Permanent Way News: Re-Opening the Department

On Thursday 28th May the P-Way Dept re-opened for the first time since Lockdown had been introduced and Peak Rail operations suspended. The return could only take place after careful consideration of the risks involved and how these could be managed. The starting point of the process was the ORR publication of their Inspection Guidance on Heritage Railway Recovery Plan in Response to Covid-19. I decided to formulate a Re-Opening Plan for the P-Way Dept based on the ORR document. It seemed that the two key factors to consider were guidelines regarding Covid-19 for volunteers and that there had been no P-Way activity for two months. The first part of the Plan looked at mitigating probable risks to Volunteers returning to P-Way duties from Covid-19. The draft plan was then emailed to the regular members of the P-Way team for their consideration. All were happy with the proposed procedures and the Plan was forwarded to the Office at Matlock. With approval of the Plan from the Office I phoned all the team to gather their opinion on when to re-open.

No sooner had we all met up the normal banter began. Yet not everything would be normal starting with us all meeting up outside the Mess Coach and observing Social Distancing. With the insults to each other out of the way it was down to business with a Health and Safety review. This involved not just Personal Track Safety but also issues around Covid-19. Everyone was reminded to keep to the piece of equipment they were using for the day and to keep using the hand sanitizer gel. Thanks to my daughter I had acquired two 300ml pump action bottles of hand sanitizer and several 50ml. All were 65% alcohol based. She had also provided face masks. The Office had provided disposable gloves and anti bacterial hand-wash. So the main point of the briefing was to remember personal hygiene and keep to the Social Distancing. It is worth pointing out that a key element of mitigation against Covid-19 for the team is working outdoors. After further insults, mostly hurled in my direction, it was down to work. Phil set about burning the branches brought back to Rowsley from vegetation removed in Red House Cutting in late February. Stuart set off to strim the Savannah Grassland that had developed on the track formation at Church Lane. (see photos) John started to cut concrete slabs to a size to fit as drain covers in Red House Cutting.

Ian and I set off for a Track Inspection from Bridge 37 to 35 and return. This also involved a visual inspection of bridges and the embankment. It has to be remembered that the embankment here had been under water due to flooding and more recently subjected to drought conditions so requires on-going monitoring as does the track formation on top.

That evening I contacted the team by email with several questions to obtain their view of the day. All thought the day went well, were happy with the procedures put in place and most importantly felt safe.

The following Thursday saw the team in action again. Phil continued his bonfire activities whilst Stuart went for a strim. John spent his time in Red House Cutting tidying up the vegetation cut down in late February/early March. This material will be collected when the Works Train eventually makes its way down the line. Ian and I walked from Rowsley to Church Lane on a Track Inspection and on the return began track gauging.

Last Sunday I walked from Darley Dale to Bridge 37 and return then to Church Lane and back. With this the whole line has now been inspected. Quite a few notes were made of the maintenance required over the coming weeks. At the same time the whole line will need to be gauged as per the requirement of the SMS. By the end of the month I hope to be fishplate greasing from Bridge 36 to 38.


Roger Hallatt