Volunteers on track with rail repairs
Railway volunteers are celebrating a huge milestone after toiling for weeks to replace a lengthy stretch of track at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway.
The volunteers at the heritage railway have been racing against the clock to get the work done before St Patrick's Day, when the steam train will be in use as part of the town's park and ride services for the world-famous carnival.
Yesterday the 'track team' finally got to relax after working three days a week plus weekends to completely remove and replace the entire length of rail that runs along the station platform in time for the celebrations.
But they won't rest for long, as they now have to replace two section of wooden track and add a new safety feature to the second line known as the passing loop.
DCDR chief civil engineer David Crone said: "The track in the station was the only remaining wooden sleepered track left on the system, and it was beginning to show its age.
"It's been a long time since Translink or Irish Rail have used large sections of wooden track and supplies of good quality sleepers are hard to obtain in Northern Ireland so we are replacing them with concrete ones, which will make maintenance in the future a lot easier."
So far work has seen all the old wooden timbers removed, old ballast stone removed and new ballast added. The determined volunteers are now moving on to replace the track with concrete sleepers which originally came from the Belfast-Antrim Bleach Green line, which were recovered when the line was reopened after being mothballed for more than two decades.
The huge operation also required moving the passenger and buffet trains out of the way to access the track - not an easy task when the station yard is so small to work in.
The Downpatrick & County Down Railway is a volunteer-run not-for-profit charity, and is always on the lookout for new recruits. If you have a passion for mucking in with heritage, check out the 'Get Involved' section of the DCDR websitewww.downrail.co.uk/getinvolved or www.facebook.com/downrail and you could find yourself a new hobby.