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 (all Saturdays unless noted):
Feb 16th working on the occupation crossings near Auchindachy.
There is PW work every week led either by Tom Dubern or Jonathon Enright.
September / October 2012
150th Anniversary Steam Celebration
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
TALISMAN TEAMBUILDING DAY – AUCHINDACHY SLEEPER CHANGING
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
BALLASTING KEITHTOWN BANK
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.
FYFE COTTAGE CURVE
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
DRUMMUIR WEST ISLA BRIDGE
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
DRUMMUIR WEST ISLA BRIDGE
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
DRUMMUIR WEST ISLA BRIDGE
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.
TRACK WORK LOCH PARK
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..
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.
SNOW AND MORE SNOW
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.
During the winter much work has been done on replacing the sleepers, chairs and general improving the condition of the track.
SECOND WASH OUT AT TOWIEMORE
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 SCHOOL VISIT
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.
WASH OUT AT TOWIEMORE
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.
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.
GORDONSTOUN SCHOOL VISIT
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 saw the end of the long job at Keith Town. The photos show "before" and "after" views.
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.
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.
Volunteers installed new fencing along Towiemore Straight.