Leadhills & Wanlockhead Railway latest news

Posted by Chris Graham on 8th March 2022

We report on the work that’s needed to bring the popular Leadhills & Wanlockhead Railway back into service, following the pandemic.

Leadhills & Wanlockhead Railway

Leadhills & Wanlockhead Railway: Off the tracks at Leadhills; this hopper wagon was derailed by vandals at a set of points. (Pic: L&WR)

No public trains will run on the 2ft gauge Leadhills & Wanlockhead Railway, the United Kingdom’s highest adhesion-worked line, until Easter 2022, at the earliest. The line closed at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, and has been shut since – the longest closure period in the railway’s 35-year history, since opening in 1986.

Track manager Alan Mackie said: “The various restrictions meant no work until recently, except for a weekly visit by our site manager who organised a clean-up of the Leadhills station site, while work on the extension to Wanlockhead has also stalled because of the pandemic. Given our exposed location that’s subjected to extreme winter weather, and remedial work on the mainline not being completed until February 2022, it will leave little time for train crew re-familiarisation and rolling stock maintenance, to allow us to re-open at Easter, so we’re going to be very busy.”

Work is well underway on track panel refurbishment after the excessively hot weather last July and August brought track defects to light, such a section laid by YTS workers in the late 1980s having been built without effective drainage and laid on bare soil, leading to sleeper wet rot.

Work in progress as the roadbed is excavated and a track panel is pulled back on top of another, with the works train ready with new ballast. (Pic: L&WR)

Volunteers have been removing one panel at a time, scraping the topsoil off the solum with the line’s Komatsu excavator, and laying new, clean Cloburn Red 20/40mm stone to a minimum depth of 50mm. Sleepers, rails and fishplates are then renewed as necessary, before the panel is re-laid, with the works train then moving forward to lay new ballast which is tamped using the L&WR’s CFG BR100 tamper.

“All of this means that we may be running works trains at any time, and we’re reminding visitors and local people to stay well clear of the tracks,” Alan added. “We had a recent incident at Leadhills station in which vandals caused one of our hopper wagons to run away and be derailed, which could have resulted in serious injury. We reported that incident to the police as, sadly, despite being so remote, we’re not immune to the problems faced by other heritage railways in more populous areas.”

Alan also said that the railway is very much ready to welcome further volunteers to help get the line back on track.

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