from a different perspective however much I wanted to. But in early December, quite out of the blue, I was actually invited to come 'inside the fences' on an officially organised tour of the SAK arranged by Clackmannanshire Council. My name was apparently suggested by my local MSP (who I can only assume has visited these pages - Thanks Keith!), and was arranged for the 18th December 2007. It wasn't a large tour group, and nobody minded me using my camcorder, so you now get to join the tour...

1. After getting a safety briefing, and being handed an HV vest and other protective gear at the main site office (opposite the new Cambus loop on the site of Alloa New Yard), we got into a minibus and got driven to Ladysneuk Road level-crossing in Causewayhead! Not exactly somewhere new, or somewhere I couldn't go anytime for that matter, but I hadn't been there for some time and at least had interesting people to talk to! This first view is looking west, showing the by now very neat and tidy track curving round towards Stirling.


2. In the other direction not only has some work been done on the road through the level-crossing, but another relay room has been lifted into place. No sign of the level-crossing lights or barriers yet, but otherwise the SAK looks finished here.


3. The next stop on the tour was at Blackgrange level-crossing and worksite. There was no trouble about going 'inside the fences' here as the minibus just drove straight onto the worksite next to the level-crossing. This first picture shows trackside view of the level-crossing. The person guiding us round explained what I had already suspected, that the turqoise object on the right of this picture is a backup generator to keep the signals, level-crossing, and track circuiting working in the event of a power cut, and covers the western half of the whole SAK.


4. Another view of the Blackgrange backup generator, with the local relay room in the background (and a couple of the tour party for good measure!). The dullness of this picture is a dead giveaway that this is a cloudy day in December!


5. The trackside view looking towards Cambus. Admittedly only the place I am standing is special, especially in this light, but the finished appearance of the SAK on this stretch of the trackbed makes this a view that could easily be of the line once trains are running.


6. Next stop Cambus, and again we drove right onto the worksite and were able to go right up to the track. Looking towards Stirling the view appears initially just like previous visits...


7. ...but looking more closely there is S&T work still being done here.


8. Swinging round shows the state of the worksite, with a surprising quantity of materials still stacked here.


9. Looking east towards the level-crossing shows work in progress on the Cambus level-crossing, with the local relay room on the left of the picture. The old sleepers in the middle of the track will probably have been used for road-rail machines to get on and off the track.


10. Zooming in shows more details of the level-crossing work, complete with accompanying JCB and mini-digger!


11. On our way out of the worksite I filmed a heap of old rail - presumably these are old rails removed from the trackbed and if so this is probably my last sight of the old S&D rails.


12. The next stop was very familiar territory - the Alloa West Junction footbridge! However despite this being somewhere I can visit at anytime, the stop was of some interest, as I learned in discussion here that the impressive line of trees on the right of this picture were doomed. Apparently they are now too tall and getting too old for their species and in coming years would be all too likely to topple in gales, so the decision had been made that they would have to be felled. This was due to be done in January 2008, which may mean that this is my last view of them.


13. Looking east doesn't show anything really new, but I decided to include the picture for completeness.


14. Having reached Alloa, the next stop had to be the new station - and it was! But having driven right into the new car park in the minibus, the first thing we did was walk back out and round up onto the Waggonway Bridge! And thus here is my customary view of the Station Bridge! (I never tire of this view, but I admit it would be even better with a train in sight!)


15. Looking east shows that someone is working on the S&T, with the cabinet featured in a previous progress report open. One thing I don't recall mentioning previously in any of these reports is that the new station is being built right opposite the site of the old Alloa locomotive shed, which closed in the 1960s and must have been demolished very soon after as I don't remember ever seeing it. The metal fence on the left of the trackbed marks where the edge of the (roughly triangular) shed site was - the shed was parallel to the main line with a trailing connection to the eastbound track.


16. We walked back round to the new station, and here is a view from the approach road as we headed in, including the minibus we had arrived in!


17. Now for a side view of the platform starter signal, as seen from the throat of the new car park. In future years this picture would be easy to take, but it's a first for me.


18. Walking along behind the new platform there was a substantial amount of scaffolding stacked. However there is still scaffolding round the station building, so this must just be spare parts!


19. Approaching the new building I took the change to get a better view of the paved area in front of it. Despite the passenger service not being due to start for some time, an ornamental statue has already been put up!


20. This was the only place on the tour of the SAK that day where we were allowed close to where actual work was being done, and I took full advantage by keeping the camera running. This my best view yet of the new building, showing that it is unfinished, but progressing quite well.


21. This view shows the building in relation to the platform edge, with the bottom of a lamppost for good measure.


22. One really unexpected treat that day was that the S&T engineers happened to be testing the signalling in Alloa, and thus here is my first view of an active signal on the SAK!


23. Zooming in doesn't add much, but this view, with the starter signal framed by the Waggonway and Station Bridges, is one many other enthusiasts may want to photograph once the station opens - but I have (probably) got there first!


24. Walking down the front of the building gives a partial view of the inside, but unsurprisingly it just looks gloomy and cluttered at present.


25. A view looking east from the vicinity of the station building. Alas we weren't allowed to go any further down the platform, but soon, soon...


26. Looking back along the front of the new building alas is mainly a mess of scaffolding. But as you can see, it is being put to good use!


27. Swinging the camcorder round gives a long view down the edge of the platform, with the red signal in the background.


28. Swinging round a little more shows, or rather doesn't show, the site of the old Alloa locomotive shed mentioned earlier. Forty-odd years ago this would have been an excellent view of the shed building, but now...


29. My last picture from 'inside the fences' at the new Alloa station is this shot looking back at the new building as we went back to the minibus. I can't think of anything else to say about it, but what the heck!


30. The tour continued eastwards, with a detour to pass over the new SAK link road (something I do quite often myself!), and although I didn't think it was worth trying to film it (having done so previously), I did get the camcorder out to film sideways when we passed over the SAK itself. This first view shows the tracks east...


31. ...and I swung the camcorder round very quickly to film west as well. And as another unexpected bonus this view includes two more red signals!


32. We were headed for our final stop at the worksite adjacent to the Clackmannan bypass, but I set the camcorder going as we passed under the new Helensfield Bridge. Although perhaps I should say 'newish' as the first anniversary of it being put in had passed a couple of days before!


33. Once at the worksite, I was quick to go and stand on the track here for the first time (and probably the last time since I don't make a habit of trespassing on active railway lines!). First I pointed the camcorder west towards Clackmannan...


34. ...and then east towards Kennet, Kilbagine, and Kincardine! These aren't quite drivers eye views (since I'm not 10' tall!) but close enough!


35. Here is a general view of the worksite as seen from the edge of the track. As you can see there is backup generator here of the same type as the one at Blackgrange, to cover the eastern SAK.


36. My last picture from the tour of the SAK is a closer view of the backup generator. It would be worth including this picture on it's own merits, since this is probably a better close-up view of it than I will be able to get in the future, but this picture is special for another reason that I couldn't have known at the time (and actually didn't realise until 5 minutes ago) - this may be the last picture ever taken of the white object in the middle as this is a portable generator that was stolen between the 18th (the day I was there) and 20th December 2007, and as far as I know was never recovered. (If it was, the BBC news website didn't report it anyway.)


As mentioned above, the worksite east of Clackmannan was the last stop on the tour and we were then driven back to the main site office in the minibus. I have deliberately not mentioned who else was on the trip, not because it is necessarily secret (although I admit I would be reluctant to mention anyone without asking their permission first), but because I didn't write anything down and don't have a good memory for names and it would be a bit unfair to single out the one person who had also been invited that I had previously met!

However I did learn in conversation some important forthcoming dates in the project (which have circulated amongst the enthusist community since 18th December so I have no hesitation in repeating them here). Firstly I learned that the signalling alterations needed at Stirling Middle and Stirling North Signal Boxes to officially join the SAK to the rest of the Network Rail network were scheduled for the Easter weekend 2008, with understandable disruption to services that weekend since you can't safely use a signalling system while altering it! After that (if successful!) there would be some weeks of driver training so that scheduled passenger services could start as planned at the beginning of the summer timetable on the 18th May. Last, but not at all least, I was told that an official opening ceremony was planned for Thursday 15th May 2007. It's a lot to look forward to!

Once this 'tour' was over I got down to the serious business of Christmas presents, holidays, and seeing in the New Year, which makes this the last report from 2007, and fittingly one of the most interesting! However it is far from being the last of my SAK progress reports as on the 11th January I noticed something that made it worth going out and getting my first pictures of the SAK of 2008 the very next morning. See why in my next progress report!


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