The annual Civil Maintenance Department ‘Civil Week’ was held in September. This is our annual possession where anyone and everyone comes together to deliver major civil engineering works under the watchful eye of the railway’s engineers.

This year, we were in Damems Junction Cutting, which is immediately south of Damems Junction. The work undertaken included was installing track drainage in the Up (west) side cess, renewing a section of ballast, clearing the drainage ditches at the top of the cutting, continuing site investigations at Bridge 27 and undertaking some electrical work on the signal box itself at Damems Junction.

Damems Junction Cutting has suffered from flooding for many years, which has led to landslides in the past, the scars of which can still be seen. We have been steadily improving the drainage in the area for six years now. The cutting crest ditch has been cleared and improved significantly, reducing the amount of water flowing onto the cutting slope. The outfall into the river has been improved to reduce blockages. However, the final piece of the puzzle was the big task which had been in the planning for several years: installing a cess drain. This drain is required to get the water out of the cutting and off the track as quickly as possible as it was ponding and causing issues with the track. In addition, where water had flowed onto the track it had spoiled the ballast, washing silt into the stones, and this needed to be replaced alongside the improved drainage.

Preparatory works were ongoing for months before with material delivery, design, and survey work. The huge volume of material required meant many evenings during the summer delivering materials to site with our trusty atlas wagon (what would we do without it!!!). The main work began on Sunday the 17th after the last service had passed. During Sunday both Vulcan (D0226) and D2511 failed, leaving us with no choice but to trap the Class 37 37075 at Ingrow and use 78022 BR Standard 2 after the service was done to drag the rails out. A very rare treat!

On Monday the sleepers were removed, and ballast was dug out in the ballast renewal area. We started laying drainage from the downstream end of the drainage run at the south A train formed with the mermaid at the top, worked slowly towards Oxenhope, allowing us to take spoil away for tipping. Monday was slow progress, with only around 25m of the 275m of drainage installed and none of the more time-consuming catchpits. Tuesday, the rain threw everything it had at us, but progress increased, with 50m of drainage installed and two of the nine catchpits. The track was put back in at the ballast renewal site, ballast dropped, and packing of the track started. The digger from this site then started a further section of drainage up the hill, giving us two simultaneous teams.

Wednesday and Thursday, we progressed much faster with 100m of drainage installed on both days. We had installed all of the drainage by the end of Thursday, which was a relief after a very concerningly slow start on Monday. We quickly changed to working 12 rather than eight-hour days on Monday due to the risk of not completing the work in time, and it paid off. On Thursday, we also had a small gang undertaking hand-dug trial pits around Bridge 27, further confirming the existing abutment arrangements to allow the piling design to continue. Also on Thursday, we were joined by volunteers from the WSP Leeds Geotechnical team, who took one of their corporate volunteer days to come and clear the crest ditch from Damems Junction southwards. They did fantastically, clearing around 100m. Another example of the great use of corporate volunteer days: if your organisation offers these to you, take them!

On Friday, we levelled the final pipes, backfilled them, packed the tack, dropped ballast to top the cess back up and tidied the site. It was all simple, but it was another long day before handing the railway back at 10mph. This restriction will be lifted after a few weeks once we are confident there is no further settlement or movements following our works.

That was a whistlestop tour of this year’s work! If you would like to see more of what the department gets up to and more detail of the works from Civil Week please see the departments Facebook page which is updated regularly with the gang’s activities and as ever; if you are interested in joining us, get in touch!