Local people in Dawlish have taken rail’s Orange Army to heart – it’s official. As rail leaders and politicians headed west to Dawlish, local people congratulated over 300 rail heroes and vowed to make more use of the train in future.
Says Mark Carne, Network Rail’s new chief executive, following the reopening of the railway on 4 April, ‘Our army of engineers has done an amazing job of putting back together a railway that was ravaged by the elements. They have overcome every obstacle thrown at them, winning many battles along the way to restore this critical piece of the network, ahead of schedule, and in time for the Easter holidays.’
The rail industry joined together and moved fast after February storms swept away the line. Rail engineers from Network Rail and principal contractor, BAM Nuttall were joined by top performing teams from Amalgamated Construction, SISK group, Dyer & Butler and Tony Gee & Partners. Royal Engineers and Royal Marines based locally also helped out.
Despite atrocious conditions and surge tides, the Orange Army moved into action to protect exposed houses along the side of the line. With rip tides, high seas and continuing storms complicating recovery, railway staff assembled 11 ship containers to protect the front. The ISO boxes were welded together and filled with rubble. Fierce seas breached two of the boxes, but intrepid track workers fought back and secured the sea defence.
Staff worked 12-hour shifts seven days a week to push ahead with the project. A giant crater in the main line at Dawlish was filled in and concreted. Over 30,000 tonnes of unstable rock and soil was removed as part of a controlled landslip cliff at nearby Teignmouth, a mile west of Dawlish.
The Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, helped engineers by spraying thousands of litres of water on to the slip to wash away the earth and to encourage the spoil to complete its fall to the railway below. Cornwall’s china clay business helped out by supplying a new high-pressure water cannon. This proved very effective at turning earth into slurry and washing it into the sea.
New track was welded and bolted into place and signalling and telecoms staff also helped out on site making sure the railway was ready for traffic. Passengers heading into Devon this summer will be travelling on what is now one of the most popular and photographed routes on the network. The Orange Army could be called in once more – this time to help with crowd control.