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Relaying the Track

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? -  Part 2

In part 1, we looked at deconstructing the track and formation. In part 2 here, we look at what must be done to rebuild the track and formation.

Once the track, sleepers and ballast have been removed, the trackbed and formation has to be reformed. The formation is levelled, and a tough membrane is laid on the lowest level of the solus, some ballast added with sleepers then put in place and finally the pads and rails which are clipped and bolted to the sleepers.

More ballast is then laid around the sleepers and tamped to ensure they are fully supported and the track at the correct aspect. This is crucial as what is known as the top and line must be correct for line safety and to give a smooth ride for passengers. Poor track also causes vibration to trains which increases maintenance.

This relaying included Horsenden level crossing, so the crossing surface had to be compliant with public requirements and legislation making the job more testing for our Volunteers.

Drainage is also crucial. This is another reason why a decent ballast depth is required to allow rain to drain through the formation and not to pool on the track which then creates wet spots and undermines the line. The final piece of work is to run a test train over the renewed section to carry out the wheel-rail interface checks.

This work is all carried out by Volunteers who on this occasion worked continuously for six days and completed on time so no train running disruption occurred. Not many passengers will ever be aware of this unseen but vital activity, which is very, very expensive, to maintain and upgrade.


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.