For many people the New Year heralds a chance to be ‘out with the old but for the volunteers at Downpatrick and County Down Railway time their spring clean is a different proposition. They have decided to replace a large section of the track.
After nearly 3,000 people travelled on Santa’s Lapland Express, the heritage railway is taking advantage of the post-New Year gap in the DCDR’s timetable until St. Patrick’s Day to undertake some vital track renewals.
They intend to lay track which will allow two trains trains to enter and out of the station from either the Inch Abbey line or the Ballydugan line giving greater operational flexibility.
The railway nearly closed twice over Christmas due to high water levels, and a diesel gala event in October had to be rescheduled due to floods, so it is planning to raise the height of the trackbed to combat this.
Part of the track being lifted is among some of the first laid at Downpatrick by the fledgling heritage line in the 1980s. Old worn-out timber sleepers will also be replaced with new or concrete ones.
Project manager David Crone is overseeing the maintenance work, which commenced at the weekend, and he said there was still much work to be done. He has reiterated the DCDR’s appeal for volunteers especially anyone with any experience in construction.
The work undertaken last Saturday, according to project manager David Crone, included:
- Redundant former shed access turnout fully removed.
- South line broken and first panel of temporary track removed.
- Switch section of former shed access turnout relaid on South line as start of West Crossover South turnout
- Most of former Bay turnout removed and stored on now redundant bay line. Switch section and crossing removed but the closure timbers have still to be lifted.
- Loop turnout facing point lock cranks disconnected and removed.
- Both Daewoo and Atlas diggers were working.
- New fence for the back of the station platform following removal of old bay line.
The next jobs are in order of priority:
- Remove remainder of Bay turnout
- Disconnect remainder of fishplates on North line so it can be lifted.
- Excavate and grade trackbed with new stone ballast
- Continue lifting the North line.
“Why not come down one Saturday and try it out?” said David. “You could find yourself with a very different hobby.”