Fairbourne Railway – Track Repair

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The old 15″ track, laid on old mainline sleepers, mostly rotten.



Track-laying is a skilled exercise requiring a good set of eyes to ensure that the track was flat, aligned and correctly super-elevated correctly at the corners. John was highly proficient in these skills. He would lie down flat on his belly and using hand signals would direct those with the kangos (electrically-operated packers) to either insert more ballast underneath or less and then start packing against each other to compress the ballast underneath. The hand signals seemed comical to most and we hence called it the Ayatollah Track Dance.



On a wet and windy day, my grandmother, Lilian, would often help out on the railway. This time she was pulling a generator down the road while we operated the kangos to pack the ballast. She got carried away several times often pulling out the cord of the kangos while she leapt ahead down the road. You can see she is trying to do it now!



February 1986. Loading the newly-built ballast wagon.






Mike Messer drilling holes through the rails to accommodate the connecting fishplates.



That little metal bar was the jig which ensured we had the right gauge. Yes, we did, on occasion manage to mix it up with the 15″ one!



Sydney, with his hands behind his back approaches approvingly to ‘ensure everything was going smoothly’.



Our system for marking sleepers for canting (superelevation) required the use of three colours of paint that we dabbed onto the end of the sleepers: green, red and white where green was the minimum cant, red medium cant and white maximum cant. John used to put on a thick Irish accent and jokingly explain that the green paint represents the lovely green pastures of Ireland, while the red paint represents the blood spilt in Ireland and the white paint represents the religious purity of the Irish people. The red should have been orange of course!


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