OTPPG - The Story So Far
7 October 2004
The whole project was born in June 2004 after an inquisitive email to First Engineering regarding an item of on track plant that had been stored inside a shed near Stranraer Town station for at least the last ten years.
After a short while I received a very helpful reply from their Mechanisation Manager who informed me they were currently looking to dispose of a number of items of plant. However they were not aware the machine at Stranraer was still present. After a few more weeks it was established it was indeed still present and a visit was organised to inspect the machine here and some others that were to be disposed at Rutherglen, Glasgow.
The machine at Stranraer is a Matisa Inspection Trolley numbered DX 68030 but it was formerly a Ballast Consolidator before its conversion. It is unique of its type in the country with the others having been scrapped a long time ago. It has spent all of its later life in Scotland after conversion - initially on the Forth Bridge but also on the West Highland Line and later down at Stranraer where it has remained ever since.
We arrived at the old Stranraer Town station on a day in early August with First Engineering's representative and a few other people that had shown an interest in the project. The yard near the station is now out of use but had been used by EWS for freight until fairly recently. We found the shed and sure enough DX 68030 was tucked deep inside. A platform inside the shed was presumably used for loading freight at one time but it became evident as we entered how long it had been left neglected by the amount of junk covering the track!
This would obviously pose us some problems in getting it out. The machine itself had suffered from vandals with some broken windows; grease and paint had also been daubed over it on the platform side. It was also missing its gearbox but the engine and the rest of the machine were in surprisingly good condition considering the length of time out of use - probably thanks to its undercover store.
Next stop was Rutherglen yard just south of Glasgow adjacent to the West Coast Mainline where a number of FE's stock have been stored in the open for a number of years - mainly of the TRAMM and TASC variety. Again it was most interesting to have a look at what was present close-up - three TRAMMs, two TASCs, a Schoma trolley, a Plasser RAMM, a Matisa Neptune Track Recording vehicle and a Permaquip Canopy Trolley - basically heaven for the OTP enthusiast!
All had again suffered vandalism and damage from being in open storage (some more than others) but most were still mechanically sound with a bit of work.
Since this interesting visit events have been moving along slowly but surely - our next challenge was to find a suitable base where we could move our machines to. We contacted a number of preserved railways and inevitably some came back to us saying they had no available space. We arranged a visit to the East Anglian Railway Museum and the Colne Valley Railway on August bank holiday 2004 and both were very accommodating to what we were intending to do. It was useful to see the sites at first hand and what they had to offer in terms of resources and space.
We have also been in contact with a number of haulage companies who are hopefully going to help us out and give us an idea how much it is going to cost us to move these machines from Scotland.
Over the next weeks we hope to get this information, do some sums and hopefully make some purchases so we can take the project on to the next stage!
Update: 6th October 2004
Further to our visit to Rutherglen we have now been told by FE that all of the larger machines at this yard are now likely to be scrapped by one contractor in a job lot. This is because they will get a good price for disposing of all of the eight machines in one location. However this does not include the small Permaquip 98706 and so it is only really the TASC machine we are losing. After initial disappointment about this news we were also told that machines at Perth and Kilmarnock were still available and of course there are TASC machines at these locations too. We are hopefully going to organise a trip up there again soon to inspect these machines and hopefully one of them will make a suitable replacement for us. From initial photos we have been sent it looks like they are possibly in better condition than the Rutherglen machine, but a closer, mechanical inspection will be needed - especially in the case of the Kilmarnock example which we are concerned may have been considerably robbed for spares.
This changes our priorities slightly and although we are obviously still looking for suitable transport to move the permaquip from Rutherglen it may mean that the Stranraer move happens sooner than we had thought. Watch this space!