FEBRUARY 2014 NEWS : 


To coincide with this years Southern themed, West Somerset Railway Spring Steam Gala event being held between Thursday 27th March and Sunday 30th March, a special evening 'Night Photographic Shoot' will be held at Williton Station on Friday 28th. The night shoot will feature Southern ‘Mogul '2-6-0 No.31806 formed on a ballast train with a Southern Van. Full details and a booking form for the event can be found on the West Somerset Railway Association website, while full details of the Spring Steam Gala can be found on the West Somerset Railway website.

 

Outlandish Heritage traction visited Taunton the 24th and 25th February, when DCR hired two Class 20's from GBRF to collect a motley collection of stock from the Dartmoor Railway. London Underground Class 20 No.20189 & BR Blue Class 20 No.20142 arrived into Taunton at 18:00 on the 24th (stabling in the new sidings behind Platform 1) early next morning they continued to Okehampton to collect 47375, 31459 & 47769 and return them to Derby. The colourful ensemble passes Nynehead near Wellington with the 0Z20 movement. (Photo: Mike Rowland)
Having passed through Taunton the 'celebrity' Class 20 No.20189 makes passes through Bathpool on route to Derby. Class 20's are exceptionally rare in the Taunton area, with only Direct Rail Services having provided fleeting visits from the class in recent years. However the class has seen a resurgence of late, with Harry Needle returning many to mainline operations and in various pairs/ colours. (Photo: Shaun Mockridge)
Answers on a postcard, when was the last time a BR Blue Class 20 passed through Taunton under its own power. We think it may be 1986 as part of F&W Railtours, 'Chopper Topper rerun' charter which used 20124 & 20094 between Wolverhampton and Par. (Photo: Steve Crockett)

 

No First Great Western haven't come up with a novel solution to transport passengers from Devon to Somerset, although you could be forgiven for thinking so! With many items of rolling stock currently trapped in Devon / Cornwall, First Great Western have needed to move their trains as well as passengers past the current problems in Dawlish!. Up to four road movements a day have been operating on the M5 moving coaching stock and powercars between depots. This image captures an Alleleys DAF XF hauling Mk3 TGS No.44036 on the M5 heading north near Wellington on the 25th February. (Photo: Mike Rowland)

 

 

Our future railtours page has been updated with all the latest tours currently scheduled to pass Taunton during 2014. Tours listed for March and April are of course subject to the ongoing repairs to the Dawlish Sea Wall.
First Great Western's latest 'unique' livery visited Taunton on the 18th February. The powercar has been vinyl in 'Rail-fly' livery in partnership with Singapore Airlines and Heathrow Express. No.43163 was operating the 1C92 18:06 Paddington - Exeter (normally Plymouth) 'The Golden Hind'. The Photographer raises the interesting question "what would Sir francis Drake make of not being able to reach his home city Plymouth due to the actions of the sea (after all as long ago as 1577 he set off to circumnavigate the world in his wooden galleon "Golden Hind"  - a feat which he completed in 1580)" (Photo: Mike Jones)
With limited rail action through Taunton in recent weeks we are pleased to feature this blast from the past Taunton on the 18th February. The Diesel Traction Groups Class 52 Western No.D1015 'Western Champion' was used to haul Class 42 Warship No.D821 'Greyhound' from the Severn Valley Railway to the West Somerset Railway. The Warship will be receiving some attention at Williton works before staring in the June mixed traffic gala. D1015 departed the line on the 19th February light engine. (Photo: Mike Jones)
Freightliner Heavy Haul managed to sail two of their Class 66/6's from Westbury to Taunton on the 12th February over the flooded Somerset Levels, water levels had dropped sufficiently on this route to allow a small amount of trains to pass through. No.66602 leads No.66601 'The Hope Valley' into Taunton with the 6C73 Westbury - Taunton HOBC trip. Freightliners Class 66's are also currently looking very uncared for, with many suffering from 'window weaping' from rust around the windows and doors staining the paintwork below, it's a far cry from the early beginings when the company locos used to be the pride of the 66 fleets!. (Photo: Wayne Potter)

 

Network Rail have released this video to show the state of the line between Taunton and Bridgwater at high tide today. Clearly with more rain falling across the South West in the next 24 hours this situation is only going to get worse before it gets better. Further images of the flooding in the Taunton area can be found on our 83BPhotogrpahic website.

 

After more heavy rain between the 7th and 8th February, Taunton has become the latest location to be cut off from the rest of the rail network. This was the view at Banklands (near Durston) at 11am on the 8th February, with water levels still rising they have now breached the Taunton - Bristol mainline. The alternative route via Castle Cary has also been shut, and the diversionary route via Yeovil to Exeter has now been closed due to a landslide. A huge road going coach operation is now in place to transport passengers between Bristol and intermediate stations to Plymouth. From next week Flybe have also confirmed they will double the amount of flights they operate between Newquay and Gatwick to assist. These locations shown below are as far as it's possible to get by car without the need for a boat, or helicopter (Brian Garrett)
This image records the situation at East Lyng/ North Curry, with localised drainage issues with water run off affecting the Berks and Hants route. While this may not seem like much flooding on the scale of what's been shown on the TV, the situation to the left of this image over Curry Moor is much different, with water as far as the eye can see. The further East you travel the worse the situation gets with regards to water. (Photo: Brian Garrett)
The further illustrate we also recorded this image at East Lyng, of a former railway track bed, this line used to divert at Athelney and connect to the main Bristol - Taunton mainline at Durston. This image is taken looking in the direction of Athelney and further illustrates the plight of those living on the Somerset Levels. (Photo: Brian Garrett)
The BBC has today released ariel footage of a HST slowly negotiating the flooded fields near Banklands (Durston). Situated just four miles north of Taunton Station, the HST is seen trying to travel south (from Bristol) to Taunton, passing the farm at Banklands. The sheer scale and height of the water in this area is staggering. The line was later closed to trains as the levels rose further above the tracks. With another large storm on the way tonight it's unknown if Taunton will become cut off from the rest of the rail network. Click the image oposite to view the footage.
One of the first freight trains to pass through Whiteball Tunnel from Exeter on the 10th February was Colas Rail Freights Class 66/8 No.66846, the loco worked the 10:55 Exeter Riverside - Westbury loaded spoil and was able to travel via the Somerset Levels to Westbury after water levels were allowed freight trains to pass the area. No.66846 is seen climbing to Whiteball Tunnel from the Exeter side (Photo: Peter Slater)
Veteran Class 31 No.31233 made a understated appearance at Taunton on the 3rd February with a Network Rail test train. The 3Z08 Derby - Bristol via Taunton and Portbury is seen at Taunton at 23:38 waiting to depart to Portbury. The Class 31 could not continue south of Taunton due to the current line closure. During next week there were several text trains booked to visit Devon and Cornwall once the Whiteball Engineering Blockade is lifted. With the recent events on the Dawlish coastline It's unlikely these will now operate as planned (Photo: Darren Harris)

 

Since the 18th January 2014, Network Rail has been embarking on a complicated project to carry out works to repair Whiteball Tunnel in partnerhsip with Amco Rail.

The 1000m long tunnel built in 1842 and straddles the Somerset/ Devon boarder between Taunton and Tiverton . To prevent potential brick fall the tunnel lining had previously been relined with a Ram Arch wire mesh system two years ago. During the January closure new concrete lining has been applied to the worst areas and main crownbrick arch to prevent future deterioration of the tunnel, and improve safety. Work has also been carried out to improve water drainage and embankment stability on both the Taunton and Exeter sides of the tunnel. A future phase of works will see the sides of the tunnel receive a similar concrete spray treatment, in partnership with Amco a new type of train wagon/ platform has been developed, which will allow work to be carried out from the stable platform of the wagon while trains will be able to pass on the opposite line without posing a danger to workmen. This colabartive effort by Amco and Network Rail have provided a unique solution to allow work to be carried out on the remaining phase without the need to close the mainline again.

Unfortunatly for normal rail passengers, Network Rail were forced to close the line for three weeks between the 18 th January until the 9 th February in order to carry out this complex piece of work within the confined space of the tunnel. During the three week closure passengers were transferred onto a well-organised bus service between Taunton, Tiverton and Exeter, while selected train services
operated via Yeovil & Honiton to Exeter. Network Rail saw the closure of the Taunton – Exeter mainline as a positive step to incorporate three separate upgrade projects into one programme, this enabled them to tackle the tunnel and the railway infrastructure at the same time, without having to close the railway in the future. Around three miles of track have also been renewed and seven units of switches and crossings relaid separately at Taunton and Tiverton. The upgrade work has been in the planning for over three years, and once complete will enable trains to travel at a higher speed and improve journey times. This co-ordinated and efficient effort will significantly help boost rail performance whilst complementing Network Rail's long-term aspiration to improve services between Bristol and Exeter. Network Rail's have invested a total of £15m on the essential upgrade / renewal works.

Freightliner Heavy Haul, DB Schenker and Colas Rail Freight have all provided locomtovies and ground staff for up to 80 loco hauled services in connection with the various works over the three week period. Contractors on the ground have been commended by Network Rail for working in truly appauling weather conditions in recent weeks (particually at Whiteball Tunnel). At any one time Amco have had approxamtaly 65 persons on site during each shift, working 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Many of the Amco and Network Rail staff working ont he Whiteball Tunnel project are now involved with the rebuilding of the Dawlish Sea Wall, the fast responce and imaginative engineering solutions which were quickly put into action at the sea wall site are a credit Network Rail and their railway engineering partners.

A full report on the Whiteball Tunnel Engineering will be available in the online Railway Magazine Railway Herald No.396 which will be out on the 12th February 2014.

4th February 2014

On the 4th February 2014, the media were invited to join Network Rail for a presentation and site visit to Whtieball Tunnel in order to view the works which have been carried out on the site, this unique chance to view the inside of the historic victorian structure was very much appreciated by those invited to attend. The works within Whiteball Tunnel have mainly been hidden from view, and used more plant related items rather than the traditional locomotives and wagons. Because the tunnel is out of bounds to the general public at all times, it's been incredibly hard to illustrate the extent of the work carried out by Network Rail until now. (Photo: Brian Garrett)
With shot creating complete on the crown of the tunnel a drilling rig is viewed drilling metal studs into the brick arch ready for Phase 2 works where concrete panels and further shot creating will be carried out from a purpose built set of wagons, allowing men to work safely while the opposite track remains open to rail traffic via single line working. (Photo: Brian Garrett)
This is the view looking at the east portal of Whiteball Tunnel at Marlands. Amco Rail Contractors can be seen working with 'long arm' excavators improving drainage and stability to the sides of the cutting. New drainage channels have also been dug to provide better drainage for the torrents of water currently pouring off the face of the hillside. (Photo: Brian Garrett)
Two excavators stabilize the bank at Whiteball by passing ballast and rocks to one another and then grading the sides of the embankment accordingly. (Photo: Brian Garrett)
A road rail plant excavator lays ballast in preparation for newly designed water tanks to be lowered into place. Previously these tanks were manufactured from concrete, but have been re-engineered to be durable and lightweight saving money and reducing complicated manual handling issues. (Photo: Brian Garrett)
Freightliner Class 66/6 No.66601 'The Hope Valley' stands at the site of the current Network Rail track replacement scheme adjacent to Fairwater Yard. The 1000 yard relay will be completed in three days, and is the third such blockade to be completed in the Taunton area since the initial line closure on the 18th January. Adjacent a dozer can be viewed leveling the ballast via laser guidance. (Photo: Brian Garrett)
With the down mainline completely removed a loan Komatsu PC120 Excavator waits for the next train to move forward in order to continue removing old ballast from the track bed. After loading trains continued forward to the West Somerset Railway's triangle at Norton Fitzwarren for unloading. (Photo: Brian Garrett)
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