Track Maintenance

A couple of weeks ago there was a plaintive email from the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway locomotive roster clerk asking for someone to drive the Track Gang’s works train on Friday 10th of June as their regular driver was not going to be available. I was already planning to be at Llanfair that day, and some mainline mileage on one of the diesels would be useful practice, so I volunteered for the job.

My normal activities at the W&LLR comprise of driving trains, loco maintenance, vegetation clearance and testing & repairing electrical equipment; so this was going to be a bit of a change for me. But, in the past I have done plenty of track work so I knew what I was letting myself in for.

The works train had been shunted the night before so when I arrived on Friday morning all I had to do was put on my overalls, check that the loco had been prepared and head off down the line.

First stop was Tanllan, less than a quarter of a mile from Llanfair Caereinion, where about four tons of ballast was loaded.

Loading Ballast At Tanllan

While that was taking place Alan used an extending pole saw to lop off a couple of low hanging branches.

Cutting A Low Branch

Falling Branch

We then set of again pausing at Mill Curves to drop off Rodney and his tools. He was going to do some re-pointing on the stone faced embankment adjacent to the River Banwy.

We then went on to Heniarth where there was a loose fishplate bolt. This put up quite a fight but eventually it came undone, the bolt was checked for damaged threads and then the nut done up tight.

Tightening Fishplate Bolts

Our next stop was at milepost 7 just east of The Kink. Here we spent a good bit of time slewing track to improve the alignment and thus the ride. This also reduces the wear and tear at the rail joints. As this task required all five of us there are no photos. Alan and I were left to do a bit of ‘Kango’* packing while the others walked on ahead towards Brynelin Viaduct in search of loose fishplates and more places to slew.

Tamping Ballast The Hard Way

* The W&LLR actually uses Hilti electric packing hammers.

The train was then moved forward and some additional ballast dropped.


We then stopped for a well earned tea break but all to soon we were slewing track again on the approach to Brynelin Viaduct.

We then went onwards to Cyfronydd Station for a late lunch. ‘Chef’ was not present so we had to make do with whatever we had brought in out packed lunches.

The next task was to improve the rail fixings on a couple of sleepers on the loop line. The old spikes and base-plates were removed and Pandrol base-plates inserted. These are wider than the old base-plates and so can be fixed into a different part of the sleeper.

Fitting Pandrol Rail Fixing

We had barely started when rumblings of thunder heralded a deluge that drove us back into the mess coach.


Heavy Rain

Thankfully it did not last for long and we completed the repairs to the loop line.

Loading Ballast At Cyfronydd

Rodney arrived with his JCB and loaded a some more ballast.  He then set about digging  a hole to locate the outfall of the culvert that is supposed to drain the field on the south side of the line. We set off on our way again to Sign Hut Curve for more slewing and a bit of tweaking of a few rails with the hydraulic rail bender. It is very effective machine but sooo heavy.

Arriving back at Cyfronydd about an hour later we found Rodney at the bottom of  a large trench shoving drain rods up the culvert. He ran out of rods so the set from the tool van were passed down to him. After a total of 37 rods had been pushed in nothing had emerged on the other side of the line. Clearly this culvert did not go towards the point in the field where we knew there was a drain.

Rodding A Culvert

The rods were retrieved and fed in to the culvert from the field end. Eventually they came to a dead stop. They were pulled out and laid along the ground surface and stopped a few yards short of where Rodney’s trench was. He resolved to come back another day and feed a wire in with the rods and then use a tracer on the surface to track the line of the culverts.

The rain was setting in again as we ran round the train and got ready to set off back to Llanfair. Alan was in the driving seat which allowed me to catch a photo of the reflection of the Diema in the mirror at the level crossing.

Cyfronydd Level Crossing

On the way back I spotted a jay perched on a line side fence post near School Mistress’ cottage. It did not stay for long and took refuge in the trees on the opposite side of the line. At Mill Curves we paused to pick up Rodney’s tools and a pile of empty sand and cement bags. Back at Llanfair we, unloaded tools, rubbish, etc, and then reversed the works train back to Tanllan and shunted it into the sidings. Last but not least we returned the Diema to Llanfair, parked it in the loop and signed off at just after six pm.





This entry was posted in bird watching, Cyfronydd, Heniarth, Heritage, Lineside maintenance, Llanfair Caereinion, Photographs, railroad, railway, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Track Maintenance

  1. Very nice to read of all the work that goes on unseen and unknown by the general travelling public…yet this is essential for the running of the line. The rural scenes that you have photographed to illustrate the work just emphasise the bucolic charm of this wonderful line.

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