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Major engineering works between Taunton and Exeter

Captain Kernow

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The major 23 day continuous blockade of the main lines between Cowley Bridge Jct (exclusive) and Taunton West (inclusive) starts tonight, in the early hours of Saturday morning. The engineers will take possession of all lines between these points for a major series of worksites, including important reinforcement works to Whiteball Tunnel (the main reason for the block), plus renewal of virtually all S&C at Taunton West and Tiverton Loops.


In addition to this, there are plain line renewal sites at Tiverton Loops, Bradford-on-Tone, Hele & Bradninch, Silk Mill and Stoneshill (a mile or so south of Tiverton Loops), together with drainage works at either end of Whiteball Tunnel.


There are over 60 engineering trains working in and out of the blockade, approx half either side of the tunnel. Those from the south end will work from and to Exeter Riverside Yard, which has now been completely refurbished, with all remaining roads back in use, having been relaid recently. The yard is currently FULL of engineering wagons and Class 66 locos!


The northern end engineering trains will work from and back to either Westbury or Taunton Fairwater Yard, with several spoil trains being tripped from Fairwater to/from the WSR facility at Norton Fitzwarren for unloading.


FGW are operating a diverted HST service every 2 hours in each direction via Yeovil and Castle Cary. This service, together with the booked SWT services, will fill the 'Southern' route between Exeter and Yeovil virtually to capacity during the 'daytime' service period. The route will also be busy each night, as the sleepers, some ECS trains, a number of freight trains, plus some important engineering transfer trains for the blockade are run. There is a joint FGW and CrossCountry road replacement operation in force between Exeter St Davids, Tiverton Parkway and Taunton.


I will post some photos that I plan to take during 'The Captain's Travels' in due course.



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I hope it all goes well.

I would normally be travelling down to Exeter for the football (well someone has to)

but due to the blockade I will be giving it as miss over the next weeks.

I don't fancy the rail replacement, and will not drive in this weather.


I will look forward to the photos



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.............. Exeter Riverside Yard, which has now been completely refurbished, with all remaining roads back in use, having been relaid recently. The yard is currently FULL of engineering wagons and Class 66 locos!


Good to see that it's a vital asset and still needed Cap'n!  <_<   :biggrin_mini2: 

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Found some time to post a few photos...


First of all, some views I took on a visit to Exeter Riverside Yard last Thursday, 16th January. The local PW were putting the finishing touches to major refettling works on the last two roads that had still been clipped out of use, due to poor condition, the Up Reception and No.2 Siding. The whole yard is now back in use, and virtually every bit of track in it has been completely relaid with new or refurbished materials.


The yard was full of trains for the blockade that was about to start on the Friday night. Most of these trains will have been for the plain line relaying sites at Tiverton Loops (Up Main between the loop points, now pretty much completed as I write this) and at Stoneshill, to the south of Tiverton, which was started on time this morning.

























Even the new tamper sidings in Old Yard were full of engineering trains:








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I visited the S&C relaying site at Taunton West yesterday, to find the work in full swing and going well. In these shots, most of the work was focused on relaying the downside S&C (although virtually every point end is getting renewed in this possession). I then walked towards Fairwater Yard, to check on activity there (all photos taken under full track safety conditions, 'don't try this at home, folks!'  ;) )...


First of all, a panoramic view of the recently re-laid sidings on the site of 'Taunton Old Loco'. These were relaid a few months ago by the local PW projects team, and are replacement sidings for track being lost to the new Taunton Northern Inner Distribution road, which will run along the course of the old goods avoiding lines - some photos later on refer to this. However, although they were not laid in with this blockade specifically in mind, they are seeing use during the works, even though there was nothing in there at the time of my visit:



Engineering train 6A08 was being unloaded on the Up Main line. This was a long train, with some opens at the front end, some of which had had sand already unloaded, with a FLHH Class 66 at the head, and with sidetippers loaded with 'bottom ballast' towards the rear. Some of the later photos show these sidetippers being unloaded and the ballast dozed into position.



In recent years, with the opening of the High Output depot in Fairwater Yard, a long shunt spur from Fairwater right back up to Taunton station was laid in on the course of the old Goods Avoiding Lines. Due to the road scheme, this has had to be slewed over nearer to the main running lines. It is still the same length, so retains the same flexibility of use. Here it is, from the station end, looking towards Fairwater, with the S&C relaying site and 6A08 over to the right of the photo:



Some more views now of the main S&C site:



































The course of the old goods avoiding lines, latterly the former High Output shunt spur (the new shunt spur is immediately to the right in the photo):



More views from the site:















This is where the old goods lines joined the main and relief lines, near to the Staplegrove Road bridge, at what was once Taunton West Junction. The road will soon come this way and ascend up to the existing road:




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Even the new tamper sidings in Old Yard were full of engineering trains:


I have to feel a little proud of the yards new lease of life having delivered a percantage of the reclaimed materials like rails and sleepers.

Its been a whole load of work over the last 12 months or so.

Incidently, the far right tamper siding has concrete Pan 9's that I bought in from Heathfield. The Bullhead concretes came from Newton St Cyres on the Barny branch.


I popped in today for a look at proceedings.

The weather was far from phot friendly as it was very wet and dull.




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The Kirow crane was stabled on the Up Main just outside of the worksite, waiting to unload the next tranche of S&C components from train 6X09, which contained some of the special tilting wagons. Some of these can be seen in one of the views of Fairwater Yard:











Work continues unloading ballast back on the main site, together with other activities:





Different types of open wagon marshalled in the consist of 6A08:







Meanwhile, trains were arriving and departing from Taunton, which has temporarily become a terminal station:





6A08 waits for the engineers to finish with it, prior to returning to Westbury:





Meanwhile, at least one spoil train a day is being tripped across to the West Somerset Railway's spoil facility at Norton Fitzwarren. I just managed to catch the rear of 6Z01 before it departed back to Fairwater Yard:



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Interesting to see that they are using clamp locks on the running line pointwork at Taunton - that's an interesting step backwards on past BR policy.


Are they still used elsewhere on the system Mike ? They seem to be the norm in the West Country (except Plymouth as far as I remember).


Was the old BR policy to get rid of them?

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Are they still used elsewhere on the system Mike ? They seem to be the norm in the West Country (except Plymouth as far as I remember).


Was the old BR policy to get rid of them?

Exeter and Westbury panel schemes used mainly electric point machines I think John as by that time the Western was more than familiar with clamp locks and had found them wanting where there was heavy traffic usage and high speeds with ever spiralling maintenance costs.  I think they were regharded as ok for lightly used lines where there weren't heavy axleloads and some still went in new but equally quite a lot were taken out and replaced by HW electric machines.

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More site visits today, this time to Whiteball Tunnel itself, where long sections of the brick-lined tunnel have been lined with steel mesh and are having concrete sprayed over it. This will reinforce those sections of the tunnel where this is required. Only the top third of the steel mesh sections are being sprayed during this blockade, and this activity alone will take the full three weeks. Essentially, a very large cement mixer has been mounted on a huge trolley, and this is propelled between the worksite and the refilling facility at the north-end compound by a road/rail machine. Other R/R machines are also working on this site, which also features earthworks and drainage improvements at both ends of the tunnel.


Here, a R/R/V and trailers are about to run up from the north-end compound to the tunnel:



Telephoto view from the access point up to the tunnel (this view is looking towards Exeter):



A 'man rider' machine was available to convey staff and visitors to the work site:



The view looking back to the access point from the back of the 'man rider':



Getting closer to the tunnel:



The north-end portal, where drainage works was taking place in the left of the photo:





Our conveyance:



At this point, the 'man rider' deposited it's passengers, then reversed back to the access point, to allow the 'cement mixer' to return on the same line, to re-fill:



Into the tunnel (on foot):



Looking back at the north portal from a few yards inside:



Lighting has been installed throughout the tunnel, but to keep fumes down, the generators are only started up for those areas where staff are currently working. This is much closer to the south portal:



Looking back towards the north portal from the same location as the above photo:



The current concrete spraying is at the south portal. The large piece of kit is the actual concrete sprayer, which at the time of our visit was inactive, due to waiting for the 'cement mixer' to return:







Some views of the steel mesh, which will have concrete sprayed onto it:





Due to the nature of the process, the first few coats of concrete don't completely cover the mesh, rather it is built up as a gradual process. Here some of the mesh have had a few coats already:



Back at the north end, the 'cement mixer' has been refilled and is returning to the work site, through the tunnel:



And the 'man rider' is following behind, giving a ride to more staff en route to the 'coal face':



More photos to come in the next post...


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The south portal:



Just outside the south portal, on the down side, I found that this old brick hut was still standing. It wasn't anything to do with the former signal box, but I can't recall what it's purpose was:





The remains of 'Whiteball Siding' were still there, though:





The view looking south towards another of the drainage work sites:



Drainage channel on the down side of the south portal. How often do we see something like this modelled?



Some closer views of the drainage work site at the south end of the tunnel:







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Crikey! That is some undertaking there.

Is it a fairly wet tunnel?

Ive never noticed it before but its also on a slight curve.

Slightly envious, its the only one this side of Bristol ive yet to walk through.


Great info and pics as usual matey! :sungum:

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Couple of interesting features from the past there, like the faded and weathered white patch on the portal to aid sighting of a long gone semaphore.

The building looks like an old platelayers / gang hut from back in the day, getting very rare to see one still standing im sure you'll agree!

Fascinating to see that old stop block still there from the siding. How many old railway pictures have we seen with that siding and stop block being a feature?!


The nearest I got to the tunnel was on a re padding job in my subbie days, probably about 15 years ago, I can remember walking under that steel bridge.

It was a particularly miserable job I remember as all the new pads and nylons were hidden under a couple of inches of snow.

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