Bridge 11 – the concluding chapter

Having written Part 1 way back … James Barlow takes up the story that brings a  conclusion to rebuilding of Bridge 11, probably the largest engineering project in the Railway’s preservation era.

Progress up to lockdown

Finally, time for me to write Part 2 of the Bridge 11 rebuild story. For Part 1, with the history of the bridge and all the work undertaken before the COVID-19 lockdown, including pictures, follow the link below and once you are up to speed with that, read on!

Bridge 11 – The Story So Far

Part 2 - Return to work and completion

Bridge 11 - lead up to re-start

While the lockdown was a difficult time, it did provide us with an opportunity to take stock and look at what went well and what didn’t from the first part of the job and apply those lessons to the remainder of the work. Never waste a good crisis! In early June the department started limited work back on the railway as restrictions were eased, this mostly focused around planning for Bridge 11. We had site meetings to re-familiarise ourselves with the site and what was left to do and began planning how to do the work in the new world we found ourselves in. In mid-June we agreed that the main works would restart on Friday 17th July.

Initially we focused on taking advantage of the extended closure to undertake some work in advance of the main works, to reduce the complexity of the site operations. During June and early July we removed sleepers and ballast to the North of the bridge which had been disturbed by the road crane, we hadn’t anticipated that the crane would disturb the track bed as much as it did so we had tried to reduce our workload by leaving the sleepers in-situ. But fortunately, we now had time to remove the sleepers and ballast that were affected. We also installed the deck end drainage at the North end of the bridge. The main benefit of completing these jobs early was the removal of excavators and plant from site and improving access from the north end. The only other enabling work was to build a temporary overrun track on the beams that were placed temporarily when we shut the site down. The overrun track was to allow us to safely return the crane to site.

Day 122 - Back to work

Day 122! After a very long break we finally were back to continue where we left off. Plant, tools and equipment were brought to site, the site office was re-established in Ingrow West Station and most importantly, the Bahamas Loco Society 50 Tonne Steam Crane was returned to site. This was a very complex operation which required a significant amount of planning and preparation. All went off without a hitch and the crane was in position by 15:00. Once the crane was secured, the overrun track was removed which allowed us to lift out one of the beams that was temporarily installed in March, leaving the site ready for installation of the remaining beams.

Day 123 - The main event

Saturday, July 18th

Day 123 was the ‘main event’ so to speak. The remaining beams were lifted in by the BLS crane. While the final result was a story of success, getting there was a long hard day. The beams for the second span needed to be lined up with the beams already installed. With the beams cast at a gradient and at a skew, manoeuvring them was a slow process and required adjusting the chains to suit for every lift. Beam One was landed at 11:45 just in time for lunch, Beam Two was landed at 15:45 at which point I thought we were going to fall behind and run into Sunday. However, we obviously got into the swing of things as Beam Three was landed at 15:55 and Beam Four was landed at 16:30. At this point we all breathed a sigh of relief. You will see in the accompanying photos a shot of me sat down contemplating my life decisions at some point before we landed Beam Two!

Sunday 19th July

The main focus of Day 124 was the removal of the BLS crane from site for storage at Haworth. A reverse of the long complex operation undertaken on Friday and again, completely successful. Once the crane was out of the way it was time to start preparing for the remainder of the civil works being undertaken in the following week.  A pair of 60ft rails were removed south of the bridge, along with around 10 sleepers to allow the ballast wall at the deck end to be excavated reading for concreting and waterproofing. We also took the opportunity to start tidying the site up from the craning work, collecting over 100 sleepers used as crane packings.

Monday 20th to Friday 24th July

The main focus of the week was still very much civil engineering, although the beams were in there was still much to do. Each span of the bridge consists of four beams, and these need to be joined together with “stitch joints”. A stitch joint is wet concrete poured into the gap between the main beams and around the  steel reinforcement. On Monday we installed the reinforcement and RN Wooler staff, who were undertaking the wet concrete pour for us, were on site installing formwork for the concrete pour. A relatively quiet day, but we spent the afternoon installing deck end waterproofing to the south ballast wall, ready for the waterproofers to come and do the main deck at a later time.

On Tuesday the first concrete wagon arrived on site to pour the concrete within the stitch joint, by lunch time this was poured and left to cure overnight. We spent the afternoon continuing to tidy the site, neatly stack sleepers and remove small scrap items. Wednesday was much of the same, with the large areas between the new deck and the ballast walls being infilled with concrete to ensure the deck does not creep downhill, with the remainder of the day spent tidying. Thursday and Friday were contingency days, should the weather have turned we may have spent longer concreting. With the waterproofers not due until Monday we were faced with four days with very little to do. On Thursday, our Thursday Gang dismantled the final crane outrigger base, which contained over 50 sleepers, taking up most of the day, while others litter picked and organised the track materials ready for the track reinstatement. Thankfully, at the last minute, we arranged for the waterproofers from Waterseal to come in on Friday instead, allowing us to get ahead with the track reinstatement over the weekend.

Time to return the track!

Gathering pace

Saturday 25th July & Sunday 26th July

Having now got ourselves three days ahead we didn’t really know what to do with ourselves but we took the opportunity to lay the bottom ballast i.e. the layer below the sleepers. In the morning the area was surveyed and a bottom ballast level was determined and then ballast was spread throughout the site, ready for the installation of sleepers on Monday. Sunday was effectively a rest day, with very few people present a small group of us turned the site from a civil engineering site to a track engineering site, swapping tools and materials between our stores and Ingrow West Station which was our site compound.

Track laying - the end's in sight

Monday 27th July to Friday 31st July

Day 132 of the job and finally we started relaying the track. On Monday our trusty Grafton Steam Crane took to the rails to assist in layout of sleepers and rails. By Monday evening we had laid out three 60ft lengths of sleepers and installed two 60ft two lengths of rail (four rails in total). Tuesday followed in much the same vein and by the end of Tuesday all the sleepers and rails were installed and the railway was finally connected back together again. The speed of this was helped by having chaired sleepers ready to go, with new sleepers chaired up in Oakworth Yard in advance and left handily on a wagon. The only hitch was that this wagon was blocked in by Pacers so had to be recovered during a mega Pacer shunt!

Wednesday morning involved packing the track to a level that would allow a ballast train to run, this was duly run Wednesday afternoon with 20031 having the honour of being the first locomotive over the bridge. By Thursday, with enough ballast now on site, we began to lift the track to its final level by packing ballast beneath. At this stage we were still a day ahead of programme and so yet more tidying up was undertaken! The remaining beams from the old bridge were craned and transported to Ingrow Yard and scrap rails around the site collected into one place for collection at a later date. On Friday lifting the track to level continued all day and with32 degree heat, we brought significant quantities of water onto site and rotated often to ensure our volunteers did not suffer in the heat. During the morning the temporary scaffold bridge (which remained in-situ throughout the entirety of the shutdown) was finally removed. Jacking and packing the track into its final position was finished by 16:00 at which point we had a well-deserved rest. Into the early evening we moved tools and equipment out of Ingrow West Station and to their respective homes around the railway and at approximately 19:00 I handed the railway back to the operations department. Just a short 136 days after we first started, I think we have set a record for the longest KWVR possession!

On Saturday morning we finished clearing out the station at Ingrow, returning it to the state we found it in (minus a deep floor clean) back in March. The station building has been full of our materials and equipment for over four months in total!

Take a bow – Civil Engineers

There is much to say after completing a job so large. I want to thank everyone at the KWVR who was involved in any way and our friends at the Bahamas Loco Society who provided their crane and volunteers to assist. I want to thank all my colleagues from Network Rail and J Murphy & Sons who took time out of their days in the planning phase and then helped supervise on site, without them I would not have been able to run this job. There were over 40 volunteer days taken by Network Rail and Murphy’s staff throughout the project. On reviewing the site induction records over 100 people volunteered on site during the project.

This was a huge job, which the KWVR should rightfully be very proud of delivering, almost entirely with volunteers.

Our attention now turns to the rest of the year and undertaking simple run of the mill maintenance, much simpler and less stressful. I can’t wait!

I hope you have found my ramblings interesting, if you have any questions about the job then please contact the railway and I am sure your message will find its way into my inbox. Behind this job, and indeed the maintenance of the entire railway, is a dedicated group of people generally known as Civils, or more jokingly, the Transatlantic Bridge Construction Company (TBCC).

Keep well.

James Barlow – Chief Civil Engineer

Transatlantic Bridge Construction Company (TBCC) NEEDS YOU!

Hopefully you have now read ALL of James’s account of the mammoth task in replacing Bridge 11 and everyone will agree that this was a massive job, well undertaken in the most challenging of circumstances, undertaken with the same spirit that saved the Railway over 50 years ago. That spirit lives on and if you have what it takes and you would like to join James and the Civil Engineers and get involved, please contact the railway through the volunteer liaison officer.

They are a friendly and hard working bunch (Ed. – so they tell me!) and we welcome people from all backgrounds (you don’t have to be a civil engineer) to come help. Aside from the range of everyday myriad of civils work, in three to five years time we will have to renew Bridge 27, carrying the railway over Bridgehouse Beck in Haworth and, once again, we will need all the volunteers we can get.