Permanent Way

The Permanent Way team generally meet on Saturdays. A trip in the brake van, with its coal stove, and friendly banter, is an experience not to be missed, but which money cannot buy... all you have to do is volunteer! No formal skills are required. Experience the railway from "the other side" - the platelayer's view - authentic railway charm, but with modern safety standards.

The simple combination of wooden sleeper, stone, and steel, has not changed for almost two hundred years. Its maintenance is not only a physical challenge, but also a mental challenge, as it has intricacies to confound the best of us. Whatever your physical build, or walk of life, you are sure to enjoy working within our team.

If you volunteer then you are helping to maintain surely the most scenic line in Scotland, if not Britain. Come and help us realise the potential of this fantastic line.

The following list of dates is when the PW team at the Keith and Dufftown Railway is meeting to do heavy track work. There are bridges to be painted and drainage works to be done and we need all the help we can get. If you have a few hours to spare please come along on a Saturday or Tuesday and help maintain our 11 mile line.

The next scheduled PW days are:

Saturday 21st November 2015

In all cases meet at Dufftown at 9am.

There is PW work every week led either by Tom Dubern or Jonathon Enright.


August 2015 Bulletin


The railway is laying a new siding off the Keith end of the Dufftown loop. The siding will be two 60 foot rail panels long giving approximately 120 feet of siding. This length will be sufficient to hold a 2 car DMU or about 4 or 5 wagons or both our shunter locos.

The 1st photo above shows one 60 foot panel of rails in situ and sleepers for the second panel in place. The ex GNSR van with the red tarpaulin on the roof had to be moved back about 10 feet to allow room for the siding to pass. 2nd photo shows the 1st panel of completed track and the sleepers for the second panel.

Left photo above shows the siding from what will be the buffer stop end. The right photo shows the rails in place back to the loop, with just visible in the distance a wagon and the UDV shunter parked on the start of the Dufftown loop.


The PW team has been working in the Douglasbrae area this season. On 23rd May 2015 they had their lunch break while the service train passed then got back to the task of sleeper changing.


The point blade leading from the main line into the Keith end of the Dufftown goods loop was badly worn and was removed for repair at the beginning of the year. The point was locked and clamped out of use until the point blade could be repaired.

First photo shows the condition of the point blade prior to removal for refurbishment, second the refurbished point blade being reinstalled, last photo the refurbished point blade in situ.

Above photos show the UDV shunter taking a works train across the refurbished point.


With 22 miles of fencing to maintain a constant check and maintenance of our fences is essential. Of all the animals encountered along the railway, sheep are the most likely to find a weak spot and break through onto the line. On 9th May 2015 a group of volunteers plug a gap where sheep had found a way onto the line by following the course of a burn and slipping under a fence.


Weed Killing is another job that requires to be done regularly on the railway at the right time of year and under the right weather conditions. Photo shows The Wee Mac, complete with weed spraying rig, at the end of the StrathMill siding having just completed a weed killing run on 23rd April 2015.


On 21st April 2015 a minor slip on the track bed was dealt with. One of our Grampus wagons was loaded with ballast and propelled to the site of the slip by the service DMU, there the ballast was dropped and used to rectify the minor slip. First photo shows the Grampus, propelled by the service DMU leaving Dufftown. Second photo shows the view from the cab as the DMU propels the Grampus to the slip site.

April 2015 Bulletin


On Saturday 25th April 2015work was started on the new siding at the Keith end of the platform loop at Dufftown.

Left photo shows volunteers dropping ballast on the point leading into the new siding. Middle photo shows the ground being prepared for the start of the siding. Right photo shows sleepers and chairs positioned ready for the start of the new siding.

Spring 2015 Bulletin


In November 2014 a grant was received from REAP to undertake the reinstatement of the platform at Towiemore. One of our volunteers, Russell Stewart, offered to carry out the work and in March 2015 the work was started and completed in one continuous period of ten days. The following photographs show the work in various stages.

The above photos show the initial stages of the work. Left photo shows a mini digger clearing the ground for the platform retaining wall. Middle photo, the foundations for the retaining wall, right photo the blockwork of the retaining wall begins to rise.

Left photo shows the blockwork virtually complete. Middle photo shows the infill behind the retaining wall. Right photo shows the work on the platform from the track side.

Left photo shows Rod Furr KDRA Chairman, on left, and Russell Stewart discussing the platform edging. Next two photos show the service DMU approaching the platform on gauging trials. Checking that the platform edging will not obstruct the passage of rail vehicles.

The service DMU safely alongside the platform the crew and Russell discuss the work so far and agree the position of the platform edging. Note the platform is only long enough for one coach so if leaving the train at Towiemore, passengers will need to be in the appropriate coach.

Left photo shows some of the platform edging in place from the rail side. Middle photo Russell makes adjustments to one of the edging slabs. Right photo the completed edging from the platform.

Left photo shows all the platform edging in place from the rail side. Middle photo shows the completed edging from the platform. Right photo the platform has been surfaced with stone chippings.

These three photos show the completed platform from either end and from the rail side.

The platform is now complete and ready for the opening of the railway on Friday 3rd April. A very big thank you to Russell for a tremendous effort in the single handed completion of the work in just 10 days. The shelter will need to be re roofed and smartened up for any passengers who use Towiemore Halt but that is another job. The halt will not see regular stops by the trains but will be a request stop. If joining the train from the halt please signal to the driver by extending your arm at right angles to your body. If alighting from the train speak to the guard who will notify the driver to stop at Towiemore. Fares to Towiemore from Keith or Dufftown will be the same as those to Drummuir. Hopefully by the next update of this news page we will have photos of the first passengers joining the train and alighting at Towiemore.


As reported in the previous update of the News page a new point and two panels of track (120 feet) have been laid at the start of the new Dufftown platform loop and second track into the engine shed. The new point will also lead into a siding at the Keith end of the platform loop which will give us more storage and operating space for our rolling stock. The new track in the platform loop went over the site of the lever frame and the routing of the point rodding which were used to control entry to the main line and goods yard loop so these were removed prior to track laying. A new lever frame was installed with sufficient levers to control the points mentioned above and the points giving entry to main line, platform loop and siding at the Keith end. The main line entry and goods yard loop points needed to be operated by the new lever frame in time for our service trains to start running on 3rd April. The following photos show the installation and connecting of the levers, point rodding and facing point lock.

Left photo shows a group of volunteers installing and attaching the point rodding to cranks which are in turn linked to the lever frame. Middle photo shows one of our volunteers attaching point rodding to the facing point lock on the main line. The start of the new platform loop is to the left of him and the goods yard loop to the right. Right photo shows the run of point rodding alongside the new loop to the main line entry point and facing lock.

Left photo shows the new lever frame and the rodding from it to the cranks. Next photo shows the rodding reaching the cranks and then the rodding running from the cranks alongside the new loop to the main line entry point and facing lock. Right photo shows The Wee Mac being run into the new loop.

First photo shows a volunteer operating the levers that control the facing point lock and main line / goods yard loop points. Next photo shows the UDV shunter being coupled up to our dogfish ballast wagon ready to move the ballast into the new loop to ballast the track there. Last photo shows The Wee Mac pulling the dogfish wagon along the loop as the ballast is dropped from it onto the track.

First two photos show the entry point to the new loop being moved manually then clamped and locked in position so that rail vehicles can be moved over it safely. Last photo shows a works trolley being hand propelled on the new loop. The works trolley is invaluable for carrying track components and tools for the permanent way gang.

These two photos show new loop in use to hold some of our rolling stock. First photo shows the Class 140 DMU being propelled into the new loop. Final photo shows, from left to right, Standby Class 108 DMU on the headshunt off the goods yard loop, Service Class 108 DMU on the main line, Class 140 DMU on the new loop and The Wee Mac also on the new loop.

Final 2014 Bulletin

Dufftown loop December 2014

After the close of scheduled services in 2014 work restarted on the run round loop and extra track into the engine shed at Dufftown. The point to lead into the loop was laid in February 2011 and then locked out of use until such time as the loop was laid. Having in the meantime acquired rail and points the loop begins to take shape.

In addition to the loop we are laying a siding at the Keith end of the loop for some of our rolling stock. First photo above shows the new points being craned into position by the RRV on already laid sleepers. Final adjustment is done by hand in the next photo. Final photo, taken from RRV shows points in position and sleepers in place ready for rail to be laid and connected to the loop entry point.

First photo shows the points being fixed in position. Middle photo: Taken from the loop entry point laid in 2011 shows the mainline into Dufftown platform on the left, in the middle track going into the loop and onto the siding point. The stub of track to the right is the beginning of the siding. Final photo shows sixty feet of the loop track laid, with sleepers being positioned for the next sixty feet of the loop. No more than this 120 feet of loop will be laid at present to allow access for road vehicles, along the loop trackbed, to the shed to lay the concrete floor.

Towiemore washout 8th October 2014

On the night of Tuesday the 7th October 2014 and into the morning of Wednesday 8th October 2014 the area was deluged with torrential rain. An inspection revealed that the trackbed had been washed out near Towiemore at the same site where we had suffered an earlier washout in September 2009. 1st photo above shows that at least 5 sleepers were suspended in mid-air, while 2nd photo shows the drain pipe inserted after the 2009 washout clear of the ballast. 3rd photo shows, at bottom right, the edge of the culvert which is supposed to channel the burn below our line and into the river Isla.

It was decided that more drainage was required at this location to deal with the volume of water coming down the burn under flood conditions. Accordingly a works train was organised on Saturday 11th October 2014 with the UDV shunter and the loaded dogfish ballast wagon with extra drainage pipes aboard. Right photo shows the work train halted at Drummuir while a red banner and light are placed to prevent any rail vehicle entering the section of line under works possession.

On arrival at the work site the Permanent Way team assess, discuss and prepare to repair the damage.

The road rail digger was soon in action tidying up and excavating the break in the embankment to the required depth to take the new drainage pipes.

A small team turned their attention to the channel where the burn enters the river Isla. The channel had silted up with ballast washed from the embankment and other debris washed down by the river. The team set to and dug out the channel so the burn could flow freely into the Isla.

Up on the embankment the rest of the team were cutting pipes to the required length and positioning them below the rails. The depth of the excavation is nicely shown by one of our volunteers crouched alongside the pipe below the rails in the right photo.

Work continues to get the pipes in place.

With the pipes in position the team begin to backfill the ballast over and around the pipes.

The work is virtually complete. The 1st photo shows the cleared channel for the burn. Mid photo shows three of the pipes poking out of the ballast on the river Isla side. 3rd photo shows all four pipes embedded in the ballast on the burn side. It is worth noting that one of the earlier photos shows the burn water lapping at the copping stones above the culvert in this 3rd photo.

The work was completed in time to run a charter the following Saturday.

Winter 2014 Bulletin

Permanent Way work goes on all year round and so it was that on a wet Saturday 4th October 2014 the works train was out on the line.

The works train halted on the line at Towiemore straight and sleepers are being offloaded for the continuous job of sleeper replacement.

On the return from Towiemore a halt was made to deal with overhanging trees, another seemingly endless job.

Once the lopped tree had been cleared from the line the train could continue its return to Dufftown. Final photo shows the UDV rounding the curve at the end of the Fiddich viaduct hauling the Dogfish ballast wagon, the Welltrol now empty of sleepers, two grey vans and the Brake van from where this photo was taken.

Spring 2014 Bulletin

In February 2014 the safety rails on the Fiddich Viaduct were heightened. The first 2 photos above show the railing being installed. While the third shows the finished item.

First photo shows rail being recovered from its storage point at the current end of our track beyond Keith Town. The road rail vehicle is loading the rail onto the Salmon for transportation to Dufftown where it will be used in replacing rails on the curve over the Fiddich Viaduct and embankment. Next photo shows railway chairs being moved from Dufftown to another location on the line where they will be more convenient for future track work. Third photo shows the gang who offloaded the chairs at their storage point.

Changing the rails on the Curve

When leaving Dufftown all trains depart southbound and at the end of the yard descend a short bank then follow a U shaped curve over the Fiddich viaduct, embankment, road over-bridge and onto the foot of the Parkmore bank now heading north towards Keith. The U shaped curve is to a tight radius and is check railed throughout. The purpose of the check rail is to hold the inner wheels of vehicles against the inner rail and prevent the outer wheels climbing up over the outer rail and derailing the vehicle. Over time the outer rail of the curve has become worn due to the forces pressing wheels against it and needed replacement. The plan was to lift the outer rail and move it over to replace the inner rail and similarly move the inner rail to the outer rail. This would mean that the worn rail faces were on the outside or unused side of the track while the unworn faces were now on the inside or running sides of the track. For various reasons this was not always possible so some track was replaced from our stock of rails at Dufftown and the rails recovered from the Keith end of the line. The following pictures show the story of the work involved in replacing the rails on the check railed curve.

First photo shows some of the volunteers getting ready to remove the left hand running rail. Next photo shows the running rail removed and lying in the middle of the track. The rail remaining on the left is the check rail. Photos 1 and 2 were taken in the cutting just beyond the yard at Dufftown. In the 3rd photo the RRV has moved down onto the Fiddich viaduct and the right hand running rail is in the process of being removed.

Left photo shows the PW train sitting on newly replaced rails at the end of the cutting just before the viaduct. The PW train consisted of the Salmon wagon carrying rails, the PW van with tools required for the job and the UDV loco as train engine. The middle photo shows volunteers preparing for the RRV to lift out the left running rail. The rail in situ on the right is the check rail, the running rail having already been lifted out and is lying on its side on the ballast. Right photo shows both running rails removed, the left rail’s position is marked by the row of empty chairs while the running rail is sitting on the sleepers in the middle of the track, the rail in situ on the right is the check rail while the right running rail has been removed and is lying on its side on the ballast. The running rails here were not jointed rail but continuous welded rail all the way across the viaduct. This rail was replaced by jointed rail.

These photos show work beginning on replacing the running rails across the viaduct.

The work progresses on replacing the running rails across the viaduct.

Close ups of some of the volunteers as they work to replace the running rails across the viaduct.

These photos show volunteers manhandling rail in to position, cutting rail to length and making sure the RRV keeps running.

Work has progressed over the viaduct, embankment, bridge over the Dufftown to Keith road and is now at the foot of the Parkmore bank. First photo shows the PW train stopped just short of the over-bridge with work about to begin at the foot of the bank. Next 2 photos show the RRV and volunteers getting in to position to remove and replace the rails.

Right hand running rail being removed while the check rail remains in situ.

These are all the photos available of a major piece of permanent way work which was done over many weeks working on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Almost all the volunteers had a hand in the work at some point and a collective sigh of relief was given when the work was completed in good time for the opening of the railway for the season on Friday April the 18th

2014. February 2014

Also being done this winter was the removal of rotten wood from Auchindachy bridge and sleeper changing in the Maisley bridge area.

December 2013

These photos show a permanent way gang installing safety barriers on the Parkmore bridge.

1st photo shows the Kubota being used in ditching work at Auchindachy Station, this was work which went on most of 2013. 2nd photo shows Spirit of Banffshire on a scheduled service train approaching the work site, one of the replaced sleepers can be made out in the picture by its lighter colour. Final photo shows Spirit of Banffshire clearing the work site.

August 2013

The Permanent Way Team have been busy all year replacing, repacking and levelling sleepers, this is ongoing work which always needs to be carried out. The PW team have been concentrating on the Auchindachy area this year much work has been done replacing sleepers, ditching and draining. A cattle crossing just north of the former Auchindachy station has also been renewed..

This photo shows Bridge 215 just south of Drummuir Station after a fresh coat of paint has been applied. Bridge work has now moved to a bridge just north of Drummuir.

July 2013

Scottish Water Volunteers

On Tuesday 17th July a party of seven Scottish Water employees spent a day helping the Keith & Dufftown Railway volunteers. Their task for the day was to prepare and deliver sleepers to the areas where they would next be needed.

There were several pallets of railway chairs to organise and here we see 3 wise monkeys with the sleepers loaded on the well wagon.

Final photo shows the sleepers unloaded at the track side ready for use. James Wiseman Scottish Water employee volunteer said, ”It was a hugely rewarding day. The Keith & Dufftown Railway got their sleepers delivered earlier than they would have managed themselves, so they really appreciated the support we were able to provide”. Keith & Dufftown Railway company secretary Mike Langford said, “The volunteers from Scottish Water did a fantastic job preparing the railway sleepers in the yard and tidying up. The work was done quickly and it allowed us to drop off the loaded sleepers ready to be put in position. I would like to thank each one for their hard work. We certainly enjoyed having them along.”

The Scottish Water volunteers were:

Annelise Glew, Drummond Beattie, Ewan Shand, Heather MacLean, Gavin Noble, Kyle Bremmner and James Wiseman.

September / October 2012

150th Anniversary Steam Celebration 2012

The Permanent Way Team have been busy all year replacing , repacking and levelling sleepers, this is ongoing work which always needs to be carried out. The Strathspey Railway also visited the railway to inspect the track prior to the arrival of their locomotive and noted a few areas which needed work done before the locomotive could run over the 11 miles of track. The KDRA also worked on upgrading the track over the Isla Bridge beyond Keith Town station to ensure it was suitable for any rolling stock that required to use it.

First photo shows sleepers being replaced at the end of Keith Town platform nearest the junction. Next the road / rail digger pulls up a rotten sleeper.

Here 4 sleepers have been replaced and reballasted and next another 4 sleepers are replaced.

The sleepers are secured to the chairs.

April / May 2012


On Monday 14th May the Railway hosted a teambuilding day for an Aberdeen-based oil company. This was the first of its kind for the Railway and proved to be a great success. Talisman Energy UK Ltd booked a party of twenty five people for a tour of Whisky country, with Glenfiddich Distillery as the final destination, via a round-about journey involving the Keith and Dufftown Railway. What the eager recruits did not know was that during the journey they would be experiencing a day in the life of a platelayer!

On arrival at Keith Town at 10.30am, bacon rolls and coffee were provided which set the recruits in good stead for what was to come. Two teams were created and this would later introduce an element of competition into the day. They were to spend most of the day learning the ropes on the permanent way and, hopefully, organising their teams into efficient sleeper-changing machines! Being mostly technical people they were fascinated by the tools and methods that they were introduced to. In the spring sunshine the fresh hi-viz which they had been told to bring set the inside of the carriage ablaze.

Following a presentation of the railway and safety training at Keith Town the recruits boarded the DMU which proceeded to Auchindachy. At this point all de-trained to walk the line the final quarter mile to the worksite. The purpose of this was to bring home the scale of the epic task in maintaining the line, and also to demonstrate the difficulty of finding line faults even when they have been logged and marked.

Milepost fifty seven and a quarter was to be the recruits’ home for the next five hours. The PW “elves” had chosen a worksite on an open embankment clear of obstructions, and had prior prepared the site with new sleepers and clear markings on the sleepers to be changed (Team A1,A2,A3 and B1, B2, B3 etc).

A predictable chaos ensued when unloading the tools from the DMU, which was immediately corrected by the age old railway tradition of forming a chain; simple and efficient. The two teams were further split into groups of four for tool training, and the KDRA volunteers had soon trained enough people to make a start. The recruits positively spurned the assistance of the mini-digger which remained off all day.

The DMU went off to Drummuir to pick up a fabulous lunch put on by Sybil and Penny, returning at one o’clock. An army marches on its stomach!

The teams soon found themselves with the problems that we find every day on the PW; bolt holes not to pattern and drilling required, packing work to be undone and re-packed, new sleepers much thicker than the old ones and needing pulling out to re-dig, fishplates in the way of chairs. These problems they enjoyed solving with less and less assistance from the KDRA volunteers as the day went by; a great team learning experience.

The final scores were seven sleepers to the victors Team B, and five sleepers to Team A. To the latter’s credit, the ‘A’ sleepers all needed re-drilling. Safety-wise all instructions were heeded and the day went without incident or injury.

On reboarding the train a pie and pint greeted the recruits who took a slow run alongside Loch Park and down to Dufftown. Here they left us for a visit to Glenfiddich Distillery.

This day was a great success and Talisman Energy would like to thank the volunteers and especially the catering staff for a great experience. The KDRA hope to repeat this day in the future as it provides welcome revenue to the Association, as well as making progress on the maintenance of the track!

February / March 2012


Shuttering for the foundations was installed, concrete poured and fastening bolts for the main columns set into the concrete then all was left to set. Once set the shuttering was removed and drainage pipework installed on both sides of the shed. This work was done in February 2012.

These three photos show the shed foundations and the train with the shed components ready to re-erect the shed at the north end of Dufftown station.

December 2011 / January 2012


The original plan was to lay the shed foundations in January and a date was pencilled in for early January. However, on that date the weather was too cold to work with concrete so the work was postponed for a week. One week later the same weather conditions prevailed and so the work was postponed again. This continued right through January and into February with the latest date for foundation work now 14th February.


There is always work to be done on the Permanent Way, regardless of the weather. Throughout December the PW gang changed sleepers, checked fishplates, checked and replaced chairs. Line walking also continued as did the many other myriad tasks required to keep the track in suitable condition for our trains.

Trees are part of the scenic beauty of our line, unfortunately during gales there is a high probability that one or more trees will be blown down on our line. The tree pictured was a victim of the gales in early December. The photograph was taken at the walled garden Drummuir Castle just a short distance from Drummuir Station. The PW gang cleared the tree from the line before our first Santa Special ran.

October / November 2011


On 19th November the PW gang took the works train to Keith Town and included in the consist was the dogfish loaded with ballast. The PW gang worked on the bank out of Keith Town replacing some sleepers and broken chairs. At the end of the day as the light began to, fade the works train did a ballast drop from the 1st bridge at Keith Town Station to the next bridge up the bank.


Early October saw work on going to clear the new site for re erection of the loco shed. The clearance was producing a large amount of spoil which had to be disposed of. The embankment just past Fyve cottage required strengthening after decades of rabbit and other burrowing animals activities. By happy coincidence we had somewhere to dispose of the spoil while strengthening part of our trackbed.

The first photo shows our English Electric Shunter resplendent in its yellow J & B Rare Scotch Whisky livery taking our two loaded Grampus wagons away from the shed site. Second photograph shows the Grampus wagons arriving at Fyve Cottage curve where they were unloaded by the Road Rail digger. The third photo shows the works train stabled in the Strathmill Distillery siding and it is this distillery which produces J & B Rare Scotch Whisky. Last photo shows work continuing at the shed site with both the mini digger and the road rail digger involved.

August / September 2011


Photograph of Bridge 215 resplendent in its new coat of paint. This photo was taken from the driving cab of a Dufftown bound train on 26th August.

June / July 2011


In addition to levelling track and packing sleepers just south of the River Isla bridge at Drummuir (see April / May 2011 below), the PW gang cleared the bridge of old paint & rust and gave it a fresh coat of paint to keep rust at bay. The work took place during June / July and was completed at the end of July.

April / May 2011


The Permanent Way Gang were hard at work in early April before the season commenced. Here they are levelling track and packing sleepers just south of the River Isla bridge at Drummuir.

Our passenger train passes through the site of earlier work on the track, under the watchful eye of the PW gang. The Isla bridge is seen being cleared of old paint in readiness for fresh paint to keep rust at bay.

March 2011


The Permanent Way Gang work in all weathers, here we see them, on 12th March, working on the track at Loch Park amid snow showers. Fortunately the winter this year has not been so severe or prolonged as last year. Hopefully the next photos of the PW gang will be in better weather conditions.

January / February 2011


It is a long held ambition of the railway to reinstate the run round loops at Dufftown and Drummuir. These loops were removed while the line was part of British Rail. Without these loops it is difficult to run loco hauled passenger trains as this would involve the loco pushing the train in front of it. This is acceptable for our works trains which are limited to 5 miles per hour while propelling the train but is not acceptable for a passenger train.

At the beginning of the year the railway was fortunate to make the acquaintance of Nick Ridgway, a qualified engineer, who was working on a contract in the area. Nick is a railway enthusiast and having spotted the Keith and Dufftown Railway came over to visit us at the weekends. Nick it transpired had practical experience of installing pointwork and when he offered to share his experience with us it was gratefully accepted. Nick’s time in the area was limited as he would be returning south at the end of February so the decision was made to utilise his experience and install one point for the start of the run round loop at Dufftown. This would give us a series of exercises in installing pointwork which we could put to practical use once Nick had left the area.

The first task for Nick was to identify the components required for the point from our stock of rail components and the crossing timbers needed. The first photo shows a rail component being loaded onto our work trolleys by the road rail digger. The next photo shows the trolleys with the component at the start of the platform after being pushed out of the yard. The third photo shows the site where the new point was to be installed with some of the components lying at either side of the running line. Nick, in yellow high vis jacket is doing some preliminary measuring and marking out for the point. Last photo shows the crossover, a main component of the points, lying at the work site.

First photo, work begins with the PW gang preparing the site while in the background the mini digger is about to cross the track and come down to the site. Next photo the mini digger arrives and begins digging out the ballast between the sleepers. Third photo, crossing timbers have been slid between the sleepers and the road rail digger is lifting more components into place. Finally the r/r digger lowers the component into place in the chairs positioned on the new crossing timbers under the watchful eyes of some of the PW gang.

The running line has been broken and a crossover inserted. Not all rails are exactly the length required and in the second photo a rail is being cut to length. The third photo shows the cut rail being drilled to accept fish plate bolts. Last photo shows the fish plate bolts being tightened by two volunteers.

Work begins on the installation of the switch rails with the removal of the running rails and the sleepers. Having removed the running rails and sleepers the track bed is prepared for new crossing timbers. The new crossing timbers are laid in position. The switch rails are then craned into position.

The second switch rail is installed and adjustments made. Two volunteers attach the tie bars to the switch rails. The new point is taking shape. A final rail needs to be installed to connect to the start of the loop.

Having installed the switch rails attention turns to the running rails just the Drummuir side of the new point which are craned out ready for cutting. The running rails from the Drummuir side of the points are cut to length. Final adjustments are made to the switch rails. All the rails for the new point have now been installed. At some point in the future the loop rails will be laid, from where the volunteers are standing, through Dufftown Station. A new siding will also be laid, from the volunteer group, towards the camera to give extra siding space.

The Wee Mac and 2 Grampus wagons with ballast are brought over the point to complete ballasting. In addition to ballasting the Wee Mac and train are used to check that all is secure in the new point. The point now being complete the Volunteers take a break. The new point is scotched, clamped and locked out of use until such time as we are ready to install the loop.

The KDRA would like to thank Nick Ridgway for his invaluable expertise, advice and time without which this point could not have been installed. Thank you to our volunteers who gave freely of their time to upgrade the railway.

October / November / December 2010


Sleeper changing has gone on all through the year, largely unnoticed by our customers. This essential backroom work seems never ending but with eleven miles of track there is plenty to do. First photo shows two of the Permanent way crew with the tools required on a self propelled trolley. Second photo shows our Kubota mini digger which has taken much of the hard physical labour out of sleeper changing. Using the Kubota it is possible for two or three volunteers to form a sleeper changing gang though more volunteers are always welcome.


Trees are a feature of our line, particularly at the Dufftown end. Over the years, however, some have had to be felled or have been blown down. These have mostly been left at the side of the line as we lacked the equipment to move them. With the advent of the new road / rail digger the opportunity has been taken to begin clearing some of this timber. On Tuesday 12th October 2010 a work party left Dufftown with the works train and the road / rail digger to deal with tree clearance at Loch Park.

Photo 1 shows one of the trees being attached to the rail mounted digger. Photos 2 & 3 show the tree being lifted and moved towards the works train.

Photos 4, 5 & 6 show a tree being loaded onto the works train. At this point the brake van had been detached from the train to allow access to the lowmac and well wagon.

Under the late afternoon sun the Wee Mac takes the works train, consisting of the well wagon, low mac and brake van back to Dufftown. The following weekend the works train was unloaded in the yard at Dufftown. The bucket of the digger makes a useful dustpan for sweeping the debris off the floor of the wagon.


The last month of 2010 saw a return to the Arctic weather which had blighted the first 3 or 4 months of the year. Valiant efforts were made to clear snow from Dufftown and Keith but no sooner did we appear to be winning the battle than the weather took a turn for the worse and brought our best efforts to nought overnight. Banffshire was not the only place in Scotland to suffer Arctic weather, indeed the whole of the UK suffered. Transport by rail, road, sea and air suffered cancellations and delays.

Reluctantly the railway cancelled the first weekend of Santa Specials but hoped to deliver the second and third weekends Santa Specials Alas it was not to be, the weather was unrelentingly bad for the whole of the UK throughout December. A decision had to be made and with deep regret the railway was forced to cancel all Santa Specials for 2010. Many roads in the area were impassable and others were only just passable to four wheel drive vehicles. It was not possible to run trains and neither our operating staff or passengers could get to the railway. KDRA deeply regret having to cancel the Santa Specials but the safety of passengers and crew is paramount..

Spring 2010

There were heavy snowfalls or blizzards in late December 2009, January, February and March 2010. Occasionally there has been a slight thawing but the weather has prevented much work being done on the permanent way.


These photos show the weather conditions which prevented PW work being carried out. The one time a loco moved out of the yard it was preceded by a volunteer with a shovel, ensuring that the track was still in place beneath the snow.

The railway was blanketed in snow from Dufftown to Keith.

Winter 2009

During the winter much work has been done on replacing the sleepers, chairs and general improving the condition of the track.


At the beginning of November the area suffered torrential rain and severe flooding in many places as it had done at the beginning of September. Once more the line just south of Towiemore had suffered from flooding and was washed out at the same section of line. The photos above show the line, on 2nd November, with some sleepers suspended in mid air as the floods had washed out the ballast. There were 2 sections of track where sleepers were left suspended in mid air. On one section 10 sleepers were left hanging and in the other 3 sleepers were left hanging in mid air.

Photo 1 shows the worst affected area with ballast and embankment washed out below the sleepers. The area on one side of our line is low lying and wet and several burns drain the surrounding hills into it. The burns should then drain through a culvert below our line into the River Isla on the other side of our line. On this and previous occasions the culvert cannot cope with the loch that builds up behind our embankment. The loch eventually spills over the top of our embankment and washes out ballast and spoil from the embankment down to the bank of the Isla, see Photo 2.

Photo 3 shows the stop sign as the works train conveying volunteers, tools and Permanent Way equipment approaches the site on Saturday 7th November. Tom Dubern’s digger was taken by road to Towiemore then made its way to the work site and arrived before the work train and can be seen in photo 3. One of our volunteers stands in the gap washed under our track, Photo 4, with the sleepers at mid thigh height rather than at boot sole level.

Tom’s digger was soon hard at work recovering spoil and ballast from the river bank and depositing it around and under the track. The opportunity was also taken to install some extra drainage pipes through the embankment to provide extra flood relief. Although the digger speeds up the work and reduces the amount of physical effort involved there is still plenty of manual work to be done. Much manual effort is required to wheelbarrow, shovel and tamp the ballast into its final place. The works train was run slowly over the reinstated section of line and adjustments made in the light of its passing to and fro. After several run pasts and adjustments the track was passed as suitable to carry our trains again.

Fortunately this washout occurred after our schedule services season had ended so no scheduled services were affected by the washout. The line had to be repaired in time for our first Santa Service on Saturday December 5th and time allowed for any further adjustments to the track before passenger services ran over it again. The Permanent Way gang and train crew were made up of Tom Dubern, Rod Furr, Mike Langford, Mark Pillkington, Alan Stuart, Ian McKenzie, Bob Balmer and Graham Barron. The press were alerted and a ”Press & Journal” photographer attended the works on 7th November. The following week there were reports of our work in the “Northern Scot” and the “Press & Journal”.


Gordonstoun pupils paid their second visit of the year to the railway on Sunday 18th October. After a safety briefing on the task the boys from the group took the hand trolley to get tools and rail chairs to take up the line. Just beyond the limit of shunt they unloaded jacks, banks gun etc. to replace cracked chairs in the area. 25 chairs were replaced, a most commendable effort on their part.

The Association very much appreciates the efforts put in on track repair by Gordonstoun School and extends our sincere thanks to all involved.

Autumn 2009


On 3rd and 4th September the area suffered torrential rain and severe flooding in many places. An inspection by road and foot on Friday 4th showed that the line just south of Towiemore had suffered from flooding. Photo 1 shows the line with some sleepers suspended in mid air as the floods wash out the ballast. Picture 3 shows the line and in the background a loch where normally there is a field with a small burn running at the foot of our embankment.

The Line was open to Drummuir after an inspection on Friday Night. A training run was used on Saturday morning to further inspect the line to Drummuir. Tools and Permanent Way equipment, including Tom Dubern’s digger were taken to Towiemore ready for a work party.

The washout involved five and a half sleepers being left suspended with the ballast washed just beyond the cess. By 12 30 the ballast had been replaced and tamped along with another ten sleepers which had been left hanging at their corners. The first train from Dufftown on Saturday 5th September at 11:25 ran only as far as Drummuir and return. The 14:00 train from Dufftown was allowed to run at caution through the area to make sure there were no dips we had missed and the last train of the day to Keith Town ran at line speed. A big well done to the Permanent Way team of Tom Dubern, Angie Neal, Malcolm McNeil, Bill Falconer and Bob Balmer who put so much effort into the repair work. The first two photos show the track on Saturday morning after the flooding had subsided. The last photo was taken on Friday and shows the road as impassable near our line at Auchindachy. All our services ran normally as per timetable to the end of the season.

Summer 2009

During the summer much work has been done on replacing the sleepers on the bank from Keith Town to Strathmill siding. The work was slow at the beginning of summer as we were working in restricted space below the road bridge at Keith Town Station. Work speeded up once we had cleared the restrictions below the bridge and were able to employ mechanical aids rather than human muscle. As the PW gang work at weekends when services are running there are limited clear periods when the sleepers can be replaced. When the season ends in September progress should speed up again.

The photos show a view down the bank to Keith Town with red stop sign signifying that no trains can pass this point until the PW gang notify drivers that it is clear to precede and remove the red stop sign. The other photo shows the view looking up the bank from Keith Town to Strahmill siding showing the sleepers which have been replaced.

May 2009


In May we had a large party of schoolchildren from Gordonstoun School spend a working day at the railway. This was volunteer work, which Gordonstoun School call a “service work” day, and sixty children aged 13-14 took part. Most of them worked under the auspices of the Permanent Way Department, and gave us the opportunity to carry out jobs that simply require “numbers” rather than experience. The weather although threatening all morning, was finally kind. With such large numbers it was essential to split them into groups, and the six groups carried out the following tasks:

Groups 1 and 2 wire-brushed and painted one side of bridges UB189 and UB190 (Keith Town), and wire brushed most of the other sides.

Group 3 had the job requiring most experience of all (sleeper changing) and with reduced numbers and it being their first day they did well to change three sleepers in Keith Town platform.

Group 4 had to distribute two tonnes of gravel from a road trailer in order to level the platform at the south end, which they did at lightning speed. They then scrubbed the fence by the station top entrance in readiness for painting, and did some weeding along the platform.

Group 5 re-fenced the east side of the track from Corsairtly Farm underbridge along the field going north, a problem area for cows getting onto the track.

Group 6 worked on the Grampus wagons at Dufftown Station.

The Keith and Dufftown Railway Association would like to thank Gordonstoun School for their invaluable assistance which is much appreciated. We hope that the pupils enjoyed their day out as much as we enjoyed their visit.

March / April 2009

February and March saw very cold weather. For weeks on end the ground was frozen as hard as concrete making work impossible.

Following this there were many fallen trees blocking the line.

Finally the English Electric "UDV" shunter hauled a works train through to Keith to deliver sleepers.

More track has been re-laid in Keith Town Station, and sleeper renewal continues from this point towards Dufftown.

Winter 2008 / 2009

Works on UB188 Keith Town (Strathisla) Bridge.

1. The scene at the outset

2. The vegetation has been cleared, thanks to Bill and Malcolm.

3. The bridge deck is made of steel trough with a pitch coating in the troughs. Plastic liner is put into the drain hole and large stones are laid over to ensure the drain holes remain clear.

4. The rails are removed and the sleepers are slinged out

5. Keith Town bridge UB188 with the rails back in ready for ballasting and tidying.

6. By way of a change from Keith Town bridge this photo shows the works train despatched to deal with a small mudflow. Forestry operations near Drummuir had caused the mudflow which blocked a culvert.

October 2008

Work has been ongoing at Keith Town Bridge UB188 for several weeks now. This is the bridge over the River Isla nearest Keith Junction.. As our scheduled passenger services stop at Keith Town, some way short of bridge UB188, the bridge had become somewhat overgrown. The PW crew now have the bridge in hand and are clearing the vegetation, checking / replacing sleepers, ballasting and painting to bring the bridge back to pristine condition ready to carry trains towards Keith Junction.

August 2008

Now that the running season is over, the larger permanent way jobs can be done. This winter we will be focussing on the bridges. The work done by volunteers will be in the light-to-medium categories: key removal, chair unscrewing, spoil tipping by barrow, chipping steelwork, and painting.

Summer 2008

We are currently out-and-about walking the line, and preparing for the end of the running season. During the summer period it is difficult to carry out major works.

May 2008

In May we did various jobs including tree trimming, fencing, maintenance of equipment used over the winter, and painting. The picture shows the opened-up view from the A96 at Keith Town, now that the signal post has been painted, and trees have been cleared. The new Isla Way information board on the right, features the railway prominently.

April 2008.

April saw the end of the long job at Keith Town. The photos show "before" and "after" views.

March 2008.

March saw good progress at Keith Town station. This is more than a sprinkling of ballast - drainage of various types has been installed, and the sleepers sit on new ballast. We will soon be in a position to move on to other sites, and we do not expect to revisit this site for many years to come.

February 2008.

More progress with the trackbed at Keith Town Station. The sleepers have been completely renewed. Now the problematic clay in the ballast is being dealt with. Spoil is removed by digger and a clay-proof membrane is installed under the track. The Dogfish wagon has ferried back and forth delivering new ballast to the site.

January 2008.

Volunteers installed new fencing along Towiemore Straight.


© 2007, the Keith & Dufftown Railway Association