The current COVID-19 virus has brough a halt to the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway (C&PRR), operating trains for the first time in a quarter of a century. The C&PRR, operated 100% by volunteers, is one of the newer Heritage Railways and only celebrating its 25th Anniversary of operating trains last year. The line’s passenger services ended in 1957 as the motor car became more widely available and passenger traffic dwindled away. The railway tracks saw very little maintenance after 1957 because it had been relegated to a freight only regime with lower standards than a passenger line.
How do you renew a section of railway line?
Renewing the track, the sleepers and ballast, is a back breaking task, even using plant and machinery. The track at Horsenden Level crossing (just under a mile from Princes Risborough) was adjudged to be life expired two years ago. The crossing is at the end of a steep gradient and on a very tight curve thus making renewals a challenging task for our volunteers. The Level Crossing had to be legally closed to public users as it would have been dangerous to allow the public on it while plant and machinery were in use. Notices were posted but torn down by some members of the public. Volunteers were subjected to abuse by those who insisted on crossing the railway which was a worksite that was only to be entered by trained volunteers.
The existing line had to be closed to trains and what is known as a possession had to be taken to allow the works to proceed. The level crossing was also barriered off to the public with a diversionary route marked out. The track alignment had to be marked out, in this case, with wooden pegs struck into the cess, the ground next to the track. The rails then had to be unbolted from the sleepers and removed as were the sleepers. The existing formation, the ballast and ground separation under the sleepers had to be scraped out and removed. This is the lowest part of the track and in our case, was approx. 50cm below the rail level.
Part two of this post will look at recreating the formation, and laying the track.
Because of Covid-19, the now preserved line is now under preventative maintenance and inspection regimes by several volunteers working to Government guidelines of remaining the required two metres apart from each other while we are unable to operate public trains.The Volunteers at The Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway need your support in these challenging and uncertain times.
No matter how large or small, every donation will be welcomed and it's easy to contribute on our donations page - not only will it help us maintain the Railway, but to reopen it as soon as we are allowed and the safety checks have been completed.We'll be here to help you plan a trip and to welcome you with open arms when the time is right.Thank you for your support.