Oldest track "chairs" in use on a mainline UK railway?

peteb

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There have been previous threads about the oldest surviving intact section of track, but my query is about historic track chairs, in use now, whether reused or not. At Macynlleth this week I saw chairs BR (W) 1962; GWR 1944 (impressive enough); then, adjacent, a Cambrian chair dated 1905. This is on the line running through platform 1, not a siding. Does anyone know of any older chairs on the "mainline"?
 
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When you say 'mainline', do you mean 'on the national network as distinct from preserved railways etc.', or 'on running lines as distinct from sidings'?

If the former, there is (or at least was a few years ago, and I doubt if it's been replaced) at least one 'NBR 1893' (or similar year -- it would have been new when the line was built) chair near the buffer stop end of a siding on the West Highland line, although if it ever has trains over it that will happen much less often than with your example at Machynlleth.
 

peteb

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Thanks for your info. Yes by mainline I meant "not preserved lines", and excluding sidings. The track at Macynlleth is in daily use (or would be if there wasn't a major engineering possession, meaning all trains currently using platform 2).
 

Andrew1395

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Platform 10 at Watford Junction has a large number of pre WW2 LMS chairs. It’s a bay platform, but is connected to the WCML up slow.
 

LowerQuadrant

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Until a year or so ago the last few yards of track in the Windsor bay at Slough was laid with lightweight bullhead rail on inside keyed chairs - only used for a short while in the 19th century. I think it's a fair bet that this little bit of track dated back to 1860, when Slough was converted from broad gauge to standard gauge.

The track has now been relaid, using brand-new bullhead rail on new sleepers, with new chairs (I think dated 2019) on fresh ballast. Interesting to see a completely new section of bullhead track.

Incidentally, the retaining wall behind the buffer stop is built of Barlow-type broad gauge rails.

I took this photo shortly before the old track went. It was obviously in a fairly terrible condition, although the fresh ballast and insulated joint (presumably to prevent the buffer stop shorting out the track circuit) show that it was being maintained after a fashion. The chairs were not dated as far as I could see, but look like a very early design - from before the general shape of rail chairs, with wide, rectangular bases and outside keys, had become established. The square-headed bolts look rather historic, too.

slough_bullhead_rail.jpg
 

peteb

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Very interesting, I hope someone has re-homed a chair or two, would be nice to see one in a museum in the future.

We could expand this thread to oldest piece of track still in situ on the network!
 

LowerQuadrant

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Very interesting, I hope someone has re-homed a chair or two, would be nice to see one in a museum in the future.

We could expand this thread to oldest piece of track still in situ on the network!

Some time ago I read on the Cornwall Railway Society website about a set of catch points leading to a sand drag, protecting a gradient on the Cornish main line. Supposedly the track in the sand drag was laid with Brunel's bridge rails. I can't remember the location offhand, and there were no photos, so it might be a bit of a myth.

If a section of bridge rail really did survive (and maybe still does...), it's not as far-fetched as it might sound. After the broad gauge was abolished bridge rails continued to be used on standard gauge track, and some survived in sidings for many years. There are 1930s photos of bridge rail track in the book Great Western Infrastructure: http://www.crecy.co.uk/great-western-infrastructure-1922-1934-stations-signalling-track
 

leezer3

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You're thinking of the sand drag protecting the single line section of Largin / St. Pinnock viaducts.
Search for Largin Catch Points and the Sand Drag in page, there's no way to link halfway down.

(Whether it's true or not I don't know)
 

NorthBritish

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On the Kyle of Lochalsh line, in 2019, I did see some chairs dating from World War 2 at Garve. From memory they were something like 1942. I assume there was some work done during the war to relay track on the line given its military importance. Nice to see it still there all these years later.
 

ChiefPlanner

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There have been previous threads about the oldest surviving intact section of track, but my query is about historic track chairs, in use now, whether reused or not. At Macynlleth this week I saw chairs BR (W) 1962; GWR 1944 (impressive enough); then, adjacent, a Cambrian chair dated 1905. This is on the line running through platform 1, not a siding. Does anyone know of any older chairs on the "mainline"?

Back in the 1980's when BR did not have a lot of money , the Area Civil Engineer for the Cambrian got some spot resleepering arranged and it was done in the most cost effective manner you could imagine.

They got new sleepers obviously and some well seasoned local staff to carefully examine removed sleepers and chose old rail chairs in excellent condition , which were then affixed to the new stuff and dropped in. Quite amazing about the 1905 Cambrian one , but it was clearly in good condition and safe for another 30+ years life. It deserves to be saved and I hope it can be.

And to think BR was described as "deeply inefficient" ........
 

Annetts key

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Not on the main line, but in a siding:
 

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Ken H

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Pics i took in 2019

Giggleswick. (Baseplates dated 1954) Not CWR*.

20190520_112129.jpg

Silverdale No idea of date but CWR on wood sleepers on a running line
Cwr silverdale 20.5.19.jpg

*CWR = Continuous Welded Rail
 

krus_aragon

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Very interesting, I hope someone has re-homed a chair or two, would be nice to see one in a museum in the future
I own a rail chair that is undated, but is labelled "TAFF" , which I presume means it's pre-grouping vintage. Rather than being a full rectangle base, one corner is cut-off slightly, as if to give clearance for something else near pointwork or similar.

I'll try to remember to get a photo to upload for you this evening.
 

peteb

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I own a rail chair that is undated, but is labelled "TAFF" , which I presume means it's pre-grouping vintage. Rather than being a full rectangle base, one corner is cut-off slightly, as if to give clearance for something else near pointwork or similar.

I'll try to remember to get a photo to upload for you this evening.
Great! Some really interesting examples coming through this thread.
 

LowerQuadrant

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Pics i took in 2019

Giggleswick. (Baseplates dated 1954) Not CWR*.

View attachment 98491

Silverdale No idea of date but CWR on wood sleepers on a running line
View attachment 98492

*CWR = Continuous Welded Rail

The Central Wales Line (as I still think of it) has some 1950s-and-on flat-bottom rail on assorted baseplates, with various clips and fastenings mixed up almost at random. At Llandrindod Wells station it's possible to see three adjacent sleepers with three different kinds of rail fixings (1950s elastic spikes, as in your top photo, 'curly' elastic spikes, and Pandrol clips).

The CWL has its own dedicated permanent way crew, based at Llandrindod Wells, and they do seem to operate on a like-for-like (or at least like-for-something-similar) repair basis. There's a compound next to the station platform where it's possible to see their stocks of rail fastenings, stacked up ready for use. It's like a museum of permanent way kit through the ages.

A while back I was interested to see they had a few brand new elastic spike baseplates, of the 1950s style - obviously new castings, very bright orange with the first flush of rust. So the older stuff is still manufactured if it's needed.

Much of the CWL is bullhead track, which again seems to be maintained on a like-for-like basis. Some of it is in very good condition, clean ballast with tidy shoulders. But there are a few less-good areas which never seem to get any attention. I took this photo at Builth Road station, adjacent to the platform...quite a daunting sight for passengers. I suppose it's good enough for the lightweight DMUs which operate most of the services, but the line is also used quite frequently by steam charters. Imagine a Black Five hammering over this bit of track...

Note non-standard keys, apparently an experimental type, never widely used. See what I mean about the museum of permanent way!

builthroad.jpg
 
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Ken H

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The Central Wales Line (as I still think of it) has some 1950s-and-on flat-bottom rail on assorted baseplates, with various clips and fastenings mixed up almost at random. At Llandrindod Wells station it's possible to see three adjacent sleepers with three different kinds of rail fixings (1950s elastic spikes, as in your top photo, 'curly' elastic spikes, and Pandrol clips).

The CWL has its own dedicated permanent way crew, based al Llandrindod Wells, and they do seem to operate on a like-for-like (or at least like-for-something-similar) repair basis. There's a compound next to the station platform where it's possible to see their stocks of rail fastenings, stacked up ready for use. It's like a museum of permanent way kit through the ages.

A while back I was interested to see they had a few brand new elastic spike baseplates, of the 1950s style - obviously new castings, very bright orange with the first flush of rust. So the older stuff is still manufactured if it's needed.

Much of the CWL is bullhead track, which again seems to be maintained on a like-for-like basis. Some of it is in very good condition, clean ballast with tidy shoulders. But there are a few less-good areas which never seem to get any attention. I took this photo at Builth Wells station, adjacent to the platform...quite a daunting sight for passengers. I suppose it's good enough for the lightweight DMUs which operate most of the services, but the line is also used quite frequently by steam charters. Imagine a Black Five hammering over this bit of track...

Note non-standard keys, apparently an experimental type, never widely used. See what I mean about the museum of permanent way!

View attachment 98652
And that pic is a running line on a mainline railway. Oh dear.
 

LowerQuadrant

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I guess at passing loops stations the line speed is greatly reduced, say 15 mph so probably not an issue...?
There's no passing loop at Builth Road. I think the speed limit through the station is 45mph for units, 30mph for loco-hauled trains.

It's a request stop, so in practice most trains do slow down so the drivers can check the platform for passengers. If nobody wants to board they do accelerate quite heavily, though, so they end up going relatively fast when they hit the bad section of track, which is about half-way along the platform.

The station is on quite a stiff gradient, so a non-stop steam-hauled charter going north (up the gradient) would be really hammering that bit of track, even at 30mph. It's also on a curve, so theoretically the track should have a few degrees of cant. I say 'theoretically' because I'm not sure that the soggy mud is holding it in any particular position.

The ironic thing is that the goods yard at Builth Road is now used by Network Rail as a ballast stockpile area. There's usually a pile of fresh ballast waiting to be used, just a few yards away. Ballast, ballast everywhere - but none for the track!
 

LowerQuadrant

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Just to update my photo above - I was back at Builth Road yesterday, and the track now seems to have dried out. Here's a photo of the same area as it is now.

I don't know if the drainage has been fixed, or if it's looking better because the weather has been dry recently. There's some evidence of lifting and packing of the sleepers (note small ballast visible on the right), although in my view this is a bit like putting a sticking plaster on a broken leg.
 

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Annetts key

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If the small ballast is gravel sized, then a stoneblower tamper has probably been working on this section.

On a freight line some years ago now, they tried using a stoneblower to try to raise an emergency speed restriction up from 5MPH to 20MPH where there was a massive muddy length of wet beds. Needless to say, that it did not work, the gravel sized ballast just disappeared into the muddy mess.
 
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Elecman

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If the small ballast is gravel sized, then a stoneblower tamper has probably been working on this section.

On a freight line some years ago now, they tried using a stoneblower to try to raise an emergency speed restriction up from 5MPH to 20MPH where there was a massive muddy length of wet beds. Needless to say, that it not work, the gravel sized ballast just disappeared into the muddy mess.
Or more likely just a portable version of a stone chip blower
 

MadMac

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Back in the 1980s, I recall seeing (albeit in the sidings) at Stevenson, Ayrshire, chairs dated from around 1895.
 

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