Sunday, 2 May 2021

Two new recruits welcomed & Jacker Packer arrives - 1st May 2021

Mike reports - Good turnout yet again, meant three small PWay squads at Aviemore! Two re-sleepering on the Mainline between the Signal Box and Aviemore Station and one on new works in yard.

We welcomed Sam (on right) whom at last was allowed to travel from Aberdeenshire to join us, glad to report that he felt the long trip was definitely worth it for the day and looks forward to the next time, who knows our Hostel like accommodation Spey Lodge may have re-opened by then. 

Iain (left) also glad to return to Aviemore, as travel restrictions now lifted, on the right is another new recruit Alasdair (two in one day amazing!) looks like he is getting to grips with filling in ballast after sleeper changing. More sleepers would have been changed had the new works squad not hogged the generator and drill! 

This was the scene at close of play on the line into proposed new running shed.
Thanks to Georgie, Ian, Kevin, Angus, Martin, Roger, Iain, Sam, Alasdair and Mike who took the photos and supplied info.

Earlier in the week, thanks to Ian Stanworth's dogged searching and perseverance, a replacement for the "Jacker Packer" that was totally destroyed in the catastrophic Shed fire in the Summer of 2019 duly arrived in the yard at Boat of Garten. As its name suggests, it Jacks up the track and Packs ballast under the sleepers - saving many hours of hard manual shovel labour.  

  Having been cast aside in the bushes at Titley Junction for sometime it looks a bit worse for wear but the guys there assured Ian it does run, the driver that delivered it was not happy that a considerable amount of hydraulic fluid had leaked over his lorry! (it is a long way from Herefordshire) After John Sinclair our Plant Engineer had tightened things up and inserted a new battery.

. This was the scene on Friday being driven by Ian (after refreshing his memory from the manual) from the yard to our new Plant Maintenance Shed (Morley's II) for more in depth maintenance and some TLC.

Let's hope we will see it in use in the not too distant future?

Thanks to John for sharing photo/video and of course Ian - maybe it might pass its Noise and Vibration test someday!  

Monday, 19 April 2021

Aviemore & Level Crossing prep work - 17th & 19th April 2021

 Saturday saw a great turnout again at Aviemore (13 in total), in bright sunny weather equaled two squads - Mike's was a never ending continuation of re-sleepering on the Mainline from old Speyside platform almost to platform at Aviemore.

Digging out, remove screws, jack up track, pull old sleeper away, dig out sleeper bed, insert new sleeper repeat! 

After lunch Fergus (our muscleman!) had to depart, enthusiasm and energy were waning and we all came to the realisation, none of us are getting any younger but fortunately the Carriage & Wagon department had a bit of a shunt to do - meaning we had many breaks thereafter!

Think only seven left to change - drilling not possible as Georgie's squad had the drill!

Her squad continuing with track building, (although it seems plenty chatting too!)


towards the proposed new Running Shed at Aviemore, the fine lining was done by bars and, no doubt also huffing and puffing. 

Bart (left) and Justin our newest recruits (conscripts!) still smiling at the end of the day after getting the old switch lever fit for use again, with a less young 828 being readied for a filming charter later in week.

Thanks to all that attended (too numerous to mention) and Roddy for the smaller photos.


   Monday morning saw Roddy and me oil the switches at Aviemore and Plumber Jim fix radiators in Spey Lodge and in the afternoon, the three of us

 after getting the appropriate Token to take Possession of Boat of Garten - Broomhill Section, we put the motorised trolley on track to plant more sighting posts at the appropriate distances from User Worked Level Crossings - as successfully measured by Jim above (much easier/quicker/more accurate than walking with measuring wheel!) to be continued another day......  

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Mid Week "potterings" and Weekend works Aviemore - Week ending 11th April 2021

  Small mid-week squad, fire in the messvan was priority number one, as it was bitterly cold, Georgie complained that I didn't have stoker MacPhail's abilities, eventually we unloaded the tools and proceeded to worksite.

Timber changed for a shorter one as was interfering with new layout. Georgie packing, Mike drilling & Roddy ready for screwing down.

Switch laid out, towards new road, planned to terminate at coal bench (once footbridge and old signal cabin removed) note amount of interlaced secondhand timbers.

Old ferrules replaced with new, easier said than done, removing old is time frustrating part and couple of AS2 chairs were screwed down, after reaming old holes.

  All the old holes had to be filled with pegs (thanks to Roger making them sometime ago) and hammered in flush with surface.
We finished later than we expected as we were all preoccupied with the tasks in hand. 


Above looks prior to work commencing (nearly all smiling) and a tad cold!
We welcomed - Bart (left) for the first time, hopefully not his last! Lauren, Justin and almost an old hand now Kevin (far right) 

Angus reports "Large squad assembled at Aviemore, promptly split in two - Andrew, Roger and me started plugging holes is sleepers. Holes too small in some, so Andrew & Roger used belt sander in carriage shed to sand down hardwood plugs to size. About  50 plugs done.

Later Andrew and me helping Georgie laying rail and keying it" (must have been cold for Georgie to be wearing a high viz jacket)

Ian reports from the "heavy lifting squad!" - 
 "we freed off the stock rails from 2 sets of check rails for the new points as the stocks were scrap, and referuled these and the other switch which was not already in place. We then dug ballast out to permit the fine alignment of the siding towards the former Speyside Bay platform. Following this we dug out the last 2 sleepers requiring changing and changed the first 6 of the last batch for this year from the signal box down towards the switch into the carriage storage shed...although they were not drilled and rescrewed or filled in."
Highland Mainline quieter than usual due to a derailment at Dalwhinnie in the early hours.

Thanks to Ian, Lauren, Kevin, Andrew, Martin, Roger, Justin, Bart & Angus kindly supplied the photos (thumb included) and half report.


Sunday, 4 April 2021

Recent Broomhill Improvements - 2nd/3rd April 2021

Recently Broomhill Loading Bank has finally been rebuilt.

The wall which had been built to suit light traffic above long ago for horses & carts, perhaps some timber traffic had failed to cope with the Railway’s mobile plant working near the edge above it, it being the storage area from which ballast is loaded on to wagons by the JCB or Colmar Road Rail Vehicle.

It was established the wall comprised of a thin face of granite maybe 9 to12 inches thick which was not tied to a more roughly built granite rubble wall behind.

The face was removed, the rubble cleaned back to leave a 9 inch gap & steel rebar was drilled into the rebuilt face & the wall behind the void filled with longitudinal rebar & concreted full height.

The original granite copes were reused & steel rebar drilled into them & linked in a reinforced concrete beam behind recessed below the wall to ensure the copes will not be disturbed.

Consideration was given to doing it all in reinforced concrete but the final fine appearance in rebuilt 150 plus year old granite justifies the method used by professional Stone Mason - Alex Walker to whom we are very grateful.

Thanks to Mike for info/photos.


This year we have cut down a lot of trees that were required to be removed for the continued safe running of the Railway, consequently John and Ian decided to redress this Eco imbalance by purchasing & planting a good number of bare root trees around Boat of Garten & Broomhill Stations.  

Good Friday & Saturday saw some of the PWay squad assemble at Broomhill Station.

Roger watering and Angus surveying his skills hammering in of the stakes, to support the plastic tubing that Mike acquired. 

100 bare root beech planted to form hedging along the fence

a further 25 assorted trees were planted around Broomhill Station.

Thanks to John (& Partner) and Ian for purchasing and planting, with Roger, Angus and Mike assisting. 

Many thanks to

on the Black Isle who supplied all the saplings at an affordable price, with some thrown in for free.

At the other end of the line, it is believed that Justin and Angus replaced fishplate bolts at Aviemore Shed and Fergus, Martin and Kevin's (favorite job) - digging out ballast for replacing 17 sleepers close to the Signal Box, with Georgie continuing to lay out sleepers for new work (no photos as yet)    

 Thanks to John for info/photos 


Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Aviemore & Boat PWay - 20&27 March 2021

 Another big squad, which Georgie split up Saturday past but alas some had to go to the virtual Strathspey Railway Association AGM for most of the morning. 

The masked young PWayer came back for more - despite nursing muscles he didn't know he had after the previous Saturday, overseen by Roger. The maintenance of this crossing finally completed after lunch.

Angus and Mike were detailed to plug all the old visible drill holes in all the renewed sleepers, with wooden plugs hammered in. Georgie had previously levelled new trackbed with JCB, then measured and marked up and then used the Colmar Road Rail Machine to lay all the above.

  The main squad of John, Martin, Ian, Kevin and Andrew set about re-sleepering Road 3, with a lot of digging required due to spacing constraints. In total seven were replaced enabling the removal of the "temporary" tie bars, which had become rather rusty! 


The following Saturday (not a PWay one) John and Ian were down early to check for birds nests on a Scots Pine that Georgie wanted out of the way (she apparently has plans for the area) with none being found.

  John carefully planned the fell, as it was not a small tree and the new Morley's Shed was within reach.


Ian and John quickly de-limbed and segmented, as we struggled to incinerate quickly enough, (Angus in the thick of it) after phoning what used to be called the Fire Brigade - as copious amounts of smoke emanating for Morley's might be a bit unsettling for Boat of Garten residents!   

Mike had asked John to use his pole saw to try and cut back encroaching branches round Boat North Signal Cabin, as scaffolding is planned so that the Ellon Squad can repair and repaint the large structure, hoped to commence in May, progress will be viewed on S&T Blog -

 Meanwhile Kevin had single handedly barrowed all the segments round to near the gate (close to his car which was similarly well laden!)

"Stoker MacPhail" borrowed one of John's many gadgets (leaf blower) to try speed up the going home process, just visible in the background is the curved edge of the old turntable pit.

 After many, many buckets of water it was extinguished, concluding another successful day.
Many thanks to - John, Ian, Roddy, Martin, Kevin and Angus  

Monday, 15 March 2021

Aviemore Headshunt And Tullochgorum Overbridge - 13th March 2021

On Saturday a good sized squad met up at Aviemore to finish the previously frost postponed re-sleepering of the necessarily emptied Headshunt.

Squad heading to site.

Slightly older hand Roger, was welcomed back after vaccine number two, who I am glad to see was on light duties and the back of a much younger potential new recruit - Justin, who was a big help with the impact wrench, removing and screwing down chair screws 

In total 27 sleepers dug out, changed, packed and mostly backfilled as the light faded.

Thanks to Andrew, Angus, Fergus, Kevin, Martin, Justin, Roger and Mike who took the photos and provided all the information.


Defects having been picked up during track inspections on the soffit of Tullochgorum Overbridge and knowing that an ORR Bridge Engineer may visit during 2021, repairs were authorised.
A stone mason over a period of ten days cut out loose mortar and bricks in the jack arches between the four 1866 Falcon Foundary (Inverness) cast iron beams.


After All gaps are tightly repointed

along with some open joints in the abutment & wing walls.
 Remedial work at other locations is anticipated - watch this space.

Again thanks to Mike for photos and text.

Sunday, 7 March 2021

Caley 828 on P'way duties and S&C oiling - 6th March 2021

Steam Locomotive Caley 828 having recently passed her boiler examination needed a test run and Georgie needed a "wee shunt around" over the entire railway on Friday 26th February.

Mike got the above photo at Boat of Garten, Martin the Driver wasn't sure if he was coming or going half the day and Robert acting as Signalman had to second guess where the whole ensemble was destined for but fortunately Georgie as Guard knew!


Good turnout yesterday, the plan was to finish off re-sleepering at Aviemore, alas the ground was frozen. Georgie quickly moved onto plan B  

Angus and Mike were sent "Wombling" over the track around Aviemore up to Dalfaber level crossing. A good number of bin bags were filled with the accumulated blown rubbish. At some point they called into Spey Lodge where Plumber Jim was building kitchen units - somehow they managed to accidently break one - both Mike & Angus were glad to make it out to the bitterly cold wind again!

The rest of us were detailed to oil nuts and bolts on the switches and crossings (S&C) Aviemore Station - easier said than done!

Above south loop crossing with Andrew, Kevin, Roddy and a bit of Martin, off shot is Ian, didn't know his own strength and was nursing his wrist,

which fortunately came off better than his spanner did!

The crossings were definitely harder work than the switches. More people here than passengers on Northbound Highland Main Line train. 

The North end of Aviemore Station run round loop has hundreds of spring like clips held down with T bar bolts and nuts, Ian was glad of the power tool!

Roddy painted track lube neatly onto component parts, ready for reassembly. We all worked well as a team in finger numbing conditions and feel this S&C task should be completed on a Summers day.

Thanks to all that contributed over both days.