SAK Rebuilt - Progress Report 50

A Long Days Journey!

By March 2008, the reconstruction of the SAK was virtually complete, and in fact the line was due to be connected in as an operational part of the national rail network on the Easter weekend of 21st-24th March. For this reason (and for the fun of it naturally!) I took a day of leave on Friday 14th March with the intention of travelling the whole length of the SAK and get pictures of the whole length of the line as rebuilt and ready to use. And here is the result!

Anyone with the staying power to have read all my 49 previous Progress Reports may have noticed that I haven't featured the 'Stirling' part of the 'Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine Railway' all that much. This is partly because the SAK worksite only went just over the old S&D Forth Viaduct and also due to the difficulty of taking worthwhile pictures! However Stirling Station and the former S&D approach lines to it deserve being included in these progress reports somewhere and in addition I also wanted to get a few pictures of an unrelated construction project at the south end of the station...


1. Although not part of the SAK project, the timing of the construction of the 'Forthside Bridge' meant that it was still well short of completion on the 14th March, as you can see. Although it looks huge, this is only a footbridge!



 

2. A view taken from a different angle emphasises the strange shape of the new footbridge. Once completed, the props will be removed and there will then be a single span right over Platforms 2, 3, 7, 8, 6, 9, & 10 of the station!



 

3. Now for a picture of something older - 95 years older to be precise! Stirling station was rebuilt by the Caledonian Railway in 1913, and the result has stood the test of time very well indeed.



 

4. Working round to the road bridge at the north end of the station, here is a view across the north end platforms. Nearest to the camera is Platform 2, followed by Platforms 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, and finally Platform 10, which is the only one with a train in it at present! And it would have been one platform more, if someone hadn't decided they needed the car park in the foreground and filled in Platform 1 to create it. Incidentally the Class 170 unit in Platform 10 is one that would have done a return trip to Alloa had the line already been opened to passenger services.



 

5. Looking from the road bridge shows the platforms much better. The bay platforms 4 & 5 in the middle of the picture are now only used for parking DMUs overnight, but the lines on the right are the Scottish Central main line, and those on the left the former S&D lines, which in little over a week will officially become the SAK lines! However the starter sign at this end of Platform 6 won't be signalling SAK services, as it is due to be replaced at the Easter weekend with a junction colour light signal.



 

6. Looking north from the road bridge shows that the SAK project has already had an effect outside its worksite, as the former S&D tracks seem to have been re-ballasted and tamped in readiness for the SAK being connected in at Easter 2008. The combined home and distant signal on the right is another that is due to be removed, as Stirling North signal-box will soon lose control of the former S&D tracks which will be the controlled by the new 'SAK' panel installed in Stirling Middle signal-box and due to be commissioned at Easter 2008.



 

7. This next picture shows the end (or the beginning) of the SAK worksite, in the form of the temporary buffers that prevent trains straying uninvited onto the SAK tracks. And I managed to get a train in to the shot as well, albeit not heading down the SAK (yet!)



 

8. This next picture is of a vantage point at the back of some houses on the Causewayhead road that I tried out for the first time on this trip, and as you can see it offers a decent view of the line towards Stirling alongside the Causewayhead road including the Junction signal ahead of the double track section over the Forth Viaduct.



 

9. Looking the other way is nearly as good, since this is not only a good place to take pictures, but has a view of a signal in both directions allowing some advance warning that a train is due, which is always helpful. However nothing is due right now! I'd better point out right now that in both this picture and the previous one I have zoomed the camera a bit to get a clearer view of the signals - I took unzoomed pictures but have edited them out as this page will be long enough without them!



 

10. Just out of sight of the last picture is the Waterside (or Ladysneuk Road) level-crossing, which was not completed at the time of my previous visit. It looks completed now, but the road over it is closed, suggesting that it perhaps still being tested, which would require the barriers to be lowered frequently.



 

11. A closer view of the 'Stirling' side of the level-crossing reveals that wooden slats have been fitted to deter stray dogs and the like from walking down the track.



 

12. The road might have been closed, but the sign didn't mention the pavement, and there was nobody about to quibble, so I was able to step quickly across to get a view from the other side. Ready in time for the trains to run - here's hoping!



 

13. My last stop inside Causewayhead was the site of the former level-crossing on the old Cambuskenneth road, and as you can see it has made yet another comeback as it has again been reinstated temporarily to allow the Waterside level-crossing to be closed again for the last stage of its rebuild. This is at least the second time this has happened during the SAK rebuild so far!



 

14. The difference this time is of course that the old S&D tracks through the original level-crossing are long gone and, as you can readily see in this picture, the SAK track through here is straight, level, and will probably have a fairly high line speed compared to the 10 or 15 mph that freight trains were supposed to crawl through the old ungated crossing at.



 

15. Looking east reveals another signal, albeit one with its back to me. This signal effectively protects the Waterside level-crossing, which can't even be seen from here, since some distance is required for a train to stop if it passes the signal at red without having slowed down. However unlikely this possibility sounds, a signalling system has to be designed to cope with the worst case scenarios the design engineers can imagine.



 

16. Since this would surely be my last chance to do so, I took pictures from all angles of the level-crossing, and this is how it looked from the other side of the adjacent main road into Causewayhead. Despite being temporary, it is if anything a better crossing that the original one, although that hadn't exactly been in good shape by the time it was closed!



 

17. I went looking for another new photographic location next, as I hadn't previously tried out the single-track road south of the SAK that follows the line east out of Causewayhead, and I discovered that a half a mile or so down there was indeed a good location. This picture shows the view from there back towards Causewayhead, with the track at eye level, the sun at my back, and the Abbey Craig complete with the top of the Wallace Monument as a backdrop.



 

18. Looking the other way shows the line sweeping in a smooth curve round towards the bridge taking the A91 road over the SAK. Like the location adjacent to the Causewayhead Road in pictures 8 & 9 above, it is possible to see a signal in both directions and thus be ready when a train comes into sight.



 

19. I passed up the possibility of stopping at the A91 bridge, due to the difficulty of pulling off the road safely there, and so headed for a little further down the line. For some reason it hadn't previously occurred to me to try to take pictures at the site of the Manor Powis occupation crossing, so I decided to try that out instead. And when I got there, I discovered that the crossing was still being rebuilt, and thus was fenced off!



 

20. However the fencing wasn't a problem as I could move a few yards down and get suitable pictures over a nearby fence at the edge of a culvert bridge as seen here.



 

21. Looking west shows how straight the trackbed is here, which is more than the old S&D track was here prior to being lifted, as it had a reverse curve following what was the point diverging to form eastbound side of the Manor Powis loop until that was removed at the start of 1988.



 

22. This last picture from Manor Powis shows the view east over the newly rebuilt occupation crossing. Since I reached this location over a short length of what is actually a private road I'm not sure if I should recommend this as a photography location, but I'm glad to have visited it at least once during the rebuild.



 

23. Since I have covered Blackgrange and Cambus extensively in recent progress reports, I headed to Alloa next, and parked near to the Clairmont overbridge, which as you can see is the first road bridge east of the former Alloa West Junction.



 

24. While the Clairmont bridge is an excellent photography location, I tried moving round to the north side of the cutting here, which still has a good view west...



 

25. ...and a good view of the line under the Clairmont bridge itself!



 

26. The other side of the cutting here is actually inside a public park, and despite having to lift my camera high up to take pictures over the high fence, it gives a good side view of the signal here.



 

27. From this side I got a better picture of the Clairmont bridge, and the view of a train passing under it will still be quite good...



 

28. ...although not nearly as good as the photography prospects when looking west from here! If this cutting seems a bit wide even for one that formerly had a double track line through it, it is because there were once a couple of sidings in it as well, although these are now long gone.



 

29. On to the centre of Alloa now, and the view west from the station bridge hasn't changed much...



 

30. ...and neither has the view east either! I am unlikely to tire of taking pictures here anytime soon, but having some trains passing will help a lot!



 

31. Typically, I then walked round to the Alloa Waggonway Bridge to get pictures of the new station, but on the way I took pictures of the partially blanked out road sign for the new station roundabout,...



 

32. ...the new station sign just at the roundabout,...



 

33. ...and the (just about) totally blanked out exit sign from the roundabout!



 

34. At the new station work is still going on, and thus the car park is still something of a worksite, albeit an increasingly tidy one!



 

35. Since the last progress report, the track in the platform has obviously been fully re-ballasted and re-tamped - if I didn't know it had been lifted and relaid a mere two weeks previously I could never have guessed that from looking at it on this trip.



 

36. Zooming in a bit shows that the station building is still being worked on - I am beginning to wonder if there will be workmen evicted temporarily on 15th May to allow the official opening to go ahead!



 

37. Since I was still on the hunt for photography location I hadn't previously tried, I moved round to a new housing estate that had been built opposite the site of the new station, part of which was on the site of the old Alloa locomotive shed. I started at the east end of this site, and this is the view from here looking east.



 

38. Swinging the camera round reveals that I am (not coincidentally!) standing opposite the end of the platform siding, and right opposite the back of the new Asda store.



 

39. Swinging round a bit further and the buffers at the end of the platform are revealed. Clearly there is no margin for overshooting the platform with an arriving train without pushing these buffers back!



 

40. I walked up the fence a bit and was able to get this a good view of the new station building. And this is despite facing more or less into the sun!



 

41. I tried a couple of zoom views of the building, but was hampered by having to lift the camera up higher than the fence, which is quite tall at this point, and found it simpler to walk along until I was opposite the new building, where the fence was somewhat lower anyway, and got an even better picture!



 

42. I moved east again, but as you can see I didn't go very far, as there is a road nearby that goes right up to the SAK fence, and a change of direction of the fence that might have been designed to help photography.



 

43. The view is also interesting in the other direction, as this location is right at one end of the Whins Road bridge. The tree spoils the view slightly, but...



 

44. ...zoom out a bit and it is hardly noticeable!



 

45. My last view from this spot is of the sign right opposite - a gradient board. The 1 in 130 slope uphill towards the new station is respectable enough, but 1 in 10000 is so close to being level I am a bit surprised anyone makes the distinction!



 

46. I then headed for a rather more familiar location in the form of the Bruce Street footbridge, but on the way up the steps noticed another gradient board - steeper than the last one in this direction, but still not much of a challenge for modern traction



 

47. Looking west from the footbridge reveals that a mileage sign and yet another gradient board are only a few yards up the line.



 

48. Nothing much has changed recently in the other direction, although I'm not complaining since it's now such a good view!



 

49. At long last (!) I reached the new 'Alloa Loop' (which I persist in believing to be outside Alloa whatever it is called!) and made my way onto the new link road bridge. Looking west the loop tracks are pristine - except for one section of trough lid!



 

50. Looking east the view is pristine - the work to tidy up the worksite that was on the left of this view is more or less finished and the new access road to replace the occupation crossing that used to cross the track bed here is now completed and fenced off from the line.



 

51. Down beyond the other end of the loop I took a zoom view of the junction signal contolling access to the Alloa loop from the Kincardine direction...



 

52. ...and swung round to get a zoom view of the new Helensfield bridge. It's not perhaps the best place to get pictures of the SAK infrastructure, but it will be a useful place to go once the coal trains start running.



 

53. Much as I would have liked to visit evey bridge and vantage point on this trip, it was now mid-afternoon and the sky had gone from bright and sunny, to cloudy and dull, so I passed up the option of visiting Clackmannan and Kennet, and went right on to the bridge at Kilbagie. Checking back, I find with some surprise that the last time this location featured in one of these progress reports was November 2006, when the track had just been laid, and had not yet been ballasted. In contrast, the view looking towards Clackmannan is of a finished line that has long been ready for its first coal train!



 

54. Looking towards Kincardine gives a magnificent view of nearly a mile of the SAK as it winds down a fair-sized embankment to get almost to the level of the River Forth. Even given the different economics of construction at the time this line was built, this line is quite substantially built for what was originally a branch line terminating at Kincardine!



 

55. Finally I arrived at Kincardine, and typically started at the bridges over the railway just outside the road entrance to the former Kincardine Power Station site. This view shows the completed line coming from the Alloa direction, and is a considerable contrast to the views of this stretch of line in my first couple of progress reports in the spring of 2006.



 

56. Moving down a bridge, the next short stretch of completed line between two of the three overbridges here can be seen...



 

57. ...and looking the other way from this bridge the SAK curves round east out of sight, with the re-laid access line to the old power station site following it round.



 

58. The same tracks, but this time viewed from the third of the three overbridges here. This would be a good place to film a train accessing the old power station site, but at the time or writing it is unclear if the connection will be used much once the reconstruction is finished and the SAK connected to the rest of the Network Rail network.



 

59. Looking into the power station site doesn't show all that much at this distance...



 

60. ... but zooming in reveals that it is still a worksite, although probably in the process of being tidied up. Looking at this picture, I am most interested in the pile of used concrete sleepers, as the only place along the whole SAK trackbed that I know for certain previously had concrete sleepers was between Alloa and Cambus - could these be those sleepers? I'll probably never know!



 

61. My last stop of the afternoon was at the occupation crossing at the site of the former Kincardine station. It hadn't changed all that much as a result of the SAK reconstruction last time it featured in one of these reports, but as you can see in this first picture, it is getting a total rebuild now!



 

62. Moving closer shows that the crossing has had the track replaced across it, and has received heavy metal gates both for road traffic and for pedestrians.



 

63. Swinging round a bit shows another gradient board, in this case indicating that the line is uphill in both directions from the level-crossing. And although the level-crossing itself doesn't require much in the way of controls, this is clearly a control centre of sorts for the local signalling and track circuiting.



 

64. Here is a closer look at the unfinished works on part of the crossing. It's a far cry from the wooden gates that used to be here, and which stood open to both road and rail most of the time anyway!



 

65. Looking north in the 'Alloa' direction shows that the line is fully finished apart from a few cables which might be something to do with the rebuilt crossing.



 

66. This last picture is of the line curving away towards Longannet through the overgrown remains of the Kincardine Station platform. I managed to miss this section of the line being upgraded, but I don't drive through Kincardine all that often so that isn't at all surprising.



 

A long trip, and a correspondingly long progress report. However it could have been worse, as the 66 pictures in the report were selected from a mere 181 I actually took! Even at this late date, I am still finding a few new things worth commenting on, although it won't be long until all the work is finished. Maybe this will end up being my last progress report...

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These pages are owned and maintained by Jeffray Wotherspoon. The storage space for these pages is provided by the University Of Stirling, but it is in no way responsible for the contents of these pages. Please email me at jeff.wotherspoon@stir.ac.uk if you have any questions, comments, problems etc.