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 over 2,600 people travelled on Santa’s Lapland Express, the heritage 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.
Robert Gardiner, DCDR spokesman, said: “This is part of a project that will give operational flexiblity, allowing two trains to enter and out of the station from either the Inch Abbey line or the Ballydugan line. It will also raise the height of the trackbed to help combat flooding – the railway was nearly closed twice over Christmas due to high water levels and this project will rectify this.
“Part of the track being lifted is among some of the first laid at Downpatrick by the fledgling heritage line in the 1980s and old near life-expired timber sleepers will also be replace with new.”
David Crone, project manager, said, the work undertaken so far has included:
” * A redundant former shed access turnout fully removed. There are a surprising number of re-usable timbers.
* The South line broken and first panel of temporary track removed.
*The 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.
* The Loop turnout facing point lock cranks disconnected and removed.
*Both the Daewoo and Atlas where working.
*A new fence was put up for the back of the station platform following removal of old bay line.
“The next jobs are, in order of priority”
* To remove remainder of Bay turnout
* To disconnect remainder of fishplates on North line so it can be lifted.
* To excavate and grade trackbed with new stone ballast
* To continue lifting the North line.
“We are still looking for volunteers who would like to help out, especially anyone with any experience in construction. Why not come down one Saturday and try it out? You could find yourself with a very different hobby!”