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 next scheduled PW days are:

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.

Track work:

Sat 16th August 2014

Sat 23rd August 2014

Sat 6th September 2014

In all cases meet at Dufftown at 9am.

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


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 Keit


© 2007, the Keith & Dufftown Railway Association