The reopening of the railway line between Okehampton and Exeter is one step closer after Network Rail finished relaying the new track and sleepers last week.
Following the confirmation of government funding in March, engineers started immediately and have worked tirelessly upgrading this 14 mile stretch of track between Okehampton and Coleford Junction, where the Dartmoor Line joins the existing railway line to Exeter.
As well as laying new track and sleepers, Network Rail engineers have been working day and night on drainage, fencing, preparing the ground for the new railway and much more.
Over 11 miles of new track has successfully been laid and 24,000 concrete sleepers installed using an innovative NTC (new track construction) machine, which is able to simultaneously evenly drop sleepers into position, lay the track on top and then clamp the track into place.
The concrete sleepers, which were stored at the work site adjacent to Okehampton station, have been transported along the Dartmoor Line using a Class 56 locomotive train that has pushed around a quarter-mile long set of wagons containing on average 2,430 sleepers per journey at a speed of 5mph.
The 29,000 tonnes of ballast have also nearly all been installed and this will be followed by the process of tamping. This involves a machine travelling along the newly laid railway and inserting vibrating metal rods into the ballast to compact it so that it effectively supports the track while lifting the track so that it is level.
Once complete, this process helps the train wheels to align with the track which results in a smoother ride for passengers and prevents the train wheels from causing damage to the track.
To enable engineers to work throughout the night, over four miles of lights have also been erected. These lights have been powered by silent generators to ensure residents living near to the Dartmoor Line are disrupted as little as possible.
Now that the main elements of the track relay work have been completed, Network Rail will be turning its focus to other aspects of the project including upgrading several level crossings, installing new GSM-R masts (the railway’s mobile communications system), undertaking bridge repairs as well as running engineering test trains to check the quality of the newly laid track.
See our previous posting from February here