Railway project on track

VOLUNTEERS finished laying the first stretch of railway track to grace the Deeside Line in over 30 years last weekend.

Members of the Royal Deeside Railway Preservation Society created their own piece of history when the 60 foot piece of track was laid at the Milton of Crathes.

It marks a milestone in their project, which aims to reinstate the Old Deeside Line between the Milton of Crathes and Banchory.

The stretch of railway line and sleepers is the first to grace the area since it was uplifted in 1971. Members were set to lay another 60 feet of track last night (Wednesday).

Preservation adviser Murray Duncan says it has been a long time coming. “The volunteers are delighted that at long last they have finally got something down,” he said. “It might only be a short bit of track but it's quite a milestone for us.”

The group's next aim is to run engines on the stretch of line, which should be doubled after last night's operation, at the Deeside Steam and Vintage Club Rally on August 16 and 17.

Mr Duncan added: “We hope to transfer one of our restored diesel locos from McIntosh Plant Hire at Echt down to the Milton of Crathes in time for the forthcoming rally.

“We have moved the coaches at the Milton to construct a new entrance to the field where the rally is going to be held. We had to do a bit of earthwork for that and thanks to McIntosh Plant Hire the volunteers got that done quite quickly. It was done on a Wednesday evening so we didn't have to close our visitor centre.”

He added: “The volunteers have been turning out on Saturdays and Sundays as well as Wednesday evenings to work on laying the sleepers and laying the rails. It takes a minimum of eight people to lift up a section of 60 feet of rail which weighs one and a half tons.

“The next priority is to start the first phase of the new footpath from the Milton of Crathes which will run alongside the track. Once that has been constructed it will allow us to lay some more track.

“The intention is to hopefully get more track laid so that next summer we can maybe run a limited service back and forth on the line using a diesel shunter and one of the carriages at the Milton, generating some income to keep the project going.

“We're doing really well at the moment and it's all starting to come together at long last after all the background work. Our volunteers have worked really hard and the support we have received from Bert McIntosh at McIntosh Plant Hire at Echt has been invaluable.”