Norton Fitzwarren Developments...
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Rails © Malcolm Anderson
Taking rails to Norton
A rail train visited the Minehead branch on the morning of Friday 17 December to drop a number of lengths of redundant rail for re-use on the triangle at Norton Fitzwarren. This was part of reciprocal arrangements between Network Rail and the West Somerset Railway Association (WSRA) which are helping make Taunton's Fairwater Yard High Output Ballast Cleaning (HOBC) operation one of the most efficient on the rail network as well as helping the WSRA deliver new facilities at its Norton site. The HOBC operation at Fairwater Yard has been working in close co-operation with the WSRA for the past three years. The spent ballast resulting from overnight operations is offloaded at the Norton site. The ballast has been used to construct the formation for a new railway triangle which will allow the turning of visiting and resident steam locomotives and rolling stock. The triangle is also eagerly awaited by the High Output team who will be able to use the facility to turn the HOBC and the Track Renewal Train (TRT) without travelling to Westbury and Bristol, thus offering further economies of time and track access. In exchange for the use of the facilities at Norton the contractual arrangements allow the WSRA to draw limited amounts of redundant main line materials for re-use in the facility at favourable rates. The Association has been able to benefit from that agreement to have enough redundant rail delivered to now finish the basic triangle. The rail, in 90m lengths, was picked up overnight on 16-17 December from a worksite near Worle using a specialist train which then travelled directly to the West Somerset Railway via its connection at Norton Fitzwarren. See the WSRA website for the full story

18 December 2010 
Details from WSRA and local correpondents

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Site of new junction © David Holmes
Point to Point
Network Rail and the WSR have agreed to install a new lead giving direct access to the triangle for trains coming onto the branch. The lead, will be installed on the very boundary with Network Rail at Milepost 165¼, facing to inbound trains. This new lead will in time be worked by a ground frame locked by the Bishops Lydeard - Norton Fitzwarren token.
This connection was shown on some early drawings but was then deleted pending Network Rail agreement and approval.
The triangle will remain limited to five coaches for internal services which still may not pass the boundary (shown by the distant board in the photo) but the new connection will allow trains passed for the national network to use the triangle directly – the limiting length being that of the Allerford spur toward Barnstaple which will be 330m long when completed.
This addition will therefore enable the HOBC and TRT to benefit from the triangle and will allow a full HST set to be turned if the need is ever required making the facility much more attractive for future commercial use. It will in effect create two triangles, the ‘new’ larger version using the existing branch line past Norton Platform rather than the East Chord.
The new lead is being manufactured from recovered components, a ground frame is being recovered from the components of two donated frames and a tamper will shortly prepare the site for the installation of the lead. Installation will be dependant on finding a suitable window in services but the February 7th installation of the new East/West chord point proved that the WSRA Permanent Way gang can turn an installation around in very short order when required.
Meanwhile back on the site itself preparations are underway to complete the ballasting of the Allerford spur now the HOBC has begun regular deliveries after its long winter lay-off. Once ballasted this section will be tamped. The recently delivered sleepers have been laid out ready for final placing.
Having laid some of the flat bottom rail available and honed the new skills required the P.Way gang have turned their attention to sorting the jig-saw of donated pointwork to retrieve the two remaining leads needed – one for the East Chord/Barnstaple junction and the other to act as a trap to protect the new lead. These will need to be transported across the site by lorry so sleepers and rail cannot be laid until they are in place.
Names for Allerford Junction and Orchard Junction have developed over time and become established – we now have two new junctions although names will not be considered until their installation is complete and they are available for use. However the new lead will provide for the possibility of an 'avoiding line' around Norton Platform so there is plenty of food for thought………..
(David Holmes)

21 April 2010 
Details from WSRA
Norton Point© Malcolm Anderson
New point installed in three days
In an unprecedented three day marathon the WSRA P.Way gang has severed the West Chord of the triangle at Norton, taken out three lengths of rail and sleepers, graded the trackbed, installed, bolted, lined and levelled a complete point and the replaced the rails either side of the new point before ballasting it all.
The West Chord of the triangle was originally laid in plain line through the location where the East Chord will leave it. This was because the location forms the unloading site for the HOBC and we didn't have a suitable turnout. However since then a refurbished bullhead lead had been donated to the Association and was available in three large sections at Norton. With the HOBC on temporary stand down now was the time to put the lead into place.
The weekend job started on Thursday when a GPS survey of the site was done to find the exact position to place the new lead, which has a turnout radius of 184m to align it with the 200m radius of the chord. The centreline was marked and the sleeper positions pegged out. On Friday three 60 foot panels of rail were lifted out and the sleepers put to one side before a large loading shovel was used to grade the trackbed down to the required level.
On Saturday a Hiab equipped lorry was used to lift the three pieces and place them in exactly the right position defined by the GPS survey before the three were bolted and aligned as a single but still isolated lead. On Sunday the four rails either side of the new lead were cut, drilled and then bolted into place before the whole length was jacked to level and ballasted.
The completed lead was then clipped, locked, scotched and plated before being offered for hand back inspection. Photographs of the various stages have been posted on the website in recent days.
Whilst this takes a few minutes to describe this is was a very large job to be undertaken by our volunteer P.Way gang in such a short space of time and I am both grateful to them for their efforts and hugely impressed at what they have achieved - so impressed I must get another 500 concrete sleepers for them to lay, because whilst they were doing this job someone else was ever so quietly marking out the alignment for the next batch to be delivered........
Thank You Guys
(David Holmes)

7 Feb 2010 
Details from WSRA
Norton © Malcolm Anderson
Progress at Norton Fitzwarren
Rails are once again being laid along part of the old Taunton-Barnstaple line. Thanks to great efforts by the WSR Association's Permanent Way Gang, sleepers now stretch from Orchard Junction toward the new junction with the East Chord and with the track already laid make a total length of over ¼ mile relaid on the Barnstaple alignment some of which is right alongside the West of England main line. The Plym Valley Railway has bought a lead surplus to WSRA's requirements and this will be dispatched shortly to Marsh Mills where it will form one end of their new run round loop. Whilst the lifting plant is on site the Permanent Way Gang plan to lift the new lead between the East and West Chords into position taking advantage of the current HOBC outage to get possession of the track. Completion of this task will mean that two of the three triangle points will be in place, one side of the triangle fully laid and railed, a second side laid in concrete sleepers and the Allerford headshunt laid.

22 January 2010 
Details from WSRA
Norton Platform © Malcolm Anderson
Norton Platform passes official inspection
On 17 July 2009, the Inspector from the Office of the Rail Regulator gave his approval to the new Norton Platform. Subject to the clearance of routine paperwork in the next week the platform will be in use for the Steam Fayre and Vintage Vehicle Rally on 1 and 2 August 2009. Norton Platform - a final official name has yet to be decided - becomes the eleventh station on the Minehead Branch. Built on the edge of its 37 acre site by the West Somerset Railway Association, the new platform was built in just six weeks by Tiverton based John Luffman Trading. The new platform has been designed and built to current modern day standards and can therefore be used by both the steam and diesel heritage services normally run by the railway or modern visiting trains from the National network. Currently the platform will not be open for regular services but will be used to bring passengers to events at Norton. More details on the WSRA website.

17 July 2009 
Details from WSRA
Barnstaple formation © David Holmes
Working on the Barnstaple formation...
The West Somerset Railway Association report work in progress to level the Allerford length of the old Barnstaple branch prior to ballasting. The works have revealed the original formation was widened on the Up side using locomotive ash - probably from Taunton shed. This is more likely to have occurred during the installation of a second track in the 1930s. The formation rises sharply as it approaches the remains of the bridge over Allerford Lane and the formation is being lowered slightly to reduce the slope - the extra material being re-used to widen the trackbed to accommodate the ten foot requirement between tracks on what will eventually become a siding and a headshunt.

21 November 2008 
Details from WSRA
Steam © Phill Berry-Roper
When the Steam Fayre came to Norton...
Picture by David Holmes. Viewer by Martin Krolik

4 August 2008 
The Barney Branch © David Holmes
Norton was a busy place today...
The WSRA Norton Fitzwarren site was a busy place on 13 July. The day saw the combined forces of the WSRA Permanent Way and Special Projects teams preparing for the Steam Fayre and laying the first section of track on the Barnstaple formation. At one time there were five different groups, preparing the crossing from the public cars park ready for the Rally, taking shuttering off the last culvert under the East Chord, erecting a banner to face the mainline and advertise the Steam Fayre, safety railing a footbridge across a ditch and of course a further group laying a further three 60 foot panels of track on the original up formation. In all approximately thirty volunteers. Meanwhile Wessex Water has almost completed the installation of a metered hydrant at Norton Bridge to supply water for the Steam Fayre and in the future for visiting locomotives - the connection being near enough to the WSR line to connect a hose from hydrant to locomotive. A stop for morning coffee was timed to coincide with the passage of Tangmere on the Torbay Express service, and there were plenty of FGW and CrossCountry services passing during the rest of the day to admire our progress. If you've not seen Norton be sure to make a date for 2-3 August for the Steam Fayre when the public will be admitted to the site....

13 July 2008 
Details from WSRA
Norton trench © JA
Busy, busy, busy at Norton Fitzwarren...
A lot of progress is being made at the Norton Fitzwarren site. The raft has been cast for the fourth and last culvert on the East Chord and shuttering put up for the wing walls. Once this culvert is complete, the East Chord will be joined to the Barnstaple formation. Meantime, in readiness for the Steam Fayre and Vintage Rally in August, topsoil has been applied to some areas which have then been seeded. Various crossings have been constructed across the formation for Rally foot traffic. The arena and show area is being currently being fenced with a multitude of gates to allow vehicles and visitors to move from one area to another. Car parking will be in fields across the WSR line from the Norton site, and the disused accommodation crossing has been refurbished and resurfaced and will be brought back into use for pedestrians to access the Rally from the car parks. A water main in being brought to the site for the Rally and to water visiting locomotives if necessary. Finally almost routinely now the HOBC continues to call most weekdays and to build up a stock of ballast ready for a push onto the Barnstaple branch and yet more track laying. Full report...

8 June 2008 
Details from WSRA
Norton © David Holmes
An update on the Norton Project...
There is much going on at Norton Fitzwarren even if it is a little mundane and routine at present and not immediately visible from the site boundary. Of course the High Output Ballast Cleaner train (HOBC) calls every day and simply moving the ballast heap can take up to half the day. The earthworks and ditching alongside the West Chord have been completed and the right hand side of the line tidied up ready to hand back to the farmer. Track and sleepers are available to complete the line around and onto the Barnstaple formation - watch this space for an appeal for help to lay this when the time comes.
A full update is available here...

2 November 2007 
Details from WSRA
Aggregates ©David Holmes
Recycled aggregate now available from the WSR...
The West Somerset Railway is now able to supply environmentally sourced and sustainable recycled aggregates. In association with John Luffman Trading, the West Somerset Railway Association has achieved Certification for a number of common product grades and is making this available to the West Somerset/Devon and South West market as a good local source of environmentally produced aggregate. The aggregate produced to WRAP guidelines is certified free of contamination and has been cleared by the Environment Agency for use on the local flood plain and thus in a water course where required. Quality assured recycled aggregates are free of aggregate tax levy and are increasingly sought to increase the sustainable content of new build projects. The lower economic cost and good public relations value of using recycled products is becoming increasingly attractive over the penalties associated with freshly quarried stocks. Full details...

14 June 2007 
Details from WSRA
Stone recycling at Norton...
Recycling the stones in Somerset. The unique Norton Triangle Project brings 100,000 plus tons of fill materials required for the scheme as used ballast which comes free-of-charge for re-cycling to the West Somerset Railway Association - a registered charity which is developing the site - via a partnership scheme with Network Rail. Network Rail’s ultra-efficient, £50 million High Output Track Relaying System and Ballast Cleaning (HOBC) train is based nearby at Fairwater Yard and currently undertaking a two-year £750 million programme of major rail improvements in the South West. Using the WSR’s recently refurbished mainline connection, Network Rail offered to deliver the HOBC’s spent ballast directly to the WSRA site which is just half a mile away, thereby saving the HOBC travelling to unload at Exeter or Westbury and avoiding lorry movements in the area. The HOBC is now delivering up to 1,000 tons of stone at a time onto the WSR after its overnight operations on the main line from Paddington and Bristol to the West Country. Then, the WSRA’s own contractors sort, clean and grade it for re-use around the site, building up the new track formations and embankments. The WSRA is busy recycling surplus ballast and infill which it is now selling locally as a commercial product. It also confidently expects to supply this re-cycled stone by rail to new construction projects in West Somerset. As an incentive to encourage developers to 'go green', the WSRA is also offering a draw prize of a luxury four-star dining train trip on the West Somerset Railway, plus a special pass to travel on a steam locomotive footplate, for bulk aggregate orders. Full press release...

4 June 2007 
Details from WSRA
HOBC © Don Bishop
The return of the HOBC...
The stones come rolling in at Norton Fitzwarren. Following a successful trial in December the first Network Rail "High Output Ballast Cleaning" (HOBC) train arrived at West Somerset Railway's Norton Fitzwarren site on Wednesday 10 January 2007 with 14 loaded wagons of ballast collected from the up main line at Brent Knoll between Highbridge and Weston Super Mare the previous night. The train works back each morning to Fairwater Yard, Taunton and is then top and tailed by Freightliner class 66 locos onto the WSR at the recently upgraded Norton Fitzwarren junc for unloading on the WSR site. The train is expected to run almost daily (except weekends) for up to two years, dropping spent ballast from the West of England mainline track renewal and upgrade programme. The train will often consist of 20 vehicles. The material will be used to create the formation for the new triangle of track at the Norton site. Please note the area is a construction site and access to enthusiasts is not allowed without prior permission.

10 January 2007 
Details from WSRA
HOBC ©Malcolm Anderson
Here comes the ballast...
The Norton Triangle received the first drop of ballast on Tuesday 28 November. Under an arrangement with Network Rail, spent ballast from major main line track renewals, will be transported by a High Output Ballast Cleaner, and delivered to the WSR site for the construction of the Triangle embankments. The first train - topped and tailed by Class 66 locomotives nos 66603 and 66611 - was a small trial affair of five wagons with 250 tonnes of aggregrate. Later trains will carry 1000 tonnes in 20 wagons. A second trial train is expected to be run a week later. The main delivery is due to commence in late December or early January.

28 November 2006 
Details from WSRA
Norton ditching © David Holmes
The Ditching Boys...
With the better weather excellent progress has been made at Norton Fitzwarren this week and the triangle is beginning to take shape. The compensation pond has been dug out to a sloping depth of 0.5m and the topsoil replaced to allow it to be grassed. The excavated sub-soil has been used to form the base of the embankments which now stretch from Norton Bridge past the point at which the triangle arms split and onto the two chords themselves. The sub base has been power rolled to compact it. The culvert close to Norton bridge has been installed and will be backfilled this week ready to join the triangle to the end of Allerford siding. Finally the ditch approaching the main drain under the main line has been excavated to ensure water flows away from the site and does not back up unnecessarily. Next week work starts on the unloading area.

5 November 2006 
Details from WSRA
Green light for Norton Triangle...
The West Somerset Railway Association plans to build a turning triangle on land it owns adjacent to the Norton Fitzwarren junction with the main line are about to reach another significant milestone with the imminent start of construction on site. Association Chairman Humphrey Davies was keen to thank Association members and others who have been generous with their support and went on to say "This project is a win for rail and for the environment. The material we need for the triangle will be recycled aggregate, delivered by rail, with no impact on local roads. The project will allow us to handle more charter trains from the main line network, as well as to turn our own engines, and is an important milestone in the development of the railway. I urge visitors to keep clear of the fenced area, and of course never to walk on or near the railway line. The best way to see the site is from the train." Full press release...

25 September 2006 
Details from WSRA
WSR Time Team © Peter Gleed
The WSR Time Team...
The WSR have been digging trenches at the Norton Fitzwarren site in the fashion of the Channel 4 TV archaeological series Time Team. Wessex Water have a pressurised sewer from Cotford St Luke running across the land at Norton. The Railway need to locate the sewer and attempted to locate the sewer by hand digging an admirable trench 22 feet long by nearly 5 feet deep. In true Time Team fashion, and despite the intervention of a fifth member of the gang - with "Geophys" divining rods, day one has revealed no sewer or archaeology...

19 May 2006 
Details from WSRA
Allerford Junction
Allerford Junction...
The Railway Permanent Way gang have started constructing Allerford Junction. A new lead, costing £25000 has been purchased, delivered and will be installed during the next few days near milepost 165¾, continuing as a spur parallel to the running line, under Norton Bridge and terminating at a point where, eventually, the spur will strike southwards into the new land and form the western chord of the Norton Triangle. The WSRA Board and the David Holmes, Cutting Back Leader, express their thanks for a massive turnout of 32 volunteers including members of the WSRA Permanent Way gang, for the cutting back operation the previous weekend which made the current engineering work possible.

20 November 2005 
Details from WSRA and WSR Plc
Conditional Planning Approval
The WSRA Board report that Conditional Planning Approval for a turning triangle at Norton Fitzwarren has been announced by Taunton Deane Borough Council. The statement continues "This will allow the construction of a turning triangle in line with the drawings and details previously published. In keeping with the sensitive nature of the land which is rural and a natural flood plain the approval contains a number of conditions which have to be met before, during and after the construction. In particular there will now need to be a period of detail design and submission of our proposals for the construction, drainage and landscaping of the scheme. The Board now intend to proceed with the designs as rapidly as possible in order to be able to complete the work and provide this much needed facility as soon as possible. It is however inevitable that there will appear to a further period of inactivity whilst this work is completed behind the scenes. The Board is grateful for the support of our members, the WSR Plc, the communities of Norton Fitzwarren, Taunton Deane and West Somerset and particular individuals for the support and encouragement we have received in bring this application to a successful conclusion."
Link to Taunton Deane Borough Council...

18 April 2005 
Details from WSRA
Planning application...
Julie Higginbottom from the consultants working with the West Somerset Railway Association today submitted a formal application to Taunton Deane Borough Council in connection with the development of the land acquired last year at Norton Fitzwarren. The application is for the formation of new embankments and railway lines to form a triangle for the turning of railway locomotives and stock. More...

4 February 2005 
Details from WSRA
Boundary fence put in...
On 3 May 2004, the Association's Permanent Way Gang were asked to install a post and wire fence across a corner of the field near the old Barnstaple line trackbed. Also, the Gang worked on making a new access road for a neighbour, a market gardener, who has right of way across the WSRA land. This involved a new entrance from the public road, a deep ditch piped and bridged and the old access point filled in. Meantime, a contractor was ploughing the fields and later these were sown with grass.

22 August 2004 
Details from WSR Journal
WSRA unveils plans for Norton Fitzwarren...
Ambitious new proposals to boost tourism and further develop the southern end of the Minehead Branch have been announced today by the West Somerset Railway Association which has just bought a large area of land at Norton Fitzwarren. Subject to planning authority approval, the WSRA hope that the 33-acre site would not only eventually provide vitally needed new railway servicing facilities, but also would lead to new engineering jobs for the area.Click here for the story in more detail...

24 March 2004 
Details from WSRA
The Norton Triangle
Progress in pictures
Detailed reports