Author Topic: Completing the Welsh Highland Railway  (Read 6644 times)

Ed Lecuyer

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Completing the Welsh Highland Railway
« on: September 16, 2010, 03:14:36 AM »
MODERATORS NOTE:
Completing the Welsh Highland Railway has been converted from the pre-July 2008 WW&F Discussion Forum.
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Stephen Hussar wrote:
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Wayne sent this the other day. It is an amazing project.
http://www.bangor.ac.uk/ml/whr/phase4/welcome.htm

One of the more interesting aspects of the project is the standard gauge/narrow gauge "Cambrian" crossing, which is being built with the government's blessing. (can anyone imagine this happening here???)  http://www.bangor.ac.uk/ml/whr/phase4/cambrian.htm


James Patten replied:
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I've been following this for several years.

This last phase is being done by the railroad's volunteers.  The first few phases were done by contractors.  The volunteer portion is something like 10 or 15 miles in 5 or 6 years.

I think they literally won the lottery for money.

Stewart Rhine replied:
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I wonder if they will use a ball signal to protect the crossing!

Stephen Hussar replied:
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"Design and planning for the new crossing has been done over a period of years, at no cost to the railway, by a team of specialist railway engineers led by David Bateman. The crossing will be automatically controlled by signal lights on both railways."

Glenn Christensen replied:
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Hi James,

I believe you are thinking of the Millenium grant the WHR received to rebuild the line back to Rhydd Ddu.  As I recall, those funds had to be used up by 2001.

In fairness though, the ffestiniog folks and the WHR project supporters (there are actually TWO Welsh Highland groups) have been conducting a number of massive fund-raising efforts, not just for reinstating the railroad track.  There have been projects to rebuild the world's first Garratt, the fabled "K1".  There have been projects for whole TRAINS of new coaches, etc. etc.

Its not unreasonable to imagine there could have been some lottery funds in the mix too.

MAN!!!  Wouldn't it be AMAZING if some day, RR preservation in this country could develop the expertise the groups in Britain have garnered!
Just imagine what could be accomplished here in the US if we were able to raise a similar $25M.

Best Regards,
Glenn

ETSRRCo replied:
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WOW. We are good but these guys are AMAZING!! I wish we could rebuild the whole WW&F like that (just not with all the modern ties and stuff). Just goes to show that you can do almost anything so long as you have the money.

Before


After

Stephen Hussar replied:
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And here is the Cambrian Crossing being installed. As Eric said, amazing.


Top photo: Neil McMaster

Botton photo: Nigel Fletcher
_________________
*                *                    *                   *
"Give me enough Swedes and whiskey and I'll build a railroad to Hell."
- James J. Hill

Phil Raynes replied:
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Actually, I believe the Cambrian line is no longer owned by British Rail or any other government arm.  The conservative government de-nationalized the rail industry several years ago.  This new crossing was actually agreed to by a privately owned railway, and was installed during a school break while they also did some other track-work nearby.  Passengers were bussed for a few days.

Phil Raynes

Mike Fox replied:
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Interesting to note the stones they have along side of the ballast. Or could be some form of cement curbing. Anyhow, it is interesting to see how different things are done and built in other parts of the world.
Mike

Wayne Laepple replied:
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That stuff that looks like curbing is actually concrete conduit in sections protecting the signal system wires. It's very common in Britain.

James Patten replied:
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So how do those steel ties work?  From what I can see all they are is a folded or bent piece of steel (actually probably cast in that shape) which sits on top of the stone.  If you look at the picture that Eric added, above (Nov 02 post), on that sharp curve it looks like the ties are just sitting on the stone.  What keeps the track in line?

Also, I'm curious if they have different ties with room for a widened gauge around the sharper curves.  What about different ties for different rail weights?  I've seen a close-up picture and there's two humps on either side of where the rail sits, so it looks like a close fit.

Glenn Christensen replied:
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Hi James,

The steel ties work like an upside down boat on the ballast.  They are dished upward in the middle.  The ballast under the dished area of the tie keeps the tie from "sinking" into the ballast.  The ends are actually curved downward to dig into the ballast shoulders.  As trains run over the track, the ends and sides become more and more firmly embedded in the ballast.

It is important to note that track in the curve photo was taken soon after track-laying crews had passed through the area.  That is why the track is just sitting on top of the ballast.  The track still must be "fettled" via tamping, leveling, lining, etc. and a "dressing" layer of ballast must still be added.  Note the tie sides and ends are angled inwards to permit the weight of the dressing ballast to further keep the tie in place.  If you look at photos taken on portions of the line that have been in reglar operation for several years, the track looks more firmly bedded.

The WHR also uses special gauge-widened ties and pre-bent rails on very sharp curves.

Hope this helps!

Best Regards,
Glenn

Dave Crow replied:
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James,

I surf through both the WHR-C and WHR-P sites.  A fellow by the name of Barrie Hughes posts within the WHR-P site.  The steel ties get tamped, although it is not like the way we do here in the US.  I believe the ballast gets tamped around the ties so they kind of "dig" down into the ballast a little; the curved down ends tend to dig into the ballast so there is little movement side-to-side of the finished track.  Some of the photos are before tamping has occurred.

There are some Indian Railways ties with a slightly wider gauge that are being used on the sharp, 60-meter radius curves.  The "standard" steel ties they received from Poland, I believe, with the rail, is set to the WHR standard gauge.  There is a hard plastic cushion that is under the rail and the notches in the ties essentially hold the gauge.  The Pandrol clip clamps the rail to the tie.

The WHR-P (the volunteer group at the south end of the re-construction) used wood sleepers (ties) with screw-down plates and clips for gauging the railway.  I think that method has been used here in the US in some places, and I'm sure some of the more knowledgable track fellows can chime in.

Just my two cents worth.
Dave Crow

Glenn Christensen replied:
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James, is it possible the "humps" you are referring to are actually the "tubes" on either side of the rail base for holding the Pandroil clips?

Glenn

James Patten replied:
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I haven't seen a close-up of the "humps" so they could very well be tubes.  Guess I'll just have to go over there and inspect it myself!  Let's see, that'd be a great thing to do in about .... 5 months or so!

Wayne Laepple replied:
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Steel ties are used in this country in places where wood ties don't hold. For example, a short line for which I worked had a 17 degree curve on a 1.6 percent grade, and they found that wood ties would not hold gauge reliably for very long. Loaded trains coming down the grade on dynamic brakes and air tended to push the outside rail very hard, and even with tie plates with eight spikes (four plate-holders and four rail-holders), the gauge was widening after just a few months. We put steel ties with welded rail and Pandrol clips in place, and that was the end of our gauge troubles. The steel ties were formed with a half-inch wide gauge allowance to accomodate the curve.

I recently viewed an industrial siding that included two fairly sharp curves with tangents between. The curves had welded rail on steel ties, while the tangents featured standard wood ties with jointed rail.

Phil Raynes replied:
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Barrie Hughes was mentioned above in this series of posts.  In case some of you were not aware of it, he has an "unofficial" website that focuses on the whole Welsh Highland - and he updates both ends (WHR(P) & (C)) very regularly.  Often he has updates before the official WHR(C)!  You can also sign up for him to notify you of updates (which I get usually 5+ times a week).  Like the "official" site, he also has the railway divided into sections where you can see the progress from rough brush & trees to finished and fully lined, tamped, and ballasted.  I tried to post his website, but cannot since I haven't posted five times yet.  I'll ask Wayne to post it for you to visit.

He also has a couple of video links to YouTube for snow scenes and construction trains.

Phil

Stewart Rhine replied:
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The Maryland Midland Railway started installing steel ties when I worked there 1989 - 1992.  The ties were cast by Beth Steel and had wells for the rail base.  The ties were installed in places where we had gauge problems.   They were used on stick rail and CRW.  They could not be used where line/block or crossing signals required a track circuit.

Wayne Laepple replied:
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Here's the unofficial Welsh Highlands web site for all to enjoy:

http://www.isengard.co.uk/

Mike Fox replied:
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Thanks Wayne.
Mike

Mike Fox replied:
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Wayne,
I have checked that site out several times and they are making great progress. I see they are using steel ties. The money they must be spending to get that running again.
Mike

Wayne Laepple replied:
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The WHR is using brand new 60-pound rail rolled in Poland. Some of their funding came from the Heritage Lottery. Must be nice to have a lottery dedicated solely to historic preservation projects!

Mike Fox replied:
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If we had a lottery like that the state(s) would get their paws on it and only about 5% would wind up going to where it belongs.

petecosmob replied:
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Okay, so %5 of ...(what was the Lotto Jackpot last week?)
I still wouldn't scoff at it!
Cosmo

Wayne Laepple replied:
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Be sure to check out the most recent update on the WHR web site, with photos of the erection of a truss bridge and laying precurved rails on an S-curve.

Cheers -- Wayne

Mike Fox replied:
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I wonder if that could be sheathed in wood to make it look like a wooden truss bridge. Would look nice over Trout Brook if it could be made to look like it was original.
Mike

Phil Raynes replied:
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Hi folks,

Just to keep you up to date, the Carnaerfon end ot the Whelsh Highland project has been very busy over the winter, if you haven't been watching the websites.  Barrie's unofficial "isengard" (the name of his carrier) website has the latest on a bridge recently installed over a 10' deep river, along with track being installed on a hairpin curve through a 40' deep cut.  The official site also has even more photos of the bridge installations (two of them in the last two months!), and a large culvert replacement on part of the track already in operation.  The all-volunteer Porthmadog end has been busy with last little bits - like railroad crossing signs - before their opening of their new section at the end of the month.  Even farm crossings must have crossing signs - in two languages!

Phil

Stephen Hussar replied:
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...you gotta love this!  

This northerly view shows tracklaying at the start of the curve that reverses the direction from south to north in Cutting Mawr.


Photo: John Ewing

gordon cook replied:
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Can anyone comment on the noise that these steel ties make when a train passes over them? When I was over there riding on Network Rail, I recall some places where the noise level of the train increased, and I wondered if it was the steel ties causing the extra racket. Sure sounded like it.

Bill Sample replied:
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Gordon, for what it's worth I have noticed an increase of track noise here in the Colonies when you go from wood to concrete - Amtrak main line at fairly high speed.  My guess is that steel would also be noisy as I imagine wood would tend to absorb noise better. And in that cut especially!

Phil Raynes replied:
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Actually, Wayne mentioned to me that he thought the noise of the exhaust in the cutting would be loud going uphill, so that would probably drown the track noise out in at least that direction!

Stephen Hussar replied:
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I'm still unclear on how the metal ties, which appear to be laying freely atop the ballast, keep the alignment of the track from changing on its own. Are they anchored down somehow?

Phil Raynes replied:
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The section of track shown in the cutting has only just been laid.  It has yet to be tamped.  After tamping (with a modern tamper, no less - look at photos back in their archives), they come along with more ballast to top it off.  I'll see if I can find links to the photos of the tamper and completed sections of track.

Phil

James Patten replied:
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Steve, if you come with us to Wales in May, you can check it out first hand  

Phil Raynes replied:
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Here are some links to the sites that show various aspects of answers to questions raised.

Work train with 2 side dump ballast cars:
http://www.bangor.ac.uk/ml/whr/2006/pj-rhyd-070406-2.jpg

The brand new (2006) Romanian built center dump ballast hopper w/ older Matisa tamper (now for sale) in front:
http://www.bangor.ac.uk/ml/whr/2007/rhyd-040207-2.jpg

Their new KMX tamper, converted by the Ffestiniog from a 3’ gauge French tamper:
http://www.bangor.ac.uk/ml/whr/2007/whrcl-ballast-150207-3.jpg

Phil

Notice the ties buried in the ballast in this last shot.

This page shows the work they had to do to restore about a mile of track beyond the Rhyd Ddu station.  From swamp to ballasted track in one year!
]http://www.bangor.ac.uk/ml/whr/phase4/rhyd-pcg.htm[url]][/url]

Phil Raynes replied:
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That last URL should be:

http://www.bangor.ac.uk/ml/whr/phase4/rhyd-pcg.htm

Sorry!
Phil

Stephen Hussar replied:
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Steve, if you come with us to Wales in May, you can check it out first hand  /i]
I really wish I could! The next "field trip" is to the Sumper Valley, right?!
Phil, thanks for the links. Any idea how much the metal sleepers weigh?

Phil Raynes replied:
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Steve,
I have not been able to locate any information about the weight of the steel "sleepers".

For those of you interested in the latest track work on the WHRwy, check out this page by a volunteer.  It includes 2 videos of work trains on the new track - even going through the tunnels!
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/john.raby1/whrrowg.html

They are now finishing up in the Aberglaslyn Pass, and rapidly approaching the final level valley floor.  Beddgelert Station platforms and sidings are complete, station contract itself to be let some time in 2008.  More info can be found on either the official site or Barrie Hughes's unofficial site.
Phil

Mike Fox replied:
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Steve,
It is the shape that anchors them. The sides taper down into the ballast to give them bite.
Mike

Phil Raynes replied:
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Just to bring you up to date, there are some recent photos available of the Welsh Highland.  PLEASE NOTE: all these pages are loaded with thumbnails, and will take a loooonnng time to open fully on dail-up!

For the latest news, including photos of 2 "England" (the manufacturer, from 1863) locos on a special on the unopened section, go to:

http://whr.bangor.ac.uk/whlatest.htm

If you aren't interested in the 2-6-2+2-6-2 Garretts, but want more of the 0-4-0 locos in action on he "S"-curves near Beddgelert with 3 period coaches, go to:

http://www.fatbloke.fotopic.net/c1402772.html

For photos of the track being rebuilt and completed in the Aberglaslyn Pass (including some pretty spectacular scenery at the bottom of the page!), go to:

http://whr.bangor.ac.uk/phase4/aberglaslyn.htm

Out of curiosity (and please pardon my ignorance!), did any of the Maine 2-footers go through scenery similar to this?

Enjoy,
Phil

Bill Sample replied:
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Phil, none of the Maine 2-footers had scenery quite this rugged, my thought is the Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes had the most "dramatic" hills in their vicinity compared to the others.  None of the "Maine Five" had any tunnels that I'm aware of.  I've been to the Ffestiniog twice so I've seen  the Welsh scenery first hand.  Even with the current killer exchange rate I hope to get back to ride the WHR when it re-opens.
In my view, what the Maine 2-footers lacked in spectacular scenery they made up for with their own special charm.

James Patten replied:
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For those of you that check out the latest news on the WHR restoration, the Head of Steel has reached Croesor Junction - which means they are about to point south and shoot towards Porthmadog.

Additionally, work has started on Harbour Station to add a switch which will lead to the WHR track.

Things are about to get real exciting in downtown Porthmadog!

Phil Raynes replied:
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Photos of the first steam train in Aberglaslyn Pass since abandonment in 1946 have been posted on Ben Fisher's "News" page!  Some of the views are incredible, and are similar to certain parts of the Durango & Silverton.  Over 66 photos have been posted!  Definitely worth a trip to ride it!  Enjoy!

http://whr.bangor.ac.uk/whlatest.htm

Phil

Ira Schreiber replied:
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Wonderful photos, I can't wait to see it in person.............

Phil Raynes replied:
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For those interested in a video of the first steam train through the Aberglaslyn Pass, check out this video.  It includes about 4 minutes heading downhill, then 6 minutes coming back up, stopping at Beddgelert Station to refill the tank at the very newly installed water crane, and  then views of the train climbing the s-curves out of Beddgelert.  These videos were taken by one of the volunteer track crew, who were given time off to ride the train for all their efforts!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H72mTv8Vh2U

Phil

jlancasterd replied:
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Quote
Photos of the first steam train in Aberglaslyn Pass since abandonment in 1946 have been posted on Ben Fisher's "News" page!  Some of the views are incredible, and are similar to certain parts of the Durango & Silverton.  Over 66 photos have been posted!  Definitely worth a trip to ride it!  Enjoy!
Phil

The last steam train in the Aberglaslyn Pass was the clean-up train hauled by 'Russell' in 1937 - the track-lifting trains during WW2 were hauled by a 20HP Simplex diesel.

If any members of this forum are intending to visit the WHR or the FR during the coming summer, I would be happy to meet you. I'm around Harbour Station in Porthmadog most days if I'm not elsewhere photographing progress. Visits to Boston Lodge Works can be arranged...

Best if you PM me before you leave home.

John Dobson
(Editor, FR Magazine)

James Patten replied:
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John,

Check out the "How I spent my May Bank Holiday" thread for a trip report about a trip several of us took to Wales, myself included.

I'm still raving about the trip.  The FR is a fabulous ride!  Boston Lodge was quite awe-inspiring too.

Alas a return trip to Wales is out of the cards for a while, at least for me.

snowtownbob replied:
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Hi everybody, I hope you don't mind an honorary Welshman joining your group but I was involved with the Welsh Highland Railway rebuilding from the earliest days and the lottery funding was my idea.  I'm now too old to undertake physical work but still take photographs and meet with the North Wales track laying gang every month for a pint or two and a talk from a guest speaker.

The steel sleepers (ties) seem to intrigue people so I'll start on those.  The Snowdon Mountain railway, a rack or cog railway here in my home village of Llanberis was laid with steel ties in 1896 and a good proportion of those are still in use.  (Incidentally, we also have here a Lakeside railway which uses ex-quarry two foot gauge Hunslet locos, Llanberis is a good place to live).

When the WHR rebuild was in its early stages the head of the South African railways two foot gauge network approached the Ffestiniog Railway since he had learnt his trade in Boston Lodge works in Porthmadog.  He offered three two foot gauge NGG16 Garratts and a twelve mile branch line which had seen only two years use after relaying before a bridge wash out closed it.  We thought we were getting complete track panels but the undergrowth made it impossible to lift the track in complete section so we got rails, ties and all the fastenings.  To compensate, the fastenings and ties were loaded into open bogie cars which came free and are still used on the works trains, and two of them have been converted into bicycle carrier wagons.

Nest post I'll set out how the volunteers lay the track, it's now up to the stage where ten volunteers can lay two hundred yards in a day -- by hand.

Snowtownbob

Phil Raynes replied:
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It is good to have John & Bob joining and providing us with the answers!  I joined both the WHRwy Forum and the Yahoo Group, and follow both Dr. Ben's and Barrie's web pages to keep track of what is going on.  It is an exciting time for Welsh Narrow Gauge Railways!

Phil

NGFan replied:
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It is so good to be able to read up on what is happening there.  My daughter just got a scholarship to Crittenden for 08-09 so you know where some of my vacation is going to be spent.  Yahoo  

John

Stephen Hussar replied:
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It is good to have John & Bob joining and providing us with the answers! It is an exciting time for Welsh Narrow Gauge Railways! Phil

I was thinking the same thing! Welcome!

snowtownbob replied:
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You're very kind, so I'll let you in on how we lay track.

You might have noticed on recent postings on the isengard and Bangor University sites photos which showed in the foreground small yellow trucks with open frames. These are RRMs (Roland's Rail Movers, named after the construction manager on Phase 1) or, more properly, skates.  The frame supports a pair of lazy tongs grabs which are raised and lowered by large detachable levers on top of the frame.

Rails are deposited from transporter wagons into the middle of th etrackalready laid.  They are then picked up in pairs by two RRMs and the assemblage used to roll the pairs of rails up to the head of steel.  We use a small diesle loco for this, but it can be (and has bee) done by hamd.

At the head of steel the rails are lowered one at a time onto rollers and guided using riail tongs to the final position, the cunning bit being the rollers.  We originally used short lengths of scaffold pole as rollers, moving on wood planks laid on the top of the last completed section of track, but this was awkward and slow, althiough traditional.

One day someone remembered an old roller conveyor we had been donated  -- the kind used in warehouses to assemble orders.  We cut this up into single roller sections and lo and behold they fitted onto the ties and gave us a good but very temporary roller conveyor for rails.  As far as I know this method of track laying is unique -- but I may well be wrong.

Working this way, with bolted track, we could lay 100 yards (five panels) of tangent track a day. Proress on the severe curves is much slower, however.  After Rhyd Ddu, Pandrol clipped track has been used (with Heritage sections in traditional wooden sleepered track) and this can be laid at ten panels or 100 yards a day using a ten man crew. very recently on some days that has risen to almost twenty panels a day.  I haven;t laid track since Rhyd Ddu so can;e give practical details on Pandrol track but the Black Hand Gang (aka the North Wales Group) which I originally raised tell me that Pandrol is much easier and quicker.

Hope this helps when you come to lay track.

Bob Gartside

jlancasterd replied:
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There was a large track laying party in evidence on Phase 4 today, including a contingent of Dutchmen, organised by Paul Bender, and a large group from the Imperial College Railway Society (Imperial College is part of the University of London).

They had extended the head of steel across the minor road at 'Cowshit Corner' (LC112 on the John Sreeves maps accessible vis the WHR websites) by early afternoon despite intermittent snow and hail showers and should be at, or very near, Pont Croesor (the multi-span bridge across the Glaslyn) by the end of the week.

See: http://www.l-camera-forum.com/leica-forum/people/50649-waiting.html#post532398
_________________
Editor
Ffestiniog Railway Magazine

jlancasterd replied:
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Thanks to help from groups of volunteers from Holland, Network Rail and Grant Rail, the Rest of the World gang have laid well over a kilometer of track since Saturday last week. By yesterday evening track was complete to within one rail length of Pont Croesor. Some adjustment of rail lengths will be necessary before the new track can be connected to that already laid on the bridge, but that shouldn't take long and will probably be done today.

Fencing was also installed from LC112 to Pont Croesor during the past few days.

It is likely that there will now be a hiatus in track laying as the trackbed between Pont Croesor and the Traeth Mawr Halt site needs considerable work, including the building of two Armco occupation bridges for cattle access.

Photos at: http://whr.bangor.ac.uk/phase4/dylif-pontc.htm
_________________
Editor
Ffestiniog Railway Magazine

James Patten replied:
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The WHR(P) group said that they were unable to keep laying track past Traeth Mawr because the farmer beyond wanted a bridge built for cattle access across his whole parcel of land.  Is this farmer getting his wish or will just a small cattle pass bridge be built for him?

jlancasterd replied:
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The WHR(P) group said that they were unable to keep laying track past Traeth Mawr because the farmer beyond wanted a bridge built for cattle access across his whole parcel of land.  Is this farmer getting his wish or will just a small cattle pass bridge be built for him?

He's actually getting  TWO bridges. IIRC they will be built around large diameter 'Armco' corrugated tubes, of the type used for culverts, rivers and streams, which will be covered with earth so that they can be grassed, as will the access ramps for the cattle. The actual tunnel section on each bridge will be no more than 20/25 feet long.

See: http://whr.bangor.ac.uk/phase4/pontcroesor-traeth.htm
_________________
Editor
Ffestiniog Railway Magazine
Ed Lecuyer
Moderator, WW&F Forum