Thursday 30 December 2021

Maintenance at Boat of Garten - 29th December 2021

Yesterday saw an extra midweek day squeezed in, enroute by car it was a balmy 3 degrees Celsius at Slochd Summit but on arrival at Boat of Garten it was a chilly minus 5!

Ground too frozen to complete the planned re-sleepering, so Georgie got us to re-ferrule and renew the screws, where the old wooden ferrules had disintegrated. Above Peter tries the proper tool - waste of time!

The forecasted rain came suddenly through the bright sunlight

and instantly froze, coating rails, chairs and sleepers with a treacherous coating of ice.

The North end of the Up Loop was completed, flattening in the process all the re-chargeable batteries of the wrench, so Georgie and Mike got the petrol Bance into action, to screw down. Bob showing Peter the preferred ferrule removal tool - the handle of the sleeper nips, although both promise a more modern power tool solution would be better....
 Ian and his daughter were on lineside clearance duties - reclaiming from the undergrowth the buffer stop of the headshunt and Plumber Jim was checking for frozen pipes and burying the exposed pipe at end of Dock (photo in earlier blog)

Thanks to all that attended.

 And to finish off 2021 a short clip from Peter - a pity a few of the orange Army got in the way but without our monumental efforts over the year, scenes like this would eventually become a thing of the past.

Wish you all the Best for 2022


Sunday 19 December 2021

Boat Station Re-sleepering continues - December 2021


Saturday 4th December saw the visitation of a ScotRail/Branchline Society Charity Railtour from Edinburgh.

The headboard was eventually allowed to be fitted at our old Speyside platform

and terminated at Boat of Garten Up platform. Fortuitously there was a large P'Way squad to clear snow/salt platforms and similar at Broomhill as our steam Festive service was also running. As our intended worksite was somewhat occupied, another tranche of sleepers were pre-drilled in the yard, close to the warmth of the messvan!

A mid-week day saw a small squad, level off the recently dropped ash to form a cess near Broomhill, above the before photo, too dark by time we finished, likely to be at this site again soon enough.

I think last weekend a lot of digging out of sleeper beds was achieved as well as slewing, and yesterday in cool damp conditions the Up platform line was re-sleepered.

Leaving approximately only ten on the Down line to change, as can be seen the stonemason continues to improve the platforms, weather permitting. We welcomed a new member of the gang that Kevin conscripted - Iain.
Thanks to all that attended during the Month too numerous to mention and wish everyone a Merry and Safe Christmas.


Wednesday 24 November 2021

Boat of Garten and beyond - 20th & 24th November 2021

Another excellent turnout in what was initially a mild wet day. 

First task, to remove all the excess stonework from the re-building of the Dock Platform facing that was lying in the "four foot" and at the same time bury the blue water pipe that runs between the sleeper ends and the platform (guys heading to main task, rainbow not quite in right place!)

 As our skilled Plumber Jim was many miles away on holiday, Mike assisted by Bob & Michael took the opportunity to rectify one of Jim's long standing leaks! - Will await his nod before burying the joint.

Many years ago Her Majesty's Railway Inspectors (HMRI) informed us that the Up Platform had to be raised to a more acceptable height, this was done by a contractor brickie and the story goes, that the only bricks available were engineering bricks, pretty much ever since they have been spalling, Mike Tough observed recently right back to the "frogs" in places and now our stonemason is slowing down the erosion process by removing the worst of the loose material and  

  applying the first layer of mortar (maybe more technical info in
Express  magazine....)   

  The main task was re-sleepering, by removing the "six foot" chair and jacking up the track sufficiently, the old sleepers can be removed over the rail of the Up line, above Georgie did it too quickly to show how tight it actually is.

Above new sleepers in, almost ready to pack, once jacks dropped. Note Fergus trying to outdo Georgie in hat department.

Just a case of filling in, alas too much "ballast" excess deposited in "six foot" to be cleared later, above Michael removing worst of spoil from chairs. In total 17 sleepers changed and weather cleared up but much colder.
Thanks to Martin, Angus, Mike, Bob, Fergus, David and Andrew.
Mid-Week morning saw 

Mike ("driving" into the sun) & Michael (pushing) returning from Broomhill section having changed some level crossing signage - spirit level required next time apparently!

Leaving Angus and Roddy to apply anti-freeze lubricant to the Mainline switches at Boat of Garten, I had the easy job of reversing all the points from the Signal Boxes at the required time.

After lunch we headed to the Broomhill end, Angus & Michael "Winterising" the points there, Mike, Roddy and myself levelling spent ash forming a cess, guess from steam locomotive 5025 as it was very light and a pleasure to work with, apart from finding face masks and ear plugs amongst it! As it was getting dark by this time, the end result might not quite be up to Georgie's high standard but we are likely to be at this locus again next year.

Again as ever thanks to all that helped.    

Sunday 14 November 2021

Up to 14th November Miscellanea

This is "On Track" activity of another kind - The Strathspey Railway own the access road to the Engine Shed at Aviemore, it is freely used by non-vehicular members of the public and a complaint had been received about potholes.

Lead by Mike Tough above, we filled in the deeper holes with railway ballast and brushed over with post-crete cement and sprinkled with water.

Michael admiring our work, how long the fix lasts, might depend on how often vehicles obey the 10 mph permanent speed restriction!


 Although overtime everything weathers and this includes parts of the platforms at Boat of Garten.
Earlier in the year we got some Government money to go towards maintaining our infrastructure - this is being used to hire in again our trusty Stonemason from Aberdeen-shire.

The Dock platform before


surplus masonry may get recycled

as other areas still require attention.....TBC


As usual the Strathspey Railway Association AGM clashed with a P'Way work weekend but this year's Diesel Multiple Unit trip took Members to the New P'Way Maintenance Depot a.k.a. "Morley's" at Boat of Garten.

Where Ian guided Members round the various bits of plant and inside the shed itself. After this Georgie had Sam, Bob and Peter possibly tidying the tool van? as the weather turned foul as forecasted. 

 Yesterday by chance John had his chainsaw with him, as he and Ian were to construct a sleeper foot crossing, but first Georgie dispatched them to clear the fallen tree that had been reported the day before by a dog walker near the 85 milepost.

John hard at work removing the brash.

The rest of the squad stayed at Boat - splitting in two - Andrew, Angus, Mike, Martin and myself started by pre-drilling one end of the new sleepers, using a template constructed many years ago by the late Hamish Mackay.

After lunch a start was made on digging out the sleepers to be changed

Alas the Diesel Driver Training Train (DDTT?) never stopped in the station to give us a break! - not that there is any ballast only ash and earth but it was hard slow tiring work.

The other squad lead by Georgie - Bob, Kevin and Michael did some measured shovel packing and other technical stuff ! - Kevin must have worked hard as they were let away before darkness.

Oh and "Fishermans Crossing" now for the first time ever has a proper sleeper foot crossing!

Thanks to all that attended, the Railway is being maintained and even improved. 

Sunday 17 October 2021

Re-Timbering concludes at Boat of Garten - 13th & 16th October 2021

With the loss of Mike's phone he also lost his photos, so I took the one below recently and now include the anecdote that Mike kindly previously supplied -

   Above "as highlighted in yellow by Georgie that the crossover rails added in 1943/44 are rolled in USA as 95 lb per yard bullhead rails at a place called STEELTON in 1941 before USA entered the war in she says 45 foot lengths as Liberty ships could not take 60 foot rails & using rollers supplied from UK as USA only did flat bottom rail."

An ad hoc midweek day was arranged at short notice and a surprising number were able and willing - including a new volunteer Peter (left) think he enjoyed the experience of timber renewal at Boat of Garten in perfect working weather.    

Georgie holds the correct gauge with a rail jack as Andrew drills, so that it can be permanently fixed in place.  

Alas only the one train today to give us an excuse for a break! - One of the many of recent welcome visits of the Royal Scotsman heading for Dundee on this occasion.

Many thanks to Georgie, Mike, Andrew, Roddy, Iain and Peter.


Yesterday saw another great turnout in cool dry weather.

Above shows a scarf joint, expertly cut by John using his chainsaw before installation,

considerable amount of digging required for this now 24 foot timber, I suspect coordinated teamwork required in getting it in situ

as close as possible to five rail joints

and finally the scarfed joint from above.

A new Stihl petrol chair screw/sleeper drill trialed by Ian above, seems to have speeded things up as the last of the remaining six timbers were changed, leaving time for a bit of lineside clearance to finish off the current work at Boat.

Thanks to Georgie, Mike, Ian, Fergus, Michael, Sam, Bob and especially John for providing photos/info

But the unsung Hero of the day was Track Inspector Les, who reported a double broken fishplate (which Georgie promptly attended to)

 Les was promised double time and a day in lieu as a Volunteer!

Monday 11 October 2021

Miscellaneous & "Line Inspection" - up to 9th October 2021

Mid September saw Georgie, Mike, David, Bob, Iain and eventually Michael, who slept in - make good progress in changing six timbers, South of the South Signalbox at Boat of Garten. Photos were taken but alas Mike's mobile phone went amiss (never to be seen again) - hence no timeous blog posting.

The next time P'way met up was one of our at one time annual "Line Inspections" from the comfort of the London Midland Scottish Inspection Saloon with some light refreshments to hand! Above photo was about the only decent one (and no the track isn't bumpy!) showing a few of the current and past P'Way Gang in attendance - of note is Roger being the best dressed as ever, but being in his 82nd or is it 83rd year? he has decided to take things a bit easier and has retired to the platform at Aviemore - we thanked him for his contribution and wish him well for the future. 

Light luncheon was paid for by our "P'Way Boss" Georgie, many thanks to her and the Catering Dept, John the Chef & Diarmid especially, The Watkinson Trust and The Strathspey Railway Company. (We provided Mike with an alibi for the wayward golf ball that broke one of the windows further back the train)

Mid Week 6th October saw Georgie and Bob assisted by Rob Law (Signals & Telegraph Dept)

change a mere two timbers!

 But in typical S&T fashion Rob claimed they are "the two hardest ones"!

Leaving the long, heavy 20 foot timber and 6 others to the Weekend squad of Georgie, David, Michael, Fergus and Mike.

 Assisted by John and Ian, after they had finished putting the final underbridge railings on the Croftnahaven Cattle creep, hopefully concluding that special project at The Office of Rail & Road's behest.

Thanks to all that participated in the work (and play) and for the contributions to this blog, photos came from me,Rob,Mike & John.

Tuesday 7 September 2021

S&C Timber renewals Aviemore - 4th September 2021

Good sized squad assembled at Aviemore in perfect working weather, the task will continue to be Switches and Crossings (S&C) timber renewals, for some time I guess, as Georgie mentioned that to get the best deal, quantity mattered, so an artic lorry load was dispatched from Boston (Lincolnshire presumably but the white pine came from Germany!)

Kevin supervises after doing a good bit of the digging, as a four man lift required to get new timber maneuvered into place, incidentally four rail jacks were also required to lift the considerable weight of the track at this location.

Just visible behind Georgie is the tiny battery drill that had successfully drilled all the holes until mid-afternoon, when both our batteries gave up and the more conventional equipment was draughted in from the Sheds.

Thanks to all that attended, especially Sam who had a reoccurrence of an old injury necessitating him to go all the way home again mid morning. Alasdair and possibly Bob were up for more PWay work on the Sunday  

Sunday 22 August 2021

Timbers large and small - 14th & 21st August 2021

14th  August - Mike reports - Another big squad met at Boat of Garten splitting into three!

A team finished south box foot crossing John both Ian’s & Angus subbed for Fergus

B team started fishplate oiling heading North until the Nethy Road under bridge when Georgie arrives with sighting boards & measured shovel packing gear to sort some dips in new point work into Pway depot .. I thought Sam & Bart needed that pleasure & we split up again

 leaving Michael, Les, Dave & Mike to carry on & we reached short of Milton 1 where concrete sleepers start
Michael stayed a bit cleaner today!


Yesterday we met at Aviemore yard in light rain, our first house keeping chore  

was to stop the S&T point rodding wearing away our sleeper! - dug out bed so that sleeper could be relocated one inch further South. Angus sourced wood planks and nailed to keep the assets apart in future. The next job was to replace two mysteriously damaged sleeper chairs by Spey Lodge level crossing, by the time complete, Georgie had organised the timbers for the main task of the day - 

replacing life expired switch timbers and opportunity was taken to move the switch lever, for operational safety reasons away from the recently laid track,

  Above Angus removes planks, Bart disconnects point lever, Michael and Kevin dig out.

after much huffing and puffing right 12 foot 6 inch timber was replaced and the left "good" one was pulled through, gauged drilled and screwed down.

Timbers packed and boxed in, new wood was cut to size by John and his many battery tools and Bart got a lesson in how to hammer in nails!

Thanks to Kevin, Michael, Bart, Angus, Mike & Ian and John who completed the foot crossing below


using all three bags of staples attaching the anti-slip mesh.