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Maintaining the Permanent Way

Annual Fishplate Greasing - By Graham Bendell, Thursday Gang Member.

The L&B track is in a very exposed location and, without an annual application of grease, the fishplates would soon become dry and prevent the rails from expanding and contracting. This could result in buckled track.

Fishplate greasing is normally carried out in the spring on dry days and takes 3 or 4 days to complete. The Thursday gang have been mugs enough to get caught for this again. A four man gang seems to be the optimum size.

1. Standing clear

2. The gang (less the photographer) in action

3. Starting to undo - with a spanner in this case. The bolts are undone to the end of the threads on the bolt without actually removing them.

4. A sharp tap with a hammer splits the fishplates away from the rails

5. The grease is applied to each plate.

6. The nuts are done up again.

7. And finally tightened

8. A coat of grease is applied over each fishplate as additional protection - it also enables you see at a glance which ones have been done.

All of this work is carried out at ground level involving a lot of kneeling, bending, etc. Although we have used a battery operated impact driver to help us spin the nuts off, it failed after a few pairs of fishplates so wrenches were the only answer.

On a day of full sun, we manage to do about 600yards of track - approximately 80 pairs of fishplates with 320 nuts to be taken off and then tightened again, 160 (at least) hammer blows, 160 applications of grease and 160 faces painted.

It is dirty, tiring, but essential work and, although we complain bitterly about it every year, it is quite satisfying to complete it, knowing that the track is ok for the 2011 operating season.

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